180 thoughts on “Tuesday open thread

  1. Milo and Houston had mentioned some concern about continuing to pour money into the market with the S&P selling at 37 times earnings. Now you can’t time the market. But you could decide to move up some purchases: cars, roofs, master bathrooms, boats, etc.

    Thoughts?

  2. In an overheated stock market, Putting cash aside for or accelerating the timing on next 3 year purchases is a sensible strategy. Just beefing up the emergency fund against future bad times is also good. By increasing the cash or cash equivalent pot, you can do both.

  3. Rhett — To clarify: Are you talking about selling equities in this frothy market to pay for those things? Or using current earnings/year-end bonuses/etc for big-ticket purchases rather than putting that money into the market? Or both?

    I had a good year at work, and I recently decided that this would be our year to finally replace the cheap, drafty windows that the former owners used when they put an addition on their (now our) house 20 years ago. So that’s several thousand in cash savings that is going toward home improvement rather than investments. But that decision was more a function of the fact that I was sick to death of the drafty windows, rather than thinking that stocks are too expensive right now.

  4. Rhett – remember the $1625/person/mo, or $2167/person/mo if > 50, more if in a Sep IRA, 457, still needs to be contributed to one’s retirement fund. My suggestion would be to maybe switch new contributions to a 2020 or 2015 if still available target date fund. Presumably there’s separate savings for those other things.

  5. That’s still timing the market. I don’t see the difference. At least traditional market timing puts your money into some kind of asset with some appreciation/income potential, instead of just using it for extra consumption or putting it into depreciating assets.

  6. NoB – re windows. I got an approximate quote (~$20k installed for 18 double pane sashes; we have 8 casement windows that are fine) from a local Andersen dealer a couple of weeks ago. Key piece of info was that annual price increases occur April 1 for Andersen so get your order in before then if going with them.

  7. Or using current earnings/year-end bonuses/etc for big-ticket purchases rather than putting that money into the market?

    That.

    Rhett – remember the $1625/person/mo, or $2167/person/mo if > 50, more if in a Sep IRA, 457, still needs to be contributed to one’s retirement fund.

    That goes without saying. I’m talking more about not traveling, not going out to dinner, etc. this year and as a result having $10s of thousands more in your checking account than you normally would.

  8. We are looking at putting in a garage at L’Abbey (Rhett, before you say anything, PREVIOUS OWNERS sold off the other house that used to be on the L’Abbey grounds, which has a barn, about 60 years ago and no one has put a garage in since) next spring. It is a giant project. Any guesses on total cost? ;)

  9. L – how many sq ft? Insulated? Heated? Just a concrete slab, 4 framed walls and a roof (which wouldn’t be in keeping with the L’Abbey image)?

  10. I’m talking more about not traveling, not going out to dinner, etc. this year and as a result having $10s of thousands more in your checking account than you normally would.

    I don’t know about $10s of thousands more, but I like the savings especially with college tuition coming up. I think some of the savings will also be spent on a trip the summer after graduation. I want to keep some cash on hand for these expenses.

  11. extra consumption or putting it into depreciating assets.

    You need depreciating assets to live. You need a mattress, sofa, water heater, etc.

    For example someone could say, “I’m going great financially because I fully fund my retirement and I have $100k in cash.” But if the asphalt roof is 30 years old. The mattress is all lumpy. The springs are coming through the couch. The cars both have 200k miles on them. You can’t go out on the deck due to termite damage. You need a French drain put in to deal with the basement, etc. Then you’re not really in a very good financial position at all. There is a lot of deferred maintenance.

    If you suddenly end up with a slug of cash it might be good to resolve some of those differed maintenance items.

  12. Fred – 32×36 footprint with 10′ lean-to on one side, but not slab – 2 bays, window, and person door on the upper level and then one large bay on the back on the lower level (L’Abbey’s lot is sloped and we are taking advantage of that topography).

  13. On timing the market, a question.

    Do you consider it timing the market if I say “when the balance in Fund A (aggressive equities) increases by 20% I’m going to take the gain and move just that to Fund B (much more conservative target date fund)? Rinse. Repeat.

    Or is that just strategic portfolio rebalancing?

  14. Oh and just electricity, no insulation no heat, probably no plumbing (although we might put in a sleeve for future plumbing). The idea is for it to look more like a barn that was here before the house.

  15. Rhett – so every month I’m just buying future streams of earnings. While I obviously think the share price will be higher 10-20 years from now, the fact that they are comparatively expensive now could be an argument that we need to be investing *more* right now, not less (to get the same future income).

  16. Mr. Rio is taking the rest of the year off as his vacation days won’t roll over. Except there’s so much work that he’ll keep working the usual 60+ hours. We miscommunicated and I thought he at least planned to work less. Not happy over here. 2020 is the worst. I know a lot of people lost jobs this year so I feel bad complaining, but ugh.

    Are any of you guys dealing with wasted vacation days?

  17. I can’t wait to see the pictures Rhett will post for l’garage. :)

    Many of you might remember the Great Stables from one of my favorite Bond movies – A View to a Kill.

  18. @Fred – I’d call that rebalancing.

    @Rhett – We don’t have tens of thousands, but instead of reinvesting all of the proceeds of the sale of our old house, we are going to keep a chunk in cash to remodel the master bathroom this spring/summer. I don’t think of it as trying to “time” anything though.

  19. Rio, we also lose vacation days so DH and I are off starting Friday, and I’ve taken random days off over the last month. I have work that needs to get done, so still deciding how to manage it all. I will not be working 60+ hours, though. I’m on a strong ‘life is short, and work is not my life’ vibe right now.

  20. This might be a better angle:

    And again that’s not the house that’s just the stable.

    This is the house:

  21. Rio – I’m not, but DS1 is. Use it or lose it; no carryover. And no time off Dec 21-31. So he’s taking Fridays since Nov 20. But there’s not much to do, right? Apartment dweller, so not like the basement can be cleaned out.

    I will be bumping up against the max allowed in my bank if I don’t take 1-2 days off/month Jan-April. My mgr knows this and I told him I’m not going to let the time off go. But at least by April the weather should be nicer so I can take time and go for hikes/bike rides etc.

