Sep 26, 2021

Living Near Great Medical Services Is For Everybody

Generally, people think that older people need to live near great medical services and that is true; however, all families need to live near great medical services.  Children get sick and have accidents.  We have certainly seen the need for the emergency room services for our grandchildren more than once.  Now that people can work from home, there is some thinking about moving to second and even third tier cities where medical services will be less than adequate.  It is not the best idea to be further than a hour away from a major hospital.

At a minimum, the town should have a decent smaller hospital to deal with emergency services.  Even then, it is likely that for anything serious, the patient will have to be sent to a major hospital in a big city.  And, then there is regular care by a family doctor.  Second and third tier cities often lack enough doctors to care for people in the area.  Many doctors just don't want to live in these small towns because they lack various amenities.  The same is really true for specialists.  This leads to doctor shortages.

We don't often think about getting sick especially related to younger people.  However, is is important to realize that not everybody lives to be 90.  Sometimes something relatively easy to treat in a big city can turn into a life threatening event in a small town.   In some instances, time matters to get the right treatment to prevent a serious problem.  So before choosing a location to call home, make sure your insurance will work in that area and make sure there are doctors and hospitals nearby that can treat serious illnesses.  

Sep 20, 2021

Single Family Home Zoning Is Under Attack

Owning a single family home on a little bit of ground has always been part of the American dream; however it does come at a cost.  The land used for single family homes is not then available for multi use residential apartments, duplexes and condos.  And, since our country is now short about 5 million dwellings, there is pressure from some politicians to eliminate single family zoning.  That would be a mistake.  A better solution is to change zoning on obsolete commercial properties to include more multi use residential, higher density living.  

California recently passed a law that would allow a single family homeowner to subdivide the property to build a duplex or even more units on the lot.  This might be acceptable in areas where the homes are 50 years older; but should not be happening in areas with newer homes because it will lead to all sorts of non conforming land use that in the end will devalue remaining home values.  Many areas with much older homes should be redeveloped to include apartments and condos; but that is already happening in many places because ultimately it represents highest and best use for the land.  

Clearly, there are office buildings, malls and other commercial developments that can and should be reinvented to include more housing.   It is already happening; but we should accelerate the trend to make it happen sooner.   Older buildings that are not energy efficient would best be torn down and replaced with new buildings that are energy efficient.  This would kill a few birds with one stone; more housing and lower energy consumption.  

We do need to add to our housing availability in the United States including more affordable housing in many cities.  Higher density is the way to do it; but we need to use common sense not knee jerk political reactions to get there.  

Sep 19, 2021

Dealing With Mold

Many parts of the country have experienced flooding from hurricanes and or lots of rain.  When homes are flooded and particularly in hot, humid climates, there is a pretty good chance that the end result will be mold.  There are various types of mold; but none of them are good.  Generally, mold must be dealt with by professionals preferably before moving back into a home with serious flooding.  Obviously, any standing water must be drained from the home; but that is the easy part.  

Once the water is gone, the dry wall will have to be removed to get to the mold behind the walls.  Mold is a living thing that must be killed using chemicals to prevent it from multiplying and becoming even worse.  Before repairs occur, usually big fans are used to dry out the home removing the moisture that caused the mold in the first place.  

Mold can occur from any plumbing leak not just flooding by a natural disaster.  Once there is sitting water anywhere in the home, it must be checked for mold.  Mold is a major health hazard that can't be ignored.  If it results from flooding, depending on circumstances, it may be covered by home insurance; but check your policy for the fine print.  Either way, mold must be remediated to continue living in a home.  There is no other choice.  

Sep 15, 2021

Home Prices In The US Starting To Stablize

While home prices in many parts of the United States are still high, they may finally be starting to stabilize.  Some of this may be seasonality, since the spring and summer tend to be the time of the year when demand is strongest; but it could also be that buyers have had enough of sellers demanding high prices with no contingencies.  We still are five million housing units short to fill demand; but at some point reason starts to prevail. 

The end result is fewer bidding wars though they are still happening for desirable properties than was the case at the peak of the market.  And, buyers are less likely to sign deals with out contingencies for repairs that may be identified by inspections. So, this could be a good time for buyers to strike particularly those with lower down payments while mortgage interest rates are very low.  Sellers may be willing to negotiate a big off their list prices.  A very good time to buy could be between Thanksgiving and Christmas when the real estate market traditionally tends to slow down. 

