Thursday, July 31, 2008

Proposition Y: MSD Wastewater Rates

On August 5th, Proposition Y will be on the ballot. This proposition relates to MSD wastewater rates, which will be increasing. The wastewater program being proposed by the Metropolitan St. Louis Sewer District is in an effort to:

-Increase wet weather capacity at plants
-Develop an understanding of system defects
-Reduce extraneous water entering sewers from inappropriate connections and defects
-Reduce combined sewer overflow events
-Eliminate constructed overflows in separate system

The wastewater program features are what is necessary in order for the St. Louis Sewer system to comply with the Clean Water Act.
The proposition allots for two different scenerios for funding: a YES vote and a NO vote.

-YES on Proposition Y would permit MSD to use debt financing and bonds (backed by sewer fees) to make the necessary system improvements. An increase in your sewer bill will be as follows:

September 2008 = 0%
July 2009 = 2%
July 2010 = 5%
July 2011 = 4%

-NO on Proposition Y would fund the system improvements through current MSD rates and increases and is essentially 100% cash funded with zero use of bonds. An increase in your sewer bill will be as follows:

September 2008 = 12%
July 2009 = 11%
July 2010 = 9%
July 2011 = 5%

A breakdown of the potential average monthly bills over a span of four (4) years for the average single-family home is included:

(Information courtesy of MSD)

Tuesday, July 29, 2008

Saint Louis in the 10 Best For Rehabbing

From Yahoo! Real Estate:

Where are the best opportunities to buy houses at below market prices, fix them up and sell them at a substantial profit?

HomeVestors -- whose 230 franchisees in 35 states have bought and turned around more than 35,000 houses during the past 12 years -- has just come out with its top ten list for the second quarter of 2008.

Four are in Texas (Dallas, Houston, Fort Worth and San Antonio), along with Denver, Colorado, Charlotte, North Carolina, St. Louis, Missouri, Milwaukee, Wisconsin, and Chicago, Illinois and Kansas City, Kansas.

The rankings were based on the number of houses HomeVestor franchisees were able to buy and finance between the beginning of April and the end of June in dozens of markets around the country.

The HomeVestor formula emphasizes buying distressed properties well below market value, meaning houses that need to be sold quickly because of divorce, job loss, illness, death or impending foreclosure, and then renovating them and quickly reselling to rental home investors or first-time buyers.

Mark Hagen, a vice president of HomeVestors, said the top markets share certain common characteristics. They all have:

-Moderate home prices relative to the national average, and never participated in the wild inflationary spirals of the boom years….or the rapid deflation after 2006.
-Solid local economies, producing new jobs, even in the face of a national slowdown.
-Strong local demand for both single family rental units and "starter" homes for renters looking to buy.
-Prevailing rent levels strong enough to produce positive cash flows for investors.

"We call them rational markets," said Hagen. "Real estate fundamentals make sense in these areas."

Statistical data from the federal agency that monitors local housing markets backs up Hagen's point on prices in the top investor markets. For example, Dallas, number one on the list, saw average price appreciation between the first quarter of 2007 and the first quarter of this year of 3.8 percent. That compares with double-digit declines in once-booming California, Florida and parts of the Northeast.

Between 2003 and 2008, cumulative appreciation in Dallas was just 16.5 percent. Houston, Dallas, Atlanta, Fort Worth and the others were all slow but steady gainers, and -- most importantly -- they continue to pump out steady gains in the midst of a national housing downturn.

Monday, July 28, 2008

Another One Bites the Dust...

According to their website, Simply Fondue has closed permanently. It's a shame, because it gave downtown a unique dining experience, and an alternative to The Melting Pot. I can only surmise that the location was the downfall. I was skeptical of the location when they opened, as it was very off the beaten path. They built the space out beautifully, but their exposure just didn't work.

I guess this means they won't be participating in Downtown Restaurant Week.

Great Green Countertop Solution

Bottlestone - very cool.

