mad anthony

Rants, politics, and thoughts on politics, technology, life,
and stuff from a generally politically conservative Baltimoron.

Tuesday, August 29, 2006

Work it out...

MadAnthony's been a little sore of late.

Last year, I lost a little bit of weight. I was hoping to lose some more this year - it was one of my new year's resolutions.

As everyone knows, but hates to admit, there are two things you can do to lose weight - eat less and exersize more. All the fancy books that try to come up with secret combinations of stuff to do are total bullshit. All you can do is eat fewer calories, so that you don't build up fat, and exersize, so you burn off the fat that you have. That's what I did last year, and had some sucess.

But this year, I dropped the eating right part early in the year - I found myself eating way more than I should. As a result, I stopped losing weight - I wasn't gaining anything, but I wasn't losing anything either. And then, about two months ago, I found myself having to drop the other half of the MadAnthony weight loss plan. Between my move and my killer marketing class, I didn't have time to exersize. And when I stepped on the scale a couple days ago, I had gained five pounds - the first time I gained weight in over a year.

So I've been trying to watch what I eat, although I haven't had a whole lot of luck, since there always seem to be donuts and cookies around work - not to mention the jars of Milky Way Spread that I have left over from the case I bought for bsom's birthday present. And I've started hitting the gym again - I'm hoping with the fact that my schedule's changing, that it's start of school and the start of my classes again, that I can get myself in the habit of goiing again, and maybe start losing again. I did make it to the gym the last couple days, and now I'm feeling it - it's amazing how out of shape you can get in a month.

MadAnthony's new TV obsession...

This weekend, while I was on the treadmill and making poorly thought attempts to fix stuff around the house, I found my latest TV show obsession - Flip This House (and Property Ladder) on TLC. They are the shows of the housing boom - shows that profile people who buy properties, fix them up, and sell them - sometimes for a profit.

It's kind of funny that I've found it just as the real estate market seems to be slowing, but it's interesting. Of course, as much as MadAnthony would love to flip real estate, there are two things that make it unlikely that it will ever happen - the fact that MadAnthony is pretty much broke, and the fact that he has trouble getting doing anything that involves tools without hurting himself and causing property damage. But I do like to buy stuff and sell it at a profit, and watching this is the logical extension.

It's too bad I don't have the money to buy an investment property - I have reason to believe that rental property in a certain area is likelty to become a great value based on a piece of less-than-public information, but I lack the funds to do anything about it.

But one interesting thing about Flip This House is seeing what houses are worth in other places. It really puts into perspective what people say about the Baltimore housing market being overvalued. Sure, prices are way higher than they were a couple years ago, but they are still way lower than homes in other parts of the country. One of the shows I watched involved a guy who bought a 1400 square foot house in California - a couple hundred square feet bigger than MadAnthony's townhouse - for $495,000 - well over twice what MadAnthony paid for his. But the flip this house house was gutted to the beams - everything inside was ripped out. Sure, this house had a yard, but MadAnthony's house has walls and appliances. And the guy who sold it was able to make a sizable profit, even after dumping $50,000 into it.

Then again, it works both ways - the one I'm watching off my RePlayTV DVR right now was in San Antonio, TX. They paid $225,000 for their house, which needed some cosmetic improvments but was quite livable, and was on 3 acres. That amount in Baltimore will buy you a townhouse slightly nicer than MadAnthony's, but not by much.

So I guess the moral of all this is that the old realtor's adage is right - there are three things that are important in determining the value of a piece of property - location, location, location. The question becomes trying to figure out if a location will remain popular and increase in value.

Monday, August 28, 2006

MMM, bubbly...

A while ago, I predicted that there was one thing that would make the housing bubble burst - MadAnthony buying a house. As soon as I bought one, prices would drop.

Why am I always right about bad things happening to me, but wrong about good ones? The Baltimore Sun on Sunday has an article about how the housing market is softening in Baltimore.

What makes this funny is that about two months ago, the Sun was running an article about how Baltimore was going to run out of housing in the next couple years, to the point that prices would go so high that companies would start moving because their employees wouldn't be able to find a place to live. And last week's Perry Hall Observer (one of those free weekly newspapers that normally covers important local issues like zoning disputes and street fairs, had an article about how Perry Hall was going to blow up in the next couple years as the Aberdeen Proving Grounds grows with people from the Fort Momouth, NJ base closure.

