August 2009 Archives

August 24, 2009

For First-Time Homebuyers, Times Are Good

Even an economic downturn means good news for some people, and first-time homebuyers are turning out to be big beneficiaries of this recession. The National Association of Realtors says that new buyers accounted for 44% of 2009 home sales -- a rate that hasn't been topped since 1991.

Hindsight being what it is, I can already imagine the conversations over lunch, as people just entering the housing market today congratulate themselves on having waited so long ("We knew prices had to come down some time!") And all the while, they've been building up their savings for a down payment.

Plus, they're eligible for a nice $8,000 tax credit if the sale closes by this December. (For a nice Q&A regarding the details of this credit, see Edith Lank's August 15th column in the Chicago Daily Herald.) 

For profiles of buyers and details on how first-timers can take advantage of current market conditions, check out the SmartMoney article by Brad Reagan in their September, 2009 issue.

August 13, 2009

Home Burglary Prevention: Why I'll Never Buy a Jewelry Box

Maybe because the economy is down, burglaries are up in my neighborhood. We've been broken into before, even with a home security system. So now, every time I leave the house, I look around and wonder, "What would they take first?"

But if there's one thing I know, it's that anyone who breaks into my house will have a long, hard search for the jewelry (such as it is, mostly costume). I've inherited my mother's habit of hiding things in weird places, all over the house. Amidst home supplies, within empty boxes that look like they should hold something else, and in other places I'm too paranoid to mention in print! They're so well hidden even I can't always find them. Recently a necklace turned up after a year in a little plastic box that once held . . . well, I don't even remember anymore.

Recently I saw some pretty jewelry boxes on sale, and thought, "Why don't I have one of those?" But then I talked to a friend whose house had been burglarized, and she basically lost all of her jewelry because it was so conveniently located in her jewelry box. I'm sticking with my weird hiding places. And hey, when I find something that was hidden from me for long enough, it's almost like having something new to wear!
August 3, 2009

Dreamed of Buying a House by a Golf Course? Read This First

Yesterday, while out on a quest for the elusive urban blackberry, I stopped to admire the view over a chain link fence into a local golf course. Compared with busy Oakland, the green rolling lawn and elegant clubhouse looked like a mirage from another time.

But my next thought was, "What are the odds that a stray golf ball will come flying at my skull?"

If you've ever contemplated buying a house by a golf course -- and perhaps been additionally tempted by low prices by developers eager to move their properties -- you should be weighing both types of sentiments. And as for those odds, check out this article from Steve Pajak, of The Sacramento Bee.

My favorite account is of the guy who was told upon buying that golfballs would hit his house "occasionally," and it's turned out to be ten times a day on average. But the article also offers some useful tips on safest locations in relation to the course.