  22. L, we did a similar project ~10 years ago, only with attic, office and insulation on a slope. I’ll guess $60k now in your area. ours was $40k.

  23. Rio,

    As long as he’s being paid enough to put up with all the shit you’ve mentioned he has to put up with then it’s fine. Just make sure he’s open to the idea that there may be other jobs with similar compensation that don’t require putting up with as much shit.

  24. NoB, is your window upgrade done, or will it be completed this year, so you can take advantage of the tax credit?

  25. Rio – When I got back from a 6-month deployment, it was a couple days before Thanksgiving. The stated practice is that the ship goes on a 30-day stand-down following any deployment, so no work beyond the minimum watch section required in port for manning, security, and maintaining the nuclear plant shut down.

    Additionally, whenever you get back after six months, everyone is going to be fairly high on their leave balances from the famous 30 days per year of leave. And a stand down is supposed to mean that leave is not required for you to stay home unless you are going out of the area, or it’s your day for duty, obviously.

    In reality, there was of course a bunch of maintenance and repairs that needed to be planned and overseen, and it’s not realistic in practice to tell your squadron and the vendors that we’re going to put these off for 30 days. Additionally, we had gotten a below average rating on our recent operational reactor safeguards exam, which is a multi-day inspection and series of tests and drills that you do on the way home from deployment. And when everyone’s eager to know your great plans and corrective actions to fix that, you REALLY can’t just say we’re going to put that aside for 30 days and get back to you in the new year.

    So on top of all the “yes, we’re still going to observe our standdown, *but* we need you to…” there was also the uncomfortable fact that a lot of people were approaching use-lose levels on their leave balances. So not only do you lose your standdown that you’re supposedly enjoying, but you’re also supposed to just go ahead and “take” your leave, because to have a bunch of people losing leave hurts the metrics of the higher-ups, as it shows their bosses that they can’t manage people’s time and respect the work/life balance that is obviously a huge priority from on high.

    I know plenty of people who experience this and say “Yeah, whatever, I don’t care, that’s how it works. I’m happy to do this because it makes my bosses look good, which makes me look good.”

    And others who take it as a personal affront and say this is an outrage. They lied. They’re lying now. DW is definitely in this second category.

    A few weeks later, over brunch with my parents, I remember complaining to my dad about this and he said “Well, now you know. It’s the community you’re in. It’s not going to change. You know it’s only going to get worse the higher you go. So you can stay, or you can vote with your feet.”

    So we did. That mentality is probably 40% of why I resigned a couple years later when it was time to decide. And there are definite costs to that choice, but plenty of advantages, of course. I truly believe that one is not better than the other, but one choice was better for us and what we wanted.

  26. Thursday is my last day of work this year.

    I haven’t worked a Friday for a while. I think I last worked a Friday in September.

  27. ~$20k installed for 18 double pane sashes

    That’s not too bad. I swear we paid $50K for about 10 windows 25 years ago, but I could be inflating it in my mind. We were younger and still trying to build up assets, and I fainted about a dozen times a week at all the stuff DH wanted to do to our crappy 60s tract house. For our next house I made sure we bought very good quality new construction, which is of course now 16 years old and needs updating. But the windows are still FINE. FINE, I say.

  28. My guess for L’Garage is about $120k.

    32×36 is 1152 ft^2, double that since two levels, and since no insulation, heat, or plumbing, cost/ft^2 should be on the low end, so I plugged in $50, and rounded up to nearest $10k increment.

    L, if no slab, what kind of floor?

    Is it a very deep 4-car garage, or a very shallow 8-car garage?

  29. I know plenty of people who experience this and say “Yeah, whatever, I don’t care, that’s how it works.

    I’ve seen something similar. The big difference is they think because that’s how it works at their employer, that’s how it works with all employers. And that’s very often not the case.

    And I swear there are employee masochists who get off on being abused and taken advantage of.

  30. LT,

    Mine is to tour the Chateau of France in the proper vehicle. In my case a 1973 Citroën SM.

  31. L – We know a family who lives in a very grand Victorian mansard home in our town. About a year ago, they built a two-story, two-car garage to match the style of the home. According to the building permit, the project was $100,000. Sometimes builders low-ball the estimate on the permit, though, to keep the permit fee down, so maybe the actual cost was a little more. (Our local paper publishes building permits, which is how I know what the project supposedly cost.)

    Finn and Fred — Our windows have been ordered, but our install date isn’t until February. (It’s going to be pretty cold in our house that day!) I thought tax credits for energy-efficient upgrades were a thing of the past.

    We are paying about $16,000 for 10 windows (Andersen 400 Series, so supposedly good quality.) That includes installation, taxes, fees, etc.

  32. NoB–

    In 2018, 2019 and 2020, an individual may claim a credit for (1) 10 percent of the cost of qualified energy efficiency improvements and (2) the amount of the residential energy property expenditures paid or incurred by the taxpayer during the taxable year (subject to the overall credit limit of $500).

    Qualified energy efficiency improvements include the following qualifying products:

    Energy-efficient exterior windows, doors and skylights
    Roofs (metal and asphalt) and roof products
    Insulation

    https://www.irs.gov/newsroom/energy-incentives-for-individuals-residential-property-updated-questions-and-answers

  33. “My retirement goals include visiting all the castles and chateau’s that Rhett posts.”

    We should do this as a Totebag trip! A two-week group tour of the various castles that Rhett has posted when he wants to tease L about L’Abbey. We can hire party buses to take us around. And Covid will be over, so we won’t have to feel guilty about the party buses!

  34. Finn — Thanks for the tax tip. I did pay a deposit of over $4k this year, so maybe we’ll qualify.

  35. We re-did our garage and also did some interior home improvements (new paint, fixed cracks in walls, etc) in Sept-Oct this year. I have cash to re-do driveway, but I don’t want to plan/bid/manage the project yet.

