Listings of mansions in Greenwich have dropped for the past four quarters. But this time it wasn’t because sales were brisk.
Luxury-home listings in the Connecticut town plunged 31 percent from a year earlier, according to a report Thursday by appraiser Miller Samuel Inc. and brokerage Douglas Elliman Real Estate. That’s largely because sellers who failed to get their hoped-for price quit trying to find buyers and took their properties off the market to wait for a better day.
“Inventory is declining but sales aren’t rising,” Jonathan Miller, president of Miller Samuel, said in an interview. “It’s mostly listings being pulled off the market.”
Tastes are changing in Greenwich, home to many Wall Street executives who take the 50-minute train ride to Manhattan. Lavish mansions on several acres have languished, while smaller homes closer to downtown get scooped up. In the third quarter, sales of luxury homes — the top 10 percent of deals by price — fell 13 percent from a year earlier to 21, the firms said. Condo purchases, meanwhile, jumped 35 percent to 58 transactions, the most for a quarter in data going back to 1999.
“Small is the new big,” said Scott Durkin, chief operating officer of Douglas Elliman. “Millennial buyers, they want to be in town, they want to be close to services, they don’t need 5,000 to 10,000 square feet — they’re OK with 1,600 to 2,200.”
“We really don’t have enough of those listings to sell,” he said. “We need more.”
The closer that homes are to Greenwich’s commercial district or waterfront, the faster they’re selling. At the current pace of deals, it would take 7.8 months to sell all the listed properties south of Post Road, an area that includes the train station and tony shops of Greenwich Avenue, Miller Samuel and Douglas Elliman said. In the Back Country section — north of the Merritt Parkway, featuring oversized estates set back from winding, two-lane roads — it would take more than three years to clear the listed inventory.
One listing that struggled to find a buyer was 16 Old Mill Road, a 10,881-square-foot home that had three price reductions in its more than two years on the market, according to listing records. The property, on 5.3 acres that include a 2,329-square-foot guest house, was first listed in May 2015 for $17.35 million, and eventually whittled to $11.45 million before it was pulled in September. Brokers shifted tactics, relisting the home under a different address — 781 Lake Ave. — and with an additional discount, to $10.95 million.
High-end sales had picked up earlier this year, largely because of price cuts, helping to clear some of the backlog. Sellers were still discounting this quarter, offering an average of 6.7 percent off the last listed price. The reductions drew in buyers for some costlier homes, pushing the median sale price in the luxury category up 34 percent to $6.5 million, Miller Samuel and Douglas Elliman said.
That’s the upside to having so many fatigued sellers giving up, according to Durkin. It clears the distractions and boosts confidence for those who want to commit to a high-end purchase in town.
Unfortunately for Equifax, outcry over their massive security breach is not yesterday’s news even 6 weeks after the hack was made public. In fact, there is a deeper probe being made by government officials and consumers trying to figure out what can be done to prevent another breach and how personal information can be protected. Here are some of the most recent updates on the breach:
Equifax announced that they believe 2.5 million more U.S. consumers may have had their data stolen. Adding to the original prediction of 143 million, it’s now believed that approximately 145.5 million consumers may be affected.
209,000 consumer credit card numbers were stolen.
182,000 documents with personal information were stolen.
Former Equifax CEO, Richard Smith, reported that the hack happened due to a human error in their security department who failed to patch a flaw in the system.
Close to 11 million driver’s license ID numbers are believed to have been compromised.
It was discovered that some coding on Equifax’s website contained malicious content. The security analyst who discovered the issue was trying to download his credit report when he was confronted with this malicious link. Equifax released a statement saying this was not another hack and the third-party coding had been removed.
Democrats have introduced a new bill that would stop the credit reporting agencies from charging fees to consumers for security protection options to prevent ID Theft.
Democrats have also called for Equifax to wave their fee for business credit reports since it’s believed that business credit data was compromised as well. Companies are at risk of business identity theft as well as personal.
A Republican lawmaker introduced a new bill to give U.S. bank regulators more power over supervising the credit reporting agencies.
Equifax has been doused with dozens of class-action lawsuits.