Of course, these two things aren't mutually exclusive. It's not unlikely that the real-estate market will go down in the next few months/years, and then go back up, possibly (hopefully) to higher levels in the years after that.

And that's fine. My plan is to keep my townhouse for at least 10 years, for a couple reasons. First of all, the first-time buyer program I used takes a portion of any profits if I sell in the first 10 years. Secondly, moving expenses and closing costs are significant, so it's silly to sell too quickly. Plus, I hate moving, and except for the AC and a few minor things I can change or fix if I spend the money, I really like my townhouse. Long term I think buying the house was a good decsion, but the short term price fluctations are annoying.

But even though I know I shouldn't be checking them, I keep going to a local real-estate site and checking how many houses are for sale in my neigborhood. When I bought my townhouse 3 months ago, it was the only one for sale in my development - one other one had sold a few days earlier, after 2 days on the market. Now there are six on the market (although all of them are priced considerably above what I paid for mine, although they also have more features).

The irony is that the whole bubble is a sort of self-fullfilling prophecy - everyone keeps talking about how it's a housing bubble and it's about to burst, so now home sellers are all trying to sell their houses before the bubble bursts - which is causing tbe bubble to burst, because supply is going up and demand isn't. And (if my neigborhood is any indicator, and if a nicer kitchen and a bedroom in the basement isn't worth an extra $30k) it seems like people are pricing high, either because they want to get as much as possible before the bubble bursts or because they figure they might have to drop the price and want to leave a cushion).

So should I have waited to buy a house? That's a tough call - none of the houses currently for sale in my development are in my price range, although there may be one for sale somewhere that is nicer (ie, with a functional air conditioner). But trying to time the market buying a house is difficult, because you aren't just trying to guess when the market will go up or down, but also fit it into your life. The time I closed on my house and moved was perfect - I had 4th of July weekend to paint, I was taking an easy grad school class, I had a ton of vaction and personal time to use up, and my lease on my apartment was ending. Waiting to buy would probably have meant renewing my lease and waiting another year - which may not have been a bad idea financially but would have been a bad idea personally, as I was outgrowing my old apartment.

So I may not have made the best choice, but I think I made a reasonably good choice given my circumstances at the time. And since I can't go back in time and change it, I can't really do anything about it but blog anyway.

Sunday, August 27, 2006

Tool Time

When you buy a "pre-owned" house, there are always some things that you want to change.
Things that the previous owners did that you don't understand why, or things that just don't look right, or things that time has made old and you want to make newer.

There are a lot of big things I want to do to my house - redo the kitchen cabinets, fence in the postage-stamp sized back yard, install an air conditioner that doesn't produce it's own lake. But those are all things that take lots of time and money. There are a lot of small things that I want to do, though. And I had a 10% off coupon from Home Depot that came in my change of address package, and that was due to expire 8.31.06. So on Saturday I went to Home Depot, dragging along bsom, since a)he's going to be helping me rewire the house and b)since he bought his townhouse a year before I bought mine, he's done a lot of things that I want to do and knew what I needed and if what I wanted to do was possible.

So I left the 'Depot yesterday $236 poorer, but with 14 light switches, 30 power outlets, a bunch of cable and phone jacks, 4 brass heat register covers, one wood heat register, 3 metal heat register covers, 2 scones, a new showerhead, and a new cover for my bedroom ceiling fan, whose flowered cover didn't really seem to fit the fact that I'm a dude.

It was then that I began to remember that I suck at anything that invoves home improvent. The floor registers were easy - just pick up the old, rusty brown ones and plop in the shiny new ones. But there was a new cover for the heat exchange in the first floor, and hanging it was more challenging. I somehow ended up smashing my right thumb with said register, breaking the nail and causing it to bleed. Once I got it cleaned up and located the last band-aid (ok, Target brand adhesive bandage) in the house, I took another attempt to get it installed. The top screws went in fine. The bottom ones don't line up with the ones in the unit. I'm not sure if it's the way that they are made or if I'm a moron, or if I should take a stab at redrilling it. But right now I have a newer register cover, but only two screws holding it in. Classy.

