Category Archive 'Real Estate'
17 Feb 2020

Excessive and Deranged Government in Action

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What the offending building would have looked like when completed.

This classic New York City real estate story has attracted international news coverage.

The Independent:

In an extraordinary ruling, a state supreme court judge has ordered the developers of a nearly completed 668-foot block of flats in New York to remove as many as 20 or more floors from the top of the building.

The decision is a major victory for community groups who opposed the project on the grounds that the developers used a zoning loophole to create the tallest building on the Upper West Side of Manhattan. A lawyer representing the project said the developers would appeal the decision.

Justice W Franc Perry ordered that the Department of Buildings revoke the building permit for the tower at 200 Amsterdam Avenue and remove all floors that exceed the zoning limit. Exactly how many floors might need to be deconstructed has yet to be determined, but under one interpretation of the law, the building might have to remove 20 floors or more from the 52-storey tower to conform to the regulation.

“We’re elated,” said Olive Freud, the president of the Committee for Environmentally Sound Development, one of the community groups that brought the suit.

“The developers knew that they were building at their own peril,” said Richard Emery, a lawyer representing the community groups that challenged the project before the foundation was even completed. Mr Emery said this decision sent a warning to other developers who proceed with construction despite pending litigation.

The question at the heart of the suit was whether the developers had abused zoning rules to justify the project’s size.

It is common for developers to purchase the unused development rights of adjacent buildings to add height and bulk to their project. But in this case opponents of the project argued that the developers, SJP Properties and Mitsui Fudosan America, created a “gerrymandered”, highly unusual 39-sided zoning lot to take advantage of the development rights from a number of tenuously connected lots. Without this technique, the tower might have been little more than 20 storeys tall, instead of the nearly finished 52-storey tower that now stands.

The decision also sets an important precedent, said Elizabeth Goldstein, president of the Municipal Art Society of New York, one of the advocacy groups that brought the suit against the project.

RTWT

If you were ever wondering why big cities have constant shortages of housing and why real estate prices climb into the stratosphere, this particular story illustrates just how costly, difficult, and risky real estate development can be in places where zoning and regulation reach levels that Imperial Austro-Hungary Bureaucracy could have envied, and where “community groups” made up of self-appointed trouble-makers, busy-bodies, environmental fanatics, and communists can operate much like arms of the government.

10 Feb 2020

Life In California’s Left-Wing Paradise

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The Nomenklatura live conveniently in Atherton, Portola, or Pacific Heights, but the proletariat get to catch 2:30 AM buses to work from the 110° every day Central Valley. Protocol:

It’s 2:30 a.m. in the Central California farm town of Salida, and the only sound is the tech bus pulling into an unmarked lot surrounded by barbed wire. Men and women in work boots board in the moonlight. Next stop is 11 miles away in Manteca, and then it’s another 55 miles to Fremont on the San Francisco Bay, where — an hour and a half hour later — the 4 a.m. shift at the Tesla factory starts.

Welcome to life on Silicon Valley’s new frontier. When tech companies first introduced private shuttles for their employees more than a decade ago, they served the affluent neighborhoods in San Francisco and the Peninsula. Now the buses reach as far as the almond orchards of Salida and the garlic fields of Gilroy.

Tech companies have grown tight-lipped about the specifics of their shuttle programs in the wake of high-profile protests in San Francisco. But Protocol was able to locate enough stops for company shuttles to confirm that some tech shuttles now drive all the way out to the Central Valley, an agricultural hub once a world away from the tech boom on the coast.

“That just tells you the story of the Bay Area,” said Russell Hancock, president and CEO of regional think tank Joint Venture Silicon Valley. “We’re going to be in these farther-flung places, and that’s our reality because we’re not going to be able to create affordable housing.”

Tech shuttle sprawl speaks to the unique pressures that the industry has put on the region. High tech salaries have driven up housing prices in Silicon Valley, San Francisco and the East Bay, forcing white- and blue-collar workers alike to move farther away from their jobs. The crisis is compounded by anti-development politics that make it hard to build new housing and patchwork public transit systems that make it difficult for commuters to get to work without driving.

The mismatch between jobs and housing has become so extreme that Google and Facebook have proposed building thousands of apartments or condos on their own campuses.

In the meantime, those companies — plus Tesla, Apple, Netflix, LinkedIn, Genentech and others — are trying to solve the problem with long-distance buses. They all now offer shuttle service to at least the extended suburbs of the East Bay, according to interviews and reports Protocol consulted. Their longest routes now stretch north across the Golden Gate Bridge, south to the surf town of Santa Cruz, and east to the Central Valley — a total service area approaching 3,000 square miles.

