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Sunday, November 23, 2008

How Great Thou Art

Lucas, with a little help from his friends.
And a quick shout out to all the customers who have provided Lucas with some very fine clothes and gifts - he's definitely the most stylish 4 wk old on Crawford Rd (granted, Crawford Road is only 2 miles long with about 20 homes on it - I built 17 of them).

No, this is not a tribute post to an Elvis Presley's croon, or a new-found lifeline to the holy book and the ideas contained therein. It's just some more of the same - more bluster and bravado concerning another house we just finished. And it's suberb, excellent, on budget and on schedule.

Perfect Cottage 15 on a cold late November Morning.

The economy continues to spin wildly out of control and there is no better safety blanket than a good finanical history book. The mania of short term speculation replaced with the panic of overleveraged 'investors' is nothing new and is the basic ingredient of every business cycle since the modern banking system was invented a few hundred years ago. Cautionary lending criteria gives way to a slow loosening of standards, easy money fuels speculation, speculation and short term riches motivate others to try it and the frenzy circles and rises and pitches until it's over and banks become lame, overly cautious, afraid of their own shadow. It's the same old story, - it's incorrect for anyone to assert this is somehow different - it couldn't be more similar to every other boom and bust cycle over the past 100 yrs. One of the main differences this time is the presence of the 24 hour news cycle. On the computer, on the blackberry, on the news, in the papers, on the radio - constant update of the dire situation.

And what sells best - catastrophe and hysteria - that's about the oldest news there is.

Every mania/panic cycle is shrouded in 'this time is different', but for my generation this is the first real correction, so the optimism that propelled 'this time is different' in the tech boom and real estate boom is being tested in the other direction - meaning, 'this recession/correction is different, more severe, more dangerous' than the others.

I say baloney. Same cycle, different day. To compare it in any way to the great depression is malarky and nonsense, to put it lightly. The fact that no one knows their history makes all this hysteria possible. The correction in risk pricing - meaning, no one should forget that investing in tulips, real estate, or stocks is not without risk. Sure, people are definitely less wealthy as stocks and real estate correct, but who ever postulated that growing wealth was a straight upward trend, or even guaranteed at all. Like I said previously, the thought that 'every decision I make' is pure and unadulterated genius is being tested a bit, and for my generation, a little humility-building exercise is probably not the worse thing to happen to any of us. We all need to pass along the story of walking to school in 2 ft of snow, both ways uphill, to our children, in order to keep them grounded.

As I posted a few days back, we have a series of house closings (yes, these still occur, contrary to mass/mob opinion) coming up. 2 in december, 2 in january and one in february. The first one is scheduled for December 4. And I suggested that tuning into this blog may provide a counter-weight and micro-economic vantage missing from the broad brush strokes we are forced to listen to.

Cottage 15 at night. I live pretty close to the houses I am currently building (actually right next door) so I check on them usually twice a day. Is the heat on, any pipes leaking, are the doors shut, etc...? After 4 months of work, no one wants anything to happen to these finished homes, me first and foremost - and with 13 people going in and out each day, the list of possible disasters is numerous.

For instance, Cottage 15 is first up to the plate. 1150 sq feet, 2 bedrooms, 2 baths, fireplace, porches, living room, kitchen, dining room, full basement, 4 acres. Priced under $250k (before the tile upgrades - sorry Gayle). So, if you remember, Gayle came up last spring with her friend Jamie before we cleared any land or put in any roads and we stood there in the woods on a breezy day and Jamie said 'this sounds like the ocean' and Gayle said 'this is a no brainer' and within a week we signed a short one paragraph deal outline, she sent me $10k to 'hold her place in line' and now, here we are, 8 months later since we first met, and she is days away from owning her little country dream.

Her Kitchen. Who is going to tell me lots of meals, drinks, hor dorves and snacks aren't going to taste better coming out of this sweet little cooking area? Of course, since it's 3x bigger than what they got in NYC, that's just a bonus. Using small spaces intelligently is much more difficult than one would think. There is no room for error, and a lot of times the first inclination is to shrink the baths, shrink the bedrooms, eliminate a closet - which are suspect paths to be sure.

Living room, fireplace, wood plank ceilings, cool light.

Here's a bath with unique tile wainscott that is getting lots of excited feedback. The sharp lines of the toilet and sink compliment the subtle modernity of its aesthetic.

I've got a lot of comments from people who got my back (very necessary in my business) and all were in agreement that I should remove the post a few weeks back with my mounting the harley davidson, highlighting the fact that I have gained some serious weight. A lot of freudian and creative approaches, such as saying the picture doesn't represent reality, it's distorted, the situation is not so dire. But I've left it up - and it has not only been an eye opener, but a motivational tool to do something about it - like being shamed in front of the community (the scarlett letter idea) forces an acknowledgement and then a constant reminder, not hidden away, of the job that needs to be done. So, with me weeks from outgrowing my 36's (I was 34's for 20 years), with the attempt to slip on some long johns under my jeans like last year a complete failure (unless I go to 38's, which ain't happening), I have begun each morning at 5:30am to do some exercise. I'm 3 weeks into it, and although the fruit has not been harvested as of yet, I am hopeful.

Speaking of fruit, who would've thought having an apple tree near the house was a bad thing. It's like living in a zoo - everyday a troupe of deer are brazenly hanging out, scaring us everytime we exit the house with their snorting and running off, and then you got the big assed racoons with their scary eyes, and best of all, the other night I took old Stormy out for a walk and 4 fucking bears (mom and 3 cubs) come scrambling down the tree and run off at a million miles an hour. Who would have thought that diseased old tree could have held 4 bears?

Which reminds me of what my Mom said the other day - she said 'I wouldn't buy a house from a guy that writes a blog like yours'. I told her she's not my targeted market, and hence not to worry for my, or Lisa/Luke's financial future. I also told her she's not alone in her opinion.

And a full basement that has lots of potential for storage, and whatnot.
And me with my Boy, taking it easy after a hard day at the office.

I also get a lot of questions about why I don't 'make this a real blog' and let people comment - my thought is very clear , - if anyone had to deal with the stuff I have to deal with on a daily basis, it's more than obvious why this soapbox is one way only. It's one thing to be tormented by eye-opening daily events, it's another to give those events a voice. And as I have said a few times, I am never short of amazed at the approach taken to solving problems by many people - must be my good old fashioned Lancaster PA upbringing that distorts my expectations so.

That's it for now. Sunday Morning, getting ready to go to Honesdale PA for a little shopping and stopping off at 15 Main for Sunday brunch.

My thought about the looming depression is at least we are all in it together (it's a true democratic equalizer), and I'm just hoping some customer will let me squat in their basements if I end up losing everything. Offers, anyone?

Alice, Lisa's mom, is going to hate this post - she prefers ones with more pictures. Sorry Alice.