economic outlook - remodeling - oldtimers

gibby2015June 6, 2008

I miss all you people who used to post something interesting in here once in a while - Celtic's post made me think of that. So I thought I would post something to see if anyone "surfaces".

The post on the other side from the person who is not going forward with the kitchen remodel due to DH's job uncertainty at Ford really has me thinking. That and all the economic gloom and doom. YIKES what are we in for!! My DH is at a new job for just a few months - he had two offers neither of which was an ideal job but he felt compelled to accept one since he was not employed and the economic outlook wasn't that great. Now it's even worse. The company he went to work for was aquired by a Japanese company not too long before he started and they are now making significant investments in improvements - hiring - etc. but we are both wondering if that may change abruptly. My job is pretty stable I think - healthcare related and I have been at the company for eight years (as of today).

I tend to be one of those people who considers everything that might go wrong so I mitigate risk - be prepared - etc. I don't really worry - I just think and plan - and plan for things that never happen. I'm thinking this economic downturn is going to be worse than anything I've experienced in my lifetime and I'm feeling the need to "hunker down" and save as much money as possible. But maybe I'm being a bit of a Chicken Little. I'm sure if it were now and I was about to remodel my kitchen I would be completely different - either I wouldn't do it at all or I would do it much more frugally than I did three years ago. And I would think there would be A LOT fewer people splurging on all the high end appliances, etc.

I think things are going to change significantly - worse before it gets better - and that the change will last for years. Like the last bubble has finally burst - dot com burst - real estate boom burst - throw in lots of people overextended thinking the good times will never end - dollar sinking and cost of fuel skyrocketing and we are in deep doo doo. I think it could be very difficult for some people - there are two generations of people who have not experienced major hardships like WWI, WWII or the great depression. As my mom used to say - we've been living high on the hog (or is that high off the hog) for quite a while compared with what my parents' and grandparents' generations experienced.

Okay - am I overly skeptical and others are more optimistic?

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I'm with you Gibby --- Nervous and feeling the need to hunker down.

When we bought this house, our plan was to renovate a nice-sized older custom home in a beautiful established neighborhood into a beautiful up-to-date energy-efficient same-nice-sized home in a beautiful established neighborhood. We had initial cost, renovation and resale figures in our heads and life was good.

Then comes the real estate boom and the neighborhood shifts into Super-Sized mode. The super-sized houses sell for twice what our resale expectation was, and anything less than super-sized becomes "Lot Value". Oh dear. Change of plans. Now the water is deep. We're OK, but now there's financial risk at a level that's not 100% comfortable. To be competitive, everything needs to be bigger and better. OK.

Now we're mid-renovation (revised, super-sized version) and along comes the recession. Fortunately, we're not seeing a real estate bust here, but the 'hunker-down mentality' has put a dent into the super-sized market. And while I totally agree, philosophically, with the scale-back, it is going against my economic interests in a pretty big way.

I'm nervous about the future too.
In a serious, long-term way.

    Bookmark   June 6, 2008 at 10:32PM
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I'm relieved that I'm not the only one. "Hunker Down" is actually the exact term I've been using. We had a financial crisis (unexpected job loss) a few years ago and it really caused us to reevaluate things. We got out of debt completely except for the mortgage and have kept it that way. The job situation has been back on track for two years, we've got 6-months expenses in cash in the bank, and I should feel thankful and secure. But I don't. My company (60K employees worldwide) seems to reorganize almost weekly, and DH does contract work.

We have saved up a nice little sum to do some work on this house and I'm having trouble parting with the cash. I don't know that $15,000 will make or break us, but I just can't pull the trigger to order the cork, order the driveway gate, or drive to IKEA to get the cabinets. It is frustrating DH and I'm going to have to find a compromise of some kind.

    Bookmark   June 6, 2008 at 11:27PM
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I'm interested in what other people are thinking and doing, too. Good topic, Gibby.

We're at the tail end of a (low) six figure remodel which included over 500 new sf. Ours wasn't anything la-di-da or extravagant. Actually, we approached our project with this in mind: Since we love everything about where we live except what we live in, we decided to make the next ten years (target retirement date) more enjoyable by improving and enlarging. We had enough leeway to do it, as our home had nearly tripled in appreciation before the remodel. We stretched our budget as far as we could, and we didn't quite get as much done as we'd hoped, but we're pleased with what we've got without over-extending ourselves.

Even if we were struck by catastrophe in this down-market, we'd still make money on our house -- and that's a huge blessing when I say my prayers at night. I saw that post on the other side, too -- these are uncertain times for many of us.

I agree that, economically, things will get worse before they'll get better, and that "worse" will probably last longer than we want. Forget gas -- look at how the price of food keeps rising.

