Tag Archives: New York Times Real Estate section

Moving Closer To The Kids

It was a tough move.

In 2016 Linda Gramatky Smith and her husband Ken sold their Roseville Road house. They’d lived there since 1993. And — from 1946 until she headed off to college — Linda grew up there.

It’s not just any house. Warm and comfortable, it’s got artistic bones. Her father, Hardie Gramatky, wrote and illustrated Little Toot, the beloved children’s classic, there. Andrew Wyeth called him one of America’s 20 greatest watercolorists.

The Smiths headed — a bit reluctantly — to New Jersey. They wanted to be closer to their widowed daughter, and her kids.

Two years later, all is well.

A story set for publication in Sunday’s New York Times real estate section — “The New Retirement: Near the Kids” — features Linda, Ken, and their new lives at the Cedar Crest Retirement Community in Pompton Plains.

Linda and Ken Smith, in their New Jersey home. (Photo/Stefano Ukmar for the New York Times)

 The article says:

In an uncannily prescient move, Mr. Smith, now 85, had put down a refundable deposit at Cedar Crest more than a decade ago, just in case they ever wanted to move there.

Living in one of these communities, of course, is not cheap. The Smiths paid an entrance fee of about $500,000, and their monthly rent is $4,500, which is not unusual, according to the AARP. The organization estimates that entrance fees typically range from $100,000 to $1 million, and monthly rents can be anywhere from $3,000 to $5,000.

For the Smiths, however, it was worth it. Ms. Smith, 75, was resistant at first about giving up their home, but did a “total 180,” she said, soon after moving in, not just because they were closer to their daughter and grandchildren, but because it had improved their quality of life.

She has returned to painting watercolors and is on the resident advisory council, and her husband sings in the chorale.

Linda and Ken’s many Westport friends will be heartened by the Times piece.

And, of course, New Jersey is not New Zealand. The Smiths return here often, for events and to see those friends.

One of their biggest concerns when they moved was that their house would be sold to someone who did not appreciate its history and livability.

It looks as good as ever.

60 Roseville Road — Ken and Linda Gramatky Smith’s beloved home.

If You’re Thinking Of Weston…

06883: Get ready!

Today’s New York Times real estate section profiles Westport’s neighbor to the north.

It’s a fair, balanced account of the pros and cons of buying in the “quiet and wooded” town.

The 2 places will always be linked — after all, we were once part of Weston. And today’s story mentions Westport a few times.

There are references to a couple who looked at our “popular town on the Metro-North Railroad line with beaches and a vibrant downtown. But prices were daunting,” and a real estate agent suggested “they might get more for their money in Weston, a town they hadn’t considered.”

Referring to Weston’s “single plaza in the town center, where the market, pharmacy, hardware store and sole restaurant are housed behind identical brick storefronts,” the Times says “Weston is nothing like Westport. But the more the (couple) looked around, the more it felt like home.”

If you can’t find what you need in Weston Center, you have to head to Westport.

The article notes that Westonites commute from our train station, shop in our stores, and enjoy our restaurants.

Of course, Weston’s school system is excellent. The 2-acre zoning is very appealing. And it’s got Devil’s Den, 3 private clubs and Lachat Town Farm.

Negatives include the “rather sluggish” real estate market, and a property tax rate “higher than that of most surrounding towns.”

That won’t change, says 1st Selectman Nina Daniel.

“When you come into Weston, you breathe a sigh of relief. You are not in traffic. You have a sense of being away from the hurly-burly of the world.”

For years, Cobb’s Mill Inn defined Weston. The New York Times story never mentioned the fabled restaurant.

The Times concludes:

The resistance to change that has long defined Weston has lessened of late, as newcomers push for various amenities. As first selectman, Ms. Daniel is trying to straddle the divide, agreeing with those who want, for example, sidewalks connecting the school campus with the town center, while reassuring others that the town is not headed for mass commercialization. Also up for discussion: a town green, a community center and cluster-style housing for retirees.

(To read the entire story, click here. Hat tip: John Karrel)

Aaaargh! I Moved To The Wrong ‘Burb!