Bottlestone is a beautiful new "green" stone slab made of 80% post-consumer recycled glass. Now, with Bottlestone, architects, builders and home owners have a green alternative to stone slabs that has the same warm stone aesthetics of natural stone materials. Bottlestone also shares all of the other heat, scratch and stain resistant characteristics of stone slabs, not to mention a wonderful array of colors. Bottlestone is everything you want for an internal or external stone surface plus it's green and eligible for LEED credits - something you just can't get from natural stone and many other surfaces. Learn more about this truly innovative green building material.

Sunday, July 27, 2008

What's Next From The Fed? Up or Down?

According to the Wall Street Journal, 92% of economists surveyed believe the next action by the Federal Reserve will be to raise interest rates rather than cut them, suggesting that rising inflation is a larger concern to our nation's central bank than our slowing economy...

Saturday, July 26, 2008

Going Green: SchlaFlea Market

This should be a pretty fun and cool event:

Schlafly Beer and Goodwill Present the First SchlaFlea Market. Yes, A Huge Yard Sale!
When: Sunday, August 3 8am-4pm
Where: The Schlafly Tap Room, 2100 Locust, St. Louis, MO 63103

Come on out to the SchlaFlea Market and help support Goodwill and awareness of reusing and recycling used items! Schlafly Beer and Goodwill are pairing up to present the SchlaFlea Market in the parking lot of the Schlafly Tap Room, featuring up to one hundred amateur vendors selling their used treasures. Vendors will be charged a $25 booth space fee, which will go to St. Louis Goodwill. Goodwill will be on hand to take any unsold items off of vendors' hands. They will also be onsite to collect from any others who would like to donate items to Goodwill. Food and beer will also be for sale. Anyone interested in becoming a vendor at the event should visit for details. Amateur vendors only, no professional dealers!

Friday, July 25, 2008

Downtown Restaurant Week

If you have never checked out Downtown Restaurant Week, you are missing out! There are 20 different restaurants that are participating this year, and the way it works is that for $25, you pick a starter, an entree, and a dessert. It's an awesome deal and a great way to check out different restaurants that you normally wouldn't try. If you want a recommendation, let me know - I've hit most of the spots in prior years! Check out the site for participating restaurants and menus!

Thursday, July 24, 2008

It's Getting Ugly Out There...

Looking to buy? Now's the time. Lock the rate. Rates have been rapidly rising due to the problems of Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac. Rates are at a five year high, and Jumbos are out of control. is showing the following rates:

If you haven't been following the Fannie and Freddie debacle, The New York Times has an excellent article detailing the mess: Woes Afflicting Mortgage Giants Raise Loan Rates

Wednesday, July 23, 2008

This Would Look Great....

in my Abod...

Jason International was started by Remo Jacuzzi and his family in 1982. The Jacuzzi family began making bath products in 1915 and became a household name with the invention of the whirlpool bath in the 1950s. Today, Jason International produces acrylic whirlpools with state-of-the-art designs. All whirlpools and tubs are made to the contours of the body. Features include integrated lumbar supports, armrests, recessed therapy jets, high gloss colors, and the Quiet DesignTM engineering system.

Tuesday, July 22, 2008

Consumer Reports' Interactive Home Improvement Guide

Fantastic info:

Remodeling or simply replacing appliances? The Consumer Reports Interactive Home Improvement Guide lets you click on any room in the house and choose the top appliances, paints, flooring, and other remodeling products for your home’s interior and exterior, from the kitchen and bathroom to roofing, siding, mowers, and tools. The Home Improvement Guide includes expert remodeling tips as well links to Ratings of top ranges, refrigerators, dishwashers, decking, mowers and tractors, room air conditioners, windows, washing machines, vacuums, and many more appliances, tools, and remodeling materials you need to upgrade your home.

Monday, July 21, 2008

What NOT To Do When You Are Looking For A Home

Matt McHugh, who is a fantastic loan officer at The Private Bank, had an awesome piece in his weekend update. It's extremely informative, and very important:

Congratulations! You finally found the house of your dreams. You made a bid, had it accepted by the seller, and went through the mortgage application process. It looks like you'll qualify. The closing is only weeks away, and you’re feeling pretty good.

It's smooth sailing from here, right? Probably. However, more than one buyer has had the wind knocked out of his sails at some point in a real estate transaction by the mis-steps described below. If at all possible, steer clear of the following "NO-NOs" until AFTER you have gone to settlement.

