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New home sales: 'Really good news'

NEW YORK (CNNMoney.com) -- Sales of newly constructed single-family homes spiked 11% in June to an annualized rate of 384,000 homes, according to a report released Monday.

The gain over May was much greater than expected. A consensus of housing industry analysts had forecast seasonally adjusted sales of 352,000, according to Breifing.com.

However, sales are still 21% below the levels of a year ago, when new homes sold in June at an annualized rate of 488,000, according to the report released by the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development. Four years ago, during the height of the housing boom, the sales rate for June was 1,374,000, nearly three-and-a-half times higher than last month.

Still, the report was very positive, according to Peter Morici, an economics professor at the University of Maryland who had forecast June sales to be at the 350,000 level. "That is really good news. Considering what's going on in existing home sales, with all the foreclosure activity sending down home prices, for new homes to jump like that is a good indicator that the economy is bottoming out."
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January 29, 2009

1st Day Out on the Snowshoes

Filed under: Snowshoeing — Jim Marks @ 3:21 pm

Yesterday we had our second storm in a couple weeks here in Maine, adding a foot or more with each snowfall. It’s deep enough for the snowshoes! I suppose a few inches would be deep enough, but it seems more fun when it’s actually useful–something you really wouldn’t want to go through with just a pair of boots.

SnowshoesYikes! What a workout. It’s been frigid up here lately so both of these storms put 2 to 2 1/2 feet of extremely light powder on the ground. I’ve never seen trail so hard to break. My snowshoes were sinking in 12-16 inches. And, occasionally, they were breaking through earlier snowfall, sinking down another 4 inches. Believe me, that can get downright awkward and tiresome very quickly. Of course, the way back was a breeze. And a good section of trail has been broken. I made a couple of offshoot trails, and now those are perfect for snowshoeing. Up here in Maine, it’s not too expensive to get a good sized lot. We’ve got 5 acres of mostly forest, so we can make some fairly lengthy trails.

I’ve been using one of those Bowflex Treadclimbers for years, and that made for good preparation. (I love these things because you get twice the workout as a treadmill, so you’re only on them half the time.) But, anyone who uses a bowflex treadclimber regularly knows you can get a real workout with them.

Anyway, I didn’t break more than a mile of trail, but I got quite a workout. There’s nothing like the wilderness to keep you in shape. The great thing about using snowshoes, though, is it’s not very difficult to find your way back. In fact, if you go far enough, you’re certainly not going to want to cut new trail all the way back, too! The quiet, the snow-covered spruce boughs, and just getting outside in the fresh air is priceless in January. And, that’s my workout for the day!


January 25, 2009

Another Year of Stay-cations?

Last year, the cost of fuel caused many people to just stay home for vacation. It simply cost too much to travel, and that cost was added on to everything from groceries to hardware. That pretty much broke the bank for millions of people who suffered through stagnant pay, rapidly rising costs, and a loss of equity in their homes.

Now, we’re supposedly in a recession, but it could be a depression, or even some new breed of economic malady. And, everyone is cutting back seriously on their spending. This year, despite the dramatic rollback on fuel costs, we’re probably looking at another summer of “stay-cations”, as the vast majority of consumers remain tight-fisted with their hard-earned money. A lot of vacationers will be trading down from their normal travel, and driving to local destination areas. And many others will be staying–at home.

Those who already own a vacation home will most certainly be taking advantage of that. But it looks like the “stay-cation” may be here to stay for awhile. This year’s cause will be the economy. But, even when the economy turns around, you can expect the price of fuel to surge right back up again when demand increases.

That’s why it’s imperative to start seeking out alternative energy sources immediately. They’ve been here for years. In fact, the first automobiles were electric. (Here’s an amusing history of early electric cars.) Electric trains and buses preceded them. But combustion engines won out due to cheaper sources of fuel, and popularity. People associated the noise with power, and electric cars faded away.

It’s time we got over the notion that noise equals power and get back to refining electric vehicles. It has long been known that there’s enough wind in the midwest to run just about everything in this country, including cars. There’s enough solar energy in the deserts to do the same things. What’s missing is a massive grid to carry all the electricity safely, and efficiently. Sort of like the highway system that we made for automobiles, or the railroad network. Right now, our energy sources are mostly from imported sources. The quicker we gain our energy independence, the more likely we’ll be able to go back to our much needed vacations again.