The Federal Trade Commission (FTC) and Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB) have ongoing federal investigations into any misconduct.
Whether your information is listed as compromised or not, the fact that a multi-billion-dollar worldwide corporation would be so sloppy in the protection of consumer data is worrisome, to say the least.
Whether we like it or not, the credit bureaus own your information, we did not give them permission but are required to trust them with the data. Identity protection is in our own hands, we cannot trust corporations in this digital age to be able to ward off all potential threats. Even if they do have the most cutting-edge protection thieves will find a way to break through it. The best thing each consumer can do is monitor their credit, know the signs of a scam, and keep their personal data secure.
Here’s some of the information that Equifax handed to hackers:
Social security numbers
Credit card and bank information
Driver’s license ID numbers
Income / job history
Enroll in our annual credit monitoring service where your reports will be guarded by credit professional on a daily basis. We offer monitoring for adults, children, and businesses.
Sales of both new and existing homes slipped over the summer, which typically might slow price gains.
But demand remains strong and has created bidding wars among potential buyers, pushing up prices at a much faster pace than incomes. The number of existing homes for sale fell 6.5 percent in the past year.
Seattle, Portland, Oregon and Las Vegas saw the largest increases, with prices in Seattle soaring 13.5 percent in July from a year earlier.
Other cities are also seeing strong gains. Home prices rose 7.3 percent in Dallas and Detroit, and 7.2 percent in Denver. The slowest increases were in Washington, D.C. and Chicago, which both reported 3.3 percent gains.
With unemployment low and paychecks rising modestly, more people are in the market for a home. But construction of new single-family homes has been held back by a limited supply of land in hot markets and difficulty in finding construction workers.
That has intensified the competition in the housing market. Homes sold after an average of just 30 days on the market in August, according to the National Association of Realtors, down from 36 days a year ago.
Hurricanes Harvey and Irma began to pinch sales in August and should drag on the sales in the months ahead.
The Case-Shiller index covers roughly half of U.S. homes. The index measures prices compared with those in January 2000 and creates a three-month moving average. The July figures are the latest available.
Zach and Brie Smithey of St. Charles, Missouri, have remodeled several homes, but none of them were the perfect fit. “We were looking for something that wasn’t quite the norm,” Zach explains.
“We renovated homes built in 1880, 1904, and the 1970s. With each house, we got closer to our flavor, but never quite hit it,” he says. “We realized that to do something different, we had to start from scratch—to get what we really wanted, we couldn’t follow someone else’s template.”
When they purchased an empty lot in 2011, they pictured building a more traditional house made out of conventional materials. But as the years passed, their vision shifted, and at some point, they stopped thinking about what a house should be and began wondering what other forms it might take. Ideas such as a concrete house, a geodesic dome, and a tiny house were weighed and rejected. “Realistically, how many people could live in a tiny house for the rest of their lives?” wonders Brie.
The couple doesn’t remember how the concept was raised, but when the idea of a container house came on their radar, it immediately felt right. “I had never seen one before, and I wasn’t even sure they existed,” Zach says. Online searches convinced them and informed them that if they built a container house, they’d be the first in the area to do so.
“We chose a container house because it gave us the most bang for our buck,” says Brie. “It allowed us to use recycled materials, which was important to us. The cost of it, and the fact we did so much of it ourselves, allowed us to live mortgage free, which was also important to us.”
Little did they know that at the time they were doing the research, their future home was sitting in a nearby container yard. “Once we decided to do this, I found a broker that sources containers from container yards across America,” Zach says. “There are many options: You can buy them new, used, or ready to be retired.”
The couple chose the last option, feeling that a few dents only add to the character of the units. They ended up with containers that had been built in Shanghai and traveled around the world 12 times on boat, train, and truck before coming to rest in North St. Louis. “We found eight 40-foot containers, each one with nine-foot-high ceilings,” Zach says. “We paid $1,600 for each, and $375 to have each of them delivered, so they ended up being about $2,000 apiece. The whole project cost us about $135,000.”
