Category Archive 'Real Estate'
13 Sep 2017

For Sale: Possible Tourist Attraction in 6400 Acres

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Stonehenge sold in 1915 for £6,600, with a pretty decent house thrown in. Today, they get almost 1.4 million visitors a year, many of whom pay the full £16.50 admission price.

From the archives of Country Life.

Obviously you and I were unable to bid, not yet having been born. My father was one-year-old, so he, too, was out of luck. But what were my useless grandparents doing?

20 May 2017

Chateau de Morsan

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7 bedrooms, 6 full baths, 9-10 acres. Only €1,000,000 for the Chateau de Morsan, nestled in the midst of the forests of Normandy, one of the few remaining folies in France. Originally built around 1760 as a hunting lodge by the Marquis de Morsan, a confidant to Louis XV, for the King’s visit. The architect was Ange-Jacque Gabriel who was also the architect of the petit Trianaon at Versailles and the Folie of Madame de Pompadour, the mistress of the King.

The current owner rhapsodizes:

The house is a national monument, a summer house, not built for all seasons. There are two Renaissance towers, standing and three stables, all needing to be restored, and the windows and shutters on the house should be replaced by double glass, etc. The roof which is slate, needs rebuilding, as it is original, that can be done correctly with slate for around 200,000 euros. It has a nice servants cottage and quite a lot of land, it is very safe and protected there, two hours from Paris, and no one could find it. The land is quite fertile for growing vegetables, flowers, and herbs, and there is a very choice parcel of land with trees to build a large guest house, There are about nine or 10 acres, and is great for horses, it is horse country. It has everything.

With a good and responsible buyer who loves the l8th Century, and period furniture, the house can be sold more or less furnished at a very reasonable price. The furnishings are the right period for the house, so it could be sold furnished or semi furnished, to the right person.

A lovely couple reside onsite as caretakers. We have known their family for years, and the young man can do everything, he is very skilled and diversified, and does extra projects. She is very artistic, and keeps the house up.

It has important wood paneling and fireplaces, and it should not be changed or damaged, We can not sell the property to anyone who would destroy any of the original details, it has been maintained for nearly 300 years, and is a summer house. Central heating can be revived, there are radiators that function, and the plumbing should be brought up to date. This is not a house for the faint hearted, it is for a French history buff, and someone who wants to live in the beauty and charm of the l8th Century. I think that it would not appeal to most Americans, it is a romance with the past, and absolutely incredible in the summer… let’s say to die over… and absolutely unique. There are less than six of these l8th Century folies left in the country.”

Handsome Properties International has the listing.

24 Mar 2017

Garbo’s Apartment Listed for $5.95 Million

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Garbo’s Kitchen.

Greta Garbo’s former 5th floor coop apartment on East 52nd Street, private elevator, 3 bedrooms, 3 baths, with East River views, $9100 a month maintenance, little changed since the star’s death in 1990, only $5.95 million.

Daily Mail

01 Mar 2016

That Fabulous Dealmaker Donald Trump

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TrumpGenius

Timothy L. O’Brien explains how Trump blew his biggest real estate deal ever.

Through Trump’s rise, fall and rebirth, there was one major real estate project that he tried to keep. The tale of what happened to that property should be of interest to anyone looking for insight into how Trump might perform as president. It was a deal of genuine magnitude and would have put him atop the New York real estate market. And he screwed it up.

The deal involved Manhattan’s West Side Yards, a sprawling, 77-acre tract abutting the Hudson River between 59th and 72nd Streets and at the time the largest privately owned undeveloped stretch of land in New York City. The Yards were a vestige of the Penn Central Transportation Company, a failed railroad enterprise that, in 1970, filed what was then the biggest corporate bankruptcy in U.S. history. In the wake of that collapse, Trump leveraged his father’s ties to New York’s Democratic machine and local bankers to acquire pieces of Penn Central’s holdings, including the Yards, in the mid-1970s.

Unable to reach agreements with the city and community groups on how to develop the site, Trump let his option lapse in 1979. His Yards saga began in earnest in 1985, when he bought back the property from another developer for $115 million.

Trump’s plans for the property included office and residential space; a new broadcasting headquarters for NBC; a rocket-ship-shaped skyscraper that would have been the world’s tallest building and cast shadows across the Hudson River into New Jersey; and a $700 million property tax abatement from the city as an incentive to build it. The $4.5 billion project — which Trump called Television City — would have been New York’s biggest development since Rockefeller Center.