January 11, 2009

Still No Clear Indications About the Real Estate Market

Filed under: Vacation Home Market — Jim Marks @ 10:23 am

Despite predictions about a recovery in the 2nd half of 2009, and housing affordability indexes showing that more people can afford to buy a home now than at any time during the recent boom, there’s also an enormous amount of anxiety as to where the economy will go next. With interest rates at 4.5 – 5 percent, if this is the bottom of the market, it would probably be one of the best times in the last century to buy a home. I wouldn’t expect anything like the recent boom in real estate, but certainly sales should return to normal levels.

On the other hand, who’s going to plunk down a big chunk of change on a down payment, when we’re facing one of the most widespread unemployment scenarios ever. There’s almost no sector unaffected. Everyone is either cutting back on staff or extremely cautious about hiring. Everyone is watching every nickel they spend, so a consumer driven recovery doesn’t seem all that likely. So, we’re at the doorstep. If you buy a home or vacation home now, it could either be the best move you ever made, or the most foolish risk you’ve ever taken. The economy is that unclear.

I’ve heard that between the $700 billion bailout, all the money that was pumped into Fannie Mae, Freddie Mac, AIG and others, and the behind the scenes bailouts, they suddenly add up to more than $7 trillion. And, the government will not tell you who, how much, or when this money was handed out in most cases. With President Elect Obama’s stimulous package it’ll be closer to $8 trillion.

That is absolutely absurd, and if it’s true, we should demand it all back! Figure it out: If we have 200 million workers and small business owners in this country and we gave them an equal share of that $7 trillion, that would be $35,000 each, or $70,000 to most households. That would easily have put an end to the foreclosures and given time for those who couldn’t afford their home to downsize, and it would have sparked such a consumer spree, you can be guaranteed that the banks would have loosened up there lending more than enough. It would have prevented all the job losses, the worst holiday sales ever, and the endless pain placed on working people and small businesses. Maybe from now on if businesses want a bailout, the government should give us the money and let those companies earn it from us.

Instead, most of this money is being used to buy up smaller banks, etc., and creating even larger entities. Wasn’t that the cause of this fiasco to begin with? …companies that are just too big to let fail? And, now we’re in it even deeper. Looks to me like a vast raiding of the American economy and treasury by global and massive corporate powers before the new administration gets into power. Let’s demand this money back from all of these teary-eyed thieves and give it to the working people and small businesses. They’ll put it to much better use, and keep our economy on the right track.


January 4, 2009

After The Holidays

Filed under: Fishing & Canoeing — Jim Marks @ 4:19 pm

It seems right after the holidays, I’m ready for spring. That’s because I spend most of the winter indoors, working on web sites, writing, doing taxes, reorganizing all my files, and generally getting all the mundane things out of the way so I won’t have to do them in the warm weather… when I could be out fishing, hiking, canoeing, gardening, or looking for gems and minerals (yup, I’m a rockhound, and in this area of Maine, that’s as popular as just about any other outdoor activity).
I usually get out the old tackle box and straighten out all my lures, leaders, sinkers, spoons, spinners and gadgets. I’ve been doing that since I was ten years old. I change the line on my reel. That’s when I notice all the wear and tear to my rod and reel that occurred sometime last year. And inside the house, I can hear all the new noises my reel’s making. I used to go through the catalogs or even out to the sporting goods store and look around for equipment, and sales on fishing lures that sometimes come up long before spring. It’s almost as much fun as the fishing itself.

Then, I get around to dusting all the dirt out of the bottom of my canoe. If you’ve never had a canoe, you’re really missing out. I bought one when I was young, and then I bought the one I really wanted. After 25 years, I still have it. It’s an old Mansfield Canoe, made in Maine. We used to go down rivers in that thing standing up. It was that stable. It was perfect just about anywhere I went with it. And, it was definitely one of the best investments I’ve ever made for having fun. We’ve used that canoe for at least four or five hundred mornings and afternoons over the years. And we hope to get that much use over again, though it is more than 20 years old now. The new ones are made of more durable materials, and will hold up to more abuse.

Come the height of summer, I’ll forget all about these preparations that make the colder days of winter a lot more fun. But, I’ll be having even more fun then.

See! Wait a couple weeks, and here ya go:


50% off a bunch of fun stuff for fishing!


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