The couple had the containers delivered to their lot, used a crane to stack them in a giant cube shape (there are four containers on the bottom and four on the top), and began shaping them into their home. “Building a regular house is an additive process—you put more on it day by day,” says Zach. “But in a house like this, it’s more of a subtractive process. You stack up the containers, and then you carve away the walls you don’t need.”
Before we go on with this story, there are a few things you need to understand about the Smitheys. The first is that Zach is an artist and that informs his remodeling projects. “For me and my art, it’s all about the process, not the end result,” he says. “This house is just like a big sculpture project. I figured it out as I went along, and the journey was more important than the destination. In the end, we have something we couldn’t have imagined at the beginning if we had had a hard and fast goal we were aiming at.”
The second thing you need to know is that he and his wife appear to be the types who see things differently. For example, what mere mortals consider a packing pallet, this couple sees as a building opportunity/free wood. “The great thing is that once people know you think this way, they seek you out and unload stuff,” says Zach. Indeed, when they talk about the home, very little is new and explanations are peppered with phrases like: “My friend was remodeling a house and had to get rid of a lot of brick” or “My friend’s wife works at a JCPenney that cancelled a remodel and had a lot of extra materials.”
Finally, this is a couple that’s seemingly unfazed by things they don’t initially know how to do. He’s an artist and she had worked as a massage therapist—but they didn’t hesitate to purchase and operate a restaurant (Miss Aimee B’s Tea Room & Gallery), something they’d never done before. She later founded Brie’s Protein Bars, a health food company. They apply this can-do attitude to remodeling; so having no direct experience with container buildings was no problem.
“Really, the only way to learn how to remodel is to remodel,” says Zach. “We did most of it ourselves, save for the electric, plumbing, and HVAC. Because we were doing it ourselves, we were constantly changing tasks and using/developing new skills. It was exhausting and went on 12 hours a day, seven days a week, for a year and 14 days.”
Brie agrees that the process was difficult. “I expected it to be hard—if it were easy, everyone would be doing it,” she allows. “What I didn’t expect is how difficult it would be to work with the metal. It’s heavy, it’s thick… YouTubers make it look easy, but trust me, it’s not for everyone.”
In the most basic terms, here’s what they did: Stacked up the containers, cut out openings between them, built a frame within the metal shell, put in the utilities, and then hung the drywall (except in strategic places where they left the metal exposed).
Of course, that simplistic explanation doesn’t even begin to cover the improvisation that went into it. “I figured it out as I went along,” says Zach. The figure-it-out-as-you-go style is responsible for features like antique arched windows hung upside down in the living room (they were left behind at their restaurant, rescued from an old church next door); baseboard and crown molding made from randomly cut boards from packing pallets; and cement board painted in a rainbow of drip patterns and installed as shower walls.
Throughout, recycled materials are everywhere you look. In addition to the aforementioned items, rope pulled from the mud on the banks of the Mississippi was cleaned and used to frame a television; birdbaths and a fountain plucked from a landscaping company’s boneyard find new life as sinks and a plumbed bar table; a combine chain and tractor hooks are used to support a wall-hung vanity in the upstairs bath; and a conch shell is repurposed as a faucet in a bathroom on the main floor.
Of course, none of this was easy or without headaches. “If, during construction, we encountered a problem we looked at it as an opportunity to innovate,” Zach says.
Anything this different is bound to inspire curiosity—especially in a small community like St. Charles (population: 69,293). “When we were building it, not a day went by without someone coming into the house and asking questions,” says Zach. The curiosity reached such a pitch, that the couple decided to host a community open house on May 20, the day the last light fixture was hung. The couple anticipated a few hundred people, and they were surprised when 2,000 showed up. “I was in shock,” says Brie. “Negative comments always seem louder than positive ones, but that day, it seemed like the house was full of positive comments and so many compliments.”
The couple decided to make it a benefit for the local animal shelter, and ended up raising $8,000 at the door for the organization.
30-year fixed-rate mortgage (FRM) averaged 3.82 percent with an average 0.5 point for the week ending August 31, 2017, down from last week when it averaged 3.86 percent. A year ago at this time, the 30-year FRM averaged 3.46 percent.
