20050718

Back from vacation

Came back from vacation 2 days ago. Spent time with my family in Hampton Beach, NH.

I've been to Hampton many times in the past. However, it was my first time doing it by bus (because I was joining the family in the middle of their vacation). There's a couple of weird things I noticed with my bus trip:

  • Those idiots at Station Centrale kept insisting the bus went to Manchester, NH first, then Concord, NH. I had picked Concord, NH as destination because I wasn't sure there would be a bus to Manchester (turns out there was, I'll know for next time). Manchester, NH is further south than Concord, NH, so starting from White River JCT, VT (where I had to transfer from the Montreal-Boston bus), it made more sense that it would stop at Concord first. Sure enough, it did. Went to Manchester anyhow because it saved some time otherwise. But if I had followed the tickets blindly, I would have been stuck waiting for the Concord bus at Manchester, which I would have just missed...
  • On the first leg, we had plenty of room; everything got packed at Burlington, VT. Namely, got a rather, ah, large person next to me with a bit of BO (don't blame him, though, it was really hot outside). Thankfully, unlike in a plane, I actually had room leftover.
  • All the cute women were in the trip from Montreal, when the bus was half-empty, so my plan of having a nice lady sitting next to me obviously didn't work. And I'd shownd up really early hoping that would happen. Bummer.

Besides that, not much to say about the vacation. It was mostly relaxing, no thanks to the idiots next door who partied until 5 AM every darn night. After four nights of this, several people complained (including us) and they got kicked out. The last two nights there were bliss compared to the previous nights. And before anybody says anything about me being an old fart and noise intolerant, I slept next to the A-15 in Montreal for four years, and I could sleep with the window open. A-15 is extremely noisy, so it's not about noise intolerance. Maybe I'm just incompatible with Rap music.

Then again, the owner told us those guys had made a foot-wide hole in the wall, and left shaving cream all over the place. I guess maybe they were just idiots.

Other things I noticed: property prices are insane down there. The only city with decent prices in NH was Manchester, which is odd, given that it's one of their largest cities. Coastal property is completely ridiculous, and rents are pretty bad as well. 4 1/2 start at 1000$ in most locations. Keep in mind those locations are suburbia at best; there is no bus service to speak of, commerces are only accessible by car, and so on. It gets worse in the Boston area (which, at least, does have some public transportation). I know taxes are low there, and mortgage interest is tax-deductible, but still.

Consumer good prices aren't that fantastic either. I bought two things: a nice pair of shoes (and I could've probably found those in Canada, now that I think back on it) and the Noir DVD set. I would have preferred getting the DVD set here, but it's out of stock everywhere. Even in NH, I only found it in Nashua. I saved a bit of money mostly because NH has no goods tax, but if it hadn't been for the out of stock thing, I would've gotten it here.

Who cares about consumer prices? Well, it used to be that going to the US, my family and I ended up close to the limit of goods we could bring back (there used to be a 300 CAD limit for a stay longer than 7 days). Now, although the limit is much higher, we weren't even close to the old limit. It's just not as attractive as it once was, even with the Canadian dollar so high and the lack of consumer tax in NH. I'm really wondering how USians make ends meet, despite lower income tax. I'm sure their salaries, just like ours, didn't move much since 2001; however, the prices are higher, real estate is insanely expensive, and even gas prices must be starting to hurt. You hear a lot of stuff on the radio about 0-down mortgages, getting a loan from the mortgage, etc. etc. etc.

This is happening in Canada as well, but I'm not that worried; prices are still somewhat reasonable, compared to theirs (it's still dang expensive, but looking at their real-estate classifieds sort of made me somewhat less sensitive to this). Taxes high, yes, but we don't have that medicare mess to contend with. The provinces are on the edge of deficit, but at least the federal government is not (and those who think state governments in US aren't in trouble; think again, they had to cut a lot of services from what I heard). And most people I talk to, even home owners, are extremely wary of taking loans from the mortgage. At least, in Quebec; don't know how it is in Ontario or BC. So, from what I can see, there's still room for price growth on real estate in Montreal (a good thing for me) without necessarily hurting everyone. I'd also expect that, if there is a speculative bubble in real-estate, it will hurt much less in Montreal than down south. There's definitely a huge bubble there; just look at Alan Greenspan's worries about the fact that raising interest rates does not raise mortgage rates. This is because banks expect to always be able to recoup their capital easily thanks to the speculative market which inflates prices way too fast. If prices crash, or even stabilize, some banks are likely to be in trouble.

Of course, I'm no economist. But seriously--300 000 USD for a 4 1/2 condo is insane, period, especially in suburbia. I'm getting annoyed at Laval prices which hover around 150 000 CAD for similar units--and you will get access to the metro in 2006-2007 at that price. But then again, maybe there's something I'm missing.

It's just that I didn't expect San Fransisco prices in the New England area. And I still think I had reasonable reasons not to expect that...

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