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Post ItWe’ve had a full plate the past few weeks – buying your first house and planning for a move is no piece of cake, especially while keeping on top of  your day-to-day to-dos.

We’re moving in to our new house in a couple weeks, work is bopping, and I’m also now keeping on top of two other blogs – one for 360PR and the other for the New England Games and Interactive Entertainment SIG.

So, Dan and I are going on a bit of a hiatus for the next few weeks. Once we get settled in (and get the Internet up and running in the new digs), we’ll be back at it!

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Critter

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‘Twas three days before Christmas and all through the house, not a creature was stirring…except for a crafty mouse.

Our premises have been breached by a stealthy intruder. The casualties thus far include some peanut M&Ms and a brand-new bag of delicious Cape Cod potato chips (sea salt and cracked pepper). No one has yet been witness to its crimes, but the suspect is thought to resemble a dirty cotton ball with a tenacious appetite for the sweet and salty.

I don’t know how this little bastard is getting into the cupboard but, much like my bat-wrangling father before me, I’m prepared to sit in the dark all night long armed with a broom, hockey mask, and brown paper bag – ready to pounce at a moments notice. Yes indeed, I may hurt myself and break several dishes in what will surely be a futile attempt to catch Fivel’s evil twin, but dammit, I’m a man. And as any good man would, I fully intend to take this way too far. You’ve been warned, critter. You’re next bite of candy-coated chocolate just might be your last!

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The unofficial end to summer has come and gone (Labor Day), the official end to summer is fast approaching (Autumnal Equinox)…and I couldn’t be happier. This is the best time of year in New England. Sure I love summer, and yeah, the dwindling daylight is a bummer, but there are just so many things I love about the fall:

●  NFL, college football, fantasy football
●  Pennant races, October baseball
●  Foliage – I’ll admit it, I dig foliage
●  Orion starts creeping up over the horizon – I’ll admit it, I dig constellations
●  Stews, braised meats, roasted birds, and other comforting fare
●   Crispy morning air that will wake you up better than a shot of espresso
●   And of course, our wedding anniversary 🙂

And get this, all the suffering through the tedious rain we endured during the summer is paying off in spades for the fall harvest. Cranberry and apple farmers in New England are expecting one of the most bountiful, colorful, and juiciest harvests in years. Extra helpings of cranberry sauce and apple pie all around!

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This week might just be my wackiest yet of 2008.

So, to kick things off on Monday night I attended the Publicity Club of New England’s annual Bell Ringers – the Oscars of the New England PR world. I enjoyed myself – food was good and I loved the steel drum band. The award show usually runs about 4 hours, so I didn’t get home until after 11pm. After getting only about 3 hours of sleep, Dan and I were then ripped from our slumber by the pungent smell of burning house.

I guess some old wires short circuited behind one of the walls in the hallway that leads up to the apartment above us (we live in a two-family). We stood out on the curb for 2 hours while about 20 Newton firemen gathered around the house, geared up and then entered the “danger zone.” Our apartment didn’t suffer any damage – as the fire stayed within the walls – but the whole house was filled to the brim with smoke. The couple that lives upstairs, however, haven’t really been home since the fire because they can’t use their bathroom (the firemen had to rip up the walls to extinguish the fire in the wall on the floor below.)

    

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

On top of all this, work has been hectic. We made a HUGE announcement for one of my clients, so we’ve been busy, to say the least. In addition, Dan and I went to go see Eric Clapton last night at Great Woods (aka The Comcast Center, formerly the Tweeter Center). The concert was a blast. The second we walked through the gates I said to Dan’s mom “so, what are the chances we’re going to run into someone we know?” Out of the thousands of people at the venue, within minutes of us being there, we ran into a whole family that we knew from Hopkinton. I called it.

Because of the fire, we’ve also had workers in and out of our apartment – insurance adjusters, cleaning crews, electricians, and the like. Luckily I’ve got a couple days off – and I need them. My sister’s bridal shower is this weekend and I’ve got to wrap up the planning. Can you say “go, go, go?”

Despite all the craziness, we were really lucky that the fire wasn’t worse. There was no damage to our “stuff”, and, more importantly, no one got hurt!

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…crude oil $125 per barrel, climate change, energy independence, insufficient electricity infrastructure, volatile prices, and the list goes on…

Energy efficiency is probably the most successful but least appreciated strategy for dealing with the significant energy challenges we face in blazing our country’s path to prosperity during the 21st century.

