Friday, November 30, 2007

Like a Dog Circling the Coop

We recently bought some chickens so that we can have fresh, nutritious eggs. We only wanted ten, but a chicken grower friend of ours recommended that we buy twice as many because they can die off quite easily (we have two big Dobies). As expected, the day after we put the chickens in our converted horse pipe corral, two got out and one of our dogs killed one. That was in September, and we still have 19 chickens because our dogs have not been able to infiltrate the coop. They spend most of the day sniffing around it and trying to dig under the coyote fencing.

One of my dogs even injured the top of her nose by repeatedly sticking it through one of the fence's small rectangular slots. She had a perpetual raw and bloody spot on her snout. She must have given up that futile feat, as it seems to have healed. However, it is my dogs' daily goal to get to those chickens, but it's something they just can't have.

Well, I have to admit that that's how I have been feeling lately. Not about chickens, but about real estate. Declining-priced real estate to be exact. I feel like the wolf in Little Red Riding Hood, who salivates at the thought of devouring one of those pigs. His efforts, however, are thwarted again and again.

I have searched my truncated MLS listings to track the prices of homes in areas that I'm familiar with. I have mentioned in a prior post how the area where I own a home now is dropping significantly. One of the homes we sold two years ago is for sale for about $50,000 less. I can't help thinking that I could buy it again and sell it later--over and over. It's an unusual way to make a profit in real estate, but at least I would be ahead of the game.

Every time I consider using a bit of our equity line to purchase another rental, I have flashbacks of losing an amount closer to a million dollars than not. Even though I don't cry over it and I'm moving on, the entire process was a traumatic experience and I don't want to risk a penny right now. Sometimes I feel downright frustrated over the debacle. How did we make such a humongous mistake and why couldn't we fix it before we unloaded everything in a fire sale?

Anyway, I am inundated many times a day with news of how prices are dropping. I check the MLS to see the deals that I could be picking up (mind you, most prices in most of CA are still no where near what it would take to break even on a rental, but some areas are pretty darn close). I am very open and, if the absolute right thing comes along, I may have to take it. Nothing close yet. But I just keep circling that coop and salivating. This is the market that we have been waiting for since 2000.

The other day a good friend of mine in Oklahoma talked about us getting into a development situation with her husband, an experienced and successful businessman. There is a niche area in that state that is appreciating wildly because of one single reason, which does not always indicate a solid market. Part of our research into areas where we purchased homes was how the economy was supported. If people moved there solely based on one big company, we would pass because we knew what would happen when the business moved or declined. We liked to see diverse corporations, tourist activities, colleges, etc., or at least an area that was close to a town like that (like Temecula).

So this Oklahoma idea crops up and I took it quite seriously because I have been researching this niche for over two years now. I spoke to my husband about it and he nixed it right away because--and I've said this many times on my blog--we just don't have the money to invest. I think that we may not be in a position to buy more property until the prices start to rise again. Buy low, sell high. Well, we've sold high in the past, but the buy low may elude us on this go-around.

Needing more living space in our home, we even considered buying another property in Wine Country Temecula to move into and renting out our little ranch. Although the prices out here have dropped significantly, there is no way that we could move and not spend a ton of money with the down payment and expenses. Plus, there is always the fact that, with the tightening loan restrictions, we probably couldn't qualify right now. We are looking into adding on for as little as possible.

We've talked to some contractors. I thought that they were hurting in this real estate economy, but no one told them that. The prices for construction out here are higher than ever and the contractors that we've spoken to are very busy. Can someone shed some light on this for me? How do I find a competent contractor for a cut-rate price?

I'm nervous and excited about where we will be one year from now. A majority of the money we make from our new business is going back into the business, which doesn't leave us anything for picking up a foreclosure. My husband found out yesterday that one of the stores in Old Town will be marketing a line of souvenir shirts that directly competes with our products, so we'll see how far this road will take us.

We're open to anything right now, but are wary of everything.