A quote from Tony Blair’s last day as PM

I think of Blair very much the same way as I think of LBJ–as a great man of many important accomplishments who made a tragic mistake with respect to a war whose implications he didn’t understand. On his last day in office, he said:

“Some may belittle politics but we who are engaged in it know that it is where people stand tall. Although I know that it has many harsh contentions, it is still the arena that sets the heart beating a little faster. If it is, on occasions, the place of low skulduggery, it is more often the place for the pursuit of noble causes.”

I have been thinking about yesterday’s vote in the House. Like Paul Krugman and Brad Delong and Mark Thoma, all of whom I admire, had I been in Congress, I would have held my nose and voted for the deal, which has many aspects I didn’t like.

But the press today has been about the venality of members who were afraid to vote for the plan because it is unpopular with voters. Having had some conversations today with friends who are to the left of me, and who opposed the plan, I think that the votes against the plan may well have been sincere votes, dictated not by expediency but by principle. Many Democrats view the plan as having insufficient consideration for consumers, and many Republicans genuinely find the idea of socializing risk to be anathema. As it happens, I disagree with this Republican point of view, but in this instance it is honest and defensible (although I think the business about cutting capital gains taxes is nonsense).

So while I think Congress made a mistake yesterday, I find it entirely plausible that the vast majority of members, on this one particular occasion, voted with their heads and hearts,

I will miss you, Starr and Alex

Remember Egbert? Whose house I had for sale? The humans above are his parents, Starr and Alex.  I met Starr and Alex six years ago when I helped them find their first home in Burbank.  We’ve stayed in touch and have had a lot of laughs over the years.  And I’ve been honored to sell their home at 2112 Hilton, pictured in another post below.  We listed the house in early July, had an open house which 116 people attended, and accepted an offer from another great couple later that week.  The escrow only took three weeks.  I will miss Starr and Alex — their good humor, their sensibilities, and the fun we had when we got together.  Good luck, guys, and I hope to visit you in WA some day soon.

New Listing – 2175 35th Street, Sacramento, CA 95817

Stunning 3 bedroom, 2 bathroom, 1,903sf Med Center area Tudor style home! You will love the classic features and modern amenities in this painstakingly maintained property. Enter through the arched doorway into the formal living room, elegant fireplace with gas insert, inlaid wood floors, built-ins & tray ceilings. Large formal dining room. Updated kitchen features white cabinets, granite counters, tile backsplash, lots of storage, & breakfast counter. Family room off kitchen leads to serene and quiet backyard space with a great deck for entertaining and lots of sunny space to garden or play! Downstairs bedroom and full bathroom. Upstairs find 2 large bedrooms & huge remodeled master bathroom with dual sinks & huge closet! Central heating & air with separate remote-controlled units exclusively for upstairs. Freshly painted interior. Dual pane windows. Quarter basement. Detached garage with secure alley access. Located close to public transportation, UC Davis Med Center, shopping, restaurants, easy access to midtown and downtown, & more! Don’t wait! MLS# 19046138. Offered at $599,900. For more photos and information please visit 2175 35th Street, Sacramento, CA 95817.

DIYs that can increase the value of your home

Every home once in a while has to go through some improvisations to increase the value of the house. It is more so if you are looking to rent or sell your property. Some physical changes and improvements can add to the appeal of your house and make it look more attractive. A fresh coat of paint, some new wood work inclusions etc. can be a good start to home improvisations. But if you are looking to do some value additions without spending much, you can try some of the DIYs listed below.

To make a house look more elegant and bright, light color drapes paired with white upholstery and white based furniture pieces are the key. So you can start off by changing the curtains. De-stain any old wooden pieces and re-stain them according to the color tone of the room. Few other economic changes would be to either steam vacuum the carpets or change over the carpets to lighter shades. Lighter shades of carpet make the house look big and elegant. Symmetrical patterns on the back-splash of the kitchen counter, stairway railing and verandah railing will make the house look organized and high fashioned. Keeping the kitchen counter top clear of unwanted items will make the counter seem big and attractive.

Bedrooms are the biggest appealing points when considering a home. Big beds with neatly laid white and fresh linens are biggest attractions. Symmetrical arrangements of the bed with side tables and other furniture pieces in the room gives the room a sense of space. At the same time, one must make sure that bedrooms are free from Mosquitoes and flies. That can be a real turn off for potential buyers or renters. There are variety of options such as Mosquito Net, Mosquito Killer Machine, Mosquito Repellent that can be used to eliminate mosquitoes from the bedrooms. Similarly white sheer curtains and drapes make the room seem brighter. You can customize the door and cupboard knobs by painting them all in a same tone of metallic shade. These metallic shades make the home appear custom made and add value to the property. Landscaping in the backyard or merely adding some greenery to your terrace garden will show detailed touch in the house. Every buyer or renter want to see a personalized touch in the house they are looking. Creating a specific purpose for each space in the house will show how each space can be efficiently utilized. Even if it is not utilized the same way as yours, it throws opportunities and ideas for much more use to the space.

Use of energy efficient fixtures and appliances adds as a huge advantage when trying to put the house on the market. Energy efficient incandescent light bulbs, power saving smaller appliances will be looked up as a huge saving on a long run. Adding additional storage outside of the house in the garage will also be considered a value addition. Leaving these additional storage half empty will make the storage space seem more and will help the buyer visualize how much the storage space can accommodate. Every home improvement once started must be completed to satisfaction. Refrain from taking bigger home renovation projects if the deadline seems too tight. Or hire a professional Home Renovation company which can provide you end-to-end solutions including modular kitchen, wood work, steel or iron doors, electric & bath fittings, flooring, walls, interiors, and exteriors. Consider the use of the particular update or renovation in the long run and foresee how it will add value to the house before implementing any changes to your home.