    We also will likely buy 1-2 new cars next year (one for DS2 to take to college and one to replace our 2003 MDX). We will deal with these types of spending decisions next quarter. I’m not planning beyond Christmas at this point.

  36. NoB, my read of that IRS page is that you can get the credit if you pay for it this year even if it’s installed next year, and if you pay at least $5k this year you can get the full tax credit.

    But that’s just my read. I cannot add esq. after my name without misrepresenting myself, nor am I a tax expert.

  37. ” The big difference is they think because that’s how it works at their employer, that’s how it works with all employers. And that’s very often not the case.

    And I swear there are employee masochists who get off on being abused and taken advantage of.”

    Besides understaffing and bad planning or a “work above all” company culture….It also goes with having an identity built on being “busy” and the idea that the company can’t survive without you, specifically. There are also people who use work to avoid their families. (not saying that either of these are the case with Mr. Rio at all – but I’ve seen both types frequently enough in the course of my career)

  38. “We can hire party buses to take us around.”

    We’ll just be sure to give careful consideration to bus assignments.

  39. Mr. Rio did manage to get a substantial pay bump this year and ended up successfully negotiating complete work from home for the duration of Covid, so that’s good. The big thing he needs is to be allowed to hire someone so that he can actually take time off without his responsibilities suffering…the good thing from a job security perspective is no one else knows how to do his job, but it’s of course a disaster from a work-life balance perspective. Extremely niche skill set and so his efforts to find a new employer haven’t worked. The good thing is he loves what he does and is really objectively great at it. Hopefully eventually the hours will improve. When the pandemic is over, we plan to hire a mother’s helper and cleaning service to make life easier.

  40. Perhaps I wasn’t clear. The foundation will be reinforced concrete but two levels of same, kind of like a house. The existing 2 cars will go on the first floor (upper level) and DH’s future cybertruck and future mower etc. on the lower level. So far Milo is closest on the estimate!

  41. Rhett – excellent point about having the right transportation. I’ll work that into my plans.

    Growing up my best friend lived in a beautiful house that was once the house for the staff of a much larger estate home. On their property was their house, as well as the blacksmith house, and the garage, which was originally used as horse stables. The garage/stables were on a hill, so cars on top and the original horse stables on the lower/walk out level. Her house was magical in the way that your youth allows endless hours of exploration and freedom. We used the blacksmith house as our clubhouse. When L talks about L’Abbey talks it brings back fond memories of my childhood.

  42. When I retired all my leave balances reset to zero, a place I hadn’t been since 1988. Ours accumulates up to a point, that point increases as your tenure increases. Since “returning” to work in 2014, I have used more of my leave as I go along. It was different when I was saving time for maternity leave or knowing I had aging parents. I had a end of November deadline that got moved and hopefully will be wrapped up before Christmas. Then I have another major deadline in March. My goal is to get a chunk to another group for editing and then take a long weekend alone after DD#2 goes back to college.

    Fred – I would call that rebalancing. If one area of your portfolio is growing to be a greater proportion than meets your plan, rebalancing makes sense. I would also consider it “prudent” to spend current cash for a project (either scheduled or speeded up a bit) rather than investing it and then spending your invested money. The main reason is the potential cost (transaction cost to buy/sell plus any short-term tax gain) might not be in your best interest. Given all the current goings on, I have a bigger cash position than usual. I used part of it to get a room painted and my concrete patio refinished because the contractor needed to fill some down time after Thanksgiving and charged a bit less than it would have been.

  43. We also need to replace some old windows . DH really doesn’t want to do it because none of the replacements will look as good as the originals, and he’s really a stickler for original architecture. But some of the old ones are starting to fail and the energy efficiency is terrible. So I’m compromising for now and I think we’ll replace just those that aren’t visible from the front of the house.

    I hate spending money on this sort of thing, old houses are such money pits.

  44. “So far Milo is closest on the estimate!”

    Wow! We’re contemplating some renovations next year, and we’ve speculated what the cost might be. A moderate kitchen remodel (new cabinets and move the fridge), add a small bathroom, and a large dormer. I was lowballing and then H said it’ll be $100k if it’s a dollar. I think that could be in the ballpark???

  45. “So far Milo is closest on the estimate!” I’m proud to be in silver medal position!

    I figured area * $250 and rounded up.

  46. We also need to replace some old windows . DH really doesn’t want to do it because none of the replacements will look as good as the originals, and he’s really a stickler for original architecture.

    There was a This Old House that involved renovating an older home and there are companies that specialize in refurbishing old windows. They did a really amazing job and when everything was put back the way it was supposed to be, the energy efficiency wasn’t too bad and they looked great. That might be something to consider.

    https://www.thisoldhouse.com/watertown-house/21015145/investing-in-old-windows

  47. “I figured area * $250 and rounded up.”

    Sounds like that’s the ballpark for living spaces that are insulated, heated, have plumbing, etc.

  48. Ivy,

    One other factor I wasn’t aware of is how terrified some people are at the prospect of a new job. As bad as their current situation may be, they are just too afraid of change. So to deal with that fear that pretend that all jobs are equally sucky.

  49. “You need depreciating assets to live. You need a mattress, sofa, water heater, etc.

    For example someone could say, “I’m going great financially because I fully fund my retirement and I have $100k in cash.” But if the asphalt roof is 30 years old. The mattress is all lumpy. The springs are coming through the couch. The cars both have 200k miles on them. You can’t go out on the deck due to termite damage. You need a French drain put in to deal with the basement, etc. Then you’re not really in a very good financial position at all. There is a lot of deferred maintenance.”

    But I thought we were talking about a chunk of cash that would otherwise go into investments? So you’re assuming that someone is living in deprivation in order to invest more? I’m assuming that they already have that covered via savings accounts for things like a new roof and new car, and the money you get is the money you would invest above and beyond that. So if I take that leftover money and go buy something instead of investing it, all I’m doing is inflating my lifestyle.

