Thursday, November 21, 2013

Fun Facts and Straight Talk on Water Closets (aka toilets)

Straight Talk On Toilets: The average guy will spend 3 years on a toilet in his lifetime, according to a March, 2012 article in Men’s Health.  So shouldn’t it come with a little something to do and built in fun, not to mention be comfortable?

In recent years, the talk on toilets has focused on water efficiency, with the Japanese company Toto having been the leader in offering High Efficiency Toilets (HET).  To be HET, a toilet must use 20% less water than mandated and only need to flush.  Since Toto’s entry, other manufacturers have entered the HET market and at varying price points.  Other features that have become popular for standard toilets are elongated seats and seat height.

In my years of work in renovation and design, Toto, Kohler and American Standard are the three brands that I like for design, care, price/value and performance.  But what if you want something more than just a nice toilet?

The Most Expensive Toilet in the World: 
Feeling like your bathroom or powder room needs a little oomph?  How about dazzling your guests with an unexpected pizzazz a la the toilet, or water closet as we like to say in the real estate and decorating worlds.

Nothing says opulence like gold:  First up, is the most expensive toilet in the world.  Made in Hong Kong, it is solid 24 carat gold.   It’s not meant to be used; it’s really just a conversation starter and apparently effective public relations for the company that is showcasing it , Hang Fung Gold Technology Group.  When gold hits $1,000/ounce the toilet will be melted down and the gold sold for a cool profit.

A Toilet that Entertains:  Kohler’s Numi looks like a giant lego piece but that’s about the only thing that’s negative about it.  Well, that and the price, which is about $6,600. “I think amenity number one in any bathroom I’ll design for myself is music,” says Matt Muenster from DIY Network’s Bath Crashers. “You can’t just make things look pretty— you’ve gotta create an atmosphere.”  I guess in the photo below, the toilet is doubling as a piece of art?

The Numi automatically flushes and lowers the seat, all sensor driven.  It does everything but makes your morning cappuccino.

Wednesday, November 20, 2013

Thinking 20 Years Out and Not Scared to Admit it? Luxury turnkey community in Greenwich CT

Add 20 years to your current age and ask yourself how much you are going to like stairs.  And climbing them several times a day.  Since the baby boomers are headed towards their late 60s and 70s, it seems like that question is gaining popularity.  At least based on the response to my new to the market listing yesterday in Greenwich's elegant gated community, Chieftans.

There are 27 custom built homes that sit on 97 acres which was the property of the Gimbel family (owners of the famed Gimbel's that once rivaled Macy's on Herald Square).  With round-the-clock security, landscaping care and maintenance, snow removal and more, the community is well manicured and maintained.

The property just brought to market was the home to a couple with a serious passion for art and beauty.  The custom detail and design work seen in everything from mosaic floors to marble bathrooms speaks of their love of architecture and decorating.

The public rooms are gracious and the first floor master bedroom suite just as it should be with two bathrooms and two generous dressing rooms.

With a second floor family room and three generous bedrooms with en suite baths situated around an open gallery, there is a wonderful sense of privacy without being isolated.

And it has something I have not seen in Greenwich yet-- a garage bay specifically built for a stretch limousine.  Now that's living!  $3,100,000 .

Thursday, November 14, 2013

Michael Jordan's Latest Real Estate Conquer

Jordan's New North Carolina Home Purchase
Looks like basketball isn’t the only place where NBA legend Michael Jordan is good at negotiating lay ups.   Mr. Jordan just completed a sweet deal on a 12,310 sq ft home on Lake Norman (North Carolina) for $2.8 million, in what appears to be a bank sale.  The home has a fitness center, two story great room, pool, spa, boat slip and sits on the seventh hole of The Peninsula Club, according the Charlotte Observer.

Jordan is still trying to sell his mammoth home in Chicago’s north shore Highland Park,

which is currently on the market for $29 million.  It will be auctioned on November 22nd by Concierge Auctions,  The 59,000 square foot home is set on 10 acres and has everything you would expect to entertain His Airness:  15 bedrooms, home theatre, cigar room, huge pool and spa, gym, basketball court (natch) and more.

