Sunday, April 13, 2008

The House of the Hill

Each day, on my way to town, I pass that house. Perched on a hill with commanding views, and perimeter walls possessing a naturally antique patina of a century of different paints that end at pillars guarding a lazy, untidy drive that seems to disappear into the verdant foilage on either side of the long entry to the property. There is a boathouse and dock at the edge of the sloping lawn that tapers neatly to the waters' edge with a wooden sloop moored nearby. I've been there for parties before: and while having everything one might desire, the property is far from prententious, in proportions and scale. No grand entry hall, nor 30 foot gallery ceilings. No sculture of questionable taste, or bad portaits in oil of their children. The pool is simple and natural icy-steel blue or sapphire, not one of these garrish florida-blue fakes so popular in California. There is a sturdy hammock stretched between two ancient firs adjacent to the path that winds towards the garage that by looking at, one simply knows it doesn't contain a rarely-drive collection of ferraris, or folly of other whimsical waste, but rather grandma's furniture covered in drapes and dust, piled untidily as if it were temporary, though upon, inspection, likely to have been there for a decade now, and itself nicer than most folks best bespoke pieces. It could be genteel southern, or coastal Maine. It has unspeakable charm, and therefore needn't try too hard, since it knows it occupies one of the finer spots.

It's been on the market now for a year. The owner - the spinster daughter of the old lady who finally died after a long bout of Alzheimers - has been advised by agents it's "worth" what used to be a lot of money, though which today by comaprison with Russian Oligarchs, those with leveraged anti-subprime bets, or a multi-billion-dollar systematic Macro fund, is peanuts. Nonetheless it sits unsold, it's owner not needing to sell, but desirous to do so at the perceived correct price, to someone who will not raze it to make room for a vulgar 20,000 square foot faux neo-classical french chateau, or 30-room Florentine palazzo.

But each time I pass it, and release my envy, I wonder the same thought: will the house subside in price to a level sympathetic with the real market, OR will the tide of nominal market prices eventually rise to a point where someone is comfortable lifting the offer?!? THIS is the question of our time, and fortunes will be made (and lost) on the answer's revelation...

3 comments:

Anonymous said...

If housing prices were to fall back to their long-term equilibrium level vis-a-vis incomes, the banking system would be rendered insolvent (in the US, at least). Ergo, the latter of your two scenarios is all but inevitable. Q.E.D.

Charles Butler said...

Thinking along the same lines on the same Sunday...

Properly executed, this very correct strategy will involve pricing it far enough above market that her property is not the first to go in the event that what you describe transpires. Upon hearing that some other (certainly lesser) property has sold for so much a couple of km down the road, this will give her the opportunity to bump it up to just beyond the reach of any transaction.

Given that a person has enough income to maintain it, property is in the long run always worth more than what the market will bid - at least in a society where the present is seen as a source of funding for the future, and not the contrary.

Woland said...

The owner should write a book. It should be titled
"A year in the Falklands" and contain 12 chapters, one for each month. To paraphrase Wm. Kinsella, "If you write about it, they will come".