    This is not theoretical for me, btw, since DH and I both get over half our pay between December and March. We basically live and cover our 401(k)s and some basic savings out of our take-home, and then we use the end-of-year as both additional investment/debt paydown and fun extras (my car, the garage, etc.). But the spend vs. save is based entirely on what we want to buy/how much we need to save to stay on track, vs. what the market is doing. And I am very conscious that anything fun we do with that money needs to be factored into our long-term plans if we want to be able to keep doing stuff like that after we retire.

    @L: I would be stunned if your garage were less than $250K. You are basically building a 1,000′ two-story house — and not a simple one, either. We did a very basic 24’x24′ square one-story garage from a magazine plan — on slab, minimal grading, gable roof, a parking space next to it (and a new asphalt driveway, which was desperately needed), new concrete sidewalk and a pergola to the house, and a new small porch roof over about 10′ of that. I think we ended up around $80K. And we’re not paying MA prices.

  50. Finn- storm windows is actually a brilliant idea. Just googled and it looks like interior storm windows exist as well…that would solve the lead paint problem which gives me such anxiety with our current windows and small kids in the house. Wouldn’t solve the fact that they’re painted shut but I can live with that. Thank you.

  51. Kim, that is the ballpark, but things seem to be more expensive around here. There is a lot of demand so there isn’t as much room for negotiation. Also, it isn’t as easy to negotiate the price for certain things since there continue to be shortages.

    Windows are a big expense, but you guys will love your new windows when the house stays warmer or cooler. It is a great investment even though it is painful when you are going through the project.

  52. “Wow!”

    Or neighborhood is yet unfinished. It was all one family’s land for 100 years or more, and then in the 1990s, the guy who had inherited it decided it was time to start cashing out, so he made his own building company and started building one by one.

    He’s old now, and for a number of reasons couldn’t keep up and while he surely has an upper-8, perhaps 9-figure net worth, he wants more so he’s turned over construction on the remaining lots to a large, regional builder.

    To the folks in the neighborhood who have too much time on their hands and too much pride in their modest suburban houses, this is outrageous. The new builder’s designs don’t respect the “colonial integrity” that once made the neighborhood so endearing. As if your brick front, vinyl sided four-bedroom with the palladium window and the double gables was ever really “colonial.” This builder is just offering a slightly more generic version of 2020 American Suburb. (And, to be fair, some of what comes out is a particularly confusing hodgepodge of colonial in the basic window layout, American farmhouse on the front porch, maybe a little prairie’ish with the flat dormers, McCraftsman with the vertical siding, and faux modern with the black window casings. But that one’s still for sale, actually; the buyers must have backed out.)

    Anyway, you should see how these things get built. They’ve got their standard floorplans, and the flatbed truck comes rolling up to the lot and unloads *entire sides of the house,* all framed and ready to be stood up and fastened into place. And that’s how in the Before Times, before the market took off, they were selling 6,000 sf, 7,000 sf houses for $800k or so. And, you know, they’re pretty nice, comfortable, spacious, energy-efficient. If you don’t screw up the design choices too much, as I described previously, and you can set aside your hang-ups about “authenticity” — something that’s never existed in the first place — it’s a good place to live.

    The problem is when people start thinking like Finn and calculating a cost per square foot, then assuming you can translate that into your custom garage based on something you saw in House Beautiful, subtract out insultation, drywall, electric, and voila, there’s your price.

    “We’re contemplating some renovations next year, and we’ve speculated what the cost might be. A moderate kitchen remodel (new cabinets and move the fridge), add a small bathroom, and a large dormer. I was lowballing and then H said it’ll be $100k if it’s a dollar. I think that could be in the ballpark???”

    At least $100k, I would think a lot more. Consider moving instead. Buy something that someone else recently renovated and will not be getting *their* money back on.

  53. I would love a tour of castles/grand houses. I don’t know if it would be worth it to do a stay in the houses. It seems like a lot of fuss and quite scripted with houses offering overnight stays with dinner in the evening, breakfast in the morning and then off you go.

  54. I’m assuming that they already have that covered via savings accounts for things like a new roof and new car, and the money you get is the money you would invest above and beyond that.

    I was thinking more that a car or a roof, if you’re lucky, don’t just suddenly fail and need emergency replacement. You might have a leak that needs to be fixed and the guy might say, “It is 25 years old and you’re going to need to replace it sooner or later.” Or you have Milo’s old Acura and while it still ran it was having more and more issues and the writing was on the wall. So in these instances you might decide to pull this spending forward and say this year we’re getting a new roof and a new car vs. under normal circumstances you might take 2-3 years to pull the trigger.

  55. “There was a This Old House that involved renovating an older home and there are companies that specialize in refurbishing old windows. They did a really amazing job and when everything was put back the way it was supposed to be, the energy efficiency wasn’t too bad and they looked great. That might be something to consider.”

    We did exactly this a few years ago with the windows in the old part of our house (the windows are original to the house — circa 1890). The company did a great job. They refurbished the windows themselves, so that they were all lined up correctly and could open and close really easily (and stay up when opened, rather than slamming down like a guillotine). They also installed a new set of storm windows. The end result was great — we kept our beautiful old windows (with the wavy-glass panes and the old hardwood frames), but we made them totally functional non-drafty. The cost per window was a little less than what a new window would have been.

  56. It seems like a lot of fuss and quite scripted with houses offering overnight stays with dinner in the evening, breakfast in the morning and then off you go.

    A lot of them are just hotels. Marriott has a lot of country house hotels in the UK. We staid at the former home of the Dowager Empress of Germany which is now a Hyatt. They offer dinner and breakfast and a bar but you’re free to do as much or as little as you want.

    https://www.clivedenhouse.co.uk/

    https://schlosshotel-kronberg.com/

  57. The cost per window was a little less than what a new window would have been.

    That’s good for Kim to know. I would have thought it would be a lot more to refurbish them.

  58. In the old-window This Old House article that Rhett posted, the homeowners said, “The main problem was rattles and air leaks.”

    Before we refurbished our old windows, OMG did they rattle during storms. It was dramatic! Now, they are silent. It’s been a few years since we had that work done, but on windy days I still marvel at the fact that I don’t hear any windows rattling!

