Go Solar

As those who know me fully understand, I am not interested in “saving the planet,” because I don’t believe it is in peril. (Except from liberal politicians seeking more government power.)

I DO believe in Global Warming, since history tells me that New York City was under 1,000 feet of glacial ice just 20,000 years ago. I am glad the planet has warmed since then. But I am an Anthropological Global Warming Agnostic.

My personal interest is in getting the US off the dependency of foreign oil for nationalistic reasons – and doing it by ANY means necessary: Drilling, nuclear, wind, solar…you name it.

I would personally go solar electric except that my actuarial table expires before my ROI would cut in and I could enjoy any tangible benefit.

Solar Electric is my recommendation as an investment for everyone in the Meadows who expects to live here for at least whatever their personal ROI is in solar electricity.

You can determine your Return on Investment time period by going to http://energyaudit-sdge.sempra.com/index.asp and take their FULL audit.

There are other things you can do that help. There are probably zero homes in The Meadows that do not NEED several SolarTubes – we had four of them put in more than 10 years ago, and they are magic. They were not put in because I was or am “green” – they were put in to solve a darkness problem with natural light, and EVERYONE needs several of them. They are CHEAP for what they do.

We have also had solar hot water on our last two homes for a total of 37 years, because we live in San Diego, just about the sunniest place on the face of the earth!

Solar Electric is a newer technology, but it is a reasonable investment for a lot more people in the Meadows than are currently using it. There are even rental plans now being made available that preclude the necessity of a substantial upfront cash investment.

It’s certainly worth an examination.

More on Retirement Facilities

My wife and I continue to help a friend with her selection of a retirement home. Although she is physically well she has had several bouts with cancer, and a minor stroke has robbed her of some cognitive ability.

Jean and I have had experience with helping others, we find there are more alternatives than ever.

This time we visited the Pacific Regent La Jolla, a luxury high-rise with what we found were very reasonable rates.

The Regent has only “independent living” – no medical assistance of any kind, although some residents employ their own assistant.

The facilities were first-rate. The HOA fees were about $2,000 a month for one person, $2,400 for two. Meals are extra and bought in blocks of 5, 15, or 30. A block of 30 costs $390.

There is a buy-in, but it is most reasonable, and recently reduced to reflect the real estate market. There appear to be perhaps 20 floors, and the higher the floors the higher the buy-in because the better the view. We saw three, two-bedroom condos with different buy-ins. The first was $395,000.

The other two offered interesting buy-in options. With a zero life estate, which basically means you have no real estate interest in the condo and upon the death the condo reverts to the Regent, one was $115, 000 and one was $135,000. Both of those condos also offered a 50% fee simple holding of $135,000 and $185,000 which basically means that upon vacancy the owners estate can make 50% of the new value received upon a new sale.

That leaves interested parties with a lot of options. My only editorial comment is that I could live in any of the condos I saw, and I think Jean and I could be happy at the Regent. Whether it fits our friend is strictly up to her. All of the ‘normal” condos are about 1,200 s.f. – although there are a few “double condos.”

An interesting situation.

Communications in The Meadows

One of the useful e-mail alerts available in the Meadows is Tom Francl’s newsletters. It provides news like lost dogs, vandalism, and the occasional crime. It also alerts Meadows residents as to planned events. This is a real benefit to the community, and if you are interested please send him an e-mail and subscribe. Subscribe at: dynamite@pacbell.net

The monthly newspaper, The Meadowlark, is a terrific newspaper, edited by Sally Langpap a talented and hard-working Editor. It takes a HUGE amount of volunteer work to put this newspaper out, and it is worth reading – every issue. It is mailed to every resident in The Meadows by the Association of Resident Owners (ARO) whether they are members or not.

The e-mails from Tom fill in where there is “Breaking News” that cannot await the next edition of a monthly newspaper.

This is a terrific combination. At one point I had a section of my HUGE website dedicated to an on-line newspaper which I intended to publish for The Meadows, but it was premature and actually a Blog would be a better modern design.

Retirement Home information

While it might seem that our interest in retirement homes might be associated with our real estate practice, actually it is separate. We just happen to have always had friends who were older than we.

We took care of a family friend of more than 30 years, as her “Medical Power of Attorney,” and in that position moved our friend through four Escondido and Rancho Bernardo retirement homes.

Subsequently, we have looked at other retirement communities with, and for other friends.

We are doing it again, for a family friend who is only 62, a single lady living alone – but she has lost some cognitive power from something that steals her math power, and her driving ability.

So far we have visited several facilities; Remington Club in Rancho Bernardo and Seacrest in Poway. Both are rental only facilities, and both are very nice.

Remington Club is very large, and as I see it the best thing about it is that it is within easy walking distance of the enormous Vons Shopping Center in Rancho Bernardo. The food was excellent. They do permit small pets with a deposit.

Seacrest is a culturally Jewish retirement home. It is quite small – fewer than 60 apartments – and very nice. The food was excellent, and the staff and the residents were extremely friendly and competent. Our family friend is Jewish and might be comfortable here, but this facility does not permit any pets, and for our friend that is major hurdle.

Monthly, Jean and I have dinner at Casa de Campanas in Rancho Bernardo, and this we consider to be the finest facility, but it is a “Buy In” facility, and several of my friends have found that a major investment plus a high monthly fee, and a generally formal atmosphere have put them off. Our friend is very happy there, and has been there for 18 years! It is the finest restaurant in Rancho Bernardo!

