- This is officially
the thrird day of summer, which is a bit hard to believe as I
sit here on our Hilo hills lanai where the thermometer is reading
a chilly 68 degrees! Wassup?!
- OK, I've been
reminded that another update is due, so here it is. Actually,
one reason I haven't put up any updates in the last few months
is that there isn't a whole lot to update.
- To say that
prices on everything are going up at an obscene rate is not news.
The only upside in that picture is that housing prices are going
down while everything else goes up. But then that's only partly
good news, because unless you have an exemplary credit rating,
a solid job with a good track record and you're willing to put
up your first-born child as security, you can just about forget
about getting a mortgage.
- Well, not really.
- Even if you
have all the above qualifications in place, the house you are
trying to buy will have to pass new, rigorous tests, as well.
The appraisers on whom the mortgage companies rely have been
issued new rules in assessing the value of a property, and in
many areas of Hawaii, some of these rules make things really
difficult. A significant challenge seems to be finding "comparables,"
which have to be recorded sales of what the rules dictate to
be comparable. That means the comps have to be in the same vicinity;
and the square footage, lot size, age of the house, type of construction
all have to be the same within new, tighter limits. If the house
is older than a specified age, wiring and plumbing upgrades will
have to be in place to get any insurance, and the insurance binder
has to be in place before the loan application can be processed.
Most of these criteria have always been in place to some degree,
but now the limits are much tighter and more difficult to achieve.
As usual, the nefarious past dealings of few greedy people have
made things difficult for everyone else.
- In spite of
what you might hear and read about interest rates that are still
coming down, they are higher now than they were a year ago.
- House prices
in most areas are definitely still coming down, and there are
some real bargains out there now. If you're in the market and
have anything less than the credit ratings specified above, shop
around to several mortgage brokers until you find one with a
"can-do" attitude. Some brokers won't even talk to
you unless you come in with a 720-or-higher credit rating, but
others will work with you and perhaps have more or better options
available to them. Don't give up just because somebody says it
- If you are self-employed,
it gets even trickier. Self-employed folks usually have to get
"stated income" mortgages. Do not despair, though,
because there are mortgage brokers who can make these work, but
you will definitely need a credit rating of 720 or higher to
- We're now seeing
homes in the low $200,000 range more often and even some below
the magic $200K figure. These are not junkers, either!
- Coqui Update
- The coqui situation
on the Big Island continues to get worse on a daily basis. We
had practically none when we moved to our present home two years
ago. Fast forward to today: Our new evening pastime is spraying
coqui, one at a time, as they appear seemingly out of nowhere.
Everywhere you go now, there are coqui. If you find a place where
there are only a few, give it a month or two. In many areas they
are so well established that it is difficult to carry on a normal
conversation over the noise.
- The Big Island
is evidently the only Island where the County "didn't care"
when the infestations began and everyone was clammoring for some
County assistance to get rid of the frogs. All of the other Islands
have them under control and have had from the beginning. Curiously,
around Hilo, the worst infestations are on County properties.
- It is strictly
up to us taxpayers now to take care of our own coqui issues,
and it is a losing battle. The only solution, it seems is to
get used to them. Lots of folks we talk to have done just that
and they say the noise no longer bothers them. I have to agree
that the noise of thousands of them in concert is less annoying
than having one or two close by.
- Back to affordable
living . . .
- The fuel-cost
thing . . . is here to stay. Well, at least that's the prediction
of most of the financial world. After all, we have convinced
them that we'll pay anything they ask for that life-blood of
our society, so why not keep raising the price? The sad thing
is that it really does impact every aspect of our lives, not
just the gas we put in our vehicles.
- If you need
a rationale to ease the pain, consider that the cost of fuel,
even at $5/gallon, is not out of line with the cost of everything
else over the last few years. How much were you earning when
gas was $2/gallon? Just about everything you can think of costs
twice now what it did ten years ago, so why not gasoline?
- Gas in the US
has actually not kept pace with inflation at all. I spent some
time in New Zealand in the early '90s and gas was $1/liter there.
That's pushing $4/gallon, and that was some 15 years ago. So
does that make you feel any better?
- It is, however,
still possible to live here affordably without going without.
If most of us just eliminated most of our wasteful ways, we could
save a bundle right there.
* Don't make a special
trip to the store for one or two items.
* Turn off lights you
are not using.
* Use energy-efficient
lights wherever possible.
* When in your car, open
the windows on a nice, warm day instead of using the A/C. It
* Don't rush out and blow
$20,000 (plus interest) on a new car that might get a few miles
per gallon better mileage.
* Shop sales. Don't buy
the $8 milk when there's also $5 milk in the same cooler.
* Don't go to Wal-Mart
for all your needs just because you assume everything is cheaper
there. It isn't. Same for Home Depot or any other so-called big-box
* Don't buy bottled water!
If you must drink water out of little bottles, buy one case and
them refill the bottles with water out of a filter pitcher. It's
the same stuff.
* Try to buy pre-owned
stuff. You can save a ton of money by not having to have everything
brand-new and the latest model.
* Change your phone service
to VOIP. It's a fraction of the cost of regular service.
* If you eat out a lot,
go to lunch instead of dinner. In many cases, it's the same product
at much less cost.
* Buying a car? Get the
best one you can afford for cash. Stop paying all that interest.
Also, a slightly older car will already have much of the depreciation
paid for by somebody else. Depreciation, not gasoline, is the
biggest car expense for many people.
* If your home doesn't
already have it, install solar water heating. With all the tax
credits, the payback is quick.
* Instead of expensive
hobbies, take up paddling, hiking, snorkeling, diving, etc.
* Use common sense!
- All the rest
of the "affordable living" ideas in Affordable Paradise
still apply, and if you have any particular concerns, opinions,
questions or whatever, please post them at the Affordable Paradise
- And in the meanwhile,
- And in the
meanwhile, please, please,
- Mahalo for
- Skip Thomsen