I also have new ceiling registers for the basement family room. It seemed like a good idea to replace them, especially since one of them was held on with one screw. But when I went to install the new one, I discovered why there was only one screw - the other, umm, screwhole, wasn't big enough to actually fit the screw all the way in. So now my shiny new register is hanging by a screw and a half instead of by two screws. I'm not sure it's really an improvement.

I opened the package for the showerhead, but discovered that installing it requires a wrench and a set of pliers, neither of which I actually own. So that's going to have to wait. I'm glad I read the instructions before I attempted it, or I wouldn't be able to take a shower. (That's actually an exageration, as I have two full baths, so I could always use the other shower, which hasn't been used since I moved in. But it would be a bit of a pain).

And of course I've discovered that the globe I bought is too small for the ceiling fan in my bedroom. (I think it will actually fit the other fan in my office, so I'll keep it instead of returning it). So I still need another globe.

I'm also wondering if I made the right move with the scones I bought for my bedroom. The ones the previous owners had were from Ikea, were fake art-deco, and had been painted over at least once. I took them down to paint and never put them back (which sucks, because I keep trying to turn them on when I walk into the room and hit the switch and nothing happens). But the new ones are shaped like candles, with candle-shaped bulbs. I think they are unique and thus cool (and were on clearance for $10 each, originally $50), but they don't really match the "decor" of the room, which is more modern. Then again, the three pieces of furniture in my bedroom are an Ikea bed, a dresser from a college dorm (the college I work at was giving them away one year), and a $5 Ikea chair.

I wish I was one of those people who could build something out of nothing. My dad is that kind of person - he built a ton of built-in bookcases out of nothing but unfinished wood, and seems to be able to fix and put together anything. Obviously this isn't genetic, because I have trouble getting a screw in straight. I'm a clutz when it comes to home improvements, and it sucks because I have a home that needs improving.

Are you going to a funeral or something?

On Thursday, I had a final presentation for my marketing class. I figured I should dress a little better than usual, so that morning I threw on a green Arrow button down shirt ($3.50 on clearance at Kohl's) tucked into a pair of pinstripe black khaki's ($6.99, Old Navy clearance) and a pair of GBX buckle-top boots (I had a $20 off coupon code to some shoe website a couple years ago) and headed to work.

While I was at work, a number of my coworkers asked me why I was dressed better than usual - one guy even asked me if I was going to a funeral or something.

I guess I tend to forget how badly I normally dress for work. Most days I wear jeans or cords and a polo or buttoned down shirt, untucked, and a pair of "dress" sneakers like 'ROOS or Pony's. During the winter the shirt usually gets swapped for a sweater. Plus, I've lost some weight in the last year or so and haven't gotten around to replacing my wardrobe, so most of my clothing is a little bigger than it should be.

So MadAnthony wearing a tucked-in shirt and shoes that don't have a rubber sole is a rare occurance.

So should I be dressing better? I don't think I need to - colleges are inherently laid-back environments, and many of the professors on campus dress even more casually than I do. Plus, my job often involves running around, crawling under desks, or dragging computers and printers around campus, so it doesn't make sense to wear anything too nice since it's probably going to be dirty, torn, or covered in sweat by the end of the day.

But part of it is that I don't like dressing up. I like to be comfortable, and being dressed casually makes me feel comfortable. I consider the fact that I can get away with it to be one of the perks of my job.

Friday, August 25, 2006

Yes, I know my 'hood is boring. I like it that way...

I had a group project for a class that finally ended yesterday. My group spent lots of time working on stuff, and thus talked to each other about our lives and the like. At one point, one of my group members commented that her boyfriend wanted them to move to White Marsh. She said White Marsh in the same tone of voice one would use as if he asked her to hump a goat. When I commented that I lived in White Marsh, she said "no offense, but I consider anything North of the city to be dead."