Tomorrow’s New York Times real estate section has a long article, with a provocative title: “What To Do When You’ve Picked the Wrong Suburb.”

“Just like someone living on the Upper East Side won’t fit into Williamsburg, someone who likes Maplewood may not fit into Short Hills,” the story says.

You may expect block parties, when all you get are nannies playing indoors with their charges. You may come for the outdoors, but discover deer ticks.

“Are you looking for a Whole Foods and a farmers’ market?” the Times asks. “Do you want to see pickup trucks or Volvo S.U.V.s? A spinning studio or a Planet Fitness? Trump bumper stickers or ‘Resist’ signs?”

Westport has a Whole Foods — AND a Farmers’ Market. Farmers’ Market.

The piece is Westchester, Long Island and New Jersey-centric.

But at the end, it pivots to Westport.

Ali Bernstein, the owner of Suburban Jungle Realty, a real estate strategy firm that helps families transition from city to suburb, said it’s best to know the good — and the bad — before moving. She said her clients hear about aspects of a place that real estate agents may gloss over. “We’ll tell you, ‘It may seem like a 28-minute train ride, but there’s no parking at the station and you’ll drive around to find a spot,’” she said. “You’re going to move there knowing as much as possible.”

Ms. Bernstein founded her company, in part, because she struggled with finding the right suburb herself. She and her husband left the city for Westport, Conn., which they loved for its beautiful architecture, beaches and vibrant cultural scene. But after they moved in, the town seemed sprawling and they longed for a small town with mom-and-pop shops. Ultimately, after a fresh search, they bought a home in Westchester in Armonk, where they know shopkeepers in town.

Has she found her people? She thinks so. “It’s life-changing when you live in a town where you’re raising kids with people you want to be raising kids with,” she said.

What do you think? Did you pick the right — or wrong — suburb? If so, how? Click “Comments” to share your story.

(To read the full New York Times story, click here.)

NY Times: “The Builders Are Back”

It’s hard to hide a 12,000-square foot house.

But for anyone living under a (very heavy) rock — with no idea that some very large homes are going up all around town — the secret is out.

Tomorrow’s New York Times real estate section splashed us all over Page 1.

The story is headlined: “In Fairfield, The Builders Are Back.”

“Fairfield,” of course, is Fairfield County. And — just as we’ve taken the lead with some big-ass houses — Westport leads the article too.

It begins:

On a recent Sunday afternoon here, anyone visiting open houses might have thought the recession never happened. At one new multimillion-dollar colonial after another, real estate agents were eagerly waiting to show visitors high-ceilinged kitchens anchored by immense white-marble islands; fireplaces hefty enough to offset mega-size flat-screen TVs; exercise rooms with saunas and steam showers; and marble bathrooms with freestanding tubs and heated floors.

En-suite bathrooms for every bedroom are “really big right now,” said Lisa Watkins, an agent with William Raveis, who was showing a $2.699 million house on the outskirts of the sought-after Compo Beach area.

The Times used this photo of a new house on Turkey Hill Road South to illustrate its story on Fairfield County real estate ... (Photo/Douglas Healey for the New York Times)

The Times used this photo of a new house on Turkey Hill Road South to illustrate its story on Fairfield County real estate … (Photo/Douglas Healey for the New York Times)

So are “fabulous outdoor spaces,” said Todd Gibbons, an agent with William Pitt Sotheby’s International Realty, who was holding an open house at a $4.35 million home (since reduced to $4.199 million) with multiple stone terraces that incorporated a pool, a spa and a fire pit.

Builders’ expectations for the spring market here are clearly high. After a recession-induced lull, new construction catering to wealthy buyers is back in a big way in Westport and a few other select areas of Fairfield County, particularly New Canaan and the neighborhoods around the beach. And the voracious demand for teardown properties where that new construction can be built is raising the already-high bar for first-time buyers, pitting them against builders looking for older homes on decent-size lots.

The piece notes the pressure put on owners of older homes. “It’s not uncommon for builders in Westport to pay upward of $1 million for a teardown, and $2 million or more near the water,” the Times says.

