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Sanborn – Always look for a good foundation

There were 1,103 residential homes for sale on November 1, 2013 in the 12 Lakes Region communities covered by this report. That total is down from 1,200 last month and about the same as the 1,103 last November. Due to the increased sales activity over the past few months the inventory has dropped to a 13 month supply of homes on the market compared to 14.6 months last November and that's pretty good if it the trend continues!

So you have decided to buy a home and you've gone through the pre-approval process, you know how much you want to spend on a house, you have found an experienced realtor to work with, and you are ready to go out looking at property. What should you be concerned about when you are looking at property? Well, there's an awful lot to consider especially if you are a first time buyer. Your realtor should be able to guide you, but just remember realtors are not home inspectors. However, most of us have seen a lot of homes, have gone through many home inspections, and worked through many issues and repairs on properties as a result.

Having a home inspection performed on the property you are purchasing is pretty much mandatory in my book and it is money wisely spent. At the very least, an inspection will reveal minor defects in the property so that you can ask for them to be corrected before you purchase it or be compensated to do it later. An inspection will also educate you about the home that you're purchasing. On the other end of the spectrum, it can save you from buying a money pit. But there are basic, common sense things that any home buyer can look for before making an offer and spending money on a home inspection.

Let's start at ground level. As with most anything in life, if you don't have a good foundation you don't have much to build on. You know, it's kinda like learning your multiplication tables or how to do simple math equations. It's the basics. You can't have a good house on a bad foundation or a successful career in accounting or finance if you can't do basic math.

Some older homes have good solid foundations whether they are stone, granite, or brick while others may be leaning or crumbling due to the forces of nature. It is also not uncommon to have shrinkage cracks in concrete walls of floors, but substantial cracks, especially horizontal ones in walls should be a concern to any buyer. Shrinkage cracks in concrete floors are pretty common, but large cracks and floors that have heaved or settled indicate problems with the site preparation or the materials used below the floor.

If you dig a hole in the ground it usually tends to fill with water and this is true for the hole that you dig for a house foundation as well. While having an indoor pool is a desirable amenity, having it in the basement is not. While modern construction techniques for newer homes obviate most wet basements through the use of perimeter drains and/or sump pumps, always be on the lookout for signs of past water infiltration damage. You know, like stains on the basement walls, discolored sheetrock walls, or lally columns that are rusted up an inch or two from the floor. If you want to use your basement as a man cave you don't want to have to play darts or cards while wearing waders; it's just not as much fun. Water in the basement can also cause mold which another whole subject. It's a good thing to avoid.

Many older homes with stone or brick foundations and dirt floors will get some water seepage in the spring. These houses were built without any perimeter drain system so groundwater takes the path of least resistance: right into the basement. That's New England, but probably not ideal. Your basement will be relegated to always being just a storage area as you won't be putting your pool table down there.

In some older homes that have concrete floors, you'll see a channel cut into the floor all the way around the inside perimeter of the foundation to collect and channel any seepage to a sump pump. Homes with a sump pump generally, but not always, mean that there could be a water issue in the basement. I've seen homes with a sump which always appears to be bone dry and others that run constantly in the spring. Some foundations were built with a sump as a precaution because the lot the house was built on was a little wet. Better safe than sorry.

Today, even a wet basement can be made to be bone dry. There are companies that specialize in correcting and preventing water from seeping through the foundation or up from the basement floor. They will even guarantee it in writing. It does work. But, they also specialize in seeping money out of your wallet which could have been used to buy that flat screen for the man cave if you had bought a house with a dry basement to begin with. My vote is for the flat screen...

Please feel free to visit www.lakesregionhome.com to learn more about the Lakes Region real estate market and comment on this article and others. Data was compiled using the Northern New England Real Estate MLS System as of 11/1/13. Roy Sanborn is a realtor at Four Seasons Sotheby's International Realty and can be reached at 603-455-0335.