This is a guest post by A. Ramya

Barack Obama is a Smart Guy

His speech on the financial crisis is here as well as other places.

I think it is terrific.

As it happened, I watched it with a former cabinet secretary. I gave a talk to a group about the financial mess today, and he was there. The speech was on TV just outside of where I spoke, so I stopped to watch, and the official stopped along with me.

I said I thought BO possibly had the stuff for restoring confidence.

The official said, “well, he certainly is smart.”

I said, “smart would be a nice change.”

The official laughed.

Great news from FHA re condo rules

FHA announced that it is relaxing some of its condo rules to make condo loans easier to get.  This is huge and ought to improve affordability as well.  As it exists, condo complexes need to be approved by FHA in order for lenders to make FHA loans on them.  FHA loans differ from conventional loans in that the down payment and qualifying credit scores can be lower.  That makes these loans perfect for first-time buyers.  Here’s the catch — the approvals include lots of Byzantine rules and restrictions, and home owners associations have to pay to be FHA-approved.  This effectively cuts out many would-be buyers, who need to rely on FHA mortgages to get a mortgage at all.

Specifically, the new guidance extends certifications from two years to three, allows for single-unit mortgage approvals, provides more flexibility with owner/occupancy ratios, and increases the allowable number of FHA loans in a single project. The rule will go into effect in mid-October – 60 days from publication. HUD believes the changes will extend critical benefits to aspiring homeowners and confirm the agency is properly serving the public.

Backyard chicken rules within the City of Sacramento

I was asked this week if chickens are allowed at residential properties within the City of Sacramento. I have had several clients who live within the city limits who have had chickens. Chickens can be great for laying fresh eggs or as family pets. Thanks to an ordinance that was passed in 2011, the short answer is — YES — chickens are allowed, but of course that comes with plenty of rules to follow. For example:

  • Maximum of 3 chickens per parcel
  • No roosters allowed
  • No slaughtering permitted
  • Chickens must be in a coop at all times
  • Chickens must have adequate food, water, and ventilation

There are also several requirements relative to the size and location of the chicken coop. And of course the city also requires a permit and fees.

Looking to invest in real estate? Here are a few guidelines you must follow

Investing in the realty sector can be a good decision if done wisely. Most people channel all their savings and take out loans to purchase a property hoping that it will give them a good return on investment. Hence, this has to be done cautiously to make sure that the money invested bears fruit.
Budget is the most important thing you should take into consideration before buying a property. Set a budget and make sure your finances are in order. For many, Paying EMI is not an easy option. Paying EMI empties out their pocket by the end of the month. It would be wise to ensure that the EMI does not exceed 40% of your monthly income. Make sure that you don’t overestimate your financial capabilities.
Once your finances are in order, the next important thing for you to do is research. You should work with the localities which match your requirement. Some of the criteria which one should consider while looking for a property are:

  1. Locality
  2. Accessibility and connectivity
  3. Presence of social and physical infrastructure
  4. Proposed infrastructure developments
  5. Safety and security
  6. Livability

It is always advisable not to invest in localities which lack basic amenities such as road, water supply and drainage system. Never get carried away with the promises of upcoming infrastructural developments and do not invest your money on those promises. Infrastructure takes time to be built and a few even fail to take off.

For guidance, you can visit IndiaProperty.com as this site provides expert analysis of localities through the micro market research reports and the locality pages.

  • Check the builder’s credibility:

The real estate market is vast and the industry has both reliable and unreliable builders. Do not blindly invest your hard earned money after seeing a too good to be true offer from a small time builder. Make sure you check on the trustworthiness of the builder by visiting their previous projects. This will give you a clear idea about the credibility of the builder and then you can decide whether to invest your money or not.
For any property related transactions, title deeds play a crucial role. Check whether the seller has a strong title deed, if not, do not purchase the property. Here are some legal aspects to keep in mind while purchasing a property:

  1. The title deed is an important document without which you will have legal troubles in the future.
  2. Make sure you get the original title deed verified by an attorney before buying the property.
  3. Before acquiring the property, confirm that all the clearances for the property are in place.
  4. If you are planning to buy an under-construction property, do not forget to get the allotment letter and the development agreement from the builder.
  5. The allotment letter has details about the project such as the price of the property, floor plan, delivery date and liability details if there is any delay in delivering the project, whereas the development agreement has the details of the terms and conditions under which the landowner has allowed the builder to use his property.
  6. Make sure that the taxes related to the property are cleared before you buy the asset.
  7. Never hesitate to get an expert’s help if you have doubts.

This is a guest post by Amy Anstey Seelan J

Greg Mankiw forgets about the income effect

Professor Mankiw says he can afford higher taxes.  For that I give him credit.  But he also says that higher income taxes might keep him from writing his New York Times column.   He then implies that higher taxes will generally keep people from working.

This is the substitution effect–because leisure becomes relatively cheaper, people consume more of it.  But higher taxes also reduce after-tax income (obviously), so in order to maintain living standards, one might decide to work more in the face of higher taxes.  This is called the income effect.  I can speak for my household–our after-tax income is more than sufficient for our “needs,” but if we were taxed more, we might have to work more to satisfy these “needs.”

It is an empirical question as to whether within certain ranges of tax rates, raising taxes increases or reduces effort.  Theory gives us an ambiguous answer.  (h/t Mark Thoma).