About Real Estate: Electronics, beds are the best buys in September

DEAR MR. MYERS: What are the best deals on home-related items in September?

ANSWER: With the start of fall just a few weeks away, begin your hunt for bargains on household items that are the most used in the warm summer months. Retailers are anxious to clear space for fall- and winter-related goods, so you’ll find discounts of 50 percent or more in September on barbecue grills, patio furniture, bikes, and shrubs and perennials.

You also can find good deals on lawn mowers, because dying grass obviously doesn’t need much trimming. But oddly, say price watchers at Consumer Reports magazine, you’ll also find some of the best deals of the year on snow blowers in September, as retailers get ready to stock up on the upcoming new models.

If you take a lot of pictures in your home, such as at birthdays parties or on holidays, you’ll also get some of the best deals of the year on digital cameras, DVD players and many other types of small consumer electronics. That’s partly because stores are anxious to clear inventory before newer models of the same products are introduced at the giant Consumer Electronics Show in January.

You even might be able to bolster your savings if you make your purchases on Labor Day weekend, which begins the first week of September. It’s a particularly good time to buy a new mattress and box spring, with discounts of up to 60 percent, according to bargain-hunting website has a list of more than 50 retailers that will have big Labor Day sales, and the items that each one will feature. The website also offers free printable coupons that it says can help you to save up to 80 percent on some purchases.

REAL ESTATE TRIVIA: September is a good time to stock up on items for holiday gift-giving in December. A national survey by Consumer Reports, though, finds that 43 percent of Americans believe the worst presents they can give or receive are such common household items as plants, picture frames, candles and small kitchen-related goods.

DEAR MR. MYERS: We’re planning to remodel our home, so we got several bids from contractors for the work.

When we asked one contractor why his bid was so much lower than the others, he said that he doesn’t carry liability insurance but instead depends on his subcontractors to provide their own coverage. Is this a common practice?

ANSWER: Absolutely NOT! Anytime a contractor says he can save you money because he does not have liability insurance or is simply unlicensed, say “Thanks, but no thanks,” and look for someone else to do the work.

Allowing an uninsured contractor or subcontractor to work on your home makes you personally liable if someone gets hurt on the job. The medical costs and any personal financial damages a court might later award to the injured worker certainly would far exceed any money that you had hoped to save.

Your homeowners insurance policy won’t cover any of those costs. And even if no one gets hurt, most insurers won’t reimburse an owner for damage or incomplete work done by a contractor who didn’t have the proper credentials. Ditto for work that was done without proper permits.

DEAR MR. MYERS: While on our summer road trip, we passed through a town in Alabama named Lick Skillet. How did it get this funny name?

ANSWER: According to local lore, Lick Skillet (population 21,000) got its name after two men got into a brawl in a restaurant. The fight ended when one man grabbed a skillet and whacked the other over the head, knocking him out.

In other words, the loser in the fight had been “licked by a skillet.”

The town’s name was formally changed to Oxford several years ago, but many longtime residents still call it Lick Skillet. That’s the way many maps refer to it, too.

You could probably get a really good breakfast on the town’s main drag, Butter and Egg Road. Or about 850 miles to the west, in Oatmeal, Texas.

Lunch would be nice in Sandwich, Massachusetts. Dinner might be good in Chicken, Alaska. For dessert, go to Pie Town, New Mexico.

After a full meal, you might want a nightcap.

I’d choose a saloon in the town of The Bottle, Alabama, rather than the Condemned Bar area of California.

If you get lucky, you might even hook up with someone from Sweet Lips, Tennessee.

Of course, if you drink too much, you could find yourself with a headache the next morning in Cranky Corner, Louisiana. But that would certainly be better than waking up in Hell, Michigan.

David W. Myers’ column is distributed by Cowles Syndicate Inc.