    Bookmark   June 6, 2008 at 11:30PM
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Great topic.

I'm in "hunker down" mode too. DH and I made a lot of careful choices - like the el cheapo kitchen facelift rather than an all out remodel. And I'm still driving my now 12 year old Toyota. Paid off the house against advice of pundits who preach leverage. Loaded up on reserve cash. Got ready for whatever.

Course I didn't see "whatever" coming. But I was glad for our frugality when DH ran into problems and suspended his income. Even when he was contemplating not working at all again, I would just re crunch my numbers, take a deep breath and say, "yeah, it'll be OK... cut a bit here, I'll just work a bit more there... yeah it'll be OK...We can do this." (Turns out he will likely get back to work. Gotta say I'm relieved.)

I have been wondering for some time when this consumption driven economy would collapse. The escalating real estate market seemed to me like a chain letter based on an unrealistic ever expanding base of capital. We had the dual income buttress, then the stock market run up, then the real estate run up, then the equity cash out, then...???

What the heck WAS supposed to be the next thing to keep it all afloat? Some myth of rising salaries or equity in a non-inflationary context? I think we are facing quite the opposite.

Geez, that sounds so glooomy and dire...

    Bookmark   June 7, 2008 at 1:31AM
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We're in hunker down mode, as well. Thank goodness I have a secure union job with benefits. DH is working for an electrical contractor but times are tough. We're lucky if he works 30 hours a week, so the fact that my income is steady and I carry the benefits is a blessing. Our house is modest and remodeled from the late 90's and early 2000's, and everything is maintained well. Our landscaping is another story. We were hoping to spend some money tidying that up. Now that's on hold, probably for longer than we originally anticipated given the dismal state of the economy. But there's always sweat equity! If we really want to landscape we'll do it ourselves. Thank goodness we have rental income from a cottage on our property, which helps in paying the mortgage (a lot).

We both drive older cars, mine being a 2000 Toyota Rav4, and DH's being a 2004 Toyota Tacoma, both in very good condition. The RAv4 is paid and the Tacoma's loan will be done within 6 months. We also have a third car, which is our "little red putt-putt". She ain't purty, but gets good mileage and saves mileage on our other cars.

Between the price of gas and food escalating every day, and rising taxes here in NYS, things are looking very dicey. We've had a vacation to Gettysburg planned and paid for since last year, but the price of gas is going to really eat into our take-along $$. We're hoping we can do some of the entertainment and dining out "on the cheap".

In the warm months we have a large vegetable garden that supplies us with a nice variety of produce. We have romaine, leaf lettuce, swiss chard, green beans, snow peas, carrots, cucumbers, summer squash, scallions, tomatoes, and potatoes, which will keep us going for the summer. I also can a lot for the cold months. Since we started everything, except a few tomato plants, from seed, our initial cost was minimal.

We're thankful that we're not spendthrifts and live a pretty modest life because if it were otherwise, we'd be in dire straits.

    Bookmark   June 7, 2008 at 7:42AM
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Now we're mid-renovation (revised, super-sized version) and along comes the recession.

We are not in a recession, at least one we know about. Recessions are usually declared after the fact, after economic data can be analyzed. I have included a link to a blog that explains we are in what is called an expansion, which I never knew about before.

You have to remember we are in an election cycle and the media loves to spill forth stories about doom and gloom.

I am not saying everything is hunky dory from where I am sitting...

*I live in Michigan. As we say here, "When the country sneezes, Michigan catches a cold.". There are lots of people leaving the state because they have lost their jobs and found work - or maybe just opportunities - elsewhere.

*This house purchase and reno is hitting us a lot harder than we originally and prudently planned because of the down turn in the RE market. We had a house sit on the market ( with us making two house and utility payments) for nine months when in late 2006 it would have sold within 10 days a year before. When we eventually did sell, it was at a 10% loss in equity.

*Like everyone else, these gas prices are hitting us hard. I drive 300 miles a week just to take the kids to school.

I'm not being a Pollyanna. I think times are tight. However, I don't think they are as bad as we have been lead to believe. Try getting your economic (and other) news from various sources - not just CNN and MSNBC. It will give you a more well-rounded perspective.


Here is a link that might be useful: fabiusmaximus blog

    Bookmark   June 7, 2008 at 10:12AM
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Sorry, that should read...

"In late 2006 we had a house sit on the market ( with us making two house and utility payments) for nine months, when it would have sold within 10 days a year before. "


    Bookmark   June 7, 2008 at 10:18AM
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Well, I'm glad to see I'm not the only one a bit concerned. Even DH is and he is the eternal optimist though a complete skeptic about the media (no CNN or MSNBC for him). He actually likes to get some of his news from foreign media since they don't share the same bias as US.