Last Updated on Friday, 08 November 2013 08:21

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Michelle Malkin - The Obamacare Fable Factory

Now that true horror stories of Obamacare's wrecking ball are finally reaching the public, the White House doesn't like "anecdotes." Live by tale-telling; die by tale-telling.

On Tuesday, White House press secretary Jay Carney huffed that stage-four gallbladder cancer survivor Edie Littlefield Sundby's personal account in The Wall Street Journal of seeing her health insurance plan canceled and her access to doctors cut off was "sensational." Not a shred of compassion for her predicament. No sorrow for her loss. Must. Attack. Messenger.

There are millions out there like Sundby who are using Facebook, Twitter, Twitchy.com and a new website called MyCancellation.com to share their plights. White House flacks and hacks are working overtime to "debunk" their experiences, bash insurance companies and deride individual market consumers losing their plans as stupid dupes whose stories don't add up.

Here's the thing. This Alinsky-steeped administration has relied on an endless stream of sensationalized, phony personal dramas to sell Obamacare. Last month, Organizing for Action (previously Obama for America) promoted the "success story" of Chad Henderson, a supposedly random young person who miraculously enrolled in Obamacare while everyone else in America experienced major tech meltdowns and sticker shock.

Turned out Lying Chad was actually an OFA volunteer who hadn't really enrolled in Obamacare yet because he was "joking." No matter. Yesterday, Obama appeared before OFA to solicit even more stories from the group to help propagandize Obamacare. A refresher course on the White House Fable Factory's greatest hits:

— Stanley Ann Dunham. Obama cited his mom's deathbed fight with her insurer several times over the years to support the Obamacare ban on pre-existing condition exclusions by insurers. During a 2008 debate, he shared her plight: "For my mother to die of cancer at the age of 53 and have to spend the last months of her life in the hospital room arguing with insurance companies because they're saying that this may be a pre-existing condition and they don't have to pay her treatment, there's something fundamentally wrong about that." But New York Times reporter Janny Scott discovered that Dunham's health insurer had in fact reimbursed her medical expenses with nary an objection. The actual coverage dispute centered on a separate disability insurance policy.

— Otto Raddatz. In 2009, Obama publicized the plight of this Illinois cancer patient, who supposedly died after he was dropped from his Fortis/Assurant Health insurance plan when his insurer discovered an unreported gallstone the patient hadn't known about. The truth? He got the treatment he needed in 2005 and lived for nearly four more years.
— Robin Beaton. Also in 2009, Obama claimed Beaton, a breast cancer patient, lost her insurance after "she forgot to declare a case of acne." In fact, she failed to disclose a previous heart condition and did not list her weight accurately, but had her insurance restored anyway after intense public lobbying.

— John Brodniak. A 23-year-old unemployed Oregon sawmill worker, Brodniak's health woes were spotlighted by New York Times columnist Nicholas Kristof as a textbook argument for Obamacare. Brodniak reportedly was diagnosed with cavernous hemangioma, a neurological condition, and was allegedly turned away by emergency room doctors. Kristof called the case "monstrous" and decried opponents of the Democrats' health care proposals as heartless murderers. The truth? Brodniak not only had coverage through Oregon's Medicaid program, but was also a neurology patient at the prestigious Oregon Health and Science University in Portland (a safety-net institution that accepts all Medicaid patients). Kristof never retracted the legend.

— Marcelas Owens. An 11-year-old boy from Seattle, Owens took a coveted spot next to the president in March 2010 when Obamacare was signed into law. Marcelas' 27-year-old mother, Tiffany Owens, died of pulmonary hypertension. The family said the single mother of three lost her job as a fast-food manager and lost her insurance. She died in 2007 after receiving emergency care and treatment throughout her illness. Progressive groups (for whom Marcelas' relatives worked) dubbed Marcelas an "insurance abuse survivor." But there wasn't a shred of evidence that any insurer had "abused" the boy or his mom. Further, Washington State already offered a plethora of existing government assistance programs to laid-off and unemployed workers like Marcelas' mom. The family and its public relations agents never explained why she didn't enroll.