Like London’s Canary Wharf, begun a few years later, Television City promised to reshape a significant portion of a major urban center. “It’s an opportunity to build a city within the greatest city, and I don’t think anybody’s ever had that opportunity,” Trump said in an interview at the time.

With the property, financing and plans in place, a large part of what Trump needed to do to make Television City a reality was to bring together different stakeholders: locals (like the late actor Paul Newman) who wanted parks and a less imposing development, and a mayor, Ed Koch, who had his own outsize personality and who was trying to balance the city’s redevelopment with the needs of the area’s longtime residents.

Had Trump appeased these interests, he might have made the project a reality. Instead, the author of “The Art of the Deal” quickly became entangled in an epic, only-in-New-York round of public fisticuffs with Koch in the spring and summer of 1987. The brawl devolved into name-calling — and ultimately helped doom a deal that could have had vastly different results if Trump chose different tactics.

After learning that Koch was going to turn down his request for the $700 million abatement for Television City, Trump dashed off a letter to the mayor.

“For you to be playing ‘Russian Roulette’ with perhaps the most important corporation in New York over the relatively small amounts of money involved because you and your staff are afraid that Donald Trump may actually make more than a dollar of profit, is both ludicrous and disgraceful,” he wrote to Koch.

Koch wrote back to Trump, warning him to “refrain from further attempts to influence the process through intimidation.” Koch then held a press conference, during which he released the letters and said he wasn’t going to give Trump the abatement.

Trump doubled down, holding his own press conference and calling on Koch to resign. The battle played out in a carnivalesque stream on TV and on the front pages and gossip columns of newspapers.

Koch said Trump was “squealing like a stuck pig.” Trump said Koch’s New York had become a “cesspool of corruption and incompetence.” Koch said Trump was a “piggy, piggy, piggy.”

Trump said the mayor had “no talent and only moderate intelligence” and should be impeached. “Ed Koch would do everybody a huge favor if he would get out of office and they started all over again,” he noted. “It’s bedlam in the city.”

07 Feb 2016

Michelangelo’s Villa For Sale

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michelangelo-villa

Only six acres, but quite a trophy property!

Italian Tribune:

The eight-bedroom villa, located near Siena, was bought by the Renaissance master in 1549 and remained in the Buonarroti family until 1867 – more than 300 years after his death. The home is surrounded by the vineyards of Chianti, with views of Tuscany’s rolling hills. Since Michelangelo purchased the home in 1549, the home has only had three owners including the current owner, who possess the original deed to the property. The deed describes Michelangelo as “a dear sculptor and Florentine citizen”. The property, believed to date back to the 11th century, also comes with eight bathrooms, an old mill and a lemon grove and could be yours for $8,165,250 (excluding closing costs).

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Robb Report:

Located on over six acres above the rolling hills, the 12,915 square feet of living space is contained in three multi-story buildings, including an ancient tower, believed to date back to the 11th century. The original architecture is accented throughout with large stone fireplaces, beamed and barrel ceilings. Consisting of eight bedrooms and seven full baths, all rooms pay homage to the period and modern conveniences, though all available, blend into the background. The kitchen has all the rustic romance of the early centuries with high-end appliances that do not take away from the original architecture. Grounds are park-like with lawns and mature plantings with a lemon orchard, olive grove and Chianti vineyards, as well as the original olive oil mill. The listing agent is Joni Hazelton of Handsome Properties International.

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MLS #: H-40-08-010

08 May 2015

Walter Raleigh’s House For Sale

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Downton

You can buy a pretty decent house and a major chunk of history in Britain right now for a mere £1,600,000 ($2,466,543).

Winkworth Salisbury Estate Agents:

The Manor House in Downton is tucked away next to the church in a peaceful corner of this bustling village. It is said to be the longest continually inhabited house in the South of England, from its original foundation as a chapel in around 850, and later as a medieval hall house. In the 16th Century, Elizabeth I leased the house from Winchester College and gifted it first to Thomas Wilkes, Clerk to the Privy Council, and then to Sir Walter Raleigh, who made significant home improvements, not least to impress Queen Elizabeth when she came to stay at the Manor House in 1586. The Raleigh family remained in occupation for the next hundred years and the Raleigh coat of arms is still to be found over the fireplace in the drawing room (historically known as the ‘Great Hall’ or ‘Parlour’).

Via Country Life.

10 Sep 2012

New Yorkers Renovating Philly

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W.C. Fields (1880-1946) desired his tombstone epitaph to read: “On the whole, I would rather be in Philadelphia.”

Susan Gregory Thomas describes the latest neighborhood experiencing gentrification at the hands of desperate New York urbanistas seeking affordable living space: Philadeliphia.