Hey Michael, we know you are busy with the Bobcats, but if you need home theatre, pool and spa, fitness center, Greenwich has just the property for you—and we’ll throw in a multi sport court and 52’ indoor turf field for free which could easily be converted to an indoor golf simulation space, another hobby we know you are working on.

Why keep all your properties in the south and miss the four seasons that New England and Greenwich have to offer? Think it over and get back to me.

Wednesday, November 13, 2013

Who Owns the Largest Land in America and In Greenwich, CT?

While the wealthy are seeing the value of adding more land to their investment portfolio, it looks like those that are doing so have ties to the areas of the country where there is lots of land to be had, and where land is a fundamental part of life in those areas.  Ranches and horse farms are common reasons for adding more and more land to holdings.

The two individuals that made the top 100 list that are closest in proximity to Greenwich are #46, Cassidy Heirs with 212,985 acres spread between Maine and Florida and #88, Roxanne Quinby with 119,000 acres in Maine.  
Roxanne Quinby
Unlike many of the top 100, who's land has been handed down and added to for generations, Quinby had no ties to land when she arrived in Maine in 1975 as a 24 year old in a VW bug.  She happened to meet Burt Shavitz, a beekeeper, and soon was joining him to sell honey out of the back of his pickup truck.  It was a small jump from truck to farmer's markets and soon the two where adding to their product line of what they called Burt's Bees products.  As the product line grew, Quinby bought her first land--- 8,000 acres of it to be precise.  When she and Shavitz sold Burt's Bees to Clorox in 2007 she made $350 million.  And with it, bought acres and acres of more Maine land.

The Original Burt's Bees Line
The Burt's Bees Lip Balm Line today, owned by Clorox

The number one private landowner for 2013 at 2.2 million acres is Connecticut native John Malone, the media titan. Malone, who grew up in nearby Milford, Ct ,has land holdings that span the country from New Mexico to Maine and include forests, ranches, deserts, islands and ports. Just to put it in perspective, that amount of acreage is equal to two times the state of Delaware. 

Looking a little closer to home, I thought it would be interesting to take a peek at some of the larger land holdings in Greenwich that are currently on the market. First up is Copper Beech Farm, the 449 Indian Field Rd. Mead Point property set on 50.6 waterfront acres which is currently on the market for $140 million. It is the largest waterfront property to be available in the last decade and was the home of the Lauder Greenway family, co-founders of U.S. Steel, who moved into the 19th century Victorian house in 1904. The property has two mainland parcels, two islands and one mile of shoreline. 

The other large property currently for sale is 124 Old Mill Road, north of the Merritt Parkway. This property is 75.70 acres and has on it a 1926 elizabethean inspired manse designed by renowned architect, Charles Lewis Bowman. It is being offered at $33 million. Other large land holdings in Greenwich that are not on the market, but interesting to know about are: * Calf Island, owned by the Town of Greenwich-At 31.5 acres, this is the largest off-shore island in Greenwich.
As for the largest single parcels of town owned lands in Greenwich:  The top five are:

1.  The Babcock Preserve, North St. (it has great hiking trails which are gorgeous during this time of year) :  297 acres
2.  Griffith Harris Golf Course: The town owned golf course at 1323 King St. : 154 acres 
3.  Tod's Point: Old Greenwich : 147 acres (You can read about the history of Tod's point in past newsletters at my website
4.  The Goodbody Property, Cognewaugh Rd.: Another nature preserve: 110 acres
5.  Montgomery Pinetum (which has the Greenwich Garden Center within it), 101 Orchard St. 76 acres 
 For a review of the top 10 landowners, click here Top 10 landowners in America

Holy Cow! Modern Day Bonnie & Clyde Showed Up At My Open House

Last Sunday I ran an Open House for a property in Greenwich that I am representing.   The Open House was announced on all the big real estate online services--,, and more.  The Bills were playing the Steelers at the exact time of the Open House, and since the Bills (whom I do adore but seriously, can't those guys get it together.  I mean, what was up with Goodwin getting in the way of his teammate's catch the week before?) are rather unreliable, I figured, a combination of great weather, advertised sweets and no good football games would bring out some buyers.