Which is true. That's why I moved to the 'burbs. I like dead. My neigborhood is pretty quiet - it's got screaming kids and my next door neigbors are drunk college students, but for the most part it's quiet and drama free. It's middle america with a touch of white trash. It's three blocks from a mall and 4 blocks from a Target. It's townhouses and split levels with neat siding and pickup trucks and minvans outside parked next to newly-cut lawns. As someone who grew up in Central New Jersey, it's home.

I lived in Resevoir Hill for 3 years. I was a couple blocks from "culture" - the annual artscape festival, the Lyric Opera House, the symphony hall. I never went to any of these places. For me (especially then, when I was working 6 days a week plus part time grad school), home was mostly a place I slept.

And there is another reason that I really like the 'burbs. Parking. Sure, some people would consider that this is a sign that we are attached to our cars, slaves to our motorized machines, that I would actually choose where to live based on parking. And maybe they are right. But to me, a car is freedom. It's the ability to go where I want when I want. And that's not something you can do if you live in the city. Between the general lack of parking spaces and street cleaning restrictions, there were times where I had to not go places I wanted to go because I knew it would be difficult to find a place to park when I got back. Now, I have a space with my house number on it. I can roll home at midnight on a night I had to stay late for a class project, and it's there, and empty, and I never have to move for street cleaning or come home to a ticket on the windshield.

Last week, I went to Federal Hill with BSOM - he had bought a couple things off of craigslist from people there, and I figured if he was going that way I'd go with him and stop by the Goodwill down there. It was actually a really nice neigborhood- nice, well restored houses. There was also a ton of cute girls everywhere - jogging, walking dogs - and a bunch of trendy bars. I found myself wondering if I'd made a mistake. I could have lived in a historic building surrounded by cute girls.

But I don't think I did. Aside from the fact that I doubt I could afford any of those houses, there are good reasons not to buy a house there. And not just the lack of parking. Old houses have more stuff that breaks and costs more to fix. City property taxes are about twice the county tax rate, and city services aren't known for their high quality. City neigborhoods also tend to go up and down way more often and quicker than suburban ones. And as nice as it would be to see cute girls all the time, it's not like I'm the kind of person who is going to walk up them and introduce myself -and if I did, they would probably mace me. Sure, there are cool bars - but I don't really go to bars. I don't hang out with people who regularly drink, and the rare occasions I go to bars I end up hanging out with the same people - it's not like I would start hitting on the cute chicks.

So I think I'm fine with living in the "dead" part of Maryland. And I don't think it's so dead - I'm 10 minutes away from Parkville (home of racer's cafe, one the best beer bars around) and 15 minutes away from Hamilton, which are basically Hamden (a trendy but trashy section of central Baltimore city) with bigger lawns. And I'm less than a half hour from Downtown, if I ever wanted to go there for some reason. There are also a surprising number of good restraunts in the area - I was introduced to a great Thai/Chinese resturant that makes amazing Pad Thai, despite being located in an aging shopping center next to a Mars.

And did I mention I have my own parking space? With my house number on it and everything? And it's extra-wide, so my drunken college student neigbor won't ding my truck with his Sentra.

Wednesday, August 23, 2006

Does money really buy happiness?

A recent study supposedly shows that increased money doesn't buy happiness, although not having enough money does cause unhappiness.

But I take issue with some of the stuff in the article:

They discovered that women who make over $100,000 a year spend 19.6 percent of their time on passive leisure (i.e., fun), compared to women who make less than $20,000, who spend 33.5 percent of their time kicking back or socializing. The findings suggest a "focusing illusion" that leads people to work for more money even when happier pursuits would ultimately do them more good.

But to go from that to saying that people who make more are less happy doesn't mean much. First of all, it assumes that time spent on passive leisure is fun. Just because you aren't doing anything else doesn't mean you are enjoying it. And it's possible - in fact, likely - that at least some of the people who have money enjoy work - either they really like their jobs or they are small-business owners who love their business or what they do. I think people also make a rational decision when they choose jobs - if they like money and working, they go into a career where they work hard and often, while if they like "passive leisure" they work less and relax more.