We had a one-bedroom apartment, and our son lived in the dining room.” “Our window looked out onto a concrete courtyard of trash cans and roaches, and a rat came out of our toilet.” “We could only afford to live in Queens—why the hell would we move to Queens? For Indian food?” “Who cares about the Met, off-Broadway and the new ‘It’ restaurant if you can’t afford it, especially with young kids?”

Now, the responses to moving to Philadelphia: “We got a five-bedroom house with a yard and a pool for less than our cruddy apartment!” “Brooklyn says it’s diverse, but neighborhood by neighborhood, it’s not. In our neighborhood in Mount Airy, there are black kids, white kids, mixed kids, lesbian couples, mixed couples—it’s nirvana!” “We can do our work anywhere, so long as we’re within spitting distance of New York and D.C.—why the hell didn’t we come here earlier?”

It’s a haunting question. I, for one, felt that New York had become the protagonist in my life, entering as Holly Golightly-meets-Horatio Alger and, by the third act, morphing into Richard III. My kingdom, horse—all sacked by the Big Apple. This might explain why so many of us have the dazed look of returning veterans, though our battle was of the bourg-y socioeconomic variety. We lost it in New York, but we see hope in Philly.

You’ve seen us on playgrounds in Chestnut Hill and West Mount Airy, all in black, clutching espressos, waxing ecstatically about how “cheap!” and “pretty!” everything is here, while our Ramones-clad little ones run around giddily. We may look and sound insufferable, but the truth is, we’re stunned. Everything is so much nicer—the houses, the people, the landscape—that it can take months for post-traumatic effects to wane. To wit, on the first night in my new house, I stayed up all night unpacking kitchen boxes. At around 4 a.m., I heard a rattling sound. Oh, God, I thought. Rats. It was the automatic ice-cube-maker. I burst into tears.

01 Sep 2011

Now, This Is How To Sell Real Estate

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Aussie realtors Ian Adams and Adrian Jenkins made this advertisement and did sell the property at 15 Queen Anne Court last May.

Hat tip to Theo.

30 Jun 2011

Katherine Hepburn’s House For Sale

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Asking price: $28,000,000. Location: Old Saybrook, Connecticut — An old coastal town in Eastern Connecticut, not conveniently close to anything. Built: 1939. 15 rooms, 6 bedrooms (3 suites), 7.5 bathrooms, private dock, beach, and pond, on 2.87 acres. Estimated mortgage payment: $164,633/per month.

20 photos.

My guess is that they won’t get anything remotely resembling that asking price.

13 Nov 2010

Not All Real Estate Is Doing Badly

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A gamer recently sold a virtual property, existing only in the context of an on-line game, for serious money.

Yahoo:

Think the rent is, in fact, too damn high? Then stay as far away from online world Entropia Universe as possible, because its real estate prices will drive you insane.

Take, for instance, what just went down on Planet Calypso, where one of Entropia’s wealthier players has sold off his interests in a “resort asteroid” for an eye-popping $635,000.

The seller is Jon Jacobs, also known as the character ‘Neverdie’. He originally purchased the asteroid in 2005 — eventually converting it into the extravagant resort ‘Club Neverdie’ — for the then-record price of $100,000. For those keeping score, that’s a gain of over $500,000 in just five years. In nerdier terms, that’s an ROI of 535%. Match that, Citibank.

14 Sep 2010

Be Afraid, Be Very Afraid

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Most living Americans, including now approaching geezerhood Baby Boomers, have never seen anything like the current economic hard times. When I go out out of doors, I sometimes feel a bit surprised that the world is actually in color, not in black and white, and no one is dressed in 1930s styles.

But, on the whole, most of us have been facing current adversities with grim good humor. It’s our turn, we tend to reflect. We’ve had it good for so long. Sooner or later, government was bound to screw things up seriously.

But, we shrugged, we can survive. Our parents did. And the world has changed. We have vastly more education, more skepticism and sophistication. The peasant mentality that permitted the Great Depression to drag on for over a decade as the result of one socialist monkey wrench after another thrown into the engine of the economy and the Smoot Hawley Tariff just can’t happen today.

We’ve learned a lot. The policy errors of the New Deal have been exposed and its economics debunked. Today’s American population will not sit passively by and let Washington drive the economy into the ground year after year after year. The democrats will get slaughtered in 2010 and our Kenyan Caliban will be sent packing in 2012. A conservative Republican will take office in 2013 and the land will heal.

But, I have just read two news items in the Wall Street Journal which give me pause.

