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Sanborn — The gourmet kitchen

There were 96 residential home sales in October in the 12 towns covered by this Lakes Region real estate report. The average sales price came in at $350,760 and the median price point was $209,250. Last October we posted 97 sales at a lower average of $287,919. We just had three straight months of hundred plus sales, so our yearly sales numbers should look pretty good if we finish out the year strong. This sure feels better than going in the other direction.

With Thanksgiving coming right up, I thought I would focus a little bit on the most important room of the house on that day; the kitchen. More precisely; the "gourmet kitchen." Obviously, you need to cook a turkey for Thanksgiving, unless you take the easy route and go to Hart's Turkey Farm. That, however, could interrupt watching the football games which in my house is contrary to the true meaning of Thanksgiving. I have a long standing tradition established in my early childhood of watching , what was then, Tom Landry's Cowboys and the hapless Lions play their annual Thanksgiving Day games. Those were the days! The only things that have changed are there are three games to watch now and the Cowboys are almost always the hapless ones.

Anyway, if you are going to cook a turkey, you should have a gourmet kitchen to cook it in unless you've got one of those outdoor deep fryers that will turn the whole thing into one big chicken nugget in seconds flat. But what is a gourmet kitchen exactly? Well, no one seems to know exactly, but real estate agents use the term a lot. According to the Urban Dictionary, a gourmet kitchen is "an abstract term used by realtors to add appeal to listings. Theoretically, it refers to a higher-end kitchen, but it has become used so loosely, that there are no clear defining factors that separate a 'gourmet kitchen' from a 'kitchen.'"

While there may be no exact definition of a "gourmet" kitchen, you can usually tell when you are in one. High end appliances such as Viking, Subzero, Wolf, and Bosch are a must. Six burner gas stoves, double ovens, convection ovens, warming drawers, pizza ovens, wine refrigerators, high end cabinetry, granite or other high end countertops, plenty of work space, center islands, and pantries are all key components fancy food loving buyers look for.

Now some people say realtors use the term "gourmet kitchen" too much so. So, I thought I'd take a look to see how many great gourmet kitchens are available right now on the MLS. Much to my surprise, of the 911 current listings in Belknap County, there were only a measly 14 kitchens that were touted as "gourmet" when I search for that term! Shocking, to say the least. Surely there are more than that; after all, we do get the cable cooking shows here. Where are Rachael Ray, Gordon Ramsey and Emeril when you need them?

You apparently don't have to spend a fortune to get a gourmet kitchen in a house. I found one in a $239,000 house in Meredith, but it might be a little suspect as there were no pictures of the kitchen on the MLS. Maybe the chef there was a guy named Boyardee?

Other gourmet kitchens were found at 28 Boulder Drive in Belmont (listed at $399,900), 62 Secord Road in Gilmanton ($495,000), 65 Cotton Hill Road in Belmont ($595,000), and a real nice one at 90 Minge Cove in Alton ($1.795 million.) There are hundreds of homes out there with absolutely stunning kitchens, but searching for them by using "gourmet" as a search term won't bring up all of them. Check with your realtor to find out which homes have that truly special kitchen you've been looking for. Undoubtedly, he knows several great examples of designer kitchens because he's been to open houses where he has chowed down in one or two of them... It's a rough job, but that's what we have to do! Bon Appétit ...
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 November 19, 2013. Roy Sanborn is a realtor at Four Seasons Sotheby's International Realty and can be reached at 603-455-0335.

Last Updated on Friday, 22 November 2013 09:09

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Andrew Hosmer - Compromise needed for substantive change to health care landscape

New Hampshire stands at a critical juncture in the health care debate and the choices are clear. Do we proactively begin the process repairing our current failing, perhaps terminal, health care system or do we declare defeat and allow New Hampshire to buckle under this broken system's immense pressure. I believe legislators are elected to solve problems, not fight tired partisan battles that place politics over people. Therefore, it's my intention to partner with my colleagues in the New Hampshire Senate who are focused on long-term solutions and not short term, half-hearted fixes with arbitrary deadlines.