  59. My sibling is buying a house in the U.K. The amount of scrutiny that he has engaged in before completing the process is mind boggling to me. He got a structural engineer to evaluate the house, particularly the newer addition. Now, obviously there a few issues, nothing major but I feel he is nitpicking and the seller will tell him to take a hike. Apparently next on the list is inquiry into whether there were non native plants on the property. The process in already four months in.

  60. Kim – 2 years ago, we got an estimate for a modestly updated kitchen – new cabinets, countertops, and backsplash. New island to fit the space. We are talking an 11×11 kitchen. Nothing big. $30k easy.

    My current reno – adding a bedroom, “drop zone”, and a deck to our house – is coming in at ~$75k. Supply/demand issues, lack of materials, etc. I asked about waiting and the contractor said he doesn’t expect to see prices fall anytime soon within the next year or two. So your project would easily be $150-200.

    I agree with Milo – look carefully at that renovation. Does it make more sense to move? (We did this calculus for our area, and it makes sense for us to do the renovation, though it’s more than I wanted to spend…).

    L – $400k.

  61. “It’s course 3 of 11.”

    For breakfast?? Get on with it, for God’s sake.

    I’ll go back to the castles in Ireland, where all you have to say when you come down is “full Irish, please” and you get your eggs, grilled mushrooms, grilled tomatoes, Irish sausage (ohh, that sausage!!), bacon, white pudding, black pudding (hard pass there), baked beans, and toast and marmalade.

    It’s the greatest thing in the world.

  62. “Apparently next on the list is inquiry into whether there were non native plants on the property. ”

    What the issue with the non natives?

  63. For breakfast??

    Sure – not 11 of course. But you’d have the plate of fruit, the basket of baked treats, the fancy yogurt, the breakfast entrée, etc.

  64. Cass – it’s some sort of liability issue, if you had non native plants on your property, the neighbors could sue you if you didn’t do your due diligence and the plants came with the house.
    I know here the USDA is very strict about bringing seeds, plants and raw food into the country. I don’t think they have such strict rules about plants and seeds in the U.K. and maybe they end up with more of an issue. Just my guess.

  65. “So your project would easily be $150-200.”

    Well, then I should get on NextDoor and ask for an “excellent contractor that won’t charge an arm and a leg”. I’m sure I’ll find one. ;) Seriously, I will probably get estimates and then scale down. The kitchen is the priority.

  66. “So in these instances you might decide to pull this spending forward and say this year we’re getting a new roof and a new car vs. under normal circumstances you might take 2-3 years to pull the trigger.”

    Eh. I’ve been guilty of that. But it usually has more to do with suddenly feeling rich when the cash hits my bank account. ;-) I can’t even remember what the market was doing last time we did that (2011, Buick).

    “ohh, that sausage!!”

    ITA — adore bangers. FWIW, I’ve found Irish bangers at Aldi once in a while. They’re not quite as good, but they’re the closest thing I’ve found locally. (The ones at Lidl failed abysmally, so don’t even bother)

  67. “Well, then I should get on NextDoor and ask for an “excellent contractor that won’t charge an arm and a leg”. I’m sure I’ll find one. ;) Seriously, I will probably get estimates and then scale down. The kitchen is the priority.”

    You should go on Redfin and look at what’s available for $250k more than what your current place is worth.

  68. “windows rattling!”

    I remember the windows, and dishes, and other things rattling when bombs exploded.

  69. Rhett – I think I’d pull out my phone and be like “excusez-moi, Mademoiselle, but *this* is French toast:

  70. The $150k is probably about right for a bath w/dormer, and other “small projects”. We were quoted $80k just for a bath w/dormer. Instead we went with cheaper option, fitting a bath in the existing pitched roof space for $40k. It was all part of a larger project that was over $200k when all said and done.

    I have a coworker that moves every 5 years or so. Turns out his wife likes new houses, and he doesn’t like to do maintenance, or even think about it. So instead they just move into brand new houses whenever they get the itch. I would guess that moving is more expensive, but it works for them.

  71. is that “French toast” considered the “entree”?

    Not sure. At some places the expectation is that you’d order 2-3 tiny entrees. The idea being that the picture you posted of french toast, while delicious, is a lot of the same flavor. It might be better to have a small portion of three different things.

    You other item might be:

    or

  72. Remember of course, that what we call “French Onion Soup” and “French Toast” (the latter I don’t think actually exists in genuine French places in France) would just be “Onion Soup” and “Toast”
    there.

  73. “I correct myself – the terminology is invasive plants.”

    Aaaah, that make sense.

    Tomatoes and potatoes are non native, but not invasive (in the UK).

  74. Rhett and MIlo…I’m trying to low carb/keto eating over here. Could you all maybe go back to fighting instead of posting yummy pics?

  75. @Rhett – I’m with you. I absolutely love a fancy, lingering breakfast. The fancy buffet at the Four Seasons with the perfectly cut fruit and tiny bowls of perfectly cut ceviche. And they have the best seafood sauce (it’s probably just mayo and hot sauce, but it’s delicious).

  76. I don’t know about where you all live, but here you have to take traffic into consideration! I would not move any further out than we are now, but I would have to in order to get the same amount of house/land that I have now even after the kitchen renno. We just replaced our deck – rotting – and had the patio refinished (basically heavy duty sanded the paint the prior owner had put on it to cover some cosmetic flaws they created. If we don’t like the bare concrete look (though better than what was there), the best alternative (cost and maintenance) is indoor/outdoor carpet. We need more rain to see if/where it puddles in bad places, but so far, so good.

  77. “(the latter I don’t think actually exists in genuine French places in France) ”

    I thought French Toast was a traditional French dish called “pain perdu” or “lost toast” because you make it out of bread that’s gone stale and would otherwise be “lost”.

  78. I like 3:36 because they seem to have included both whipped cream and ice cream. If your day starts with that you know it’s going to be a good day.

  79. “DH and I both get over half our pay between December and March. We basically live and cover our 401(k)s and some basic savings out of our take-home, and then we use the end-of-year as both additional investment/debt paydown and fun extras (my car, the garage, etc.).”