1) Despite the fact that the newspapers are full of foreclosure auction notices, and we all know people moving and abandoning homes to the banks, we tend inevitably to think that real estate disaster is well along and that we can look forward to the end of all that within an endurable interval.

We may be wrong.

This WSJ article from yesterday ends, I think, with whistling in the dark.

Housing markets began to stabilize early last year as low prices and government interventions broke the downward spiral. Policy makers spurred demand for homes by holding down mortgage rates, offering tax credits for buyers, and extending low-down-payment loans through the Federal Housing Administration.

The government also attacked the supply problem. Regulators relaxed mark-to-market accounting rules, giving banks more flexibility in valuing certain real-estate assets and removing some of the impetus for banks to quickly foreclose. Meanwhile, the Obama administration put in place an ambitious program to modify mortgages.

The Home Affordable Modification Program has fallen short of its goals. So far, fewer than 500,000 loans have been modified, below the target of three million to four million. Yet the program served as a “closet moratorium” on foreclosures that stanched the flow of bank-owned homes to the market, said Ronald Temple, portfolio manager at Lazard Asset Management.

The result: The share of distressed sales fell by November to 25% of home sales, and prices stabilized. After rising in the winter, the distressed share fell to 22% in June, before bouncing to 30% in July.

The problem is that these measures are wearing off. Demand plunged this summer after tax credits expired, and unsold homes are piling up. More foreclosures could move onto the market as borrowers fall out of the loan-modification program.

“We see the perfect storm brewing with rising supply and falling demand,” said Ivy Zelman, chief executive of research firm Zelman & Associates and one of the first to warn of trouble five years ago. She estimated that distressed sales could account for half of the market by year-end if traditional sales didn’t rebound.

The market does have some tailwinds: Housing starts are at all-time lows. Banks have hired more staff to manage problem loans and government entities such as Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac that own a growing share of foreclosures are less likely to deluge the market.

The next leg down in prices “isn’t going to be the foreclosure-induced freefall where you just had inventory coming out the wazoo, and it was going to be sold one way or the other,” said Glenn Kelman, chief executive of Redfin Corp., a real-estate brokerage.

Prices also have come down so much already they have less distance to fall. During the housing boom, prices inflated much faster than incomes rose, thanks to speculation and lax lending. The ratio of home prices to annual incomes reached 1.6 at the end of June, which is below the ratio of 1.88 from 1989 to 2003, according to Moody’s Analytics.

By those metrics, prices are actually undervalued in markets that have already seen huge declines, such as Las Vegas, Phoenix and Los Angeles. But Moody’s data show that prices remain “significantly overvalued” elsewhere, including Boston; New York; Seattle; Orange County, Calif., and Charlotte, N.C. Markets in both camps face supply imbalances that will pressure prices for years.

What I see is houses being offered for sale at significantly lower prices which are not selling, and a huge, absolutely enormous backlog of not-yet-foreclosed, not yet fallen out of the Home Affordable Mortgage Program houses yet to hit the market.

Who would be crazy enough to buy at any price in the current, totally unpredictable circumstances?

It is easy to find experts venturing predictions that home prices may fall another 10%. Why not another 30%, another 50%, or even 90%?

The market is flooded with homes. An enormous number more are somewhere in the pipeline headed for distress sale. Money is tight. People are still out of work, still losing jobs. Mortgage rates are low, but it is very difficult to get a mortgage. And, in the final analysis, who is going to buy now? Who will not believe that the market is still going down?

How low can we go? No one knows. People my age have lived through a period in which government policies lifted home prices into the stratosphere by arranging for 30 year financing for everyone. When I was a boy, working class families bought $5000-$12,000 houses, paying cash or arranging for two or three years of seller financing. The same kind of homes were selling for as much as $500,000 near Eastern cities a few years ago, and for $1,000,000 or $1,200,000 near San Francisco.

There is a very long way down between the prices of homes decades ago and recent prices. And deleveraging is just not happening. That backlog of unliquidated defaulted properties is sitting there, still unprocessed, like a ticking bomb.

2) Then, I read in the same WSJ of internationally-designed new banking rules intended to reduce risk by reducing liquidity and dramatically raising banks’ capitalization requirements.

The focus of the agreement is on the amount of “capital” banks are forced to hold. Capital is what banks use to absorb losses. Regulators and analysts typically believe that banks with more capital have a lower risk of failure or insolvency.