Celtic's comment about collapse of this consumption driven economy is one of the things that I really wonder about too. I think this is one of the things that is unique to our time - so many people into buying so much stuff - and must have it now whether they have the cash to buy it or not. I just think it's kind of a "perfect storm" situation that couldn't continue forever - and now we're in for a big correction.

This is really philosophical but frankly as a society we might be better off in the long run if we have some kind of correction. It would probably be better if more people were focused on things other than working like crazy to acquire more and bigger and better relatively meaningless stuff. And I'm not saying I'm not somewhat guilty of this myself - I work too much at the expense of other things but I'm not so much into acquiring more stuff - just more financial security for the long run. But ideally I'd rather be spending more time doing something good for other people rather than spending all my time in the corporate rat race. I do find myself thinking more about how to retire from this so I can do something more meaningful - which also leads to wondering about economic issues over the coming years.

    Bookmark   June 7, 2008 at 11:15AM
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"It would probably be better if more people were focused on things other than working like crazy to acquire more and bigger and better relatively meaningless stuff."

Very true. I also believe that statement is valid no matter what the state of our ecomony is ;o) Folks should try to find meaning out of mundane, every day things, like gardening, reading, playing board games with the family, and entertaining at home.

    Bookmark   June 7, 2008 at 12:45PM
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"What the heck WAS supposed to be the next thing to keep it all afloat?

Of course, I completely forgot about the economic incentive checks! That's supposed to make it all better, right?

Even my cognitively disabled brother isn't falling for that. He announced to me yesterday that he got his check and he knows he is 'supposed' to spend it, but he put it in the bank cause he thinks he is gonna need that money later.

    Bookmark   June 7, 2008 at 1:25PM
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Hi, Gibby!

Great topic. I'm glad we finished our renovation when we did (2 years ago? 3 years ago? 4? I guess it depends on your definition of finished). Had things been like today's economic climate, I would probably have waited. I am feeling very edgy about the world in general, though I have a spark of hope now that things, at least as far as our global relations are concerned, may soon improve. Nevertheless, we have too many poor choices and entrenched patterns under our belts--things that bequeath long term effects--to think that things will simply turn around soon. But I also think there are some silver linings, if you want to call them that, to our current situation in that it sort of forces some positive change on us. Well, positive from my perspective, anyway--cutting back on conspicuous consumption, really investing in alternative energy possibilities, waking us up to the idea that the choices we make today will not simply impact future generations (easy to dismiss) but ourselves and our children. I have to admit that I have been guilty of wanting more-more-more, but I have not acted on that impulse too often. I sure see how I could, though, if money were not an issue and everyone in my circle was doing the same.

As it is, I would find it difficult today to go into a remodel with the gusto I did when we did our living room addition/kitchen project. We were planning on adding a master bedroom suite but that project has been discarded, probably forever. I think in a few years we'll remodel our current bedroom but I doubt we'll add on again.

    Bookmark   June 7, 2008 at 8:04PM
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Wow I hardly ever look in here anymore but glad I did tonight. I agree with you all. IÂve had a bad feeling for months now. CanÂt really put a name to it but feel like something is coming and itÂs not good. We are hunkered down and stocked up. My pantry has never been this full. We are keeping more cash in the house than we ever did before. I am concerned with our banking system. I hope we never have to find out how the FDIC insurance works.

With everything in the news gloom and doom you can take your pick. Economy, mortgage crisis, fuel crisis, natural disasters, pandemic, summer fire season is here, water shortages, food costs, terrorist attack. The list could go on and on, put that together with every city, county, state and ever the feds constantly telling us they are running out of money. Robbing Peter to pay Paul. It all has to come together at some point and it will be very bad for a long time.

One of my worries is what will happen when food prices get so high that those of us that can still afford to buy any will need an armed guard to get to our cars. Or even worse what will happen when we start running out of food in this country. I donÂt think we produce enough at this point to take care of our own. My DD said she heard about an increase of muggings, robberies, but the bad guys were not taking womenÂs purses but taking their grocery carts. Now thatÂs a fun thought!

We are very close to retirement. Have everything in place with what we thought was a good plan. No debt, enough invested to last for the rest of our lives. The 5 year remodel done, well almost done, the big ticket item all done. Our plans to travel will probably have to be put on hold and I donÂt even want to think about what they may do or not do with health care. Just another crisis!

I glad to find out that I am not alone in my thinking.

    Bookmark   June 9, 2008 at 2:09AM
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Hmmm, I just came back to Kitchens for some advice and saw this topic. Very timely. I am in the "dithering" mode. What to do? What to do?