There are so many what if's that can impact the real estate market.  Unfortunately, what happens in Washington DC does not stay in Washington DC.  New government spending if approved by Congress could add to inflation.  If inflation goes up, it will force the Federal Reserve to raise interest rates charged banks.  If banks have to pay more for money, they will raise mortgage interest rates, which actually could bring housing prices down a bit.  However, if inflation goes through the roof, it will raise the cost of construction for new homes, which is always the base line for the value of existing homes.  So, we are not likely to be in down market that favors buyers for a few years.  

In any case, buyers are getting a glimmer of hope as really hot real estate markets may cool down just a bit.  Always remember, there are no bargains in real estate.  If you buy crap, you will own crap.  So buy in great locations with good schools because those will be the safest investments if we have a swing in the market.  And, don't buy unless your horizon in the home is at least 5 years just in case we do have a downturn related to real estate values.   Look at a home as an investment, not just a place to live.  

At Paragon, we work clients to sell and buy homes at the best prices possible all over the country.  We can provide expert advice in the process, since we assist people with life decisions.  

Sep 14, 2021

Too Many Eggs In One Basket

It is often said that owning a home is someone's most important investment and for many it is true.  However, for those with other investments as well, it is probably best that there be some balance between home ownership and stock or bond investments.  For example, if someone owns a home worth $300,000; but has $700,000 invested in stocks and or bonds, it could be that it would be better if the ratio was 50/50.  So just maybe some of that $700,000 should be invested in home ownership so that the family owns a home worth $500,000 and has a stock portfolio worth $500,000.

At the moment both the residential real estate market in many areas and the stock market are at record highs.  Having lived through at least three boom and bust cycles, this makes me very nervous.  It is never good to have too many eggs in one basket.  Even if the homeowner remains a bit under invested in home ownership, a diversified stock and bond portfolio is really important.  In terms of asset allocation, it is important to recognize that if you own 3 apples in real estate and 7 apples in the stock market and then you switch to 5 apples in real estate and 5 applies in the stock market, either way you own 10 apples. 

We have seen times where there have been wild swings in both real estate prices and the stock market.  They don't always happen at the same time.  When interest rates go up usually home values and the stock market tends to go down.  However, they don't always happen in the same ratio.  Supply and demand often determines home values.  Stock market prices can be predicted on various factors beyond just interest rates.  In any case, having a balanced portfolio that takes home value into consideration is a good idea.  

Sep 9, 2021

Wine A Part Of Daily Living

Most Europeans drink wine as their beverage of choice for lunch and dinner.  Some of the colder countries also drink beers.  More and More Americans have added wine to their daily beverage intake as part of meals at home.  Companies in the US typically frown on drinking any alcoholic beverage during the work day; but in Europe it is common.  My Italian grandfather made his own wine.  He maintained 5 fifty gallon barrels.  Like typical vintners he made his red wine as a blend of Zinfandel and Muscatel grapes.  He would only drink wine that had been aged for five years; hence the five barrels. 

Today, wine is sold on just about every street corner.  Matter of fact, Costco is the biggest seller of wine in the United States.  They offer many great wines at great prices.  Whether buying red or wine wines, you can find good wines at $15 - $25 a bottle that are rated at 88 points are higher.  Whatever you pay, all that matters is that you like the taste. 

Wines should be kept in a dark place at around 56 degrees to maintain the best taste and freshness.  In general, white wines should be drunk within a few years of bottling.  Most red wines can age for years and still be great.  You can buy a wine refrigerator that holds 50 - 75 bottles at Home Depot or Lowes.  Most families would never need anything bigger unless you decide to be a wine collector.  

Wines like everything else are in style or not. Years ago Merlot was the rage; now not so much.  Today, the most popular red wines are Pinot Noirs, Zinfandels, Chianti's and Brunello's.  Of course, there are many others as well.  Chardonnay seems to be the most popular white wine followed by Sauvignon Blanc and again many others.  Rose, which is a light red wine is popular on hot summer days.  

Have fun with wines.  Try the many varieties on the market to determine the ones you like best.  A great glass of wine with dinner makes for a very nice evening with friends.  Red wines in particular, drunk in limited quantities are supposed to be good for the heart.  Naturally, drinking any alcohol in excess is never good.  And, always remember, just because wine is lower in alcohol content than hard liquor driving after drinking several glasses is not a good idea.  