Regulators agreed to require banks to hold a specific level of a basic type of capital known as “common equity.” Common equity is considered the most effective type of capital because it is used to directly absorb losses. Officials agreed large, internationally active banks will have to hold levels of common equity equal to at least 7% of their assets, much higher than the roughly 2% international standard or 4% standard for large U.S. banks.

Who said governments in our time would not undertake “reforms” that reduce credit, constrict economic growth, and preclude recovery?

Remember Japan? Back in the late 1980s, everyone was afraid that Japan was going to replace the United States as the world’s leading economic power. Then along came recession, and Japan responded with the same kind of policies we see being applied right here today. Japan is still in recession, and nobody has been afraid of Japanese economic performance in years and years.

We have been saying to ourselves that housing prices may drop another 10% and that the real beginnings of the recovery may take another year, or maybe two, to arrive. We could be wrong.

20 Mar 2010

Bill Buckley’s New York Apartment Lowered in Price

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The rich are different from you and me”, says Nick Carraway in Scott Fitzgerald’s Great Gatsby, prompting Hemingway to retort: “Yes. They have more money.”

But even the rich are not immune from the impact of the current recession and the real estate market collapse.

The New York Times reports that the price of William F. Buckley, Jr.’s splendiferous Manhattan pied-a-terre has been slashed by slightly more than half.

THE worldly and the clever gathered at the dinner parties that William F. Buckley Jr. and his wife, Pat, gave in their Park Avenue maisonette. Yet even though the chairs in the formal dining room are still covered in chartreuse leopard print, it has been quite a while since anyone but a broker or a prospective buyer has spent much time there.

Mrs. Buckley, a socialite and mainstay of the charity circuit, died in 2007, and Mr. Buckley, the writer and godfather of modern conservatism, followed 10 months later in early 2008. Their 10-room duplex came on the market at $24.5 million in May 2008, but there were no takers; in early 2009, as the real estate market was choking, the estate decided to take down the for-sale sign.

Now, more than a year later, the apartment at 778 Park Avenue has been relisted at $12 million, less than half the original asking price. And it is not the only listing in the building to have had to, ahem, adjust its price. The late Brooke Astor’s 15th-floor duplex, with 14 rooms and 6 terraces, started at $46 million in May 2008 and is now being offered for $24.9 million.

Ms. Del Nunzio is quick to point out that the apartment has “the most extraordinary suite of entertaining rooms that you could find,” with a private entrance on East 73rd Street and an 18-foot-long marble entry hall that opens onto a 27-foot-long gallery, leading to a living room, a library and a dining room.

“This is the place,” Ms. Del Nunzio continued, “where all those conversations and dinners with statesmen and political figures, not to mention film and television stars, with a quiet family dinner thrown in here and there, happened. This is a rare opportunity to acquire a piece of New York’s intellectual history.”

The listing, with additional photos.

06 Aug 2009

Some of Us Thought the Real Estate Bubble Was Over

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Jim the Realtor from California describes a house being offered in Brooklyn.

Occupying what used to be a driveway, it’s a 1br/1ba home on a parcel of land 7.25 feet wide and 113.67 feet long. The interior area is just under 300 square feet: …ONLY $479,900!

I can remember a similar packing crate sort of residence located on top of Belmont Heights in San Francisco, in need of complete renovation, selling to a surgeon for $450,000 a few years ago.

Hat tip to Walter Olson.

Correction, August 6:
John brings to my attention in his comment a Daily News story debunking all this:

The house is actually in Toronto, and the price is only $179,000.

It was probably built in Kenya, too.

27 Jul 2009

“Do as I Say, Don’t Live as I Do”

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Thomas L. Friedman knows whats good for you

Kate, at Small Dead Animals, merely posts a quotation from New York Times editorialist Thomas L. Friedman‘s June 30th “Just Do It” column demanding that Americans support the democrats’ Cap-and-Trade Bill.

(T)his bill’s goal of reducing U.S. carbon emissions to 17 percent below 2005 levels by 2020 is nowhere near what science tells us we need to mitigate climate change. But it also contains significant provisions to prevent new buildings from becoming energy hogs, to make our appliances the most energy efficient in the world and to help preserve forests in places like the Amazon.”

and links a photo of Mr. Friedman’s house.

Hat tips to Greg Pollowitz and Mark Steyn, who remarks:

(O)bviously, being a renowned expert, Thomas Friedman, like Al Gore and the Prince of Wales, needs a supersized carbon footprint. But you don’t — you can get by beating your laundry on the rocks down by the river with the native women all day long.

“Environmentalism” is a government restraint on economic advance and, therefore, social mobility. In other words, it’s a way to ensure you’ll never live like Tom Friedman.

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