09 Feb 2020

Cities Make People Crazy, and It’s Happening in Berlin

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A Berlin rent protest.

You missed visiting bombed-out, rubble-strewn Berlin post-1945? Don’t worry. You’ll have another chance, just a few short years down the road, to see entire empty neighborhoods comprised of falling-down, abandoned buildings.

New York City had square miles of buildings like that, back in the 1970s, thanks to Rent Control.

When Government Price Controls gift tenants with give-away rents and buildings’ incomes fail to suffice to pay taxes and buy heating oil, their owners have no choice but to walk away. Nobody wants to abandon valuable real estate, but when the Government expropriates all the income and destroys a property’s value, abandonment becomes inevitable. In NYC, countless thousands of buildings, entire neigborhoods, were once boarded up and abandoned. Berlin’s turn is obviously coming.

Bloomberg

Germany’s capital is taking extreme measures to stay (relatively) affordable and not go the way of San Francisco or London. Beginning in early 2020, Berlin’s left-leaning government will freeze rents for five years. Landlords will be required to show new tenants the most recent rental contracts to prove they aren’t jacking up prices. They’ll also have to follow new rent-cap rules, which for many landlords could mean lowering rents by as much as 40%. Those who don’t comply will be hit with fines as high as €500,000 ($553,000) for each violation.

Even more radically, tenant groups and thousands of activists are demanding that large corporate landlords be expelled from the city altogether, their property expropriated. The goal is to get the government to buy back roughly 250,000 properties—almost one-eighth of Berlin’s housing stock—and turn them into public housing. And while the move may sound far-fetched, it’s won support from anywhere from 29% to 54% of Berliners, according to yvarious polls. Two of the city’s three ruling political parties have even endorsed a nonbinding public referendum on whether to force big landlords to sell their real estate to the government. (The biggest party, the Social Democratic Party, or SPD, is against the move, as is German Chancellor Angela Merkel’s Christian Democratic Union. They’ve signaled their intentions to challenge the new regulations in court.)

Berlin’s landlords, big and small, are reeling. The city’s publicly traded real estate companies, whose share prices fell for most of the summer after the government announced the planned freeze in June, complain that Berlin’s new regulations will scare off needed capital. Fewer companies will invest in modernizations to make buildings more appealing or energy-efficient, they say, and construction of new units may suffer, which would exacerbate Berlin’s shortages. “Almost 30 years after the fall of the Berlin Wall, it seems that some people want the former conditions back,” Michael Zahn, chief executive officer of Berlin’s largest publicly traded landlord, Deutsche Wohnen SE, said in an earnings call in November, referring to the former East Germany’s all-controlling government. “Tenants and landlords will face great uncertainty. That’s a poison pill for investment.”

RTWT

08 Jul 2019

$1200-a-Month Pod Living in San Francisco

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“O brave new world, That has such people in’t!”

How many years of school? How many hours a week working? For this?

But, hey! they get access to all the great SF restaurants!

HT: Vandeleun.

11 Feb 2019

Boat Moored in Front of the Louvre for Sale

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espaces-atypiques:

This magnificent boat sailing 25 meters/82 feet, is moored in one of the most sought after areas of the Latin Quarter. Classified of heritage interest, it has a roof of 16m/52.5′ long under which take place all the comfort of a beautiful apartment.

The wheelhouse, entirely preserved in exceptional condition, gives access to an unusual reception. Its proportions allow it to host a lounge area with its cozy fireplace and a dining room that will turn into a billiard room if necessary.

At the same level, at the stern, under the wheelhouse is a first cabin separated from the living room by an office area and kitchen. On the other side, at the bow are two cabins, one with a bathtub overlooking the Seine.

At the bow level, a terrace of 15m2/49 sq. ft., will allow you to appreciate the exceptional view of the Louvre and the Ile de la Cité, in the tranquility typical of the small arm of the Seine.

The authentic fittings, its look and its benefits give it an undeniable charm.

Anneau: 1500 € ($1690.50) quarter

1 050 000 € ($1,183,350)

23 Dec 2018

“Indigenous Moor” Appropriates House

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Joel Fedd.

The Daily Mail reports that “Indigenous Moor” Joel Fedd moved into a vacant Gwinnett County, Georgia house, recently purchased by another family, changed the locks and put up “No Trespassing” signs.