... and this one, on Charcoal Hill Road. (Photo/Douglas Healey for the New York Times)

… and this one, on Charcoal Hill Road. (Photo/Douglas Healey for the New York Times)

The story adds that while construction dropped nearly 60% during the recession, it’s zoomed since 2012. The driving force: “demand for new homes for well-to-do buyers — many of them from the city, agents say — who want the latest in design and technology, and aren’t willing to renovate existing homes.”

So it’s no surprise that there were 103 demolition permits issued during the fiscal year ending last June. The tough winter has driven the recent number down slightly, but more permits are expected this spring.

Life is good for new-home buyers — and realtors. The Times‘ look at Westport noted:

Earlier this month, a remarkable 93 new homes in various stages of completion were listed for sale in Westport, said Jillian Klaff, a broker specializing in new construction. About 40 of them were priced over $2.5 million, which, as she observed, is “a lot of houses.” Especially given that in 2014, only 25 sold in that price range.

The story briefly touches on other towns, including Fairfield and New Canaan. But I’ve summarized the most important points.

Now you don’t have to read it. Why waste time with the Times, when there are so many new homes to buy?

(Hat tip: John Karrel)

House Hunting With Haberstroh And Horelik

The Haberstroh family is well known in Westport — Charlie’s on the Board of the Finance, Patty does yeowoman’s work for Human Services, and they and their kids were long involved in town athletics.

The Horeliks are well known too — think sports and Dunville’s.

Now, the entire world will know that Chuck Haberstroh and Jacque Horelik bought a house together.  Before they got married.

The ins and outs of both long journeys — home-buying and proposal-engagement-marriage — form the centerpiece of a feature story appearing in the  Real Estate section of tomorrow’s New York Times. Apparently, Chuck and Jacque are on the cutting edge of a new trend.  In Times-talk, that means:

Two distinct forms of desire — the carnal type and the kind that involves granite countertops — have been known to intermingle, but perhaps never more so than now.

Chuck Haberstroh, Jacque Horelik and their new home (Photo courtesy of Chester Higgins Jr./The New York Times)

Writer Hilary  Stout describes how the couple met by chance at Lehigh, where Chuck was a student.  Later, in Westport, they “went on a date to a cool pub and restaurant.  Things were a bit on and off for a while, but then they began to get serious.”

Soon they were living next door to each other in Norwalk.  Not long after, “she ditched her room and moved in with him.”  Then — ka-ching! — they “signed a lease on a small apartment of their own.”

This being the Times Real Estate section, where the twin voyeur hobbies of homes and personal lives meet — er, intermingle — we learn more about the young lovers/house hunters:

He was in his late 20s, she was two years younger.  They had been together for two years.  They made each other laugh, they liked each other’s friends, they loved each other’s company.  And so they knew — as everyone seemed to be telling them — that it was time.

To buy real estate.

According to Stout:

The peculiarities of the housing market today are leading more couples to ponder the question, “Should we buy?” before they settle the question, “Should we commit?”

With the market beginning to favor buyers, on October 30 Chuck and Jacque closed on a “three-bedroom Cape Cod-style cottage  in Fairfield, Conn., with hardwood floors, a front porch and a back deck on a pretty corner lot.  They got it for $430,000, $29,000 less than the asking price.”

Jacque — a 28-year-old special education teacher — said she was “itching to get engaged before we bought the house.”  Chuck — a 30-year-old vice president of CastleKeep Investment Advisors in Westport — “definitely felt the pressure from me and both of our families.”

But prices and rates were dropping; the time was right.  Rings, dresses and seating charts could take a back seat to mortgage applications, home inspections and moving vans.

In good Times fashion, after a detour to explore the home-buying processes of 2 other unwed couples, the story circles back to Our Heroes:

And for Mr. Haberstroh and Ms. Horelik, both the real estate and the relationship have now fallen into place, to the delight of Ms. Horelik’s family, who are of the wedding-before-house school.

The first night they slept in their new home, they got engaged.  They are hoping for a late-summer 2010 wedding, but have not set the date.

“Between moving in and outfitting the house,” Mr. Haberstroh said, “we’ve had a hard time finding time to really make progress on that front.”

Let’s hope their parents knew that already, and won’t just read it — along with the rest of the country — in tomorrow’s New York Times.