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Greenwich luxury homes get biggest discounts since Lehman crisis

[NEW YORK] The fourth quarter was the best time for luxury-home sales in Greenwich last year. It also had the biggest discounts in almost a decade for the tony Connecticut town.  High-end homes that changed hands in the quarter had their prices cut by an average of 13.5 per cent, the most since the last three months of 2008, when the housing market all but froze in the months after Lehman Brothers Holdings Inc filed the largest bankruptcy in US history, according to a report Thursday by Miller Samuel Inc. and brokerage Douglas Elliman Real Estate.

The discounts, in a market that's still bloated with lavish homes, helped clear some of the backlog. There were three sales for more than $20 million in the fourth quarter. There was only one earlier last year, and none for all of 2016, the firms said.

"Sellers were unrealistic in their pricing and were chasing the market," Scott Durkin, president of Douglas Elliman, said in an interview. "The real sellers, who wanted to sell, have negotiated down from their asking price." Owners of Greenwich's priciest estates are tiring of waiting years to find takers for their properties in a market where buyers are favoring cheaper homes closer to the town's commercial center. The 19 luxury houses - those priced at US$4.65 million or more - that sold in the quarter spent an average of 310 days on the market, about double the time for similar properties a year earlier. Many sellers waited even longer: The marketing time doesn't account for previous unsuccessful attempts at a sale.

The most expensive sale of the quarter was an eight-bedroom mansion that belonged to billionaire investor Stanley Druckenmiller. It traded in November for US$25 million, 21 percent less than the US$31.5 million Mr Druckenmiller sought in March, according to the listing.

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It took an even larger discount - almost 68 percent - to find a buyer for billionaire Thomas Peterffy's 8.9-hectare estate in the gated Conyers Farm community. The property - with a seven-bedroom house, a pool and a 22-stall stable close to polo fields - sold for US$21 million, down from the US$65 million asking price in 2015, listings records show.

With so many properties getting deep price cuts, "the smartest agents are encouraging their buyers to make their offer and see if the seller is willing to counter," Mr Durkin said. "They'll never know until they make that offer."

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