• Do not take on new debt. The temptation is strong. There are so many big purchases that people want to make in connection with a move: appliances, window treatments, furniture, etc. When you add to this the fact that, today, everyone offers easy terms and no money down—well, why not just do it? Answer: because you will change what the mortgagei ndustry calls your "debt-to-income ratios" (the relationship of your income to your debt).

• Do not change jobs. If at all possible, try not to make a career move during the time between your mortgage application and the closing on the home you are purchasing. But,you ask, "What if it’s a BETTER job, for MORE money, in a DIFFERENT field?" Still, try and wait until AFTER closing. One of the factors mortgage companies consider is length of present employment; they are partial to stability. At the very least, changing jobs initiates the need for more paperwork, and may delay your closing.

• Do not pack too soon. Well, go ahead and pack your clothes and dishes. But do not pack your bank statements, tax returns, or other important paperwork. Most especially, do not pack your checkbook! More than one buyer has had closing delayed while a friend or relative hurried over with additional funds because the checkbook was in the moving van.

• Do not lease a new car. This should go under the general heading of "no new debt." It is highlighted here because, for some strange reason, many buyers do run right out and lease a new car during the time between mortgage application and closing! As with any debt, this will change your "debt-to-income ratios" and may cause you not to qualify for your mortgage.

In short, do nothing that negatively impacts your ability to qualify for your mortgage loan, or initiates a new round of paperwork. If you have any doubts about doing something that may affect your ability to qualify for your mortgage loan, please consult your loan provider before you do it.

Sunday, July 20, 2008

Going Green: Event - Integrating Renewable Energy into the Grid

When: Tuesday, July 22
Where: EarthWays Center - 3617 Grandel Square , St. Louis, MO

Renewable energy: all the kids are talking about it. Questions about windpower? Concerns about solar? Wondering what you can do yourself? Come to the Earthways Center's lecture and learn all about it.

Some policy and lawmakers are calling for more than 30% of our nation's electrical energy to come from renewable sources by 2020. Learn how utilities are responding and ways you can really choose renewables without investing in your own system. Representatives from AmerenUE's Pure Power program as well as leaders from Missouri's developing wind power industry will join the class. Explore cutting edge innovations that may power our way to a more sustainable future.

$10 Missouri Botanical Garden member, $15 nonmember
Call 314-577-0220 or email to register

Saturday, July 19, 2008

What A Getaway This Would Be...

lostrivermodern is a modern prefab cabin in lost river, West Virginia. a treehouse, really. set into the side of a wooded ridge, with a wall of glass extending nearly its entire length, lostrivermodern’s spare lines and perfect setting leave only light and sound and space vying for attention. designed by the award-winning firm resolution: 4 architecture (creators of the original dwell home) lostrivermodern is the first and only res4 home available for guests.

Friday, July 18, 2008

So Houses Are Like Cars Now?

Wow...I've seen the reality shows on TLC and the like, where Buyers actually spend a night in the house they are considering purchasing, but I figured it was all for cameras. Apparently, people actually want to do that ?!

From the Wall Street Journal:

More Home Buyers Seek Sleepover 'Test Drive'

In most markets, home buyers have the upper hand these days. That often means they have greater negotiating power when it comes to price or the ability to squeeze out extra perks from sellers.

But on occasion, they will ask a seller for even more, a request that will help get to know the home better. They will ask to sleep over.

As reality programs such as TLC's "Date My House" and HGTV's "Sleep On It" show buyers spending a considerable amount of time -- and sometimes an entire night -- in homes they are considering, some buyers in the real world are getting the chance to do the same.

It isn't something being agreed to by droves of sellers, but it is a new tactic that some are considering, said Pat Skiffington of Keller Williams Classic Realty in Orlando, Fla. He is arranging for a prospective buyer to stay overnight in a downtown Orlando condo.

Mr. Skiffington wouldn't recommend it for every home. The Orlando condo is a good candidate because the prospective buyers don't live in the area, and experiencing what the downtown is like at night might sway them to make an offer, he said.

