My much overdue pictures from my 2014 Xmas Vancouver trip.

Whistler Orange Chocolate Dopplebock with Vanilla Ice-cream

Whistler Orange Chocolate Dopplebock with Vanilla Ice-cream

City from the Harbor Lookout

City from the Harbor Lookout

No. 5 Orange "Slippery When Wet"

No. 5 Orange
“Slippery When Wet”

City from the Harbor Lookout

City from the Harbor Lookout

In Surrey

In Surrey

Beer and view from my hotel

Beer and view from my hotel

No. 5 Orange "Slippery When Wet"

No. 5 Orange
“Slippery When Wet”

Capilano

Capilano

Capilano Suspension Bridge

Capilano Suspension Bridge

Cliff Walk at Capilano

Cliff Walk at Capilano

Poutine and Wrap at Suds in New Westminster

Poutine and Wrap at Suds in New Westminster

City from the Harbor Lookout

City from the Harbor Lookout

Cliff Walk Capilano, the harness to hold the walk.

Cliff Walk Capilano, the harness to hold the walk.

Christmas Dinner.   A cheese sausage and a beer.

Christmas Dinner. A cheese sausage and a beer.

View from Hotel

View from Hotel

Lions Gate bridge from Stanley Park.

Lions Gate bridge from Stanley Park.

Xmas Eve.  What I gave myself.

Xmas Eve. What I gave myself.

Steamworks brewery.

Steamworks brewery.

Xmas day walk around Stanley Park.

Xmas day walk around Stanley Park.

Xmas day walk around Stanley Park.

Xmas day walk around Stanley Park.

Sutton Place hotel left this on my door Xmas morning.

Sutton Place hotel left this on my door Xmas morning.

Lion's Gate bridge

Lion’s Gate bridge

City

City

City

City

Hockey Game.  Canucks vs. Coyotes.   Coyotes got slaughtered.

Hockey Game. Canucks vs. Coyotes. Coyotes got slaughtered.

Poutine at Steamworks.

Poutine at Steamworks.

Ick

Ick

Ick 2

Ick 2

At YVR.  What your bags can feel like.

At YVR. What your bags can feel like.

Why I finally cancelled my SiriusXM subscription

I first subscribed to XM Radio when it rolled out in November of 2002.    I absolutely loved the variety provided and the commercial-free music stations.   At the time, I was paying $10/month and that included online streaming.

There were a couple years I also had a Sirius subscription.   I used my XM tuner at home and my Sirius tuner in the car.   I liked when there was competition between the two.   Each had their strengths.

After they were allowed to merge and become a monopoly, I noticed that the price went up and the channel selection went down.   I still stayed on as a subscriber because I liked being able to tune into music without thinking about it.

The pricing kept going up with SiriusXM, even for a very loyal customer.   Last year, I paid $185 ($15.41/month) for the all-in package.   This included all channels and internet streaming.   I recently received a renewal notice for the upcoming year.   They wanted $227 ($18.91/month) for the year.   A 24% increase.   Now if they had upped their bitrate so the compression artifacts weren’t so noticeable, it would have been justified.

Pandora was always an option as a replacement.  In fact, I had paid for Pandora One for two years.    I had actually built some pretty good XM clone channels.  I never much liked the limited number of times I could skip tracks with Pandora.

I’m coming late to the Spotify party, but I have been using it for the past couple of weeks.   I signed up for their $10/month premium package.   What I have really liked is the ability to stream at 320 Kbps.   The fidelity is much, much better than SiriusXM.   What I wish it had was the ability to build stations like I had with Pandora.  I can kind of do that by seeding a channel with an Artist and then using the thumbs-up or thumbs-down buttons to dial it in.

Another thing I really like about Spotify is that if I hear a track I like, I can go and listen to the whole album it came from.   I’m actually starting to listen to whole albums again.

I suppose I can always go back to SiriusXM if the alternatives don’t work out.   I don’t think I ever will for one simple reason.   They make it an absolute nightmare to cancel your subscription.   You CANNOT do it online.   They will only let you add to your subscription online, not subtract.    So you have to call them.   Plan on it taking an hour.   You will constantly be put on hold.  They also try and barter with you.   You will find yourself begging them just to cancel it.

I can actually subscribe to both Pandora One and Spotify for $14.56 per month.   This is still $4.34 less than what SiriusXM would charge me.   Best part is that I can cancel either service at any time ONLINE.

Shopping for Real Estate in San Diego

I arrived in San Diego in February of 2012.   I had accepted a seven month temporary job.   As these things go, I just passed three years in San Diego.   The seven months turned to 18 months at which point I was converted to a full time employee.

Had I bought property when I arrived, I would have done well as the market was still recovering from the 2008 housepocalypse.   There were two problems.   One is that I would have been insane to buy anything when I was a temp.   The second is that I don’t think banks would have loaned me the money being a temp.

Right now I am just window-shopping housing here.   It grates me every month writing a $1700/month (1bed/1 bath) rent check, but is the alternative any better?

I’m seeing a lot of $600,000 – $700,000 single family fixer-uppers on the market right now.   Several I’ve seen will need $50,000 – $60,000 of kitchen and bathroom renovations.

Condominiums can cost less, but often have sky-high monthly association fees.   One place I liked downtown had $762 monthly dues.   This might be okay if I got two call girls per month as part of them.   The other thing is that most the condos I’ve looked at are astonishingly similar to the apartment I already rent.

A lot of condominium complexes I’ve looked at here have a very low owner-to-renter ratio.   This means that I would not be able to get a standard mortgage as Fannie Mae/Freddie Mac won’t underwrite it.   This has me in the world of specialty lenders, who don’t publish loan rates on their web sites.

I think part of my problem is that I just can’t get my head around the prices.    The last house I owned, I had built in 2002.   It cost me $210,000 and that seemed like a lot of money to me.   It’s almost impossible for me to swallow $600,000 as the norm.

I just found a condo near where I live.   It is a 2 bed/1 bath, 1428 square foot place, with a list price of $559,000.

Breaking down what the payment would be on a 30 year mortgage:

Price:                $559,000

20% down:       $111,800

Closing costs:   $10,000

Mortgage amt:  $447,200

Interest Rate:    3.92%

P&I Payment:   $2114.42

Insurance:        $75/month

2014 Taxes:      $5647 ($470.58/month)

HOA Dues:        $255/yr

Total Monthly Payment: $2114.42 + $470.58 + $75 + $255 = $2915

Total Monthly – Tax Write Off: $2915 – $405.71 = $2509

Compared to the $1700 I’m paying in rent, the $2509 doesn’t seem too bad.   Of course this all assumes I happen to have $121,800 just laying around for the down payment and closing costs.   The numbers work out much differently if I can only put 5% down and have to pay Private Mortgage Insurance (PMI).

I think I will be a renter for the foreseeable future.   I have a lot of coworkers who own homes that cost much more than $559,000.   I really don’t know how they do it.   If I didn’t value maxing out my 401(k) every year, I also might be able to pull it off.