Went grocery shopping, with largely two things on my list: real food, and candy. At the intersection of the two: cocoa krispies, but they look to have discontinued them! Which is dastardly, because they were on sale this week!
Wired had a good article on magnetic navigation in sea turtles. Neat, because I was just talking about this in my lecture last week! Hope the undergrads find this. I love this quote: “A skeptic could reasonably believe that the latitudinal cue is magnetic, but that determining east-west position depends on magic,” Another recent article also discusses the radical-pair mechanism. I’ve long lamented the poor quality of journalism, especially science reporting, in these times of ours, but I have to say that I’ve been reasonably impressed with a few articles from Wired recently, in particular because they actually include the citations to the papers they’re talking about, so I’ve subscribed to their RSS feed.
The Berkshire Hathaway annual results are out, including Warren Buffet’s famous annual letter to shareholders. Worth a read even if you’re not a shareholder. Of course, many blog posts out there to help you digest the wisdom, including Larry MacDonald, Canadian Capitalist, and Michael James.
Barry Rithotlz points out that banks are writing credit default swaps on debt that doesn’t exist… if you figure out how to view the full story on the WSJ, let me know, I only got the first few lines as a preview, and there wasn’t even a link with the option to buy the article, so to me it just looks like a broken website (way to go, newspapers, you show the internet how conveying information is done!).
I got a response from my MP after my UBB letters: basically just a form response that the Liberals oppose UBB, and that they’ve received a lot of letters on the topic! Other than that, I haven’t noticed any news on the matter, so now I think we just wait and see what comes out of the CRTC.
A bunch of other bloggers got copies of various tax programs to give away (come on Intuit, it’s not a personal finance blog, but I do taxes too!). Oddly enough many of them only opened their contest up to their email subscribers. I guess people who use RSS to follow every. single. post. just aren’t worthy.
With even the permabulls like the real estate boards calling for the housing market to at the very least flatten out, it’s important to market your home’s selling features. A snazzy virtual tour may help, but might I suggest a space wall?
Toronto Realty Blog considers moving up. The post highlights a few things that I see as being horribly sick and wrong with the current Toronto market (well, it doesn’t intentionally highlight them, but they stand out to me):
- “Five years is far above the average time that a condo-owner will spend in one unit in downtown Toronto…” Transaction costs are high: so far, price appreciation has dwarfed them, but in a flat market, moving very often means more people should lean towards renting rather than buying. If people are feeling squeezed out (or bored, or whatever other reason they have for moving so frequently), then they do need to start to consider the risks of buying at the top, as they can’t just wait out a downturn in the unlikely event that it happens (even if that’s what they tell me). Five years sounds like a very short amount of time to buy a place for to me, so for that to be above the average sounds crazy.
- “As I look around the living room, I see a bookshelf with so many books stacked on top of the unit itself that I’ve begun a small pile on the floor […] and I can’t tell you how many things (skiis, snowboard, golf clubs, hockey equipment, baseball gear, winter tires) I keep in seasonal storage in my mother’s basement. Not only have I outgrown my space, but I can afford far more now as well.” The condos that are going up (even in Markham) are freaking tiny. I have trouble seeing how a single person fits in some of them, let alone a couple. That is partly due to amenities: no need to set aside room for a treadmill if your building has a gym, and space for more than two guests can be taken care of by the party room and movie theatre. But I have to wonder how much of the demand for these tiny units is driven by people buying from plans, and when the buyers will finally stop trying to get a place, any place, and start demanding livable space.
- “Let’s assume that I own my condo in cash, and I have no mortgage.[…] For whatever reason, I would rather keep my money in my condo th[a]n throw darts at the board known as the stock market […] so my all-in cost of living is only $545 per month.” Once again, the fallacy that owning your shelter somehow makes it free, or nearly so, without taking into account the opportunity cost, that is, the return one could get by investing that money elsewhere. Even a GIC-like rate added to the other costs listed would put that monthly total north of $1600 — more than what a 1-bedroom rents for. And along with it, the notion that somehow the stock market is risky but Toronto condos are not. Eventually, fundamentals will matter.