Daily Archives: August 13, 2008

Stop the presses! Get out your checkbooks!

Mel Gibson’s digs on Old Mill Road have dropped from $39.5 million to just $35 million. You procrastinated, you won!

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Let them eat cake.
Prince Charles, perhaps one of our dimmer world figure heads, doesn’t like genetically modified food. Fair enough, but his complaint that “we [will] end up with millions of small farmers all over the world being driven off their land into unsustainable, unmanageable, degraded and dysfunctional conurbations of unmentionable awfulness” sounds to me as though he rather misses the good old days when his serfs knuckled their foreheads as he passed and, damn it, knew their place.

The Prince would dispute this, of course and predicts world wide disaster if things are permitted to continue as they are. But this is the same gentleman who sixteen months ago warned the world would suffer cataclysmic horrors in eighteen months if we didn’t immediately save the rain forests. Well, we still have two months to go before we know whether the world will end but things aren’t looking good for the Prince’s prognosticative powers.

While he was predicting doom last year, our king in waiting said, “You learn as you go along. I am going to be 60 this year. I would be a blinding idiot if I had not learnt a bit by now.” You said it, Charley. I rather think the Prince would agree with his subject British scientists who claim that fat people cause global warming. Stick all those fatties back on 1/2 acre subsistence plots and foot-pedalled water pumps and we’ll soon see the pounds melt away. All while saving the planet. Jolly good.

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Internet for home buyers

The National Association of Realtors has released some interesting statistics depicting changes in how buyers first found the home they eventually purchased from 1997 to 2007. They had a nice chart that my lousy computer skills prevent me from importing but here’s a summary:

1997: 50% via a real estate agent, 3% via internet, 8% newspapers, 3% magazines

2007: 34% agents, 29% internet, 3% newspaper ads and 1% magazines.

This jibes with my own experience except that, in this rather sophisticated market, I’d guess that almost all my clients have been prowling the Internet before they first call me. On the other hand, they usually end up buying something they hadn’t yet seen or considered, so I feel I’m adding something beyond what Zillow offers.

Definitely bad news for newspapers, though, considering how expensive their ads are.

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Attention, Los Angeles:
You don’t want your fat folks chowing down on Whoppers? How about tasty rat snacks?

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Who says politics has to break up friendships?
I see that District 5 (Riverside) yielded six votes for Lee Whitnum. My first reaction was surprise that my area of town hosts so many nuts but I was still further surprised when I realized that that I know, and like, at least five of the probable suspects. And probably all six. I do adore them but I think I’ll stay out of their way until the fall election’s over.

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Contracts = activity.

Not sales, which are a lagging indicator – who cares what happened 30 – 60 days ago? With that in mind, you may want to know that we saw 11 houses go to contract in the past 10 business days. That’s not much, obviously, so let’s hope that it’s merely a reflection of vacation schedules rather than a lack of interest in buying homes. Usually in August, that’s the right explanation but I, at least, am a little nervous.

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Rant of the morning – real estate readers, avert your eyes

California, home of all great ideas, was the first state to ban smoking in restaurants and now many of its cities have expanded that to the smoggy area outside. The ban seems to be working but I do wonder what possible health benefit is achieved by protecting an outdoor cafe patron from inhaling second hand smoke while continuing to expose the poor bastard to the world’s foulest air (you say, “China’s is worse, but every evening, prevailing winds dump a new load of Chinese poison on poor old California, so they’re doubly blessed).

What concerns me, however, and what alarmed a few folks way back when the first smoking ban was imposed, is, “what’s next?”. Doomsayers predicted,and were scoffed at for their prediction, that this kind of governmental intrusion would spread and of course it has, from calorie counts and trans fat bans in New York City, no foie gras in Chicago, no smoking, alone, in your own car, etc.

Now Los Angeles has banned additional fast food joints in South LA. Leave alone the possibility that these places provided jobs in a blighted area that has never recovered from the Rodney King riots (and before that, the Watts frolics of 1965), what kind of paternalistic beneficence is going on here? Grown adults won’t be allowed to buy a $1.00 cheeseburger but must instead opt for a full course tofu dinner that (a) costs far more and (b) doesn’t exist within 5 miles of South LA?

Except for those too lazy to cook, the most healthy dinner is probably one you prepare yourself because you have full control and choice of ingredients. Los Angelenos apparently, don’t have that option and are forced into the streets where they stuff themselves on the first food offered.

“The people don’t want [fast food joints], but when they don’t have any other options, they may gravitate to what’s there,” [Councilwoman Jan]Perry said in Monday’s Los Angeles Times. So much for the free market – the city council will now decide what people want and don’t want.

The city council exerts this dubious authority on the grounds that the citizens under its control are too fat: obesity consumes public funds to treat so sure, let’s “do something” about it and individual choice be damned. “We can’t take away their X-boxes” one supporter explains, alluding to the fact that lack of exercise contributes at least as much to the problem of chubby wubbies as cheese does, but why not? Exactly the same rationale applies. In fact,this reasoning opens the door to anything politicians want to impose for the good of “the people” – forced exercise, for instance (you say no, but Barak Obama is floating a proposal for compulsory “volunteer” service, 2 years for every young adult in America, so why not a brief stint of calisthenics each day in the local park, to get ready for that service?)

Even I’m not so old that I can’t remember when people were pretty much free to do what they wanted to do so long as they weren’t harming anyone else. That freedom has slowly eroded as the kind of people who enjoy telling others what to do have gained ascendancy via a “social cost” argument. We as a society are paying the medical costs for (some) people so we have the right to tell all of you to: wear seat belts; motorcycle helmets; not ingest trans fats; no goose liver (okay, it’s not a health cost issue but we also have taken over the prerogative of protecting the well being of geese – so there); and so forth and so on. Just wait until we have national health insurance and we can go after diabetics and juveniles with rotting teeth for consuming too much candy. I admire the optimism of reformers who truly believe that if we all only did as they told us to it would be a wonderful world, but I wonder at, and fear, their combination of naivety and lust for power.

(Rant over.)

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