— Natoma Canfield. The White House made the Ohio cancer patient a poster child for Obamacare in 2010 after she wrote a letter complaining about skyrocketing premiums and the prospect of losing her home. After Obama gave Canfield a shout-out at a health care rally in Strongsville, Ohio, and promised to control costs, officials at the renowned Cleveland Clinic, which is treating her, made clear that they would "not put a lien on her home" and that she was eligible for a wide variety of state aid and private charity care.

Phony manufactured tales built Obamacare. Real stories of Obamacare wreckage will bring it down.

(Syndicated columnist Michelle Malkin is the daughter of Filipino Immigrants. She was born in Philadelphia, raised in southern New Jersey and now lives with her husband and daughter in Colorado. Her weekly column is carried by more than 100 newspapers.)

Last Updated on Wednesday, 31 December 1969 07:00

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Susan Estrich - Stop vilifying TSA workers

After last week's tragedy at LAX, can we all agree to stop beating up on the men and women of the TSA who are just trying to do their job, which is to protect you and me from being killed?

Can we stop behaving like spoiled children, thinking we have a God-given right to show up late for airplanes, forgetting to unpack the penknife in the bottom of the suitcase, and wearing shoes and boots that take forever to get on and off?

Sure, I know what it's like to get in the wrong line — and worse. I've had the ridiculous experience of being detained for a secondary check by TSA agents who know exactly who I am (big fans of Fox News in that case). But I was traveling on a series of one-way tickets, and that's how it works.

According to Amie Stepanovich of the Electronic Privacy Information Center, the TSA "is seen as another administrative step. We used to be able to walk through metal detectors and get on an airplane; now we have to go through long search lines before we can leave."

True enough. We used to race through metal detectors and get right on the plane, but that was before four planes were hijacked, before we caught a would-be bomber with an explosive device in his shoe, before we became so painfully aware of the extent of terrorism and hate and our own vulnerability. Sure, there may be better ways to protect us; that is a legitimate debate. But the public discourse about the TSA has gone way beyond the confines of legitimate and productive debate.

Wrongly, the TSA has become the butt not simply of humor but of ridicule and vilification, portrayed as petty voyeurs who have no business looking us up and down. Such vilification isn't just unfair; it's dangerous.
Those who have studied hate crimes know this to be true. "When people or institutions are vilified on national television and in the public square, you often see people latch on to them as enemies to be destroyed," Mark Potok of the Southern Poverty Law Center told reporters.

There is no good reason for Paul Ciancia to have so hated the TSA. But there were a lot of bad reasons, and those who have crossed the line in their attacks on the TSA should, quite simply, stop. I'm talking about folks like Sen. Rand Paul, R-Ky., who has raged against the TSA for "groping toddlers and grandmothers," and Matt Hawes of the Campaign for Liberty, who raged that "the government literally has its hands in our pants."

No, no one told Ciancia that the answer was to start shooting, and no one is arguing that the loudmouths are responsible for the death of a husband and father who went to work every day to protect the rest of us. But enough is enough. Words have power. Vilify public servants, and the crazy people out there — and there are too many of them — will turn those words into weapons.

So enough. Paul and his pals aren't responsible for the death of TSA agent Gerardo Hernandez, but they should be on notice that their rhetoric is dangerous. They need to grow up and shut up before more people die.

Put your laptop in the bin. Take out your liquids. Put your hands up. No one is interested in groping grandmothers and toddlers. They're looking for weapons. They're trying to save lives. They deserve to be protected. They deserve to be thanked. And this week, sadly, one must be mourned.

(Susan Estrich is a professor of Law and Political Science at the University of Southern California Law Center. A best-selling author, lawyer and politician, as well as a teacher, she first gained national prominence as national campaign manager for Dukakis for President in 1988.)

