PERSPECTIVE

Here’s the President’s house, as seen from outer space. (Be sure to click the + sign a couple of times to enlarge it, and push the map up with your mouse to center it.) Type in your own address to see your own roof the same way. Only smaller, I should think.

CYBEVERAGE

And as if that topographical Google treat were not enough, it looks as if my Peach Oo-la-long Honest Tea has competition from Google as well. (Could this link have only worked on April 1? No, still seems to be up.)

CLEVER MARKETING

Click here. A more effective way to sell books than the same money spent on a print ad? Happy Passover, in any event.

EVEN BETTER BUY

Ed Biebel: ‘It looks as if rebates may be nearing the end. Business Week says Best Buy is ending rebates after listening to consumer complaints. The cynic in me wonders if it has less to do with making the customer happy than with the lawsuit that the Ohio AG filed against them.’

THE BALANCE

‘Capitalism tries for a delicate balance. It attempts to work things out so that everyone gets just enough stuff to keep them from getting violent and trying to take other people’s stuff.’ – George Carlin

THE BUBBLE

Ernest Ostrander: ‘In parts of the country where the bubble isn’t in prices, it may be inventory. My house in Memphis is currently for sale. Since banks will lend money to anyone with lint in his pockets, my nice neighborhood is being acquired by first time home buyers. They get their down payment and closing costs paid by grant programs (with no income restrictions), and if a seller wants to have any hope of selling, he must pay points toward the buyer’s loan. I’ve been told by my realtor and neighbors that if I don’t pay the full 6 points allowed by law, I’ll never sell. After paying a 7% commission plus 6 points and some closing costs to sell, I’ll be lucky to have a 10% gain after 13 years in this house. And of course, when the new owners want to move, it’s likely that they’ll just walk away. After all, they’ll have to pay over $15k out of pocket to sell, if they get an interest-only loan. I seem to recall, from about 15 or 20 years ago, economist Lester Thurow citing the Japanese asking when our nation would quit borrowing so much money, and that he replied by asking when they’d wake up and quit lending it to us. A good question for our own banks!’

Trisha: ‘In San Diego – where we live – you can rent a nice but not spectacular two-bedroom apartment for over 1800/month . . . or you can buy down the street new condos in the $460K-$480K range, paying an additional $55/mth school, $183 homeowners’ association fee, and 1.04% taxes – this is for the smallest 1226 sq ft unit! There are more condos being built diagonally across the road from these. If I recall correctly, they cost around $400K and up, but the homeowners’ association fees are much, much higher.

‘The thing is, even if you have a zero % loan to pay for the house, the monthly payments are huge, and way out of proportion to what people earn. It has been beyond me how people have found the money to pay each month for several years now. Still, most people clearly do.

‘Prices are so damned high here that crappy old condo complexes – 100% occupied by renters – are being sold to the occupants and this isn’t just happening at one or two complexes, but quite a few of them. Some of them don’t really have adequate ventilation, and thus are susceptible to mold because you can’t open all the windows and get a breeze through. As a renter, you can just move out when you’ve had enough, the maintenance people slap on some new paint, and – boom – no mold problem. Some of the units don’t have enough parking spaces because the intention was one unit, one family, not three or four college kids doing whatever they needed to, to make the rent.

‘Real estate companies likely wouldn’t be selling those rental condo complexes as units if they thought that they were going to keep on going up in value. It is this more than anything else in our insane situation which makes me think prices will stop going higher. I used to think prices might fall – but I’m sick of being wrong.’

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