Any seller who attempts this also should consider that while letting someone stay in your home can spotlight the positives, "it can also punctuate the negatives," he said. Plus, even if the buyers decide they love the home after staying there, it might not be enough.

Just ask Jeri Moran, a real-estate broker who had people stay over in her second home in the Blue Ridge Mountains in Georgia. The buyers love the home, but haven't made an offer.
"They're sitting on the fence," said Christy Reece, her agent with Keller Williams Realty Mountain Properties in Blue Ridge, Ga. "The house is wonderful, and they even fell in love with it further once they stayed there. But it comes down to people, in our market, thinking that prices will continue to come down."

Even if setting up an extended showing isn't doable, home sellers can take away some tips from shows like "Date My House," said the host, Bob Guiney. "It's such a huge thing to be able to hang out in a house," he said. But, he added, it is most important to "think about selling your house like thinking about going on a first date."

In one episode, the best feature was the outdoor space, said Mr. Guiney. By playing up that property's barbecue and pool area in the backyard -- and allowing the buyers to experience it -- they got a sense of what it would be like to live there.

From the buyer's perspective, there are other opportunities to spend more time in the home than doing it in one large chunk. Mr. Skiffington said that nowadays buyers are averaging between three and four showings of a home even before an offer is submitted.

Buyers can visit the home at different times of day to get a sense of neighborhood noise, said Elizabeth Blakeslee of Coldwell Banker Residential Brokerage in Washington. She recommends talking to the neighbors.

Those who are interested in having a buyer stay in their home overnight should think about the possible consequences, said Ms. Blakeslee.

Structuring a short-term contract to give the home a test drive probably wouldn't be that difficult, said Neil Garfinkel, a real-estate attorney and partner with the New York firm of Abrams Garfinkel Margolis Bergson LLP. "My first phone call would be to my insurance company," he said. "The second would be to my attorney, who could help structure the transaction."

Thursday, July 17, 2008

Great New Listing in Florissant

Brand new to the market is a great, spacious house in Florissant. Know anyone looking that way?
This beautifully renovated and perfectly maintained home is nestled on a quiet block in a desirable area. As you approach the home you are welcomed by perfectly maintained bushes and grass.
Once inside the spacious layout will capture your attention and lead you through the living room & dining room, with updated windows and fresh neutral paint.

The kitchen is one to write home about, boasting gorgeous tile, newer cabinets, counters, and appliances, and providing tons of space. A sun room off the kichen is the perfect spot to unwind and gaze out into the beautiful yard.
In the back of the house you will find the full hallway bathroom, and three bedrooms, with fresh paint, sizable closets, and awesome 6-panel doors. The master bedroom has a great private full bathroom off of it.The basement provides plenty of opportunities with ample space, a nice bar, and an amazing fireplace. A two car garage provides plenty of storage space, and furnace and A/C are less than 3 years old.

This home is offered for sale at $154,900. If you are anyone you know is looking, get in touch with me!

Wednesday, July 16, 2008

Saint Louis Makes "Top 10 Cities to Buy A Home" List

From Forbes:

Financially, at least, the best places to buy houses are those where buying costs less than renting, tax incentives are attractive, and there’s an opportunity to build equity.

Forbes magazine surveyed the 40 largest metropolitan area housing metrics looking for cities where home prices have appreciated over the last two years. It also measured vacancy rates. And it gave extra points to cities where rents are significantly higher than a buyer would pay for the same home.

Texas dominated the magazine’s list because of its healthy job market and growing tax revenues.Here are the 10 cities that topped Forbes’ best-places-to-buy list:

1. Houston
2. Austin, Texas
3. St. Louis
4. Philadelphia
5. San Antonio, Texas
6. Dallas
7. Charlotte, N.C.
8. San Francisco
9. Jacksonville, Fla.
10. Atlanta

Tuesday, July 15, 2008

Salvage/Anqitue Shopping

Anyone out there like to go to different places to find the perfect piece to decorate? If so, there's quite a few places in our neck of the woods that you should know about.