For another friend, we recently looked at lake San Marcos, another “Buy In” facility that was also really nice, and we have kept our friend at Towne Court in Escondido (a Division of Redwood Terrace); Redwood Terrace; Redwood Terrace itself; and

Deciding on a retirement home is a very personal decision, and we can’t make – or even begin to recommend a facility. Only individual brains can process internal signals of pleasure and pain – what pleases and what does not please an individual.

This next week we will take our friend to Pacific Regent La Jolla – Sunrise.

Anyone who has not been to a quality retirement home recently may well have an outdated impression of these facilities. We have an huge number of highly competitive and truly excellent facilities in North San Diego. It is simply a matter of taste.

Right now, there are vacancies in almost every facility because potential residents are have difficulty in selling their homes, where much of their investment resides.


Mark Sanford, Republican Governor of South Carolina, recently said, “”Our government has now ‘spent, lent, or committed’ $12.8 trillion in its attempt to blunt the recession.”

(The number is confirmed by new Pulitzer-winning, http://www.politifact.com .)

When you read the tea leaves, that is a major future problem. My advice to everyone is to refinance as soon as possible to today’s ultra-low rates because there are several scenarios for the future that spell major, even uber inflation.

Of course the Obama administration knows this also. They know that the U.S. is in danger of losing their AAA rating for the first time in decades, They know that China is reluctant to buy more U.S. debt, and if they do it gives them still more leverage over our world-wide political actions.

My belief is that the Obama administration THINKS they can “manage” the situation, but with all due respect,  they may be bright but they are inexperienced and overmatched by events. The President has said that his spending is unsustainable, but then he insists of sustaining it and then promising to extend it further with a medical plan.

I am not sanguine that he can pull it off – backing off spending just after recovery is assured but in time to recover before inflation gets a solid hold. 

Even Alan Greenspan, the Wisest of the Wise, had to admit that he missed signals that brought us here, and the Obama team has nowhere near the strength or experience that the Greenspan team brought to the economic table.

I have no idea what is going to happen, but the prudent thing to do is to do whatever it is that your medium range (4-6 years) plans tell you to do. If you are planning to move, you have a year, perhaps two to do it with relatively low rates – but perhaps not even that long.

Life has a habit of frowning on plans, and there are so many variables that predictions  are chancy, but whatever happens it is best to hedge your bets and steer the safe course.

The prudent course is to lock in now – either the re-finance, or the sale and new purchase. If you are considering moving, you have the best of all possible worlds — low fixed interest rates and high availability of homes. If you are waiting for a large market recovery to move to a retirement home, the wait may exceed your actuarial table.

The only likely major change in the foreseeable future, is higher interest rates…not higher prices.

Caravan, Revisited

A fellow Realtor remarked that the home I did not enter did not smell THAT bad – it had been closed up and was “musty.’

Let me admit that I tend to only look at homes with which I am personally comfortable, because I would have trouble being enthusiastic about things I am not naturally enthusiastic about. I can’t fake sincerity.

That does not mean that most houses do not have something going for them. Both of the foreclosures I passed by were because I do not represent foreclosures – there are too many inherent problems for the return on my time investment.

However, as my fellow Realtor and fellow Dolphin Realty friend indicates, the home on Oak Ranch has some advantages. It does certainly at $299,000! It is within easy walking distance of the Deli, it can park a motorhome, it is on sewer…it would be ideal for a young family with a motorhome and the willingness and ability to put in sweat labor.

The other home I did not enter is one I knew when it was in nice shape, and once again it has some real advantages for a niche buyer. The price is right ($475,000), it is a large property with corrals a horse barn, and it is within walking distance of Daly  Ranch – more than 3,000+ acres of public land limited to horseback riding, walking and bicycles. For a horse family, again willing to do some sweat labor because the home is messy but apparently undamaged, this is an ideal property 

And going to the Turner Heights property you pass right by (on Rosecrest) another real niche market property – a well-priced property ($319,000) you can live in a nice existing small apartment while building a custom home on an existing pad with a finished septic system designed for a large home. The apartment, which is not all that small (1,482  s.f.) can then be a Guest House.

Those three are indeed “good deals” for certain people who fit a specific cardboard profile., and are good properties but they do not meet the center of the Bell-shaped curve.

Housing Analysis

The Wall Street Journal is reporting that 20% of the homes in America are “upside down.”

This is probably the result of two past practices – borrowing against equity and/or purchasing at the top of the market.

I have family members who borrowed more money against their equity than the CURRENT market price will support, so I know it happens. That practice was particularly seductive while home values were rapidly increasing, but now they have to pay the Piper.

Although prices have, or at least have nearly stabilized (except in the homes worth less than $350,000 – in effect the “investment market” where foreclosures continue), most people who are “below market” would be best served by “hanging on.”

Admittedly, the prospects of price rises to pre-recession values are many years away but some homes will escape being “underwater” with each incremental value rise over the years.

Nevertheless, staying in place and “hunkering down” is the best strategy for the present – unless you are physically uncomfortable in your home and your prospects for remaining comfortable for say, five years, you should not consider selling.

If however you need to sell to move closer to family or to a retirement facility and you cannot hold on for five years, you are (generally speaking) better off to forget the “paper profits” you THOUGHT you had, and take whatever profit you Actually HAVE over your initial purchase price.

One of your considerations must be that for the previous four years, more productive tax-payers have left California than have come into California – the result of a growing “business hostile” environment of the nations’ highest sales tax, income tax and car tax. Movement to the sun is made by people who are cost savvy and they can weigh the climate advantages against the cost disadvantages.

That will weigh against a quick California housing recovery.