15-year FRM this week averaged 3.12 percent with an average 0.5 point, down from last week when it averaged 3.16 percent. A year ago at this time, the 15-year FRM averaged 2.77 percent.
Average commitment rates should be reported along with average fees and points to reflect the total upfront cost of obtaining the mortgage. Visit the following link for the Definitions. Borrowers may still pay closing costs which are not included in the survey.
Quote Attributed to Sean Becketti, chief economist, Freddie Mac.
“The 10-year Treasury yield fell to a new 2017-low on Tuesday. In response, the 30-year mortgage rate dropped 4 basis points to 3.82 percent, reaching a new year-to-date low for the second consecutive week. However, recent releases of positive economic data could halt the downward trend of mortgage rates.”
“They’ll eventually be out of Westchester County,” Bill Raveis declared back in 2015, referring to rival firm Douglas Elliman’s move into William Raveis Real Estate’s stronghold.
Not quite two years later, the opposite is turning out to be true.
On Tuesday, a jury upheld Elliman’s claim that Raveis and a former Elliman manager conspired to poach top agents from its office in Armonk, N.Y. The jury awarded Elliman $5 million in damages.
The rival firms have sparred viciously both in New York City and its wealthy suburbs to the north since 2014, when Elliman opened an office in Greenwich, Conn., in the heart of Raveis country.
That year, the suburban powerhouse, which is based in Connecticut, broke into Manhattan with an office headed by Paul Purcell, a former Elliman president, and Kathy Braddock.
The firms’ battle came to a head in mid-2015 when Raveis accused Elliman of blocking all emails that came from the firm — a move Bill Raveis likened to a “baby tantrum.” Elliman, meanwhile, said Raveis was sending mass emails to brokers in New York City in an attempt to lure them away.
Elliman sued Raveis and former manager Lisa Theiss in 2015 for allegedly conspiring to “decimate” its brach by secretly recruiting the firm’s top agents, according to court papers. The suit alleges that Theiss poached 10 agents, including four “top producers,” from her former firm and lured them to Raveis’ newly opened office across the street.
In a statement Tuesday, Elliman Chair Howard Lorber said he was pleased that the jury saw fit to rectify Raveis’ “egregious and outrageous actions.”
In an email, Bill Raveis said he disagreed “with all aspects of the jury’s decision,” and added that his firm would “vigorously be pursuing [an] appeal.”
Both Raveis and Elliman have been going after the Westchester market, which is still dominated by Houlihan Lawrence and Julia B. Fee Sotheby’s International Realty. Raveis logged $439 million in Westchester sales in 2016 while Elliman followed with $378 million, according to a recent analysis by The Real Deal.
BEIJING — When the Chinese government privatized housing in the 1990s, enriching a vast swath of the urban population, it was hailed as a remarkable achievement of the reform economy. Since then, the housing industry has ballooned into a juggernaut that accounts for 70 percent of the country’s household wealth.
More than just a place to live, private housing in the past two decades came to underpin the aspirations of urban Chinese. Homeownership, especially in cities, proved to be a reliable investment outlet. The skyrocketing values of housing have been providing money for sickness and old age in a country where the state has largely dismantled the welfare system. Real estate profits have allowed parents to finance their children’s education abroad.
But the impressive size and wealth of the propertied class belies the growing strains plaguing new home buyers. The country now has some of the least affordable housing markets in the world. The ratio of median home price to median income, a common measure of affordability, in most first-tier cities has soared to higher than that of London.
To cool the markets, local governments have issued myriad purchasing restrictions, like requiring high down payments and banning the purchase of multiple apartments. The proliferation of red tape, together with the increasingly unaffordable real estate, has become a potent symbol of the thwarted economic hopes and the dwindling social mobility that characterize today’s urban China.
In newspapers and dinner table conversations, stories abound of husbands and wives filing fake divorces to get around stringent real estate purchasing restrictions for families. There are also tales of acrimonious disputes between the parents of divorcing couples when both sets claim ownership of the couple’s apartment because they contributed to the purchase. Recently, more than 10,000 home buyers in Beijing found themselves stuck in financial limbo when the government suddenly increased down payment requirements after they had agreements to buy, leaving them short overnight.