    That’s pretty much us, but without the big bump between December and March.

  80. That guy also makes the soup – called (as Fred said) just “Onion Soup”. And now I’m hungry.

  81. “At least $100k, I would think a lot more. Consider moving instead.”

    But also consider the cost of moving.

    Here, real estate commissions are typically 6%, so commission to sell a median home would be about $48k. Then there’d be other costs associated with selling the house, buying the replacement, and moving, e.g., closing costs. You could easily be looking at $60k or more.

    In that light, $100k might not sound so bad.

  82. “You should go on Redfin and look at what’s available for $250k more than what your current place is worth.”

    There might not be much available right now — inventory is really limited in a lot of communities, and the houses that do come on the market go fast. I think Kim might live in a town that a lot of people who had condos in NYC are now looking to buy in, so even if she were willing to move, it might be hard for her to find a suitable property.

  83. Meme – thanks for the skillet handle cover nudge. On order and coming from Amazon right now!

  84. “I absolutely love a fancy, lingering breakfast. The fancy buffet at the Four Seasons with the perfectly cut fruit and tiny bowls of perfectly cut ceviche.”

    A lot of hotels in Japan have great breakfast buffets.

  85. A lot of hotels in Japan have great breakfast buffets.

    The room service breakfasts are amazing as well.

    Sigh…

  86. Not sure if this counts as timing, but we remodeled in 2011. We started contacting contractors in the end/aftermath of the recession, and found that it was very easy then to get contractors to return our calls.

  87. Ivy,

    At the Ritz in Kyoto the Japanese breakfast comes in a series of tiny boxes each filled with the most intricately crafted delicacies.

  88. Rhett, did you stay at any Ryokan where they bring dinner to your room?

    With three Michelin stars!

  89. “At the Ritz in Kyoto the Japanese breakfast comes in a series of tiny boxes each filled with the most intricately crafted delicacies.”

    I have a new item on my bucket list!

  90. We need some work done, ordinary full house window replacement, new slider, new upstairs carpet, painting might be nice, but I want to be able to move out quickly as needed to a suite style hotel with kitchenette for a few days, and possibly even board the cats. So we will wait for that to be a safe option. And if DH is well enough, at that point we also may prefer to spend money on travel or bridge tournaments.

  91. Lemon Tree – your friend’s house sounds amazing! I hope we can make L’Abbey like that for our kids and their friends! :)

  92. Meme, didn’t you set up an entire apt downstairs for your daughter?

    I was on Milo’s side in the breakfast wars, but Rhett’s pix from Japan won me over. I’m hungriest in the morning, and can happily spend my time investigating one small yummy thing after another. Good German breakfasts aren’t complicated, but I love all the breads & spreads, cheeses, sliced fruits & maybe some veg, a soft-boiled egg eaten from a cup with a spoon… Some cafes put together tasty breakfasts like that, but I’m often impressed at the variety people will pull out for a regular breakfast at home.

    Rhett, I hadn’t heard of Kaiser Will’s place by Frankfurt. You must let me know when you’ll be in Germany again.

    and kissing, obviously.
    That’s another phrase that’s, um, slippery in translation. Turns out that when Germans say “French kissing” (französisch kûssen) they’re talking about lower down. I should make sure my son is aware of that before he has an awkward misunderstanding.

  93. Rhett, I hadn’t heard of Kaiser Will’s place by Frankfurt.

    Oh no not Will. It was built by the Empress Frederick aka Queen Victoria’s eldest daughter also named Victoria. Will (her son) hated her. She was somewhat cutoff after her husband (Frederick III) died. But she inherited a fortune from some childless countess and built the house with that money.

  94. And re: The Empress Frederick, Camilla’s official title is as follows: Her Royal Highness The Princess Charles…

    And you may think that’s crazy. But if you look at newspaper articles from the past they would often say, “Mrs. Charles Stewart and Mrs. Robert Jones hosted a…”. It’s how things used to be.

  95. Rhett, thanks for the explanation! Kind of takes some glow off having his original desk in your room. Royal titles are always a trip, and Germans are big on titles anyhow—the “Herr (or Frau) Professor Doktor”’ thing MM mentioned on the other page is still around. I have none of your knowledge of royal titles (and wouldn’t retain it if you tried to teach me) but I did learn today that Meaghan is apparently a Herzogin (or was, until they stepped down, which that kind of tabloid here appears to be ignoring altogether).

  96. I have decided I’m tired of every damn subscription offer that has this: “At the expiration of the pre-paid year, your subscription will automatically renew on a monthly basis, and your credit card on file will be charged the then-current monthly subscription rate plus tax unless the subscription is cancelled in accordance with your Subscriber Agreement. You may cancel at any time by calling 1-855-cancel!.”

    Just let me subscribe for the period and notify me a month from expiration. Then I can choose whether to re-up. Or let me opt in to the auto-renew.

    I know full well why they do it.

    End of curmudgeonly rant. (though a way to stymie them is to put it on a card that’ll expire before they get around to the renewal charge).

  97. Fred – Most credit card companies “assume” that you will want to continue subscriptions. So they put it through to the card, even if they changed the number because it was lost or stolen, or just sent you the new one with the new expiration date. This is not true of payment on file cards for non recurring purchases, just subscriptions, auto renewals, annual or monthly giving, etc. For recurring merchandise purchases, well, they use the word subscribe for a reason.

  98. To Meme’s point at 9.36, I was told by my credit card company that they let subscription charges come through even if, I changed my card. I scan my credit card charges frequently because I have caught charges from Apple that I didn’t make. It’s easy to hide fraudulent charges, if the merchants you normally buy from are the same as the fraudulent charges.
    I had my Hulu account hacked into and someone bought Disney plus on my account. I contacted Hulu, charges were reversed and I changed my password. In the end, I ended up cancelling Hulu. In order to get good content you need to upgrade to a bundle like Disney or HBO.

  99. ‘Most credit card companies “assume” that you will want to continue subscriptions. So they put it through to the card, even if they changed the number because it was lost or stolen, or just sent you the new one with the new expiration date.’

