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Tuesday, April 14, 2009

Life During a Recession Has Benefits

When we bought our house in New Jersey last year, the home inspector told us that the towering ash tree in front was rotting. So, before closing on the house, we got a couple of bids to remove it. We figured it would cost $4,000 or so.

One tree service bid $5,600. But its owner warned we'd be left with a huge pile of tree grindings when we got done. So we'd need to hire a landscaper to remove that and to replace it with dirt. The other bid came in at $8,800. Welcome to the Garden State.(chopard watches)

One service bid $4,500. Another offered to do it for $3,300. The cheaper bid includes removing the grindings and replacing them with dirt, so we won't need to hire a landscaper. He also offered to cut the ivy that was choking two other trees in our yard -- for no extra charge.

I had heard enough. I hired him.

His crew began taking the tree down Wednesday. It isn't a simple job. The ash tree is about six feet across at the base, and its branches are right next to major power lines. The service is using an elevated bucket and a crane, and a chip truck to grind everything up.

There are other signs in my bucolic town that the economy is cooling. We have a supermarket right near the train station. That makes it terribly convenient if I need to grab something on my way home at night.

The bad news is that it's expensive. So I do the bulk of our shopping in another supermarket a couple of miles from the house. I treat the one near the train station more like a giant convenience store.

This past week, I picked up a few items at the train-station supermarket on the way home. It seemed to me there was more stuff on sale. For example, you could get two one-pound packages of bacon for $5.

I asked a clerk if there were more specials. He allowed that might be the case, and quickly returned to ringing items up.

Now let's talk about real money: real estate.

Unlike in California or Florida, housing prices haven't gone off a cliff yet in my area. But things are softening.

Regular readers of this column might remember my wife and I tried to buy another house last year in the same community for $660,000. But after we signed a contract and the house was in attorney review, another buyer came along with a higher bid. The seller, as is legal in New Jersey, dumped us and took the higher bid.

Our attorney asked us, 'Are you having fun yet?'(breitling)

We bought the house we're living in now for $585,000 in early September.

We later heard that the higher bidder on that first house wanted thousands of dollars of repairs, and the deal collapsed. The house went back on a weakening market, and the seller has been forced to keep lowering the price. It's currently being listed at $599,000, $61,000 less than we agreed to pay for it six months ago.

I might take some small measure of satisfaction, except for this: The value of the house we did buy has almost surely gone down about as much.

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