Last Updated on Wednesday, 31 December 1969 07:00

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Why should Germany listen to 'globalists'?

Chutzpah. I believe that's the word for it.

Just days after learning the Americans have been tapping her phones and taping her conversations, Angela Merkel has been publicly upbraided by the U.S. Treasury for being a bad global citizen.

What did she do to deserve this? Merkel just won a third term as chancellor with a record vote and has an approval rating near 80 percent. But she is a bad global citizen because Germany is running the world's largest trade surplus.

The Washington Post thinks the Treasury's tongue-lashing is overdue, as does Paul Krugman of the New York Times: "In this environment, a country that runs a trade surplus is ... beggaring its neighbors. It is diverting spending away from their goods and services to its own, and thereby taking away jobs."

Is this not astonishing? Competing successfully in world markets is now tantamount to stealing food off the table of one's less-competent and less-successful neighbors.

By this standard, America was a selfish nation and a rotten global citizen for the first seven decades of the 20th century, when we ran trade surpluses every year, averaging 4 percent of GDP. From the Civil War through the Roaring '20s, with a high tariff, we became the mightiest manufacturing power the world had ever seen. Our economic independence enabled us to stay out of two world wars. And when we did go in, we won within months in 1918, and we won again only a few years after Pearl Harbor.

Is this a record to be ashamed of?

Every modern nation that has risen to world power has done so through economic nationalism: Britain under the Acts of Navigation; the United States under protectionist Republicans from 1860-1914; Bismarck's Germany; postwar Japan, which rose from the ashes of 1945 to become the world's second economy; and China from 1980 to today. Trade surpluses, run at the expense of rival powers, have been the hallmark of great nations in their rise to preeminence.

Though Germany is smaller than Montana, with a population not a fourth that of the United States, she is the powerhouse of the European Union, makes some of the finest products on earth, and sells abroad one-third of all she produces. Her unemployment rate is only 5 percent.

Why is that not a record to be admired? And whom are the Germans supposed to emulate? Answer, if you can believe it, Obama's America.

The Post and Krugman feel the Germans must shake off their habit of working and saving and start spending to get Club Med countries like Spain and Greece out of intensive care. The Post wants Merkel to embrace the Social Democrats' idea of raising the minimum wage to $11.50 an hour, which was too rich even for the mayor of D.C. The need, says Treasury, is for "rebalancing."

Basically, what the globalists want is for prudent counties with trade surpluses to start running deficits to get money flowing, like transfusions, into the moribund economies. Where as "Engine Charlie" Wilson reportedly said, "What's good for General Motors is good for the country," the globalists retort, "What's good for the global economy is good for America."

But is this true? From their behavior in recent decades, neither the Chinese nor Japanese nor Germans, proprietors of the second, third and fourth largest economies on earth, buy into this ideology.

And how has America's conversion to globalism, since George H.W. Bush proclaimed the coming of the New World Order, worked out for us? From 1989 to 1993, Bush 1 ran $360 billion in trade deficits in goods, a U.S. record. Bill Clinton, who enlisted the Republican establishment to help ratify NAFTA and U.S. membership in a World Trade Organization where the United States has the same vote as Armenia, ran $1.8 trillion in trade deficits. Clinton's deficits were then dwarfed by George W. Bush's, who ran up $5.3 trillion in trade deficits in goods. In four years and eight months, Obama has piled up trade deficits totaling more than $3 trillion.

Thus, during 25 years of free-trade globalism, the United States has run up well over 10 trillion, or ten thousand-billion, dollars in trade deficits in goods.

And what do we have to show for it? Our economic independence is history. We rely on foreigners for the necessities of life. We are the greatest debtor nation in history. Beijing and Tokyo bank scores of billions in annual interest payments on the T-bills and Treasury bonds they hold. And as the gleaming cities of Asia rise, America's infrastructure visibly crumbles.