In some cases, the housing challenges affect decisions about having children. After the one-child policy was scrapped in 2015, several mothers with single sons confessed to me their reservation about giving birth again: Adding another son would wreck the family’s finances in the future, they explained, because parents are still expected to provide sons with apartments when they reach marriage age to make them eligible bachelors for potential mates.
Nowhere are home buyers’ struggles better reflected than in the saga surrounding “school-district apartments.” Home ownership guarantees owners access to public schools, and the fierce competition among parents for apartments near highly valued schools has long been considered a culprit of the exorbitant housing prices in prosperous metropolises. In certain areas in Beijing, families are now asked to own homes for at least three years before they can qualify for local schools.
The U.S. House of Representatives voted on Thursday to pass the Republican-led Financial CHOICE Act, H.R. 10, which would abolish the Dodd-Frank Wall Street Reform and Consumer Protection Act.
From here, the Financial CHOICE Act moves to the Senate for a vote, where it will likely struggle to succeed without more bipartisan support. A bill of this magnitude would need a filibuster-proof vote in the Senate, which is 60 votes or more, meaning Senate Democrats will need to flip sides and vote to support the act.
Of the 100 seats in the Senate, Republicans make up 52 seats, Democrats make up 46 seats and Independents make up 2 seats (both caucus with the Democrats).
And so far, the act has mainly garnered partisan support, passing through the Financial Services Committee in May in a completely partisan vote (34-26).
House Financial Services Committee Chairman Jeb Hensarling, R-Texas, first introduced the act last year in an attempt to replace the Dodd-Frank Act. He released an updated version of the act this year on April 19. CHOICE stands for Creating Hope and Opportunity for Investors, Consumers and Entrepreneurs.
“The Financial CHOICE Act offers economic opportunity for all and bank bailouts for none. The era of ‘too big to fail’ will end and we will replace Dodd-Frank’s growth-strangling regulations on community banks and credit unions with reforms that expand access to capital so small businesses can create jobs and consumers have more choices and options when it comes to credit,” Hensarling said.
Some of the biggest changes in the bill affect the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau. The CFPB would be changed to the Consumer Financial Opportunity Agency, an executive agency with a sole director removable at will. The deputy director would also be appointed and removed by the president.
The only hearing on the bill was met with a lot of opposition from committee Democrats, who ended up using a political work-around to schedule a follow-up hearing in order to voice their disproval of what they’ve dubbed the “Wrong Choice Act.”
In light of the act passing through the House, House Financial Services Committee Ranking Member Maxine Waters, D-Calif., said, “It’s shameful that Republicans have voted to do the bidding of Wall Street at the expense of Main Street and our economy. They are setting the stage for Wall Street to run amok and cause another financial crisis. I urge my colleagues in the Senate not to move on this deeply harmful bill.”
Following a surprising, but small, increase in the percent of 1-4 family first-lien mortgages that were either 90 or more days delinquent or were in the process of foreclosure over the fourth quarter of 2016, the Mortgage Bankers Association reported that the measure continued its descent in the first quarter of 2017. This measure of delinquency, at least for conforming loans, is declining for both borrowers with a credit score below 660 and borrowers at or above it. Moreover, the gap in rate of delinquency for the two categories of borrowers is shrinking.
After rising by 10 basis points to 1.8 percent over the fourth quarter of 2016, the proportion of all mortgages either 90 or more days delinquent or in the foreclosure process fell by 10 basis points over the first quarter of 2017, currently sitting at 1.7 percent. The proportion of mortgages either 90 or more days past due or in the foreclosure process is highest for FHA-insured mortgages, 2.6 percent, and lower for both VA and Conventional loans.
However, at 2.6 percent, this measure of delinquency is below its 2005-2008 average of 4.1 percent. Similarly the current level of 90 or more day delinquency or entering the foreclosure process for VA loans is also below its average in the three years prior to the most recent recession. However, despite a rate below the overall percentage, conventional loans either 90 or more days delinquent or starting the foreclosure process remains 20 basis points above its 2005-2007 average level, 1.3 percent.
