Friday, November 23, 2007

More Gifts That Really Hit Home

Holiday News That Really Hits Home

by Broderick Perkins
© 2007 DeadlineNews.Com

Deadline Newsroom – We've got a list for you and we've checked it twice to make sure you get the most housing bang for your holiday spending bucks.

This is a fun list of holiday gifts that those on your shopping list are most likely to need, want or just consider thoughtful -- especially if they've got their eye on the housing market.

St. Joseph, the Underground Real Estate Agent -- He's baaaaaack! Plant a statuette of this home-building Patron Saint of Carpenters, Engineers, Families etc., etc. and you'll be blessed with the miracle of a home sale in a tough market -- or so the belief goes. While some pooh-pooh the idea as superstitious hokum, even theologians say, like prayer, placing St. Joseph beneath the landscaping to move a home is an act of faith. (If you don't have a front yard, a planter at the front door will do just fine.) Divine intervention costs as little as $5 to $10 or more for kits that include burial shrouds, instructions, and a history of the saint. Seek intercession at Christian gift shops and other retail outlets. The stocking stuffer is likely the least expensive and most sought after item on lists this year.

"Open House" (DVD) -- We aren't going to lie so near to St. Joseph. Open House is not "High School Musical: The American Dream Version." It's a campy romp through Sunday open houses featuring 2000-square-foot lovers (you know, like mile-high clubbers), desperate real estate agents, a jewel thief, cops on the case, and other looky-loos with loose open-door policies. With some catchy tunes and B-movie actors, it's been called both "funny and original" and "the worst musical ever." Another bargain gift available for as little as $5 with some shopping around, it's just the thing to take your mind off what's happening at real open houses.

"Inconvenient Truth" (DVD) -- On a more serious note, the Oscar-winning effort by the Nobel Peace Prize co-winner, Al Gore, "Inconvenient Truth" is the gift of climatic cognizance. That means sobering, not sexy. Prior to Gore presenting the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change's work in documentary form, global warming was often considered quackery, political conspiracy and down right fabrication. The documentary has been instrumental in bringing the global warming message home as well as changing the minds of previous disbelievers. And as goes the planet, so goes the places we call home. It's available for $20 or less. A book version is also available.

Survival Kits -- If "Inconvenient Truth" doesn't make you want to run out and buy up emergency preparedness kits, this years' earthquakes, fires, floods, snowstorms (to come) and twisters ought to. The Red Cross offers everything from first aid kits and individual survival gear items, but all-in-one backpacks with first aid and survival gear are available to take the guesswork out of compiling your own. Red Cross offers a Ready-To-Go Emergency Preparedness Kit for one ($39.95) to larger Vintage Style ($59.95) and Deluxe ($69.95) versions. Quake Kare offers still larger kits, a kit for two ($69) and another ($109) for three or four, packed in a crush resistant, waterproof bucket that doubles as, well, a rest room. Toilet seat is extra.

Home Concierge -- Who says you can't buy piece of mind? The calendar is on the personal digital assistant, address book on the mobile phone, bookmarks are loaded on the laptop and important documents in a pile on your home office desk. For $150 a year, Home Concierge allows you to give the gift of getting it all together. The Web site syncs with a host of electronic gadgets, offers event, appointment and list management and it provides digital space to store family documents including insurance papers, warranties, inventories, airline flight information and more. The site also offers use suggestions for new homeowners, home improvers, empty-nesters, second homeowners and others. The best deal is the free trial.

Monopoly Electronic Banking Edition -- The world's hottest selling real estate game is back this year in a digital version. Well it's at least done away with all that little funny money in exchange for bank cards and an electronic Banker Unit. The unit is a souped up calculator that keeps tracks of acquisitions, rents, fines and fees with just a swipe of the card. Tokens have also been updated for the digital age and include a Segway, Altoids tin and Space Shuttle among others. Listed at $40 (there's also an electronic Monopoly Here and Now version), but found for less that $30 with some shopping around, the updated game retains board gaming style for hours of bubble-booming and market-crashing fun. Fully electronic additions are also available for both Apple Macs and Window machines as well as some hand held and game box video game players.

Lego Kit Homes -- Here are a couple of 'listings' you can afford to give away, provided the recipient can handle a house raising. Lego's home building kits-in-a-box, under the 'Creator House' label has something to say about the housing market. The town home, at $69.99, has a higher list price than the single-family house at $49.99. The brownstone-like town home's three-story floor plan, includes a detached garage, drive way and opportunity to tear it down and try two other floor plans. The two-story ranch-style home with a Mediterranean flair also comes ready to build in three different floor plans. The cost differential must be that missing white picket fence and the detached single-family house. For kids, Lego's durability makes there homes the American Dream, or scream. All assembly is required, but the homes are defect free.

The Sims -- The original virtual realty show, Electronic Arts' 'The Sims' collection of video games available for virtually every game box, hand held gaming device or computer, predates avatars, Second Life and other sorted virtual realities. This group of digital characters live, love and sometimes loath in homes and communities you develop. It's up to you to give them hopes and dreams as they deal with escalating rents, nosy neighbors and neighborhoods in flux. You don't just "play" The Sims. You control their destiny. Older, discontinued, but still fun Xbox versions are as cheap as $10. Newer versions for, say, Nintendo's popular Wii machine are $40 or more.

Amish Solar -- Not really an Amish invention, but an Amish spin on the use of photovoltaic panels, finds 80 percent of traditionally low- and no-tech Amish families in Holmes County, Ohio using solar power. As early adopters of the technology, they consider it safer than traditional natural gas and kerosene used to power their homes and it keeps them off the grid. The Amish rarely install full roof displays, costing tens of thousands of dollars to generate enough juice to power a home and pour some back into the grid. Instead Amish households typically install a much smaller system, typically a panel or two, for as little as a few hundred dollars to under $1,000. They only need enough sun power to light a single fluorescent light bulb for nighttime safety, crank a sewing machine to make and repair clothes and other items or to recharge batteries to power legally required buggy lights. It's relatively easy to rig solar to charge all those batteries for high tech gadgets, power the back porch light, or jump start that electric car.

Gifts That Really Hit Home

© 2007 DeadlineNews.Com

Broderick Perkins, an award-winning consumer journalist of 30 years, is publisher and executive editor of San Jose, CA-based DeadlineNews.Com, a real estate news and consulting service, and the new Deadline Newsroom, DeadlineNews.Com's new backshop. In both cases, it's where all the news really hits home.

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