Junque, on Broadway, in the Lemp Brewery complex has all sorts of cool stuff. Old doors, mirrors, architectural items, furniture - you name it. I picked up a beautiful chest of drawers with mirror for just $125 not too long back. That same chest of drawers would have cost $400 or $500 if you bought it from a place on Cherokee. Junque is only open on Saturdays and Sundays, and sometimes not even then. It's a unique place for sure!

Another place that has some super stuff is Architectural Artifacts. It's located on Lafayette, right near Lafayette and Jefferson. I'm not sure they even have a sign...but you can't miss it with all of the salvaged stuff laying outside. This place seems to be more of a spot if you are looking for something cool for the backyard, or for the outside to landscape with.

Of course, there is Cherokee Street and Antique Row as well. Each store is pretty unique in its own regard, but most stores seem to have much more of a markup. If you are looking for furniture, Elder's is the spot for sure - but you will pay a premium. Other cool places on Cherokee include Lady Jane's, The Nostalgia Shop, Retro 101, and The Antique Armory.

Happy Hunting!

Monday, July 14, 2008

The Top 10 Markets For Investing in Real Estate

According to

1. New York
2. Washington D.C.
3. Los Angeles
4. San Francisco
5. Seattle
6. Boston
7. Chicago
8. Las Vegas
9. Phoenix
10. Orlando

Got A Money Tree?

Then you might considering putting this amazing bathtub in your house...I can't decide if I like the tub a lot, or just the bathroom in general.

From Diamond Spas:

Diamond Spas fabricates custom stainless steel and copper bath fixtures and spas/hot tubs. Shown is a double seat stainless steel Japanese bath, designed for two bathers. All work is handcrafted exhibiting a strong artistic flair. Both residential and commerical projects welcomed. Let Diamond Spas elevate the level of your bathroom from merely functional to a personalized haven devoted to beauty and relaxation.

Sunday, July 13, 2008

Nobody Asked Me But...

If you are in the market for a loft or condo, you might consider only buying on the top floor. Obviously the main issue there is that the higher you go on the floor, the higher the price (at least in terms of the downtown lofts.)

With some of the older condos, you can certainly hear people walking around above you. The lofts aren't as big of an issue.

The New York Times had a good article on this issue, and while it speaks of New York, it applies everywhere.

When I lived downtown, and purchased my loft, that slight thought was in the back of my head, and I ended up on the top floor - but the main reason was because of the ceiling height. The major problem I had was the thin walls - but developments have come a long way since then. People can fall in love with a place, but not think of something like noise above...

Saturday, July 12, 2008

Understanding Interest Rates

Great explanation of the interest reates from Matt Scott at Des Peres Mortgage:

Consumers are often misled when it comes to the subject of the Federal Reserve and how it affects mortgage interest rates. Often the media is the culprit causing the confusion. In the last few years, the Fed has taken action that caused mortgage interest rates to move in a direction other than what consumers expected, because the media provided weak reporting on the subject.

The Federal Reserve affects short-term interest rate maturities, the Fed Funds rate, and the Overnight Lending rate. These factors have a direct impact on the Prime rate. If you took only this into consideration, you may mistakenly conclude that changes made by the Fed will cause a similar movement in mortgage interest rates. However, mortgage interest rates are dictated by the trading of mortgage-backed securities, which trade on a daily basis. The real dynamic at the heart of interest rate movement is the relationship between stocks and bonds.

Stocks and bonds compete for the same investment dollar on a daily basis. There is literally only so much money to be invested. When the Federal Reserve feels that interest rates need to be decreased in an effort to stimulate the economy, this reduction in rates can often cause a stock market rally. When the market becomes bullish, the money to invest in stocks comes from the selling of mortgage-backed securities.

Unfortunately, selling mortgage-backed securities to fuel stock market rallies causes interest rates to go up, not down.

Historically, there have been many times when the Federal Reserve has increased interest rates. Stocks then sell off in fear that the increase will affect corporate profit margins, and the liquidated stock assets need a place to park until the next rally comes along. The safe haven is found in mortgage-backed securities which cause mortgage rates to drop.

The daily ebb and flow of money is what matters most when it comes to the movement of mortgage interest rates.

