Posts Tagged ‘power’

Never Pay the Dealer Up Front

February 27, 2008

A few days ago, the latest example of a Greater Vancouver property development going tits up and leaving pre-sale buyers between a rock and a hard place occurred.  Not far from where I sit, another condo project has fallen victim to cost overruns and will not be completed on time.  The original developer will have to sell the property.  When a new developer takes it over, they will put the units back on the market at current market values, not the prices buyers originally agreed to about two years ago.  Even with first dibs, the original buyers will have to pay more.

This is becoming a trend in the lower mainland real estate market.  Labour shortages and high commodity prices drive up costs and wreak havoc on schedules.  The developers can’t finish the projects on schedule, on budget, or profitably.  Drop dead clauses are invoked or the project is sold.  Buyers are left in a situation where they’ve effectively provided the developer with an interest free loan for two years.  That’s unfortunate, because they’re not in the interest free loan business.  Nobody is, because it’s not a profitable business to be in.

Now, if I were a cynic, I might think that developers deliberately pre-sell properties at values they know will not be realistic when the project is completed a couple years later, so that they can take buyers’ deposits to the bank and say, “Here’s our share, now how about financing the rest?”  I might also think they deliberately fail to complete the projects before the drop dead date so that they can then raise the price, just as the project is nearing completion.  If I was a cynic.

The problem with paying for anything upfront is that you surrender all the power to the seller.  As soon as you hand over your money, you’re at their mercy.  That’s especially true in a hot market like Vancouver area real estate, where so many people are clambering to get in because they’ve been convinced that they have to.  Once they’re hooked on the idea of buying and hand over their money, the dealer knows they really want it and toys with them for a while.  Then, one day he says, “The thing is, the price has gone up”.  Jonesin’ for their reward, the buyers cough up more money.

Any junkie can tell you that you should never pay the dealer up front.  Maybe he’ll come back, maybe he won’t.  Maybe the quality won’t be what you expected.  And, who knows if what he charges you today is what he’ll charge you tomorrow?  But they do pay up front, because they’re junkies.

This post appears in The Carnival of Consumer Focused Real Estate.

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A Caveman’s Theory

February 24, 2008

Thousands of years ago, the first gods were conceived.  The earliest known civilizations had their gods, often connected to the natural environment, the elements, and celestial bodies.  These gods were probably theorized by cavemen – sorry, cave people –  to explain the sun, moon, stars, tides, etc.  They had no concept of the world around them, let alone what lay beyond it.

All these gods were later consolidated into one god.  Monotheism was very convenient and useful for kings or emperors who wanted to consolidate and manage power.  Multiple gods gave priests more power as there was more for them to interpret, but a single god enabled a king to claim to be chosen by the one god to rule.  There would be no other gods with dissenting opinions, so there would be no justification or tolerance for people who dissent.

This occurred in Egypt, when the pharaoh Akhenaten proclaimed a single god.  Apparently, this was not popular with the priests, who had enjoyed power and influence.  It has been suggested that they probably also profited from the looting of tombs after the nobles were buried.  After his death, traditional polytheism was re-established.

Later, the Jewish mythology surrounding Moses and the exodus from Egypt came along.  This was followed by Christianity, which infiltrated the Roman empire all the way up to the emperor.  The Romans spread it across Europe and the idea survived the empire.  The monarchs of the kingdoms that emerged in the wake of the collapsed empire sought papal sanction.  If they couldn’t get it, some would replace the pope with one who saw things their way.  Later, they would break from the papacy and claim their own divine right to rule.

Challenge to papal authority was also integral to the enlightenment.  Ideas that contradicted church concepts of the universe emerged.  The church was not pleased and persecuted those with ‘heretic’ notions.  It, and kings who claimed divine right, enjoyed their power, influence, and accompanying wealth, just as the priesthood of ancient Egypt had.

Free thought endured and survived, leading to modern scientific method and theories.  Many of those who cling to gods and religions refuse to accept new ideas that fly in the face of their beliefs, no matter how cohesive the models or how much evidence is accrued.  But, honestly, who is smarter – a modern scientist or a cave person?

Oil and God at the Movies

January 24, 2008

The makers of ‘There Will Be Blood’ know how to end a movie.  There’s no mistaking it, the preacher was a charlatan and, unlike other movies I’ve mentioned before, the ending makes it clear what to do about it.  It doesn’t allude to or broadly hint at, it says and follows through.

Although the story is about a flawed man, a loner whose driven pursuit of his life work of developing oil fields and independent wealth causes him to miss opportunities to make a real difference to a few rather than a modest difference to many, he can still claim the moral high ground over the preacher Eli, the self-proclaimed Third Prophet.

Eli’s goal is, quite simply, self-agrandizement and power over the people.  He wants oil money to build his church.  Oil and god – where have I heard that before?  In his church, he is quite the performer and clearly loves an audience.  The world of the theatre would benefit from his presence.  He demands to be introduced by name and allowed to bless the oil well when it is about to be started up, thus presenting himself to his community as the bringer of wealth.

Unfortunately for Eli, our flawed hero doesn’t like demands or being told what to do.  He’s fiercely independent, remember.  So, he pointedly doesn’t call Eli forward at the gathering of the people and blesses the well himself.  This sets off a see-saw series of humiliations based on who is in the position of power.

Although they detest each other, they do business or cooperate when it’s expedient.  Eli doesn’t seem to have a problem with doing deals with the devil.  In fact, it’s quite profitable.  Following a $5000 donation to the church, Eli leaves on a ‘mission’ to other oilfield communities.  We later find him better dressed and with a large, bejewelled cross around his neck.

A Brahms violin soundtrack creates a constant air of menace and uneasiness.  It sustains you through a long build up.  You’re expecting something big to happen, and when it finally does… it is somehow satisfying, despite the hero’s continued imperfection.  Well worth the wait.