Personally, I don't mind my job, or doing other things like eBay to make additional money. But more importantly, I feel like I'm wasting time when I'm engaging in "passive leisure" - there are more important things I should be doing with my time, like homework for my MBA classes or finding and listing stuff on eBay or doing stuff around the house. (I feel the same way about sleeping late - I hate myself when I wake up late, because I've wasted time sleeping). So my leisure time is usually spent feeling guilty that I'm not doing something better with my time, or feeling sorry for myself because I'm sitting watching TV instead of doing something cool like going out. So in some ways, I'd rather be working, or at least doing something else.

I'm sure there is a decreasing marginal utility on money - when you get a certain amount, a little more always helps, while if you have a lot, a little more doesn't make much of a difference. Then again, it seems like expenses and spending always increase to as much or more than income. And while someone may not think they are buying a lot of happyness with that additional income, they would probably miss it if it was gone.

Scenes from work, I do more than hug trees edition

Coworker: I think she's hot. I'm mean, you'd hit that, wouldn't you?

MadAnthony: Well, yes. But that doesn't say much.

Coworker: You'd do it with a hole in a tree filled with bees?

MadAnthony: That depends. How many bees?

Saturday, August 19, 2006

Yard sale-ing away...

Now that I don't work on Saturdays anymore, I have to get up at stupidly early hours on Saturdays, like I did for the last 3 years.

But I still do. Why? Most of the last few weekends, I've been going to yard sales with bsom. And he takes his yard sales seriously - route planned in advance with yard sales in order by distance and start time.

I keep hoping for a big score - something that I can sell for eBay at a profit. I haven't found it yet, but I have bought some random stuff - a couple pictures, a cargo net for my truck for $5, a set of wheel locks for a buck.

But I have gotten two other really interesting pieces of, umm, home decor.

A couple weeks ago, I bought this fine piece of word processing equiptment. I'm not really sure why I bought it, but I'm kind of glad I did - I have it sitting on a bookshelf in my living room. It's a great conversation piece, in the event anyone ever comes over my house...

But the piece de resistance was something I found for $5 today. I suddenly have a craving for a beer.. I could probably sell it on eBay for a decent amount, but I think I'm going to keep it - it adds an interesting touch to my living room, plus it would be difficult to package and get to it's destination in one piece.

And maybe someday I'll make the big haul....

Tuesday, August 15, 2006

Why the old media is going away...

I like to read the Baltimore Sun once a week. Not the part with the news, mind you, but the other stuff that makes the Sunday paper the Sunday paper - the coupons, the sales circulars, the auction section. One of the best things about the Sunday Sun is that it actually comes out on Saturday, giving a deal shopper like myself a heads-up in planning Sunday morning's shopping trip.

When I lived in the city, I didn't bother subscribing to the paper, because I figured that homeless people would steal it off my porch before I got to it. But now that I'm in the 'burbs, I figured I'd subscribe. It would seem stupid not to, since there was a promo with my change of address form for six months for ninety-nine cents a week for weekend delivery. Considering the paper is normally $1.75 just for the Sunday issue, and home delivery would mean I could read the paper without having to put on pants and go to the store, it seemed like a no-brainer.

Except for the fact that I never actually got the paper. I sent them an email, but never heard back. So I wondered why I wasn't getting the paper.

Until Friday, when I got my first bill. It didn't have my address on it - let's say that my address was 32 smith street. The bill said 2 smith street, and someone had written "not at this address" and the 3 on the bill. Which is interesting, since my neigbors didn't seem to have a problem taking my newspaper but didn't want the bill.

So I called The Sun. The woman I got after waiting for a CSR for 10 minutes was nice enough, but evidently dropped address numbers aren't a standard problem for The Sun and she didn't know what to do. She was going to put me on hold and talk to her supervisor, until I suggested that she just cancel the other subscription and sign me up correctly. So she did, but ran into other problems since my correct address was evidently still in the system with the people who used to own my townhouse. And then there were the complicated options - I wanted to make sure that I still got the promo rate, and there were a couple to choose from - which had odd combnations like wednesday, friday, sunday or thursday, friday, saturday, sunday. I just wanted the Sunday paper, so I didn't really care, but opted for the one that included Saturdays since I figured that I would at least be around on most Saturdays to actually possibly read the paper if I was board enough. She had some more issues getting the system to accept the changes, but finally got it to work.

I called from my work phone, which has a timer on it. Total time for the call? 22 minutes. Just to get one digit changed on my newspaper delivery address.