It's clear both chambers of the New Hampshire Legislature believe adults between 19 and 64, with incomes below 138 percent of the federal poverty line (individuals earning less than $16,800 and a family of four living on less than $32,500 per year) should have access to health insurance. Encouraging preventive care, made possible through insurance, has the potential to radically reduce emergency care and improve a person's quality of life. Increased access to health insurance will also significantly reduce charity care in New Hampshire and in turn save hospitals upwards of a half billion dollars. Bad debt and unsustainable charity care operate as hard hitting economic anvils on hard working New Hampshire families, health care providers and our local economy.

In working towards health care solutions for our working poor and those struggling with paying insurance premiums, we must also be cognizant of always working towards fostering more competition in the health insurance marketplace, helping reduce premium costs for New Hampshire's business community and developing a health care performance matrix that measures success. Most importantly, there must be an increase, if not maintenance, of local control in health care decisions. New Hampshire control, alongside the establishment of safeguards in case the federal government doesn't fulfill its promises, are the keystones to a plan I will support.

We are in a position to make real substantive changes in New Hampshire's health care landscape. It will take compromise from both chambers and both sides of the political aisle. A "take it or leave it" approach will poison the process. I look forward to working with my fellow legislators who appreciate that standing idle is not an acceptable strategy and who are seeking solutions to tough issues that best serve our state and its hard working citizens.
(Laconia Democrat Andrew Hosmer represents District 7 in the New Hampshire Senate.)

Last Updated on Thursday, 21 November 2013 12:00

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Jim Hightower - Law-paid workers; high-flying executives

Sometimes it pays just to go away. You could ask Jim Skinner about that. He was CEO of the hamburger behemoth, McDonald's, pulling down a hefty $8.8 million in pay. Last year, though, Skinner retired, and, rather than getting a gold watch, he was given a load of gold — so large that even a Brink's armored truck would have been too small to haul it all away. His salary of $753,000 was the least of it. The Big Mac chain also served up $1.7 million to the chief in stock and $3 million in option awards. Then it slathered on another $10.2 million in retirement pay. All that was topped by a super-rich dessert: $11.6 million in "incentive pay."

What? Why does a guy with millions already on his food tray need any incentive to do his job? Maybe because Skinner found it hard to stomach the biggest part of his job, which was to pay poverty wages to McDonald's workers, shove thousands of them onto food stamps and other programs paid for by taxpayers, and lobby aggressively to prevent any increases in the minimum wage or any tax hikes on uber-rich elites like him.

It's dirty work, but Skinner did it, finally skipping away with a 2012 pay package totaling $27.7 million. Yet, in the phantasmagoric plutocracy of CorporateLand, too much is not enough. Last year, for the first time ever, the 10 highest-paid CEOs in America hauled in at least $100 million each, even as the great majority of workaday families have lost income.

This gaping (and ever-widening) inequality is the greatest threat to our society's cohesion. Too few people now control an unconscionable and untenable share of America's money and power, using it to grab more of both for themselves. They can build a $100-million wall, but it won't be high enough to hide their greed from the rest of us.

But there's an added dimension to this inequality that you might find especially interesting: Not only are low-wage corporations overly generous to their top dogs, but so are you and I. For example, I'm sure you'll be as delighted as I am to know that we — all of us taxpayers together — contribute day-in and day-out to the very big global cause of Supersizing McDonald's.
The world's largest hamburger chain is a particularly needy charity case, because without your and my generous tax support, the Big Mac bosses in charge would have to pay a living wage to their 860,000-plus American workers. But, thanks to us, the $27 billion-a-year hamburger-flipping flim flammers can get away with paying poverty wages — and then send their workforce to get food stamps, Medicaid, child welfare payments, public housing and other tax-funded poverty benefits. This public subsidy of the Golden Arches adds up to a very golden $1.2 billion a year. What a creative business plan! Who says giant corporations aren't enterprising?

