Strawberry & Feta Salad with Shredded Chicken

Salad

1 head romaine lettuce, bite size
1-2 cups baby spinach, packed
2 cups chicken breast meat, shredded,
1 pint fresh strawberries, sliced
1 cup feta cheese, crumbled

Dressing

1 cup slivered, toasted almonds
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 teaspoon Dijon mustard
¼ cup balsamic vinegar
1 cup olive oil

Directions

Combine garlic, mustard, vinegar, and oil. Whisk briskly, and adjust to taste as necessary.

Toss together the romaine & spinach leaves, chicken and strawberries.

Cover salad with dressing mixture, and toss to combine thoroughly. Sprinkle toasted almonds and crumbled feta over top and serve.

Variations

Lemon juice provides a similar acidic balance, with a lighter taste.
Coconut oil may be used in place of olive oil for a milder taste.
Minced shallots can take the place of garlic for a brighter dressing.

 

Cost of home building materials rising rapidly

By Carrie B. Reyes

Building costs fluctuate on a daily basis, but the overall trend in recent months has been up.

In 2016, prices rose:

  • 13.8% for oriented strand board (OSB), a type of particle board commonly used in home construction;
  • 8.7% for softwood lumber, commonly used in home construction;
  • 5.0% for gypsum products, such as plaster and plaster board; and
  • 3.5% for ready-mix concrete, used for projects like foundations and driveways, according to the National Association of Homebuilders (NAHB).

Compare these price rises to the average consumer price inflation (CPI) in 2016, which was just 1.3%.

Further, in April 2017, President Trump announced a 20% tariff on softwood lumber imports from Canada, a major source of construction materials. In 2016, one-third of softwood lumber used by homebuilders was imported, with 95% of imports originating in Canada, according to the NAHB.

The tariff is meant to increase the sale of U.S. lumber by discouraging U.S. builders from purchasing Canadian imports. However, the sheer amount of lumber imported from Canada means U.S. lumber won’t be able to fully replace the taxed lumber. Builders will have to pay higher prices, or else stop building.

In California, the high price of land and California Environmental Equality Act (CEQA) roadblocks already produce high new home prices. More expensive building costs means the state’s presently high new home prices will become even more challenging for homebuilders.

How builders deal with higher building costs

How are builders dealing with this price rise?

The obvious choice is to pass the cost along to homebuyers. However, the new home premium is already 40%-50% above comparable home resales in California. New home prices can only rise so high before homebuyers look elsewhere.

The NAHB estimates the 20% tariff on softwood lumber from Canada will cost the U.S. in 2017 a net loss of:

  • nearly $500 million in wages;
  • $350 million in federal and state tax revenue;
  • more than 8,200 full-time jobs;
  • $945 million in single family residence (SFR) investment; and
  • $146 million in multi-family investment.

Further, the tariff will cause the average U.S. new-build SFR price to increase $1,236 — and more in California, where home prices are higher than average.

As a temporary workaround, builders, like homebuyers, know when to look further abroad to save money.

To avoid the tariffs, builders have begun buying non-Canadian lumber at record numbers. European supplies of lumber have increased in the U.S. market, according to the NAHB.

Still, builders are likely to pay more for European lumber than Canadian (prior to the extra tariff) due to the additional shipping costs the lumber sellers will inevitably pass along to the builders. Additionally, other price increases of building materials like gypsum products and OSB are more difficult to circumvent.

As builders adjust to higher costs, expect new home construction to continue to slow in 2017.

In 2016, SFR construction rose 12% over the previous year in California, while multi-family construction decreased 4% from 2015. With residential vacancy rates at extreme lows, residential construction needs to pick up to meet demand, or else the meteoric rise in rents relative to incomes will become catastrophic for California residents. And yet construction continues to meet new obstacles.

To help new construction along, local governments can loosen zoning and overhaul CEQA to reduce the costly permitting process. Of course, this is much easier said than done.

Agents, builders and home buyers can get involved by attending local city council meetings and letting their voices be heard.

is Market Watch editor and project editor of the Real Estate Economics and Economic Trends in California Real Estate books for first tuesday, a real estate education firm.

Why Saltwater Pools Are So Much Better Than Traditional Pools

By: Lisa Kaplan Gordon
Published: August 23, 2016

Safe, low-odor saltwater pools are gaining in popularity. Could you have saltwater in your future? If you hate the stink and sting of chlorine, you’ll love saltwater pools. Once primarily a perk in health spas and resorts, saltwater pools have now become popular among U.S. homeowners. Today, about 30% of all U.S. in-ground pools are saltwater.