For example, U.S. energy consumption at the end of 2008 is expected to total half of the energy consumed in 1970 thanks to investments in energy efficiency according to a new report from the American Council for an Energy-Efficient Economy. And, there remains a huge amount of opportunity for additional, profitable investments (a recent McKinsey study estimated the existing energy efficiency market is about $170 billion per year to the tune of a 17% annual rate of return). Here is a summary of the ACEEE report:

Washington, D.C. – It’s the U.S. energy boom that no one knows about. Energy efficiency may be the farthest-reaching, least-polluting, and fastest-growing energy success story of the last 50 years. But it also is the most invisible, the least understood, and in serious danger of missing out on needed future investments. The ACEEE report, The Size of the U.S. Energy Efficiency Market: Generating a More Complete Picture, concludes that “…our nation is not aware of the role that energy efficiency has played in satisfying our growing energy-service demands…the contributions of efficiency often go unrecognized. The contributions of energy efficiency often remain invisible…” The report also notes that although efficiency is a proven resource, it remains underdeveloped. “In short, the evidence suggests that efficiency can make an even larger contribution towards stabilizing energy prices and reducing greenhouse gas emissions – should we choose to fully develop it.”

Key report findings include:

  • The U.S. stands to gain enormously from additional investments in energy efficiency, and could reasonably reduce consumption by as much as 30 percent during the next two decades.
  • Future efforts would bear additional fruit through the creation of green collar jobs. Annual investments in energy efficiency technologies currently support 1.6 million U.S. jobs. The $300 billion invested in energy efficiency in 2004 was three times the amount invested in traditional energy infrastructure.
  • Investments in energy efficiency technologies are estimated to have generated approximately 1.7 quads of energy savings in 2004 alone – roughly the equivalent of the energy required to operate 40 mid-sized coal-fired or nuclear power plants.
  • Since 1970, energy efficiency has met about three-fourths of the demand for new energy-related services while conventional energy supply has covered only one-fourth of this demand.
  • Nearly 60 percent of energy efficiency investments made in 2004 were from the buildings sector, with nearly half coming from appliances and electronics.

Now the key is to pick up all this free money lying on the ground. There are a ton of energy efficiency resources on the internet for homeowners – here are just a few:

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Lucky for Dorothy, she had a cute 3-bedroom 2-bath house with a picket fence on an 8-acre farm  in Kansas to think about when she uttered the famous words “there’s no place like home.” If she were living in an apartment with Auntie Em, Uncle whatever-his-name-was, Toto and the rest of the farm animals, I’m sure her memories of the place would be a little less sweet.

We’re eager to say ‘goodbye’ to renting and say ‘hello’ to a house of our own in Massachusetts. As a result, we’ve spent a good chunk of time surfing the web to see what is on the market. In order of preference, here is a list of some helpful real estate websites that I’ve encountered thus far in our search:

  1. Trulia.com (great design, search features and selection)
  2. Realtor.com (similar features to Trulia.com)
  3. ISoldMyHouse.com (“For Sale By Owner” listings)
  4. Zillow.com (also, very similar to Trulia.com)
  5. MLSHomeFinder.com (MA-specific site)
  6. Boston.com (website of The Boston Globe)
  7. HomesForSaleInMA.com (another MA-specific site)

Drop us a comment if you have any other sites to recommend or even if you just have some tips for first-time home buyers in Massachusetts!

Props to Motley Crew, of course, for the Home Sweet Home video.

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FRB, Boston – Between 1995 and 2005, home prices in New England increased by 85 percent, compared to an increase of only 56 percent nationwide. The growth in house prices was far greater than the growth of real incomes, meaning most households in the region have seen the affordability of housing decline in recent years. As a result, there’s been speculation that young professionals are leaving New England, choosing not to move here, or facing financial strain because of high housing costs.

A recent study by the New England Public Policy Center explores whether young professional households can afford to own a home in New England using two common measures of housing affordability: (1) housing burden, defined as the percentage of household income spent on housing costs, and (2) income adequacy, which indicates whether the incomes of young professional households generally are adequate to purchase a home.

In terms of income adequacy, they looked at the ability of a median-income household to purchase a median-priced home. It would have been more interesting if they accounted for the distribution of incomes and home prices around their median values. For example, they might have looked at the question of affordability for young professional households that earn less than the median income (like the 10th or 25th percentile). There are still some interesting findings:

The figure shows that while young professional households in New England pay a larger share of their incomes on average, the percentage of households that are severely burdened is not out of line with the rest of the U.S.

They also found that although young professionals in Boston tend to earn more than their peers in other cities – like Chicago, Philadelphia, Phoenix, and Raleigh – housing is also more expensive even relative to their higher incomes.

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