Well, sniff the chain's top executives; we operate on razor-thin profit margins, so we can't afford to throw money at workers. Really? Last year's $5.6 billion in profits doesn't sound thin to me. Also, note that McDonald's more than tripled the pay of its new CEO last year, elevating him from $4.1 million to $13.8 million.

But what really galls its workers (whose low wages and forced part-time schedules mean they average less than $12,000 a year) is that the taxpayer-subsidized profiteer laid out a fat $35 million in October to add a brand new executive jet to its corporate fleet. This one is a "Bombardier 605" with the full package of luxurious amenities, and it cost $2,500 an hour to fly it.

Just flying one hour on the Bombardier cost more than the combined hourly wages of more than 300 McDonald's workers. Remember, you're subsidizing this. Aren't you just "Lovin' it," as the chain's ad slogan puts it? To tell McDonald's CEO that this is immoral, go to OurFuture.org.

(Jim Hightower has been called American's most popular populist. The radio commentator and former Texas Commissioner of Agriculture is author of seven books, including "There's Nothing In the Middle of Road but Yellow Stripes and Dead Armadillos" and his new work, "Swim Against the Current: Even Dead Fish Can Go With The Flow".)

Last Updated on Wednesday, 31 December 1969 07:00

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Susan Estrich - Bigger problem lurking for Obamacare

Martin Short had the best line at Saturday night's Governors Awards presented by the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences: "President Obama said if you like your Oscar, you can keep it."

Presumably, Angelina Jolie will. When a Hollywood crowd (full of Democrats) roars, you know that a complete screw-up by the administration has fully entered the popular culture.

The issues now aren't just fixes — and those won't be easy. The issue is also blame — or rather, responsibility. And even more, principle.

I don't blame Obama for the problems with the website. Yes, the buck stops there, and it certainly was a blunder for which his administration is clearly responsible. But I would bet you any amount of money that every time the president asked about the status of the website, he was told that things were moving along just swimmingly. Problems, sure, but that they were being addressed.

Nobody likes to tell presidents bad news. My bet is that the people who were talking directly to him didn't themselves know the nature of the problems. And before you use this as an excuse to condemn government, remember that the private sector was involved, as well.

But the really good news is that the website problems can be fixed. This is technical stuff, and already there are signs of improvement. There is no question that the administration bungled the rollout, should've done better, should've known and admitted and taken responsibility. But that crisis will pass.

There is a far bigger problem lurking. On its face, it's the "cancellation" issue. Some, maybe most, of the policies being canceled were relatively less expensive policies that provided fewer benefits than those required by the Affordable Care Act. Now, some of us might say good. People need more benefits. Some people had lousy policies because they were the only ones they could buy, and some people had them because they were what they could afford, and some people had them precisely because they were cheap and were all they thought they needed or could afford. They need preventive care and pregnancy care and mental health services and the like.
But here's the rub: All of those things cost money. And there are two possibilities. If you're actually poor or close to it, the government will pay for most or all of those benefits, which is great for you but might be a budget buster for the country. If you're like most people, however — which is to say not poor-poor but definitely on a budget, paycheck to paycheck and all — the cancellations raise a much more fundamental question. Who knows best about how you should spend your money: you or the government?

If that sounds like a political slogan, that's because it is — or rather, it was. Ronald Reagan, 1980. That's how he described the difference between Republicans and Democrats. He wanted to cut taxes because he thought you knew best. The Democrats wanted to raise them because we thought we did.

I'm old enough to remember who won that one, and it was very painful. Ironically, it didn't really apply to the tax cuts Reagan was proposing, which in turn caused huge deficits that we all had to pay for. But (I'm sad to say) it sort of does make sense in understanding what's going on with these subpar policies.