    That explains a lot. It’s actually a nice convenience most of the time. Another automatic update I’m uncertain about is my Apple Pay credit card, which also seems to get updated automatically.

    “You should go on Redfin and look at what’s available for $250k more than what your current place is worth.”

    I don’t want to spend $250k more on a house. I like my house but would like to enjoy a nicer kitchen while I’m still living here plus I believe it would enhance the sale price, which could occur within the next five years. So no, I’m not interested in moving now. Also, my home’s amenities (location and lot being important ones) would be hard to replicate, especially now during the pandemic.

    I might have already mentioned that recently a neighbor’s house sold within a month at a record price, so comparing my house to theirs got me interested in a minor renovation. I’m pretty sure I could spruce up the kitchen considerably for $50k, but I didn’t realize a dormer would be so expensive. The dormer and bathroom would be for the third floor guest room, which is not a priority and which would not be as important to would-be buyers as a nicer kitchen.

  100. Kim, I agree with you about your property. It isn’t always so easy to put a value on location, location, location, but your home falls into the sweet spot of location for our area. This built in premium exists in towns around the metro area in all three states because there is value in being able to walk to the train. In all 3 states, a premium is placed on homes that have access to a top train line. Even in a post pandemic world, people will eventually return to work in NYC vs. all remote.

  101. We too like our location and neighborhood. Both things are very desirable. Our lot is large and a much larger new home can be built on it. The real estate prices have increased considerably since we moved here.
    It’s going to be a gut remodel for us when we get around to it. I was smiling at Milo’s neighbors defending their “colonials”. Here, there is very little that is saved by way of old houses. Most of the old homes are suburban developments of the 60s. The rest is all mostly new, in the last 20 years or so.

  102. “I don’t know if this is a new thing but they seem to be upgrading the gardens.”

    I did this exact picture of Château de Chambord as a 1,000 piece puzzle last month during lockdown. I felt so accomplished when I finished it!

    And that picture is exactly how it looks in person. We visited it this past summer, and it is by far our favorite château. Covid has put a huge damper on our plans for our time here, but one silver lining is that there are no tourists. I have many pictures from several châteaux with no other people in the picture. There just weren’t many people visiting.

    Please come on a château tour. I will be happy to coordinate all the logistics!

  103. Meme, what fleece lined tights do you recommend? I have two pairs, and both pairs will have to be thrown away after this winter. I’m having trouble finding comfortable tights. I tried several pairs, had to return them, and then gave up and mended the ones that I currently have.

  104. And one thing I’ve noticed just in the past few months in both for-sale listings and in HGTV Magazine is that the terms “master bedroom” and “master bath” are no longer used. It’s now “main bedroom” and “main bath.”

  105. Fun dual discovery here: I get emails from Momofuku, and they are selling DIY bo ssam kits. I went to order one, and they are using Baldor, and it’s listed as “local,” so I thought, dang, it’s going to be NYC only (not a surprise). But they let me order one, and the order went through. Well, today, it arrived! Apparently there is a Baldor in DC, which I didn’t even know! So now I can order all the Baldor stuff y’all have been talking about here. And I have bo ssam to look forward to Friday to boot!

    On the downside, I am now the proud owner of $800 worth of black truffles. !!! I think there was a mixup on their website, because they were listed for like $120, which is *really* cheap (and why I ordered them). Today they showed up, and the price was VERY different. Oh well. I’ve emailed, but I’m assuming that I’m stuck with them because they’re a food item. At least we’ll eat very well for the foreseeable future.

  106. About credit card continuous payments. I had a card canceled due to fraud the day before most of my payments were due. The company at that time would not roll over the payments to the new card and they could not tell me the number of the new card. It was a perfect storm as I had just cancelled my other credit card due to them starting to charge an annual fee. This was a few years back and not everyone took a debit card for payment. It was a mess as I had at least 10 different things auto-pay from DD’s school to kungfu classes to my gym membership to the utilities. I had to call them all and talk them out of late fees, etc.

    Since then I have had to change my card twice due to fraud. The first time the company gave me 30 days to give the new card number to the auto-pay vendors. The second time it just auto rolled and I didn’t have to do anything.

  107. NoB – yes, that’s very similar to what I was trying to describe yesterday. the front porch is like a farmhouse, imo, the shed dormers on the left and rear are Cape Cod/Colonial. The black windows I just don’t get at all. Modern? And I consider the “vertical” siding sort of Crafstmany.

    They do refer to the “master suite.” Honestly, this language control is getting to be a bit much. What’s next?

  108. Large porches define what I call the “new” Southern style. And just like the picture NoB posted, you can tell that it’s a new house because it’s usually white with black trim. Older houses even from the 90s are the red brick look.

  109. If I knew how to post pictures, I’d post a pic of the new build next door. It is a blend of what I call Scandinavian farmhouse, modern, and colonial. The exterior includes vertical siding, horizontal siding, stone, wood (think shiplap) and I’m told stucco (that part isn’t done yet). Multiple dormers, plus, two types of roofing – asphalt shingles and metal. It is one of the uglier ones. The other new builds in the area are more Scandinavian farmhouse.

  110. Milo — Oh, I see that the Realtor used “master suite” in their description. But in the floorplan (one of the photos), they use the term “main bedroom”, “main closet”, and “main bath.” I guess the terminology is in a “transitional” period.

  111. Okay, it isn’t as bad as that one! My eyes hurt looking at the vertical siding…And the extra gable accents are a nice touch. I’d say that house is mix of colonial, modern, Rocky Mountain cabin, and 1980s English Tudor.

  112. I’m not a fan of the black-window-trim trend. To me, when you look at a house with that feature, you end up seeing big black holes where the windows are supposed to be.

  113. I didn’t have a chance to comment yesterday, but the renovation prices seem about right. We are finishing our attic – full demo, new everything, lots and lots of built-in bookshelves, add a bathroom with shower in existing space and that will be about $180K. Our architect said everything was just a little bit off structurally making it more expensive to do. We had a few other estimates, so I feel like it is a fair price.

