Saturday, January 3, 2009

The New Year

First thing, Jim Wasserman, the stenographer for the real estate industry at the Sacramento Bee has a piece on the bad predictions made by various real estate industry professionals, business professors, and other similarly situated folk. I suppose that it was intended to say, "see, no one knows what's going to happen, so we're not responsible for not knowing about this." Well, had the Bee been reporting, rather than practicing stenography, they'd have been seeking out other information (and there was plenty out there) and, for that matter, doing their own simple arithmetic calculations, which would have shown that housing prices in the Valley were far outstripping the ability of local residents to afford houses. And that rents would have to rise about 15% a year for 10 years to catch up to house prices. Wasn't gonna happen. I understand number fear. I'm not particularly good at numbers myself, but I can run a simple mortgage calculator and it showed me that, by September 2002, rents would have to increase 50% to make buying a house here a sensible proposition.

And our rent hasn't increased $100 since we moved to Sacramento in 2000.

J made crab crepes for our Winter Solstice dinner. It's a huge amount of work, involving extracting crab meat from the shells, boiling the shells for stock, making the sauce, making the crepes, and then the side dishes and salad. I read on the sofa.

But on New Year's Day, I swung into action, preparing my turkey with Mom stuffing. I think that my mother got the recipe off the back of a bread crumbs package in 1961, and she made it every year until she stopped doing Thanksgiving. The recipe involves copious amounts of butter, so it necessarily tastes good and clogs arteries.
J made the gravy, the side dishes and the salad. He also carved the turkey, at which point I discovered that a 10-pound turkey leaves a lot of leftovers. We'll be eating it until Wednesday--at every meal.

I also made the traditional dip--sour cream and Lipton's onion soup mix. J claims to hate the
stuff, but I insisted on it one year for a New Year's Eve party we gave for our neighbors and, much as we're all supposed to do California fusion, the onion dip bowl was licked clean by the end of the evening.

I'll be revising my Tenants and Foreclosure blog next week. As I hear from tenants reporting on the latest soon-to-be-foreclosed landlord scams, I update the blog. But that gets a bit messy over time, and so it's time to restructure. I guess it's because I'm from the days of typewriters, but I do my revisions in longhand and then revise the blog from the hard copy. I print out the whole blog and then cut and paste, making revisions as I go. Then I have to do a second revision, making sure that everything is in the proper order and makes sense. (I do volunteer editing for an education nonprofit staffed mostly by much younger people; I don't think they quite understand why I work this way.)

One thing I'll have to leave space for is the procedure for tenants who are in foreclosed properties owned by Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac. I see some real problems--what to do about realtors who decide that tenants are an unnecessary nuisance and take action on their own to "encourage" tenants to move, what happens to tenants who have stopped paying the rent because the landlord has defaulted and disappeared, all sorts of weird little wrinkles that I suspect Fannie/Freddie haven't even thought of. How I hope for a toll-free number where tenants and their advocates can get clarification and assistance. How I suspect that I am dreaming.

And I'm still waiting for someone in the economic punditry to explain to me how the economic stimulus will get people spending again. The problem for the last 30 years or so has been that Americans have been spending well above our means--that people have taken on increasing levels of debt just to stay even. So unless the majority of the population gets really big wage increases, any monies received are likely to go into debt reduction or savings, not new spending. The stimulus doesn't address this fundamental problem.

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