I was correct and had a steady flow of visitors.  The last folks were a family of four.  A very pregnant mom, let's call her Sue, about 34, the dad, let's call him Dave, about same age and two boys approximately 4 and 6 years of age.  They said that they were moving from Los Angeles, had been in NYC for a bit and now were trying to decide between Westport and Greenwich.  They were very jazzed up about the house and life in general and said that timing was critical.  The baby was due by C-section on December 6th and they would really like to be in a house by then.  Every time they made an offer on a new construction home, it got held up by an incomplete Certificate of  Occupancy so they were now looking at homes in good condition but not brand, spanking new.  

There were lots of enthusiastic thumbs up as they toured through the house, with Sue exclaiming that the massive third floor would be perfect for Dave's trading business.  He beamed saying that his firm had an office in NYC but he worked out of the home.  I asked the boys where they went to school and they told me that they were being home schooled to which the mom replied, "That's ending Monday when the tutor starts."  Dave said that the boys were just accepted at Buckley and I looked at him puzzled (the only Buckley I know is in NYC) and he said "Yeah, it's on North St.  It's a Montessori School."  I corrected him that it was Whitby which he was thinking of.  Odd but, oh well.

I asked for their names and email so that I could send them any follow up information.  The email bounced back.  I did a little Googling to see if I spelled their names wrong. What popped up next was a series of blogs and articles about this couple.  The articles and supporting documents showed a range from unpaid hotel bills, non payment for renovation services, and misrepresentations in a number of real estate related transactions.

All to say, it's always good to have your antennae up.  If these folks had made a bid, I would have let my client's lawyer take a look at the internet information, just to be extra careful.

Sunday, November 3, 2013

What's Hot In Homes? Marble, Booze and Views

Wondering if you should really take on that new dream project?  How your bathrooms stack up to today's trends? Or what features and amenities are most compelling these days to a buyer?

To get some insights into these answers, I looked at two studies: one by Trulia, which  analyzed the words and phrases used in luxury listings for two years to see what home features are trending up or down and the second, a survey by Better Homes & Gardens Real Estate among luxury property homebuyers purchasing between May-June, 2013.  

Here's the topline:

Fabulous Amenities Trumps Square Footage:  Buyers want as many fabulous amenities and upgrades as they can get in their new home, rather than more square footage.  In fact, a whopping 94% of those surveyed by Better Homes said that they would rather have a lifestyle feature that they want, rather than 1,000 more square feet of space.  The most popular features mentioned? Better neighborhood, having a house with "character", more land, proximity to restaurants and entertainment, and shorter commute time.

"Smart" Home Wins Over "Green Home": Who wants a home today that isn't tech-friendly?  What "wired" means however, has about a two year life cycle, so flexibility and adaptability in your technology systems choices can be important. (to be discussed in my year end Market Report)

What's Hot? Marble, Booze and Windows

The Sumptuous Bath: The more luxurious the bath, the better, and marble is the "wow" factor.  Marble floors aren't enough to say luxury anymore.
 Sinks and shower walls in marble are expected in a luxury home, and those baths that have brought it onto the walls are considered to have gone the extra mile-- a finding that I have I have seen in both my real estate and decorating worlds.  

Every Room With A View and the Bigger the Better: Windows that are oversized, floor to ceiling windows, and windows that offer expanded views are features that are trending up in Trulia listing mentions.  Except for the rare hermit, buyers who spark to a house that is dark and has poor natural light are rarely found.  The house that has been sited to take advantage of sunlight throughout the day, has an advantage.

Wine Rooms-- They Just Get Fancier:  
First, it was just having a room set aside for your cases of wine.  Then it was the temperature controlled room with special racks.  Now, wine rooms are an expected luxury, the latest  being built with dual temperature control to make sure your whites and reds are both chilled to perfection.

A few other home luxuries that are trending up:

Home Gyms-- No signs of fitness going away any time soon. Wait, let me just put this donut down so I can finish blogging.

Outdoor terraces, kitchens, pools and tennis courts and ponds-- Being outdoors just gets more thumbs up.  A backlash from all the time we spend hunched over computers?

And What's Up WIth Kitchens?  Could it be that the huge kitchen has seen it's hay day?  There is some evidence that eating out continues to be on the rise, making the gourmet kitchen with a thousand appliances a bit out of favor.

Have something you would like to know or have me discuss?  Let me know,