INSIDE STORIES BEHIND AREA REAL ESTATE DEALS
When the going gets tough, the tough no longer go shopping, apparently. Taking a break from the unrelentingly bad news about the housing market, here's a report on local commercial real estate—and it's even worse. Since the first of the year, Westport's Main Street shopping area has lost Knoyzz (which also shuttered its New Canaan store), Salon Green, Katzenberg's Kafe, J.D.'s Cosmetic Essentials and Zest restaurant, with Waterworks also closing (but retaining shops elsewhere). The Post Road is no longer home to Robert's, a men's clothing boutique, and Sprouts, which sold kids' stuff. And near the Westport train station, demolition permits filed for two Saugatuck buildings may mean that commuters can no longer caffeinate at Doc's Café or stop for spaghetti at DeRosa's Italian Restaurant.
The real estate industry calls the closings "collateral damage" in the wake of a make-or-break holiday season that broke more than it made. On a brighter note, Litchfield County brokers report that summer rentals have never been stronger. Although homes there aren't selling as well as in spring seasons past, the recession hasn't managed to cancel summer—and New Yorkers are still looking to rent a piece of the countryside even if they can't afford to buy it. Another active aspect to our down market: According to a recent New York Post article, buyers are flocking to foreclosure sales, especially in Bridgeport, where the number of properties that are either "delinquent" or in foreclosure tops state figures. Currently there are 239 bank-owned listings and nearly 500 in some state of pre-foreclosure, per the Post, which reports on a East Village filmmaker who recently bought a circa-1800s two-family home in Bridgeport for a mere $62,000.
Fresh listings continue to pop onto the market every week, a fact that keeps grateful brokers busy showing clients new properties. Here are a few of the latest and greatest.
The Ludlum is a waterfront estate named after its most famous resident, thriller-novel writer Robert Ludlum, whose best-known books include the Bourne series. The property's serene Sasco Creek setting is in stark contrast to the films' grim, gritty and perilous locations. Just over the Southport border into Westport, #42 Sasco Creek is set on two landscaped acres featuring a pond, pool, tennis court, guest house, grape arbors and stone walls. The 8,259-square-foot main house is sited to take in views of the Sound from the wraparound porch, flagstone patio and numerous balconies. Highlights of the renovated interiors: a grand foyer with a fireplace and sweeping staircases. It's listed for $8.5 million with Michelle Genovesi of Michelle & Company, affiliated with William Raveis Exceptional Properties in Westport, (888) 454-7653.
A golfer's dream, this Weston home, sited with views over the Aspetuck Valley Country Club golf course, is something of a resort itself, on 2.43 acres, including a pool and gorgeous stone pool terrace. The 8,500-square-foot interiors start with a grand foyer with a butterfly staircase and an equally dramatic two-story great room with floor-to-ceiling windows. In all, there are five bedrooms and five bathrooms (plus two half bathrooms). It's listed with Sue Lieberman of the Riverside Realty Group in Westport, (203) 221-9876.
SASCO HILL ESTATE
Even in these times of bloated inventory, a for-sale sign on Sasco Hill is still big news. No, we're not supposed to play favorites. But we do and Sasco is our favorite street in the town of Fairfield, with its grand and gracious homes that look onto the Country Club of Fairfield, its seaside links and the Long Island Sound. Much like Sasco Creek in Westport, Sasco Hill attracts a posh crowd and has, at one time or another, been home to former General Electric chairman Jack Welch, interior designer Victoria Hagen and former NBC CEO Robert Wright. This circa-1920s listing was thoroughly renovated by its current owners, who added amenities, as well: a wine cellar built with antique stone and oak, a paneled library and a wonderful kitchen. The 6,200-square-foot home on two acres also offers six bedrooms and three bathrooms (plus one half bathroom). It's listed with Debra Gailhard's Waterfront and Estate Properties in Westport, affiliated with the Higgins Group, (203) 221-7721.
ADIRONDACK-STYLE HORSE PROPERTY
Handsome lodge-like homes with Craftsman-inspired details are much loved in Connecticut. Trouble is, when they're built on a half-acre lot they tend to look a little cramped. With their soaring rooflines and rustic stone-and-shingle construction, these beauties belong in natural settings, without another house in sight. This 5,213-square-foot home fits that bill, sited on 44 private acres in Redding, itself a backcountry kind of place. The approach to this estate has you travel a private, wooded road. The grounds feature a stream, gardens, bluestone terraces, a pool and cabana and a two-story red barn, suitable for stabling horses. Inside, more earthy elegance: an impressive great room with a stone hearth, two offices, a first-floor master suite and a total of five bedrooms and four bathrooms (plus one half bathroom). It's offered by Jeanette Dryburgh of Jeanette Dryburgh and Associates, affiliated with William Raveis Real Estate in Westport, (203) 246-1168.
THE NORTON HOUSE
Built in 1919, this six-acre property, once home to a Bridgeport mayor, features a handsome stone cottage, tennis court and dramatic loggia with arched stone columns, perfect to host al fresco gatherings. The 6,100-square-foot main house is thoroughly modern inside, with lofty spaces that include a grand living room with multiple sets of French doors opening onto a sweeping 18-by-40-foot terrace. We also dig the cool lower-level entertainment room, with its full bar, stone hearth and pool table. But the best room in the house is the master suite and its airy, open spa bath, with a romantic claw-foot tub and antique sinks. In all, the 6,186-square-foot home offers five bedrooms and four bathrooms (plus two half bathrooms). It's listed with Jeri Kelley of Wright & Kelley, affiliated with William Pitt Sotheby's International Realty in Westport, (203) 227-1246.
Stamford is Fairfield County's most corporate city, with its glass-and-steel office buildings housing UBS and Royal Bank of Scotland, among other (not exactly booming but still in existence) financial firms. So Shippan Point comes as a surprise to the uninitiated: just a 10-minute drive from Stamford's train station and commercial center, the peninsula is graced with luxe and lovely homes, sited to take advantage of views over Stamford Harbor and the Long Island Sound—just like the coastal Greenwich neighborhoods on the other side of the water, but at many price points lower. History has it that the region's first settlers bought the peninsula from the Rippowam Native American tribe for a pile of coats, hoes, hatchets, glasses and knives, plus two kettles and four fathoms of wampum. Its name came as a contraction of the Good Ship Ann, which foundered there in the 1700s, again according to legend. Then around the turn of the last century, when a railroad first connected Stamford to New York City, captains of industry, financiers and various summer people took over the peninsula. Fast forward to 1920, when this gracious home was built—on Hobson Street, just off Ocean Drive East—with all the era's lovely details, including beamed ceilings, leaded-glass windows, and beautifully crafted paneling, cabinetry and staircases. In all, the 3,264-square-foot house offers six bedrooms and four bathrooms (plus one half bathroom) and sits on a quarter-acre lot with water views. Helen Dennis of William Pitt Sotheby's International Realty's Stamford-Parkway Office has the listing, (203) 249-7474.
On 24 private acres, this 18th-century Colonial has all the grand and graceful rooms associated with a Litchfield County manor: there are formal dining and living rooms, both with fireplaces: a butler's pantry with leaded-glass cabinets; a wood-paneled library; and seven bedrooms and six bathrooms (plus one half bathroom). The grounds are stunning, as well, with gardens, a pool and a barn. The listing also represents a terrific bargain, having been priced as high as $1,695,000. Andrew Gates of Sotheby's International Realty in Lakeville represents the property, (860) 435-5924.