Much has been said lately about the decline of old, paper media as blogs and the internet take over newspaper subscribers. As I've said, there are certain things that newspapers are good for, like coupons or wrapping eBay items. But there are substatial costs - not so much in money as in time - with aquiring the paper. If I'm at home and want to check the news online, I can just fire up one of my computers and read it, but if I want to read a paper newspaper, I have to either get in my car and drive to 7-11 or deal with the Baltimore Sun's godawful subscription department. If it wasn't for being able to read CompUSA ads a day early and save $1 on hot pockets, I'd get all my news online.

Monday, August 14, 2006

Another Hamfest, another dollar...

Well, on Sunday, bsom, myself, and one of the students who works for me went to the Carroll County tailgate fest in Westminster, MD.

It wasn't as profitable as the last Hamfest I went to - this time I only grossed around $136. However, I didn't have a whole lot of good stuff for sale - I sold a ton of stuff before I moved, and haven't bought much since then, with the exception of $26 worth of cell phone accessories I bought at an auction last week on my lunch break (I sold two chargers for a total of $10, so I only need to sell a couple more to break even on everything I bought, although the chargers already paid for themselves- I paid 17 cents each for the chargers). I did have a few items that I've had no problem selling in the past that didn't this time though, so I think that there was a bad ratio - not enough buyers, too many sellers.

Didn't have too many good stories, although I did have one interesting customer. There was this rather cute girl wandering around - short, brown hair, freckles, with a touch of Asian. I'm a horrible judge of age, so she could have been anywhere from 15 to 25, but probably around 18 or so. She's looking though the stuff I had for sale for a long time, and eventually looks at an iTrip that I had bought at a Goodwill. Then she started talking - this 5 foot high chick has a voice deeper than any dude I know. She wanted to try it out. I let her take it to her car, she came back a while later and said it didn't work. I had tested it with my Nano and knew it powered on, so she brought her iPod - a silver mini - back with her. Turned out she didn't have music playing on the iPod and it won't power on unless there was music playing. So she bought it for $20 - not bad since I paid $6.99 for it, although she did OK too since they normally go for $49.99. After that was done and she left, I kept wondering if I should have tried to introduce myself or find out more about her - although I saw her leaving with her father later, so it's probably just as well I didn't since a)she might have been <18 and b)her father might have kicked my ass.

The truck did pretty well - I hauled a ton of stuff with it. I did leave a few tiny scratches in the bed, though - I really do need to get that bedliner soon. BSOM'S girlfriend's brother got a bedliner from these guys and gave me a coupon, so eventually I need to make my way there - although I'm not looking forward to spending the money. I also need to go cap shopping eventually - I piled stuff in the bed, although I put a tarp over it on the way back since I was stopping for lunch and didn't want people going thru my stuff. But once again, buying stuff costs money and I don't like spending it.

And now, for a couple pics (these were taken with my Minolta Dimage z3, which I bought last year on clearance for $95 from Target. Most of them were taken by Andrew, one of the students who works for our department).

I gotta unpack all this stuff?
Crap for sale. Get your crap.
hey, nice truck
pack it up, pack it in
Dude, where's my street?

Friday, August 11, 2006

Go shorty, it's my birthday....

Evidently, today is my birthday. I think I'm supposed to care or something. Twenty-six years ago today, at 2:06pm, MadAnthony was born in a hospital in a small town in Central New Jersey. Since then, the world, well, is pretty much the same.

There are certain points in your life where a birthday makes a difference. You turn 17 and get your license (well, I did anyway, because I lived in NJ), you turn 21 and can buy your beer at a real liquor store instead of one that looks like it's run out of someone's basement. But after that it's pretty much downhill. It's a reminder that you are a year closer to death. It's also a reminder that you are a year older and haven't done all the things you thought you would at that age. At least, I do.

There are a couple times a year that it makes sense to take stock of your life. The first is New Years Day, and the second is your birthday. Both are arbitrary - just another time where the sun rises and sets - but they seem symbolic. (The other time I tend to do this is the start of the school year. It was a natural time when I was a student, and since I work for a college, it still kind of works, because it's a time where things tend to change).

