Fribble Wednesday, December 8, 1999

A House of Great Stocks

By Bob Bobala (TMF Bobala)

Well, we finally bit the bullet. We took the plunge. We jumped into the pool. Insert whatever cliche you like, my wife and I bought a house.

The decision to do so was difficult for me, and standing on top of a 12-foot ladder propped dangerously in our stairwell, steaming wallpaper off as we begin to redecorate, has afforded me the opportunity to reflect on our new property ownership.

It's been a challenge, not only physically, but psychologically. We had to liquidate stocks to raise money for the down payment. Oh, the pain. Our top performers being sunk into a townhouse. Plus, all that interest to be paid all those years. Hopefully we'll have some appreciation, but I can't consider a house an investment.

Still, we could have been paying in rent what we're paying for our principal, interest, and property taxes. And we do get that nice tax break from the feds.

It's not the mortgage payments that worry me, however. It's our ceaseless effort to single-handedly raise the revenues of Lowe's (NYSE: LOW) and Home Depot (NYSE: HD). It seems like we drop a hundred bucks every few days. I keep thinking, well, this or that could have been a share of Intel. That wallpaper steamer could have bought some Gap. Darn, that paint could have bought more Cisco. Drywall mud, electric sander, rollers, brushes: Microsoft.

Of course, all those trips to Home Depot, the value creation despot (as termed by former Fool Dale Wettlaufer), certainly gives one some firsthand experience with the home improvement retailer. I'm so glad I've helped the company's stock grow yet another 40% this year. It's time to consider it as an investment -- after the remodeling is done.

New hot water heater: Pfizer. New carpeting: Yahoo!, America Online, and Amazon.com.

The spending continues, and I cringe about it occasionally, but it comes down to something the mother-in-law of a friend said to me on Thanksgiving: Stocks are nice, necessary even, but you can't live in them.

Words of real wisdom. It does feel good to have a place to call your own, or at least the bank's. A place you can do whatever you want to, and screw it up as much as your ineptitude will allow. By the way, anybody know anything about drywall? Feel free to come on by. We've still got plenty of work to do.

Not interested? Well, then at least check out the brand-spankin' new Buying a Home area, unveiled just last week. There's something for everyone there, from the home-buying rookie to the experienced owner. Get your questions answered on the Home message board, too.

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