Archive for October, 2010

Not sure what to think: vending machines that dispense gold?

Current events, Personal finance

Heard on BBC/NPR today: German company has apparently launched several gold vending machines (meaning vending machines that dispense gold, not gold-colored machines, although they are that as well) called .

Picture this: instead of putting in money and getting a Coke can, you put in some bills to purchase gold bullion. (And yes, the machine is apparently bullet-proof.)

Apparently the company specializes in selling gold online and has a robust IT security system but decided that a great way to expand the market even further would be to sell vending machines in public places like airports, fitness centers, cruise ships, and the like. It believes the recent financial crisis is at least half of the reason that people have become interested in purchasing gold, including from vending machines.

Spot prices are calculated every 8 seconds but prices in the vending machines change every 10 to keep up with market conditions. You can buy anything from gold bars at 1 gram to coins and bars at one ounce.

The first vending machine was installed in an Abu Dhabi hotel last year, and next month, machines will be set up in Las Vegas and Boca Raton, FL, according to an article in the Guardian published last Thursday. Because overhead costs are minimal, the company claims they can offer better prices.

So…would you buy gold from a vending machine?

Still flummoxed by the Bay Area housing market

Housing, Personal finance

I wrote in the Bay Area. Believe it or not, we’re still looking, casually I suppose, and have come near to bidding on two or three houses since then, but not close enough to pull the trigger. The one thing that’s changed is that we’ve narrowed down our needs to being in a “good school district” since our son has been attending speech therapy, and the therapist has advised that we live in a school district with good support in this area in case he would need to continue using these services in school.

Up until now, we were considering semi-fixer-uppers. A few weeks ago, we looked at this house, a trust sale, and even though we were fairly convinced we could probably get it for under $925K asking, after having some contractors take a look, they came out with estimates that were far from figures we were comfortable with. Our thought was that with some add’l money, we might be able to make it look somewhat like the since it has the exact same floor plan (this house sold for $1.27M, another outlier in our opinion). Then we got the estimates:

  1. $120K to remodel the kitchen (keep in mind this is a 1920s house, so small kitchen)
  2. $75K to redo the basement
  3. $60K to put in a bathroom
  4. $100K if we wanted to tilt the roof to make it not a flat-top house

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