The Federal Housing Finance Agency, which oversees the government-sponsored entities (GSEs), Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac, provides estimations of loans purchased by the GSEs that become 90 or more days delinquent or start the foreclosure process*. This information is also provided by credit score, scores under 660 and those above or equal to 660. However, the series does not begin until 2009.
Overall, the proportion of mortgages 90 or more days past due or starting the foreclosure process has declined since its 2010 peak level. The declines have taken place for both mortgages loans obtained by borrowers with a credit score below 660 and borrowers with a credit score above 660. Currently, 4.6 percent of borrowers with a credit score below 660, the proportion of mortgage loans either 90 or more days delinquent or in the process of foreclosure, 8.3 percentage points less than its peak. The 0.8 percent of borrowers with a credit score at or above 660 with this kind of delinquency rate is 2.7 percentage points below its peak level, 3.5 percent.
Although the 90 or more day delinquency and foreclosure started rate for borrowers in both credit score categories is declining, the rate of decrease for borrowers with less than a 660 credit score is falling faster. As a result, the gap between these delinquency rates is shrinking. The figure above shows that at its peak in 2009 and 2010, the percent of borrowers with less than a 660 had a 90 or more day delinquency and foreclosure started rate that was 8 percentage points above the rate for borrowers with a credit score at or above 660. This gap has now shrunk to 3.4 percentage points.
Specifically, the data for 90 or more days delinquent is calculated as the residual between the percent of loans 60 or more days delinquent and the portion 60-89 days past due.
The definitions for the FHFA components are as follows:
60-plus-days Delinquent – Loans that are two or more payments delinquent, including loans in relief, in the process of foreclosure, or in the process of bankruptcy, i.e., total servicing minus current and performing, and 30 to 59 days delinquent loans. Our calculation may exclude loans in bankruptcy process that are less than 60 days delinquent.
60-89 Days Delinquent – Includes loans that are only two payments delinquent.
Serious Delinquency – All loans in the process of foreclosure plus loans that are three or more payments delinquent (including loans in the process of bankruptcy).
The definition of serious delinquency in the FHFA data likely differs from the MBA definition of “seriously delinquent” provided below.
The Armonk Lions Club is proud to invite you to our
2017 Fol-de-Rol and Country Fair
The Armonk Lions Club is pleased to announce the 43rd Annual Fol-de-Rol, taking place June 8, 9, 10 and 11 at Wampus Brook Park, Armonk NY. Please join us and support the charitable work we do in our community and worldwide. June 8 and 9 – Rides only, 6-10 PM; Saturday June 10 11 AM-10 PM and Sunday June 11 Noon-5 PM. See www.armonklions.org for more information.
Armonk Lions support our local fire, police and NC4 first responders; summer camp programs for children with vision impairments and diabetes; community medical and emergency services; and disaster relief around the world through Lions Clubs International Foundation. This year our fund-raising effort will support Puppies Behind Bars, a program which trains inmates at the Bedford Women’s prison to raise and train service dogs, which are then paired with our returning military veterans who need support and companionship.
to visit our Raffle River site and purchase raffle tickets. This site is safe and secure and allows you to pay by credit card. If you would prefer to mail us a check and receive paper raffle tickets, please mail your donation to:
Armonk Lions Club Inc. – Raffle
PO Box 211
Armonk NY 10504
and we will send your raffle tickets. The drawing is held on Sunday June 11 at 5 PM, and the prizes are listed on the website.
If you have any questions, or if you would like to volunteer to help us at the Fol-de-Rol, please reply to this email address and we will contact you directly. Thank you very much for your ongoing support of this Armonk tradition!
Armonk Lions Club
Doug Martino, President
Anthony Baratta, Fol-de-Rol Chairman
Michael Rosenman, Treasurer
Where: Wampus Brook Park, Armonk NY
Thursday June 8, Rides 6-10 PM
Friday June 9, Rides 6-10 PM
Saturday June 10, Vendors 10 AM-10 PM; Rides 11 AM-10 PM
Sunday June 11, Vendors 11 AM-5 PM; Rides Noon-5 PM