Take the example of the young woman, very entrepreneurial, just bought her first condo, does my makeup every Saturday at Fox. She calls me her surrogate mother. I give advice. Some of it she follows. She is in her 20s and in good health and is more responsible than most young people her age. She has insurance, but it's one of those policies. It doesn't cover pregnancy, and drug coverage is limited. Basically, it's good for a catastrophe. Other than that, she doesn't go to the doctor much and pays when she does.

Now they're canceling that policy and offering her one that costs three times as much and includes a lot of services she doesn't think she needs. And here's the rub: She's probably right. She probably won't use them. Instead, her premiums will be used to support older people who need more services than, frankly, they could ever afford.

She can't remember Reagan, and she can't understand why the government thinks it knows better how she should spend her money than she does. I cringe when I hear that. Worked last time.

(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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Froma Harrop - Stay the course

The bungled launch of the federal health insurance website has unleashed significant disorder — but not everywhere. Life remains calm in many states that set up their own health care exchanges. Some are so confident of the rightness of the health care reforms that they're rejecting President Obama's proposal to let people keep their inadequate health insurance policies.

"We will not be allowing insurance companies to extend their (substandard) policies," Washington state's insurance commissioner, Mike Kreidler, announced in no uncertain terms.

To recap, insurers canceled several million plans that failed to meet the higher standards of the Affordable Care Act. That left many policyholders angry. Anxiety rose as those in states relying on the federal exchange couldn't get on HealthCare.gov to see their alternatives (which might include pleasant surprises). Facing a revolt by purple-state Democrats, Obama said he'd give states the option of letting people keep their substandard policies.

The public is confused. Insurers are confused. Insurers are also upset because the move messes with the stability of the new insurance pools. The pools stay strong by combining the young and vigorous with the old and sick. The banned bare-bones policies attract the healthy, though many are rip-offs worse than no insurance at all.

Again, the craziness is mainly confined to states that didn't set up their own exchanges. Most state exchanges are humming along, forcing rationality and cost curbing into their health care. Vermont and Rhode Island have joined Washington in saying "no, thanks" to the president's offer. No doubt others will join them.

"My jaw dropped" on hearing Obama's announcement, Kreidler told The Seattle Times. He added the obvious: "Insurance only works if you have a robust pool of good and bad risk."

By the way, about half of the 290,000 Washington residents who received cancellation letters will apparently qualify for subsidies to help buy insurance through the state exchange. Some may learn they can get more for less.
Of course, those in states dependent on the federal website can't see what's out there. Strange that red-state politicians, wedded to the idea that D.C. can't do anything right, left the job of setting up health care exchanges to the federal government. Several are now being forced to extend their high-risk pools — programs for sickly people rejected by private insurers. They are supposed to be phased out under Obamacare.

So Republican Gov. Scott Walker was only half-right when he complained, "In Wisconsin, we are taking action to protect our citizens from the federal government's failure." He neglected to include Wisconsin's failure to set up its own program.

We know what's going on. Most Republicans will not accept the reforms — a virtual carbon copy of conservative blueprints, including former Gov. Mitt Romney's plan in Massachusetts — because Obama wanted them. The politics are so perverse that they'll subsidize the health care of elderly billionaires, the destitute and prisoners but not the working poor and struggling middle class.

To the gasps of local hospital officials, many Republican governors refused to expand Medicaid to more low-income people, though the feds would have paid for nearly all of it. Only 25 states have agreed to the expansion, most run by Democrats.

One prays that the federal government will get its act together soon. In the meantime, let's put things in perspective. As Jonathan Gruber, the MIT economist who helped design the Massachusetts and federal reforms, said on Fox News Channel, we should "stop panicking over days and weeks."

Also note that for every American with a canceled policy, there are 10 uninsured Americans. Many are suffering and will be saved by this law.

What can we say but, "Stay the course." Stay the course.

(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, 18 November 2013 09:38

Hits: 295

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