They’ve literally exploded in popularity in the last decade,” says Erika Taylor of Pool and Spa News. “It really does make a difference in the way the water feels on your skin. Nothing feels as good as jumping into a saltwater pool.

How Saltwater Pools Work

Freshwater pools depend on store-bought chlorine to disinfect water and keep it free of algae, bacteria, and other health-harming organisms. Saltwater pools rely on an electrolytic chlorine generator (ECG). The generator separates the salt in the pool water into its two primary elements, one of which is chlorine. The chlorine is then circulated into the pool to sanitize and disinfect the water. The big advantage is that the process doesn’t produce chloramines, an irritating byproduct of the store-bought chlorine traditionally used to disinfect pools. It’s the chloramines that give swimming pools that “chlorine smell” and sting eyes.

How Salty Are Saltwater Pools?

Saltwater pools aren’t salty like the ocean, says Ray Denkewicz of Hayward Pool Products, a manufacturer of salt chlorination machines. Seawater has concentrations of salt of about 35,000 parts per million (ppm). Saltwater pools have much lower salt concentrations of 3,000 to 5,000 ppm — about the saltiness of a teardrop. Pool saltwater closely resembles the water that naturally bathes eyes and therefore, doesn’t irritate them.

Saltwater Pool Benefits

Debbi Welch, who owned freshwater pools for 20 years, switched to saltwater nine years ago and says she’ll never switch back. “It’s unbelievable how much easier it is to manage a saltwater pool,” says Welch.

Low maintenance: Add a few hundred pounds of salt when you open the pool for the season, swish it around to dissolve, then turn on the generator and let it do its thing. No measuring, testing, or continuously dumping more commercial chlorine into the water — although you may have to add more salt during the season. Welch dumped 500 pounds of salt into her 36,000 gallon pool outside Knoxville, Tenn., in late April, then added another 40 pounds in July.

Low annual costs: A salt chlorination generator makes chlorine at about $1 per pound, while off-the-shelf pool chlorine sells for $2 to $4 per pound. Welch says she used to spend about $800 per year to chlorinate her freshwater pool, but only $150 per year to chlorinate her saltwater pool.

Constant chlorine levels: ECGs automatically keep chlorine levels constant, which eliminates frequent testing for chlorine levels, and the need to buy, transport, and add chlorine.

Feels great: Swimmers in saltwater pools say the water feels silky and doesn’t sting eyes or discolor hair like the water in freshwater pools can.

Saltwater Pool Drawbacks

Saltwater pools aren’t perfect, or perfect for every pool owner.

High startup costs: The top expense is the ECG, which ranges from $600 to $1,200, plus another $150 for installation.
Cell replacement costs: Salt cells inside the ECG should be replaced periodically: sooner (4 to 5 years) if you use your pool year-round; later (maybe 10 years) if your pool season is only a few months a year. A cell costs $200 to $600.

Salt corrodes: Saltwater can corrode anything in or around your pool that contains metal, like lights, heaters, screws, diving board attachments, and patio furniture.

Salt stains: Saltwater splashing on soft stone on pool coping and decks can leave stains and pockmarks. Apply a sealant to solve this problem.

Curious About Foreclosure Properties?

No matter how hot the market is, there are always people looking for foreclosures. If you’re interested, here’s the latest set of FNMA foreclosure listings. As FYI, at 10 properties, this list is the longest I’ve seen in quite some time, which means the economy has shifted a bit. My daily charting has been telling me a change is on the way since the first of 2017. Finally the economic changes are showing up in more meaningful ways.

This list has minimal details, simply as a space consideration. If you have additional questions, don’t hesitate to ask.
Los Angeles-Watts; 3 bed / 1 bath; $320,000
Los Angeles-SouthWest; 2 bed / 2 bath; $323,000
San Fernando; 3 bed / 2 bath; $349,900
Carson; 3 bed / 3 bath; $359,900
Pomona; 4 bed / 2 bath; $374,900
Lancaster; 5 bed / 3 bath; $375,500
Whittier; 3 bed / 1 bath; $464,900
Palmdale; 4 bed / 3 bath; $490,000
Los Angeles-SouthCentral; 5 bed / 3 bath; $529,900
Granada Hills; 3 bed / 2 bath; $629,900