Wednesday, November 14, 2018

Perils of a Good Economy

We had a very high air radon level, so we had the radon mitigation guy come in to install a system in the basement. Chatting with him after, he says that his business has some breakpoints for size.  You work for yourself, with one helper, or you can have a number crews of a couple guys each that you supervise.  He wanted to be the latter, but he has had such trouble at his size, with the single assistant, that he's now wondering if it's worth going big. The assistants he has had have either been teenagers, with "constant dram texting with their girlfriend" all day, or they are older guys with some DUI's who need rides to get places and are unreliably there, or have bad attitudes.  He figures if he goes big he's just going to have more of that headache.

He says he doesn't pay badly, and it's a trade that can be learned pretty quickly if people wanted to work for him for a year and then go out on their own, but people don't want to wait that long. It can't pay that badly.  I paid him $1100 for a few hours work, and I don't think the fans and gauges are that expensive.  The concrete drilling and PVC pipe can't cost that much.  I'm paying for his knowledge and skill.  When the economy is this good, it's hard to find good workers for some jobs, so you have to take what's there. 

I told him I'd keep an eye out for a good worker who might want to come his way.


Unknown said...

"He says he doesn't pay badly"

I'm not saying it is the case here, but I've heard that from other small employers on occasions when I had occasion to think they were wrong. One had some good reliable employees regularly sent to do work at our place, guys who were also good at supervising their inexperienced new staff. Yet they all left to take better-paying jobs when the economy improved. Ergo, he was not paying them enough.

Whether he could keep them and still charge prices that the market could bear is a related question.

Dan Kurt said...

It appears that you believe in the validity of the Linear No-Threshold Theory of Radiation Carcinogenesis at Low Doses, specifically the radon scare. I suggest you read this article by the late physicist Bernard L. Cohen:

Dan Kurt

Christopher B said...

Dan, whether AVI believes may be immaterial. Radon testing and mitigation is sometimes required, or at least a consideration, for buying or selling a home.

Assistant Village Idiot said...

@ Dan and Christopher - I have lived with this radon level (though I thought it was lower) and raised five sons in it for 30 years, so I'm obviously not that worried. However, we are looking to sell and downsize over the next year or so, and a radon level of 29 would be a deal-breaker for a lot of people. Christopher is correct, and I am sure Dan understands.

Donna B. said...

Unknown -- yeah, the market works that way.

AVI, last year I sold a house that I'd spent quite a bit of money on thinking I'd be living there for years. Unlike a reasonable person my age, I actually upsized instead of downsized... but I still ended up with less useable space... oh, nevermind. I can't explain it. But the buyers of my old house got a steal -- the cost of the improvements I made couldn't be completely recovered because of the small square footage and the price of "comparable" houses in the neighborhood. Those comparable houses didn't have hardwood floors throughout, granite countertops in a completely updated kitchen and laundry room... or, for that matter, a separate laundry room with counterspace and cabinets. I've now got 500 sq ft more living space and two more garage spaces without anywhere near the "liveability" of the old house. Oh, and did I mention the master bath with its totally useless "glamour tub"? And 1/2 acre less land that is... ugly. And older appliances. I've supposedly got $80,000 more house than before. In reality... it's a PITA to live in. Possibly a great investment though and, most importantly, 600 miles closer to my grandchildren -- the only redeeming, and most important, quality. May you have a better experience!

Texan99 said...

Donna: Indeed, a home's square footage per se is often not the important thing. I look for things like the small useful spaces you describe, such as a laundry with good storage. Generous windows. Two and preferably three sources of sunlight in each room. Lots of sight lines through spaces; I'm a sucker for interlocking spaces of all kinds, such as exposed stair landings. Porches. Views. Privacy. Soundproofing. Good lighting. Good trim details, pleasing wood and tile flooring. High ceilings. Dormers and other interesting ceilings. I don't need 1,200 square feet in my kitchen, or a media room.

Donna B. said...

Soundproofing! That was one of the advantages of the old house too. Excellent windows, solid wood exterior doors, lots of insulation. In fact, that old house is now so tight, we had to add extra ventilation in the bathrooms and kitchen. It was also originally framed with cedar (I thought that was unusual) so termites will not likely ever be a problem.

One of the reasons I'm not happy with this house is that I had to buy it and move in in such a hurry. I didn't realize what a deal my house was until it sold as soon as the photos went up, for the asking price. I figured I'd have a few months. I need to make a list of the things I like about this house instead of missing my old one so much. Grandchildren. Lots of garage space which I didn't have before. Lots of closets. A fenced back yard (even though there's no landscaping). Ceiling fan on nice covered patio. In an area with grocery delivery. (I do not like shopping.) Summers not so hot or humid. High ceilings (look nice, higher heating/cooling costs). Grandchildren. Grandchildren. Grandchildren. Fiber optic internet. My trash gets recycled without me having to jump through hoops sorting it. (It's burned to provide steam energy to Redstone Arsenal. It's a neat setup.) Fourth of July and New Year's Eve are awesome -- no need to leave home to see fantastic fireworks displays because so many of my neighbors really are rocket scientists. Those who don't get into blowing things up, put their talents to use with amazing Christmas decorations. Beautiful Appalachian mountains nearby. Grandchildren. I like it here, I like it here. Grandchildren.