So how is MadAnthony doing at the big two six? Well, I have a new house and truck, and a ton of accompanying debt, so that's pretty much a wash. I have a job that I like for the most part - it could pay more, there are things I would do differently if I was in charge, but I have a laid-back atmosphere, a great group of coworkers, and I'm surrounded by hot college girls (who I'd get fired for talking to). I wish I weighed less than I do now, but I'm not as fat as I used to be.

So that just leaves one area of my life that isn't as good as I would like. I still haven't mastered the whole "talking to girls" thing, and the older I get, the harder it gets. Getting older always reminds me that I'm still single, that I don't have the greatest social skills, and that the older I am the more likely it will be that I will always be single.

But otherwise, happy birthday to me.

Saturday, August 05, 2006

House envy...

When I first started thinking about buying a house, I started checking the website of a major realtor for zip codes I was interested in. This went on for about 2 years until I actually bought my house, and it helped me have a pretty good idea of what I could afford, what kind of house I wanted, and what areas had houses like the ones I wanted.

One would think that once I bought my house, I would no longer visit that site. But I still do, but my search is more focused - instead of searching for zip codes I was interested in, I'm using the "subdivision" search box to search for my development. Out of the 100 or so homes in my development, there are currently 5 on the market, 2 of which are on my court. There has been at least one that has sold, that was listed right after I submitted the offer on mine, and probably sold quickly, since people already moved into it last weekend.

Looking at them brings me a combination of feelings. On one hand, you worry that if lots of people are selling their houses then it's a sign people want to get out of the neigborhood. But part of it may be profit-taking - people looking at what homes near them went for, and deciding that if values are that high then maybe they should sell.

Looking at the listings has made me realize that I bought the worst house in the neigborhood. That's not to say that there is anything wrong with my townhouse beyond the hemmoraging air conditioner. But there are a lot of things that other people have done to their townhouses that the people who owned mine haven't. While there are a few things I would like to add to mine eventually, when I have more money - like a fence - most of them fall into the catagory of "things I would have no use for", like Jaccuzzi or a koi pond.

The other thing that a number of houses seem to have that mine doesn't is additional bedrooms. This isn't to say that these houses are bigger than mine - they have the same square footage. This suggests that the additonal bedrooms were either made by splitting one of the bedrooms into two or by turning the basement storage room into a bedroom. Since I'm only one person, but have a lot of crap, I like having the storage area. Furthermore, I'd rather have one useful spare bedroom than two tiny ones - my back bedroom is my office/ebay room, with closets full of stuff, two large tables holding 4 computers, and a futon that I didn't know what else to do with. Looking at houses, I decided I would rather have a large useful bedroom than two smaller ones. I hope that isn't a decision I regret if and when I eventually sell.

But as mentioned, the other houses are nicer. They are also priced considerably higher - the one that sold recently was asking $17,000 more than I paid for mine (and given the fact that it seems like it sold quickly, I would guess probably went for close to that), and the two on my court that are currently for sale are $25,000 and $40,000 more than mine - although the latter one is an end-of-group with double the backyard (ie the size of a commemorative postage stamp rather than a regular one).

So it's hard to gauge if I got a good deal or not. I guess it's a good sign that people liked the neigborhood and house enough to spend so much money renovating their houses, and if they sell reasonably quickly and for anywhere near what they are asking it would suggest that it is a desirable neigborhood.

Of course, if one similar to mine goes on the market, and sells for well less than I paid for mine, I would feel pretty disappointed. So I'm kind of hoping that all the houses I see on the market are way nicer and way more expensive than mine.

I also wonder if any buyers are looking at comps and looking at the listing for my house and how much I paid for it and wondering if they should be spending so much on a townhouse in my neigborhood...

Friday, August 04, 2006

I too, work at Innotec, and I am not a pussy...

A few weeks ago, when I was still working on Saturdays, I made my usual post-work stop at Taco Bell for my usual two crunchy tacos fresco style and a bean burrito fresco style. TBell was unusually busy - there were several families in line in front of me. The line was held up even more by the fact that a very large and very loud women was yelling at the women behind the counter that she wanted her to remake her mexican pizza because she hadn't put a lid on it and "a fly could have landed on it or something", and that if the rest of her food got cold while they were remaking her Mexican Pizza, she wanted the rest of her food redone too.