    We are also updating the kitchen with new marmoleum floors, soapstone counters, new sink and faucet, replacing a 1/3 of the cabinets and getting a new counter depth fridge, new paint, new lights, new cabinet hardware. We don’t have the estimate broken out for just the kitchen, but I think it would be around $50K. No changes to the layout of the kitchen.

  114. TCM. You are a woman after my own heart. We have marmoleum floor in the kitchen breakfast nook and entrance hall, And I wanted soapstone, but it wasnt available from the nationwide cabinet refacing package vendor. Quartz turned out fine.

  115. No need for expressions of care, but my sister in law (first marriage) and her husband both have covid. Late 60s, multiple health issues, took lots of precautions, but live in a heartland college town, so lots of community spread, Not clear how they got it, possibly cleaners. She was hospitalized but was sent home as not quite bad enough to use up a needed bed. They are weakly taking care of selves. He still has 101 fever, and was not teaching this semester recovering from major heart surgery, and current is the better off one. Sis can barely get out of bed. Friends drop off food on the porch, but they have little appetite. Young adult kids live elsewhere. They are expected to recover, eventually. This is merely a anecdotal descriptive report of an actual case “for the record”, not a political statement.

  116. Here they are starting to call it “owners suite”. I had to look up marmoleum – interesting product.

    I’d like to hear the tights recommendation from Meme as well.

  117. Houston, the url has many options and colors, fleece, no fleece, pocket, no pocket. Selection of fleece now very limited. I took an XL. Long, but perfect fit. I line dry.

  118. Someone in DD’s class has Covid so we have to get her from school. No one in her class had it thus far, so this is the closest brush since school started in August.

  119. Houston — a full pound. It’s like 3 really big ones.

    Rhett — oh yeah, a truffle feast will be coming. I see a truffle and taleggio pizza, some truffle pasta, truffle mac and cheese . . . .

  120. I like the aesthetic of the modern farmhouse style as linked by NoB at 8:17. If I were purchasing I’d have to be careful to make sure it wasn’t an unattractive mish mash of styles.

    So far we’ve bought three of the lamps that Ivy linked the other day, one in black and two in white. Thanks! Now I need to get rid of the old-style oiled brass swing arm lamp on my desk. I love the look but the new lamp is so much more practical.

  121. Oooohhhhh, that fonduta is definitely making its way into my kitchen.

    It’s funny, my dad’s new house looks a fair bit like that farmhouse style NoB posted (although I don’t think they have the black windows). Except it’s not “new” — they completely re-did my step-grandma’s house that she grew up in, which was a brick rancher with walk-out basement. At the time, I hadn’t seen any other houses like that, but I’m guessing they were just ahead of the trend.

  122. “ Classist, and anti-renter.” Lol. Snort. My guess is that Black people care more about the difference in infant and maternal mortality rates than they do what you fall your bedroom suite.

  123. The house NoB linked has laundry on the second floor. DH is passionately opposed to this when we look at houses for structural reasons. Any engineers here have an opinion?

  124. Becky, is he worried about water damage if a washer floods or a line breaks? I assume he’s not worried about the weight of the appliances. You can mitigate risk with a washing machine pan and other measures, but certainly flooding is worse on the second floor than in the basement.

    Second floor laundry would not be a dealbreaker for me on a house but might be for DH.

  125. We have a laundry on the second floor, one of our best renovation decisions. Our only concern is water damage should a leak occur. But that could happen, and has happened to us, with a second floor bathroom. We have a water turn off valve for when the machine is not in use and metal hoses that are unlikely to fail. Plus we have a drain below the washer that would catch any leak.

  126. “They do refer to the “master suite.” Honestly, this language control is getting to be a bit much. What’s next?”

    I try to take the Rhett approach to things like this. Not a very big deal to me one way or the other, and I know exactly what they mean either way, so if some people find one way to be offensive, the other way is fine with me.

  127. I’m far from an engineer, but didn’t Rhode have all sorts of issues a few years ago because water leaked down from the second floor, destroying everything underneath? I’m not sure that’s an argument against an upstairs laundry room though—my parents’ ceiling caved in a couple summers ago because of a slow drip in a bathroom pipe, so unless your husband wants to run downstairs when he has to pee in the middle of the night, you’re already exposed to that danger. Guess you could get a first floor grand suite that includes laundry & bath. Only half kidding—not unusual over here for washing machines to be in the bathroom.

  128. Becky, when I posted, I saw that several others had already said the same thing.

    Finn, I like your answer.

  129. Our realtor did all the labeling as “primary bedroom” when we recently sold our house. But all the real estate people involved (him, the photo people, the lawyer, the virtual tour guy, etc) were all definitely getting used to it AND rolling eyes a bit – including the non-white people.

  130. The modern farmhouse is what all the new builds are here. This one sold for $4.3M in 2018; good location, .25 acre lot, 3k sqft.

    We’ve already put a lot of $$ into our 1970s house, but would need to spend at least an additional $1M for a house with an extra 500 sqft. So we will be staying for awhile and potentially adding on at some point.

  131. Most of our local friends that renovated or upgraded their homes in the last two years selected black windows with the white farmhouse look for the exterior. I predict that in ten years, I will be able know when a house was built/renovated thanks to this distinct look that is very popular around here since 2018. The same is true for the people that also carry that into her kitchens and bathrooms.

  132. @WCE – I also chuckle at what the powers that be at HGTV/home design seem to consider “farmhouse” or “Modern Farmhouse”. The interior details too. Not “farmhousey” at all IME.

  133. His concern is around structural problems from decades of vibration from the appliances. There are specific incidents in his past that he is basing it in, but I don’t remember them. SM, our bedroom is on the first floor, along with a couple of bathrooms and the laundry room, so we have no issues. Most homes around me have first floor main bedrooms.

  134. I recently went through a process at work to change documentation of some of our systems to remove the terms ‘master’ or ‘slave’ and replace with ‘primary’ or ‘secondary’. Other options were suggested if primary/secondary were not adequate replacements. My reaction to the request: “Got it, will do ASAP.”

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