04 Aug 2018

Peter Hawker’s House For Sale

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Longparish House

For sale: Historic Longparish House, former home of England’s greatest shooting author, Peter Hawker 1786-1853, author of the “Instructions to Young Sportsmen” which appeared in ten continually revised and enlarged editions, 1814-1854, over the course of the author’s lifetime, and which described both the development of the technology of the gun and the evolution of upland gamebird shooting into a major activity of the British aristocracy.

Savile’s has the listing:

Grade II* Listed house 9 bedrooms

Tenure: Freehold

An Elegant Grade II* Listed Country House and Estate in a glorious setting on the world renowned River Test.

Longparish House comprises 4 principal reception rooms, kitchen/ breakfast room, cloakroom, principal bedroom suite, 4 guest bedroom suites 4 further bedrooms, family bathroom.
lower ground floor including billiard room and wine cellars.

Annexe with self-contained 1 bedroom flat.

Outbuildings including garage, granary, stables, manege and stores.

Formal and informal gardens with extensive river frontage, swimming pool & tennis court.

Idyllic estate surroundings including about 26 acres of water meadows, 76 acres of farmland and 54 Acres of woodland.

The River Test
Over 2711 meters (2964 yards — a mile and a half) of double-bank fishing on The River Test and carriers and a lake.

3 further cottages including a pair of Grade II Listed thatched cottages.

Square Footage: 11,664 sq ft — Acreage: 177 Acres.

A mere “excess of £15,000,000”, whatever that means.

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Country Life article

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Captain Peter Hawker, 14th Light Dragoons. Hawker’s military career ended when he was badly wounded at the Battle of Talavera, 28 July 1809.

14 Jun 2018

Welsh Pied-a-Terre, Anyone?

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The Independent describes a relative real estate bargain.

An entire island off the coast of Pembrokeshire is on sale for £400,000 – less than the cost of a one-bedroom flat in London.

Stack Rock Fort is a Grade-II listed fortification built between 1850 and 1852 to protect Britain from French invasion under the rule of Napoleon III.

The large, circular building offers a 360-degree view of the surrounding waterways and is connected to the mainland by a short boat ride. Interested parties (and seasickness sufferers) should note that there won’t be any viewings taking place in bad weather, Ross McKenzie of Purplebricks, the property agent looking after the fort, has confirmed.

Although the island is currently uninhabitable, the property “represents an enormously lucrative and exciting opportunity, with limitless development potential”, says McKenzie.

“Imagine, for example, a cable car being built from the mainland which ferries guests over to a unique, boutique hotel? With the right imagination and investment, it could become a stunning property which would do wonders for the local area.”

Made up of three floors connected by spiral staircases, the building was once armed with sixteen 18-ton guns and manned by up to 150 men. It was manned by a small consignment of men during the First World War.

12 Jun 2018

New Canaan Bans Real Estate For Sale Signs

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Hot Air catches the burghers of New Canaan in denial.

Here’s an odd little story which is probably going to be cropping up more and more in blue states in the near future. The town of New Canaan, Connecticut is instituting a change this summer. Their Board of Realtors has passed a ban on “For Sale” signs placed in front of the properties where residents are selling their houses and moving away. Why is that? Well, if you ask the local government they’ll tell you that there’s simply no need for the signs anymore. Savvy shoppers are looking for houses online and besides… those signs are an eyesore anyway. …

So the official line here is that online browsing has made the signs redundant and people don’t like the look of them. But how much of that is true? I know from personal experience that shopping for a house may certainly include doing some online browsing, but that doesn’t give you a full picture or inform you about the real feel of the house and the neighborhood. Driving around and scouting nice neighborhoods looking for For Sale signs is part of the process for most people. So what’s the real reason that New Canaan doesn’t want all of those For Sale signs lining the streets?

One hint can be found in the comments from local resident Shawn Gardner who said, “The amount of them is giving buyers an idea that this entire town is for sale.”

That seems to be the dirty little secret here. They don’t want people to know how many people are fleeing high tax areas like Connecticut.

RTWT

We got out of far less expensive and fashionable Newtown around 2000. Our real estate taxes which were $2000-per-annum when we moved in had risen to $10,000-per-annum, and Lowell Weicker’s state income tax had ruined the business environment. My wife and I had wound up commuting an exhausting one hour and 45 minutes each way to Manhattan.

02 Mar 2018

Would You Pay $2 Million for this House?

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Somebody did in Sunnyvale (Silicon Valley).

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.

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