Thursday, January 27, 2011

I Really Needed That Super Snowblower Today

It seems yesterday's post was timely as we experienced yet another snowfall last night. Not that we had all that much snow – about 3 inches – but the aftermath meant a lot of extra work the Official Weekend Pundit Snowblower couldn't handle.

After this morning's clean-up by the road crews in our town, the Department of Public Works must have decided it was time to push back the snow banks lining our roads. That in and of itself isn't a problem. But when they do that and it dumps 12 inches of mixed snow and ice along 30 feet of our driveway it becomes a problem. My problem.

When the plows inevitably pass by and leave a snow bank at the end of the driveway some people go ballistic. Not me. I always expect it. But when I got home from work late this afternoon and saw my driveway was absolutely impassable it pissed me off.

The Manse is located on a hillside, down hill from our road. Because of the steep slope of the hillside the driveway approaches the road from a shallow angle, meaning it almost parallels the road above it. When the plow crew pushed back the snowbank today it dumped all of the mixed snow and chunks of ice down the hill and filled our driveway. The snowbank they left at the end of our driveway was almost 3 feet high and the same mix of snow and large chunks of ice. There was no way the trusty F150 was going to be able to punch through it and make its way down the driveway and to the garage, four wheel drive or not.

The F150 got parked at the top of the driveway and I made it to down to the garage, got the snowblower and shovels out, and started cleaning up the mess. A little over three hours later and I was done. (It usually takes an hour to clear the driveway and the parking area around in front of and to one side of the garage.) Much of the snow and ice had to be broken up moved by shovel as the snowblower was incapable of chewing through the mix without breaking the sheer pins on the auger. (The auger still got pretty beat up, not that it was in all that great shape to begin with.)

In the six years we've resided at The Manse, this is the first time I've had to deal with this problem. I'm gonna make darned sure it's the last.

Saturday, January 1, 2011

The 800-Pound Gorilla

I've listened to some of the talking heads over the past couple of days and more than a few have predicted a strong economic recovery during 2011. But there's still the 800-pound gorilla they're all ignoring: the housing market.

With a large shadow inventory waiting in the wings, housing prices aren't likely to be heading up any time soon. Banks are holding on to a huge inventory of foreclosed homes, hoping to dispose of them in a manner that will allow them to recoup some of their losses. But if they were to put all of them on the market over the next year the already fragile housing market would collapse and many people whose homes are still 'right-side up' would end up being upside down, meaning their homes would now be worth less than the unpaid principal of their mortgages. That in turn might encourage more homeowners with upside down mortgages walk away from them, leaving the banks or other mortgage holders in the lurch.

I've been checking the real estate listings here in central New Hampshire and one thing that stands out is the tumble in prices. (Both Deb and I like to look through the monthly/quarterly real estate slicks the various realty groups make available at the local supermarkets and banks.) Homes that had listed for $250K to $300K are now on the market for between $190K to $240K. Even some of the high-end homes on Lake Winnipesaukee listed in the millions have dropped the asking prices by up to 30%! (One property with which I am familiar was originally listed for $301,000 last year. It just recently sold for $69,000.)

The new lower prices can be seen as a long overdue correction. The housing bubble drove prices up at well above the rate of inflation for over 6 years. Maybe the most recent listings are showing a return to sanity and a more realistic value of the properties up for sale.

It is unfortunate for some of those selling their properties because unless they have owned them since before the bubble they are likely to lose money on the sale.

Unless the economic pundits take this 800-pound gorilla seriously, their predictions for the economic recovery this year can't be taken seriously either.