The real wages of our working men and women have not risen in decades. In the first decade of this century, we lost 6 million manufacturing jobs as 55,000 factories disappeared.

Why should successful Germans emulate the folly of the failed American politicians responsible for the decline of the greatest republic in the history of mankind?

(Syndicated columnist Pat Buchanan has been a senior advisor to three presidents, twice a candidate for the Republican presidential nomination and the presidential nominee of the Reform Party in 2000. He won the New Hampshire Republican Primary in 1996.)

Last Updated on Wednesday, 31 December 1969 07:00

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Froma Harrop - Website will be fixed & eyes will dry

About the Obamacare website rollout: So-rry.
Yes, it's a mess. Tears of apology have flooded the streets of Washington, raising the Potomac to dangerous levels.
But the federal health plan's website will be fixed. (The state exchanges seem to have it right.) Once Americans can get inside the doors, most should appreciate their options. To use real estate parlance, Obamacare is not currently a "drive-by."
Between now and then, though, expect continued histrionics as only Washington can do them. Republicans frame the program as a disaster, and Democrats are into a defensive crouch, as they are wont to do. But when the situation resolves itself, most Americans will forget what they were mad about.
Some non-website concerns do deserve a respectful explanation right away. It is true that a small percentage of people are seeing their private policies canceled. This does not affect the great majority — those covered by their employer, in Medicare or Medicaid, or with a high-quality private plan. Some may have to pay more for better coverage — or possibly not. They'd know if the damn HealthCare.gov site were functioning.
Critics are correct that the president was — how shall we put it? — inaccurate in assuring the public that the Affordable Care Act would not affect people happy with their current private coverage. Point is, policies are being canceled because they don't offer the basic coverage required under the new law. And more to the point, many who bought these policies are being cheated and don't know it.
We speak of the cheap mini-med insurance plans that, Consumer Reports writes, "may be worse than none at all." They are often issued by big-name insurance companies, leaving buyers the impression that they have serious coverage.
Sure, Fox News can dredge up lots of "victims" to insist they were happy with their substandard coverage. That's because they haven't had a medical crisis yet.
Consumer Reports offers the example of Judith Goss of Macomb, Mich. The 48-year-old was calmly going through life with a $65-a-month policy from Cigna's Starbridge plan. Then she was diagnosed with breast cancer.
Goss found herself facing a $30,000 hospital bill, with medical "coverage" limiting payments to $1,000 a year for outpatient treatment and $2,000 for hospital care. Frightened by the cost, the former Talbots saleswoman put off treatment until after her tumor had tripled in size.
So what was Goss getting for her $780-a-year premiums? If she'd had no insurance, at least she'd have known she wasn't covered for cancer. Depending on income, someone in her position might now qualify for subsidies to bring the premiums for good coverage way down. And yes, under Obamacare, an insurer can't turn anyone away because of a pre-existing condition.
On to the other complaint: Obamacare makes those with decent incomes help the worse-off obtain health coverage. Not a terrible thing, in this opinion, but also not the full story. We who pay full freight have already been subsidizing the uninsured who show up at hospitals for "free" care. Now most everyone will have insurance.
And even the wealthy may come out ahead, as the reforms force some sanity into our ludicrously wasteful health care system. For those in fine health or with high incomes, one can envision the money saved from the efficiencies eventually exceeding the cost of the subsidies.
Foes and even some friends of the reforms are calling those compelled to pay more for coverage or subsidize others "losers" in Obamacare.
"Loser today, winner tomorrow" may not be the most inspired rallying call. And the breakdown of the federal website sure hasn't helped the education process.
But all shall be repaired. Once the reality sinks in, eyes will dry.

(A member of the Providence Journal editorial board, Froma Harrop writes a nationally syndicated column from that city. She has written for such diverse publications as The New York Times, Harper's Bazaar and Institutional Investor.)

Last Updated on Monday, 04 November 2013 09:47

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