Thursday, September 24, 2009

Stimulus Plan

We, the Mooses of the North, are a one-family stimulus plan. Nevermind the spending we've done in the last 18 months; the real money is in home buying. Of course there is a lot of money that changes hands in the actual transaction of buying/selling a house. It is certainly not a simple transaction of money flowing from us to the seller, oh no, a portion of it gets siphoned off to real estate agents, title companies, and banks. I'm not complaining much - our agent definitely earned her commission, and I'm guessing that the seller's agent did hers. The title company is, more or less, part necessary evil and part scam, as are some of the bank's origination fees. (Really, did I honestly have to pay someone $25 to look at the FEMA flood zone map and certify our house didn't need flood insurance. The maps are public record and available on the internet - I looked it up myself in all of three minutes!) So the apparatus of the real estate industry got some much-needed business from our transaction.

What I consider our real stimulus to the economy would be all the improvements we are making right off the bat before moving. There's a few hundred bucks to rent a truck and hire some guys to do an awful lot of heavy lifting to transport our many stored possessions from A to B. We hired a guy to come in and repair the plaster on the 2nd floor. There was extensive cracking in basically all of the walls, so it took him over a week to patch and skim-coat it. Then there was another week or so of him priming and painting. At $20/gallon for no-VOC paint, the square footage adds up fast. In the last two days we had some guys who were clearly hard up for business come in, tear out the carpet in Brynna's room, and refinish the hardwood floors beneath it and on the rest of the 2nd floor. We have an energy audit scheduled in about two weeks, after which we'll add some badly-needed insulation to the roof before winter. We hope to tear down a half-wall that separates the living and dining room, which would then pave the way for the flooring guys to rip out the living room carpet and put in hardwood to match the dining room's. The front porch has some posts in need or repair or replacement. The porch decking has old and chipping paint; we'd like to replace them with lumber made from recycled plastic. The many, many incandescents ought to be replaced with CFLs. We'd like to plant some bulbs this fall and prepare a garden for next spring. The foundation brickwork needs to be re-pointed. The list, and the costs, go on and on.

These are, of course, just the joys of home ownership. We went into this with open eyes. We expect that these improvements will increase the value of the house. But more to the point they will increase our enjoyment of the house. All in all, we're pumping a lot of dollars into the home improvement industry. The craftsmen and workers tied to it get some business, consumer spending moves forward, energy waste will be curtailed. Certainly we could save a bundle by doing some of this work ourselves. I've refinished hardwood floors before, could do the carpentry work, learn the basics of plastering. But, because we have zero time these days, we need to pay others to do this work if we want to actually live in our new home in the next six months. So, stimulus package it is!

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