Friday, July 11, 2008

Senate Passes Foreclosure Rescue

While this is good news for many homeowners, there's still some hurdles involved. Read the whole story here.

Adding Space to Your Home?

So lately, I've really been wanting to create some additional space at my own house. I've thought about adding on to the back of the garage, or maybe even creating a second story on said garage. Not anything that is going to cost an arm and a leg, but also something that can't be done in a couple days.
I may have found my solution. Abod was created by BSB Design to provide affordable housing for families in Africa. They are mass produced and deliverable by truck, ship, or plane, this "home in a box" includes the entire 120sf structure, unassembled, that fits into a box. It's apparently ridiculously lightweight, and can be put together in one day by four people, using only two hand tools - a screwdriver and awl which are included in the kit.

Now, I would be using the structure for something completely unrelated to its intended use, and I'm not sure if that's offensive or not, but I would think this would be an extremely cool space to add to a backyard, or in my case, maybe behind my garage and out of the way. I think it would make for a really cool office space or place to hang out...


Thursday, July 10, 2008

Renovating Your Kitchen? You Need These!

So, I have become obsessed with these countertops. They are made by Trinity Glass Products, which is a collaboration between Amee Quirconi, the creator of Squak Mountain Stone, and Joel Kilppert of Kliptech. The products are comprised of 75% glass from recycled beer and wine bottles, plate glass windows, and the like, and 25% low-carbon cement. Very, very cool.

Wednesday, July 9, 2008

It Starts With the Foundation: Pin Foundations

This product is pretty cool. It's a solid foundation that goes deep into the ground - all without digging holes (which I think I have mentioned before, but to reiterate, digging holes is the worst!).
The installation is pretty easy. The precast concrete head is installed at the ground surface and pre-determined lengths of pipe are slid through receiver holes cast in the concrete and driven into the ground using simple hand tools. The product is durable and reliable, and will last the lifetime of the structure. And, it's removable!

This product seems like it would work awesome with a deck - or maybe even a fence - but I'm not sure of the cost, so I suppose justifying the cost would be a priority if using with a fence.

Tuesday, July 8, 2008

Innovate + Real Estate: Tile - Is it Leather? Is it Rubber? Is it Porcelain?

Leather tiles are out there - but they're expensive and often damage easily. The Haute Couture line from Lea North America are made of lapped porcelain stoneware, and made to resemble the distinctive look and texture of leather. The tiles come in Coffee, Black, Almond, and White, and are available in two sizes - 12"x 24" and 24" square.

In my dream house, the library walls would be completely made of these tiles :)

Monday, July 7, 2008

Casino in North County?

The Saint Louis Post-Dispatch had an article last week that said a group called North County Development, LLC, has submitted plans for a $300 million casino, which includes a golf course, on 376 acres in Spanish Lake.

It sounds like an interesting plan, but if the loss limit passes, it would render the plan useless, as the passing would prohibit any new casinos.

Of course, this also brings back to light the City of Saint Louis not being a part of the County and having split governments, as they are fighting over dollars.

Sunday, July 6, 2008

Going Green: Use a Fan and Save Some Energy!

The city of Saint Louis and many of the suburbs are ripe with older homes that haven't had ceiling fans installed. However, replacing that old light fixture with a fan can save you up to 40% on the cost of air-conditioning a room in the summer. That same fan also reduce winter heating costs, as it moves heated air from the ceiling during the winter, and prevents it from being wasted. If that isn't enough, ceiling fans help in terms of re-sale!

Saturday, July 5, 2008

Fun Fact : Home Description

When I enter a listing into the MLS, I have to come up with a description for the home. The MLS only allows the description to be 1000 characters or less, but I'm always at the limit, often having to substitute "&" for "and," spell out numbers, etc. I take great care with the description, and lead the reader through the house, providing the most vivid image possible.