This didn't make me happy for a couple reasons. First of all, flies and bugs and germs are everywhere -the average american swallows between 1 and 2 pounds of bugs a year. It's hard to belive that this woman keeps all the food in her house covered at all times, so it seemed silly to expect TBell to do so. And she was holding up my food order.

But that is exactly the kind of thing I don't do. In fact, I've reguarly gone to that TBell, ordered my stuff Fresco style, and still gotten cheese on it. And instead of complaining, I eat it and leave. I am the opposite of confrontational. I tend to let people walk all over me. In other words, I'm kind of, for want of a better word, a pussy.

This has become apparent to me due to my AC kefluffle. Evidently, when the AC was replaced in my townhouse, they replaced the outside part of the heat pump but not the condenser, and the inside condenser has a different SEER rating than the outside. The result is that the condenser keeps freezing, and then when the ice melts it leaks onto the floor. When I had my new carpet put in, I told them not to put carpet in that hallway. Instead, I have a piece of old carpet padding, which has soaked up a ton of water. My basement is starting to smell rather unpleasant thanks to the standing water, and I don't really use my family room much because I don't like wading through the river that my basement hallway has become.

My reaction has been that fate has dealt me a shitty hand, and that I have to suffer for it. Kind of a modern, air-conditioner plauged Job. I've put off buying a new unit, but figure eventually I'll have to shell out the $1200 or so, dipping into my rapidly-shrinking savings account, to pay for it.

But other people seem to think differently. BSOM's girlfriend, who I found my realtor though - she's a family friend - emailed my realtor and mentioned the AC thing. Now my realtor is going to call me and thinks that I should be able to go after the company that did the AC installation and make them fix it or something. I haven't talked to her yet, and I'm not really looking forward to it, because I know she's going to yell at me for not calling her earlier and remind me of what a pushover loser I am.

But that's pretty much the way I am. I don't really see this as anyone's fault but my own. I guess my housing inspector probably should have done a better job noticing, but I probably should have done a better job inspecting my housing inspector. The sellers should have revealed that the AC was effed, but maybe they didn't know - it was previously a rental, and was listed in March, so the AC probably hadn't been used for a while, and hadn't been used by them for years.

I tend to see bad things that happen to me as my fault, or nobody's fault. I guess other people tend to look at them as someone else's fault, and I guess sometimes they are. But I generally would rather take the blame for something than try to confront someone and tell them that it's their fault.

In other words, a pussy.

Jersey- bound

Well, I decided to drive up to New Jersey to see the family today. I decided this around 3pm yesterday. Yesterday morning, my boss asked me if I wanted to take today off. I wasn't going to, but I figured it wasn't a bad idea, since it's probably the last day I'll get to take off in a while - one of my coworkers will be out next week, and after that starts our "start of school" season, where we aren't really supposed to take off since things start to get hectic. I don't have a whole lot of homework for my marketing class from hell, since I've decided to choose the last possible case study to do so I can continue to procrastinate, so it seemed ideal.

There are a couple of reasons I wanted to visit the NJ. My older brother just bought a condo, finally moving out of my parent's house, so I wanted to see it. I also like to see my family a few times a year, since they won't be around forever, and I don't see another opportunity to come up there again until Thanksgiving. I missed my usual 4th of July visit, since I was painting the new Casa De Mad, and Labor Day is move-in weekend, which Mad Anthony will be spending working overtime to help him pay his mortgage and truck payment and insurance. Plus the 'rents will be able to see my new truck, and I can collect my birthday presents (my birthday is next Friday).

The one thing I'm not looking forward to is the cost of gas for this trip eating into my already-overdrawn budget. The PT neve got great gas milage, but the Ranger is worse - I'm getting around 15mpg in mostly city driving. Granted, it hasn't helped that MadAnthony has a bit of a lead foot, that I've done a lot of stop-and-go driving (I spent last Saturday morning going to yard sales with bsom), plus the 100+ heat index has forced me to run the AC to cool down the black interior.

Still, I guess family is worth it...