I was on the verge of replacing my '96 Accord with an Acura or Lexus. Forget that. Now I am looking at a Prius (or I should say I would be looking at one if there was one to be found!) or a Civic Hybrid. I think I'll hang on to the Accord for another year.

I have no debt and live conservatively. I am/was hoping to retire in three years when I am 64, but am watching my savings disappear before my eyes.

I am/was hoping to expand and renovate my 60 year old bathroom as well as a few other improvements, all to the tune of about $25-30,000. I just cannot decide whether I should go ahead with it.Am I condemning myself to having to work more years? If I go ahead and retire, am I condemning myself to pinching pennies? Like Partst, I was looking forward to a retirement of travel and leisure.

The bathroom improvement would certainly increase the value of the house. That's fine, but I'm not planning on moving.

Has anyone noticed how SUVs have disappeared almost overnight? I swear there are about 80% fewer on the roads, which is fine with me. I was never a fan and felt they epitomized American excess.

It is comforting to know I am not alone in my dithering!

    Bookmark   June 9, 2008 at 12:50PM
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I live a fairly conservative lifestyle already so for me, not much is changing. We don't spend a lot on frivolous stuff, we save a lot (that's how I was able to do the remodel) and have no debt except the mortgage. I haven't had a car payment if 5 years and I'm happy to just keep driving my 11 year old SUV for a while. Ya, I said SUV!

I live about 15 minutes from work and on average I fill up about once every two weeks. So even with gas prices going up, I find it cheaper to keep filling up my SUV than to have a new car payment. DH works about a mile from home!!

I now have two kids in college so the next four years are going to be "hunker down" anyway. Of course no one can tell what will happen tomorrow, but for me, worrying about gloom & doom doesn't work. I just can't dwell on that stuff. I think for me, the lifestyle choices I abide by sort of hedge against hard times (I HOPE!) so I just plug along and hope for the best while remaining prepared for the worst.

As for my kitchen remodel, well, I definitely needed to get it done before college began for either kid or else wait until after so that decided the timing. I plan to live in this house forever so resale or getting back out what I've put in doesn't enter the picture. All of the improvements we've made to this house since we bought in 1998 are for us. And I'm still working on it. Last thing I did was get new leaded glass doors for all three outer doors, next thing will be to redo the driveway (oh BOY does it need redoing). And the list goes on.

I have a special "house savings account" which is separate from other accounts and into which I put what I consider to be disposable money (after everything else gets paid for & saved for) on a monthly basis. When I have enough for the next project I go forward. Might be a couple of years till that driveway gets done and that's ok.

So... If I were doing the remodel this year (assuming kids' college was in future as it was when I did do it), would I still do it? More than likely, yes. Because I'd have saved up the money, I'd have shopped & picked everything out and I'd be ready financially, mentally & physically to do it.

    Bookmark   June 10, 2008 at 12:14PM
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I appreciate this topic gibby, because it's all been swirling and twirling in my head as I see our standards of living have changed. I was telling dh this morning that I was grateful we did our remodeling when we did, as I think none of it would have happened if ''then'' were ''now''. Fortunately for us, we didn't do any of it until we could pay for it, and we bought our home before housing prices shot through the roof. You know, now that I think about it, our Standards haven't really changed, only the amount of dollars I feel free to make choices with have. I waste far less, and value what I do have more. In fact, thinking about it realistically, I feel like I've always been able to live well, even on little money because I don't actually value the things people have...yet more their personal qualities.

Whatever happens, I know I have the skills to get through it. I've had no money, and ''some'' money, and fortunately know how to economize. It doesn't bother me to drive an old car, or do my entertaining at home. I don't get in my car anymore however, and ''go places'' like I used to! It wouldn't hurt most of us to eat less, drive less or consume less of almost everything. Reuse and recycling as a lifestyle because it's necessary, is good for the planet. Finding alternative choices to fossil fuels is going to be painful until we figure it out, and the high price of oil/food looks like the spark that's finally going to bring about change. Our personal struggle with this economy is figuring out what it's going to take (in the future) to live on a fixed income as we near retirement. More of our $$ seem to go now to cover basic living expenses, whereas before we were better able to save.

A friend of mine is worried for her newly married daughter and son-in-law who don't seem to have a handle on how to manage their money. It's their generation I'm also concerned for as they seem less skilled at how to handle credit, and so many feel entitled to have it all. They don't want to buy anything ''used'', even when they don't have the $ to manage their desires. Bankruptcy is a term that is part of their vocabulary as they try to figure it out.

You know, it often takes a crisis to learn how to rise to the challenge. I'm just grateful that today, I feel capable of coping! The good news is, with all that's changing so drastically...we're all in the same boat. As our priorities take a different shape, hopefully so do our values as a society.

    Bookmark   June 10, 2008 at 3:53PM
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