Intrigue Surrounding Sales Figures; Roman à clef at the Ritz?

Did USA Today Misfire?



We sure think so!

In a story last week, USA Today’s Christine Dugas seems NOT to have done her homework.

Her headline reads: “Sales bounce back in Westchester, NY.”

We at Westchester Magazine say: Sorry, Christine, that’s sadly not so.

Here’s the real scoop. Maybe there’s been a bit of an increase in sales, but “bounce back?” Bounce back to what? To what it was before the market crashed? No way! Sales in Westchester during the third quarter were up a mere 1.9 percent compared to the same period last year, according to the New York State Association of Realtors.
And yes, the median price is up, but if the reporter carefully read the most recent quarterly report from the Westchester Putnam Association of Realtors, she would have seen that even though the median sales price of a single-family home in Westchester increased by more than $100,000 or nearly 16 percent to $730,250 during the third quarter, it was most definitely not from price appreciation, but from a change of the distribution of sales in different price ranges.

In other words, what happened was that the high-end market (properties selling for $1 million or more) recovered faster than the rest of the market, skewing the picture. For those of us whose houses are worth a mere $800,000 or so, there’s been perhaps a minimal bump—at most 4 percent. According to P. Gilbert Mercurio, chief executive officer of the realtors group, "There has been very little in the way of true price appreciation.”

And even in Westchester’s wealthiest communities, like Pound Ridge, the value of real estate has been hard hit, despite the fact that the estimated median household income there in 2008 was $191,439—almost two and a half times the county median.

In recent years, many residents lost high-paying jobs and mega investments—thanks to the likes of Bernard L. Madoff and Paul Greenwood, according to Gloria Marwell, an associate broker with Prudential Holmes and Kennedy in Bedford. And price cuts across the board in real estate reflect that.

And not that we want to rub any more salt in the wound, but, according to the Census Bureau's 2009 American Community Survey, Westchester has the nation's highest property taxes.

Intrigue at the Ritz
Jessica Dee Rohm, former real estate broker, is out with her latest novel, Sugar Tower, a murder mystery set against the debacle of the bursting real estate bubble. Rohm, who resides at The Residences at the Ritz-Carlton, Westchester, in White Plains, was the managing director of sales and marketing for Cappelli Enterprises. This novel, set in Manhattan, tells the story of a woman forced to reinvent herself as the platforms she built her life upon are dissolving beneath her feet. Those unsteady platforms include, in addition to real estate, the transience of wealth and the changing face of print journalism. Readers are wondering if Sugar Tower is fiction or fact. And why is the cover of the book a photo of the Ritz?

Slow But Steady Progress
The federal monitor overseeing Westchester's compliance with the housing settlement entered into last year has approved a model ordinance for local governments to adopt as a way to encourage new fair and affordable housing in communities that might oppose low-cost housing within their borders. "The model ordinance is the linchpin of efforts to evaluate and streamline the local approval process," says the monitor, James Johnson. Commenting on the monitor’s report, County Executive Robert P. Astorino says, "The latest report shows that Westchester is making steady progress in addressing the requirements of the settlement."

Another Westchester Hotel Sold
A Florida-based real estate investment trust has added another Westchester hotel to its portfolio. Chatham Lodging Trust of Palm Beach has paid $20.4 million to buy the Residence Inn by Marriott in White Plains, a 133-unit hotel at 5 Barker Avenue.

Earlier this year, Chatham paid $21 million to acquire the 124-unit Residence Inn by Marriott at New Roc City, the entertainment and retail complex in downtown New Rochelle owned by developer Louis R. Cappelli.

Open House of the Week
976 Warburton Ave, Yonkers
Price: $1.65 million
3 bedrooms, 2 baths on 1.8 acres
Annual Taxes: $19,800
As seen in the Wall Street Journal, this completely renovated 1920s home has Hudson River views from almost every room, a living room with stone fireplace and built-in bookcases, and hardwood floors throughout. There are two decks and a two-car garage and the property is graced with granite stone-terraced gardens. Open house Friday, November 12, 3 to 5 pm with wine and cheese, and raffles. For more info, call Linda Solomon (718-878-1709) or Robin Tragni (718-878-1708) at Halstead Property.

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Who's building, selling, buying, and who's profiting from our favorite contact sport: real estate

About This Blog

White Plains resident and writer Karen Odom has a passion for interesting architecture, especially when architecture and history collide. Her extensive experience as a real estate feature writer has led her in an around Westchester's distinctive homes uncovering the fascinating stories behind the houses, their owners, architects, and designers with awe, admiration, and more than just a little amazing curiosity.

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