Sep 6, 2021

Spending Time With Family & Friends At Home

Three day holidays often lead to spending time with family and friends at home.  Since home is where the heart is to use an old cliché, it is never more important than when it is used to bring people together for food and fun.  Many times this means an old fashioned barbeque with hot dogs, hamburgers, chicken and other meats.  A lot of people just default to store bought hamburger patties because they are easy; but not as good as hamburgers with the fixings.  First, the ratio must be 80%/20% fat to make them juicy.  Next, my recipe calls for eggs, Italian bread crumbs, parmesan or Romano cheese and diced Italian parsley.  Add a little olive oil, the food of the Gods to complete the recipe,   Add cheese after half cooked on the grill on request. 

And, then there are the pork and beans, which again require some work.  Start with the maple bourbon Bush's beans.  Half cook up a half a pound of bacon in small pieces to drain the grease before putting in the with your beans.  Add some bourbon, one diced white onion and loads of ketchup.  Bake at 350 for two hours.  Believe me, everybody loves these pork and beans.

Your backyard is key to entertaining during good weather.  In addition to your gas or propane barbeque, you will need plenty of tables and chairs of various sizes to accommodate your family and friends.  If you happen to have a pool, the kids love pool toys.  If not you can buy an inflatable pool just to add some water to the mix.  

Grandparents get to spoil grandchildren.  Sneaking an Oreo cookie that Mom says are illegal is a best kept secret.  Giving an extra scoop of ice cream, also illegal goes over big.  These are the little things grandchildren will remember after we are long gone.  Spending time with family and friends over a three day weekend is an important part of living a great life.  It is all about food and fun.  Doing it a few times a year adds to to the qualify of life.  

Sep 3, 2021

Getting Past The Politics Of Climate Change

Like so many issues in our country, Climate Change is highly politicized which gets in the way of solving problem.  The left believes that Climate Change is caused by carbon emissions and therefore wants to eliminate carbon energy even before we have a viable energy source to replace it.  The right believes that Climate Change is happening as a result of normal climatic changes that have occurred on earth for thousands of years.  The fact is, it does not matter who is right.  Since homes and other buildings are being destroyed by floods, fires, tornados, hurricanes etc., we need to focus on the effects of bad weather by dealing with ways to mitigate damages.

So, we need comprehensive forest management, which means logging and clear cutting.  It certainly means cutting down dead trees both of which would make forest fires less intense.  Power lines that cause fires must be buried or put in above ground pipes.  Areas prone to flooding require building more flood control channels to get water away from homes and other structures.  Homes in areas built on low ground, which could be impacted by storm surges should all be built on stilts.  And of course, homes should be built to withstand Category 5 hurricanes and or be retrofitted to make them stronger.  

California suffers from drought yet has not built a new dam since 1985 so when monsoon rains come, that water just goes out to the sea.  There is all this talk about Infrastructure spending, which is fine; but some of this money should be going to solve problems that could be happening because of Climate Change.  So rather than argue about the causes of Climate Change, we should instead focus on dealing with the impact of weather that effects so many parts of our country.  

Sep 2, 2021

President Biden Proposing Billions To Build or Renovate Housing

President Biden is proposing to spend billions of dollars to build new lower cost housing and or to create more rental units.  The country is short about 5 million homes, which is why prices have gone through the roof.  There is just far more demand than supply, which is Economics 101 related to sky rocketing prices.  Biden is proposing to add 2 million homes and apartments to help fill the gap.  The problem with all of this is that sometimes government good intentions do not always work as planned.  Many Government projects built after World War II are today massive slums.  We really should not go down that road again.  

However, what Biden is proposing is to do is the following:

Constructing or rehabilitating rental housing units using federal subsidies;

Expanding and strengthening the low-income housing tax credit;

Offer tax credits to those who build and rehabilitate homes for low- and middle-income homebuyers and homeowners;

Incentivize the removal of exclusionary zoning and harmful land use policies;

The most controversial of these notions is rezoning presumably away from Single Family housing to higher density apartments and condos.  This could be fine in repurposing many commercial properties that may today be obsolete.  It could be too that in big cities with homes that are 75 or more years old, it is time to scrape those homes to build apartments and condos.  Clearly, we do need to add housing units to meet supply.  Let's just hope that the heavy hand of government makes things better instead of worse.