Roost had a pretty informative and cool list on their site, titled "The Top 20 Adjectives Used to Describe Homes" (by frequency). The list:

1. New
2. Large
3. Great
4. Beautiful
5. Open
6. Huge
7. Finished
8. Spacious
9. Custom
10. Newer
11. Nice
12. Updated
13. Private
14. Fenced
15. Colonial
16. Gourmet
17. Covered
18. Lowered
19. Remodeled
20. Formal

Friday, July 4, 2008

Innovate + Real Estate : "New York" Island Range Hood

Looking for a slice of New York in your kitchen? It's possible now..
From Futuro Futuro:

Beauty and function. The “Murano Collection” line of Italian range hoods from brings together a bold new design approach, latest technologies, and authentic Italian craftsmanship. Available in a variety of shapes and designs, Murano Collection hoods include dimmable lighting for visual impact that varies from a subtle accent to a powerful, room-transforming design statement.

Thursday, July 3, 2008

Nobody Asked Me But...

Photographer Michael Eastman, native of Saint Louis, currently has a series, "Vanishing America," on display at DNJ Gallery in Los Angeles. While the photos are on display in Los Angeles, some of the images displayed were actually taken in Cairo, Illinois, about 150 miles to the southeast of Saint Louis.

The photos are haunting and beautiful at the same time. He is able to convey so much through his images, and what he is conveying is what I like to deem the "Wal-Mart Problem."

As a teenager, I worked for my father's company in the summers, driving all over Missouri and Illinois, through back roads and to towns people have no idea exist. They are all small town America. And the "bigger" small towns all have town squares. It was uncanny how similar they are from town to town. Lines of businesses to the north, south, east, and west, with the City Hall smack dab in the middle. The problem? The businesses are all half empty or barely surviving. The issue? In my mind - Wal Mart. Wal Mart comes in to these small towns and essentially destroys the town - shutting down the local car repair place, putting the hardware store out of business, and causing the grocer to shut their doors. I understand it's big business, and it's all about the money and the bottom line, but I don't have to like it.

I never like to be on a soap box, or tell people what to do, but think about it the next time you visit a Wal Mart. Besides, going in Wal Mart is akin to torture anyway. Eastman's photos are a perfect display of what happens when Wal Mart moves in and opens up shop - and that's why I won't shop there.

Wednesday, July 2, 2008

For Sale : Boat House on Cranberry Island

I always remark to my wife that I want to retire to Maine and be a fisherman. Quite actually though, I've been wanting to be a crab fisherman - I think it's my obsession with the television show, "The Deadliest Catch."

At any rate, I ran across this boat house in Maine, and I laughed to myself. My wife doesn't find it nearly as appealing as me.

From the Knowles Company:

With commanding views across Cranberry Harbor to Mount Desert Island, this c.1925 boathouse has an attached seasonal studio apartment. Situated on 0.15+/- acres with 60+/-feet of shorefront, this location offers good deep-water anchorage. The open frame structure of the boathouse is 60+/- feet long containing 1,480+/- square feet extending from the shore to the road. There is a pier foundation, and a sand and gravel floor. The studio apartment is attached to the southwest corner of the boathouse on the shore side and consists of a general living/sleeping area with a large stone fireplace, a separate galley kitchen and bath area with shower containing 345+/- square feet. A great opportunity to acquire a boathouse with attached rustic residence on the shore of the island.

Little Cranberry Island, located off the coast of Mount Desert Island, has a vibrant community. One of the remaining year-round islands, the population swells considerably during the summer with the return of seasonal visitors, residents, and boaters from yachts moored in the harbor. There is passenger ferry service to the island, and water taxis are available in season. The Islesford Dock Restaurant is famous for its good food and lively atmosphere. Also on the island are a library, a museum, an art gallery, and a small market.

A guy can dream, right?

Tuesday, July 1, 2008

It Starts With The Foundation : Certainteed Form-A-Drain

This is a pretty neat foundation project. Generally, if the ground in a foundation excavation is not firm, and hard, you have to use form boards. The form boards are set up, and the concrete poured, and the boards hold the footing concrete in place until it sets up. The form boards then have to be removed, loaded back on the truck, and on to the next foundation job. After that, perforated pipe has to be installed for th foundation drain. Form-A-Drain, as the name states, combines those two elements - it serves a form for the concrete footing, and instead of being removed, it remains in place to serve as the drainage pipe. It should certainly speed up the time and labor involved in developing the foundation.