Thursday, January 31, 2008

Boy, Oh Boy!

No time for a real post today. We've been very busy acclimating our new male Doberman to our family!! Yes, he's here and he's a perfect fit. Although he looks exactly like one of our dogs, he's even larger than she is. They haven't stopped playing since he got here. As in most relationships, our girls are bossing this boy around. Our oldest female has been barking at him like an angry seal to prohibit him from sniffing her in the . . . well, you know where. Our younger one hasn't had contact with a male canine since she was a puppy, but she can't keep her nose out of his . . . well, you know what. Poor guy. It's going to be a while before he gets to smell anything of quality himself.

Whew! I'm just relieved that they're not feasting on each other for lunch.

Wednesday, January 30, 2008

Foreclosure Pets

Tomorrow we're going to meet a pure-bred Doberman who may end up in our family. It was an unexpected surprise when this lead came my way. We aren't looking for another dog, but having a male Doberman is something that we've been considering for about a year now. Just my kids and I. My husband loves all animals, but isn't sure that we need yet another big pet. After all, he humored me about the horse that died suddenly seven months after we got him. The chickens were my idea--and they were all slaughtered by some kind of critter right before Christmas (we have since replaced them with chickens who don't seem to understand the concept of laying an egg). But another dog? That's sure to be a long-term commitment.

Doberman Pinschers are great dogs. Bred as personal protection animals, they are the smartest and most loyal pet that I've had. I know that every dog lover is partial to a particular breed, and I can't see myself ever owning a different one. They are so protective of my family and me. For example, our property is completely fence and gated. When we arrive home, we take the little kids out after the car is unloaded. If we step into the house to drop something off, our dogs sit (and so majestically) at the door of the van until the last child is removed. They follow us around the house and, if they're outside, will look into the windows so that they never lose sight of us.

Their level of protectiveness was proven to us over Christmas. My sister and her family came to stay with us for a few days. It was Christmas Eve and, after 7:00 p.m. Mass, my brother-in-law wanted to take my sister out for dessert. We had their teenagers with us. Well, my BIL didn't plan on the "Temecula schedule"--where everything closes at 6:00 p.m., Christmas Eve or not.

They returned to our home before we did (we've perfected the after-church chat--and we like it!), and let themselves in the gate with the remote. On our way home, I got a call from my sister in a panic. She said that the dogs had surrounded the car, were showing their teeth, and growling. They refused to exit the vehicle until we arrived. Now, I found this odd because one of our dogs has known my sister and BIL her whole life and the other one for many years. They are not strangers to the dogs. I told my sister that she must be joking and to get out of the car. She refused.

When we pulled up, I couldn't believe what I saw. The dogs were holding the two of them at bay until we let them know that their presence was not a threat to us. They released immediately and my sister and BIL were able to exit their car and run like mad stroll to the door. I was really impressed and proud of our protective dogs.

This brings me to the topic of the post. Like I've said before, we don't have our TV hooked up (except to a DVD/video machine), we don't have a newspaper delivered, can't get a radio signal, and are, basically, cut off from all civilization. The only news that I have access to is on the Internet--which, I have to say, is a great way to get your news. No disturbing video. No endless news teases. No blowing every little thing out of proportion. I get to choose the stories that I want to read about. So, when I saw this article, it was a new concept to me--pets being abandoned at foreclosed properties.

Just when I think I've seen it all, I read about homeowners leaving their pets to die a slow and painfully agonizing death for no reason, except for the fact that maybe owners are angry at the banks for giving them a loan that they wanted, but couldn't afford. Don't get me wrong. I'm no PETA activist, and not much of a pet lover at all (except for my Dobies, of course). But it's not right to make a living creature suffer when all you have to do is drop it off at the animal shelter, or, at the very least, have it humanely euthanized there for a very low fee, if anything at all.

By the way, did you catch that part in the article where it talks about houses being "ravaged" before they're repossessed by the banks? That should take at least another 200 points off a credit rating score. My gosh, people do have some righteous indignation going on for something that they were partly responsible for. So, why not just abandon the animals, too? Who cares. It's all everyone else's fault anyway. If the pet dies, then those banks are really going to be sorry.

It seems, though, that no one is as sorry in the end as those tortured "pets".

Tuesday, January 29, 2008

Gimme A Break!

Here is a bit of old news from last week. I had seen it on the MSNBC headline page, but didn't have a chance to click on it. Then, yesterday, I wanted to check out the local road conditions (not that I'm able to travel anywhere because our old Toyota, with over 250,000 miles is, more than not, dead--RIP). The combination of a fire spanning many miles and the unending rain of the last week has caused some small landslides and road closures in San Diego.

So I went on the San Diego NBC affiliate's web site and the article about the homeowner suing her real estate agent popped up again. I didn't know that it was a local story, but I should have figured as much. This time, I couldn't resist the temptation. Although, I did have to stop what I was doing so that my youngest son could sing the entire "Twelve Days of Christmas" to me, as he read it from one of his books. He's still learning to read. It was a bit painful at times, but we all got through it. When he was done, my middle son wanted to sing me the version that he made up. That was interesting. Then I heard the seven most dreaded words from my preschool daughter, "Mommy, I'm going to watch the baby." Whew! Averted another disaster.

OK, I finally get to read the article. It's strikes me as it does most, I'm sure. Maybe some people think that real estate agents will finally have their day of reckoning. And I'm not a fan of most agents. ("Mommy, I'm pushing the baby on the horse now!"--another alarming phrase.) But my first, and strongest, impression is that these buyers are doing what people in this country are conditioned to do from the day they're born---play the victims and place the responsibility of their actions on someone else.

Maybe the New York Times analyzed this news item in more detail, but the story I read doesn't explain if the appraisal pointed out the alleged lower comps. Or was the appraiser working for the agent and not the bank? Come on, Folks! This lawsuit is ludicrous. These buyers made major errors in judgement and now want their real estate agent to pay for it. Did he tie them to a chair and force their hands to sign the loan documents as he "rushed them to close the deal"?

It's almost impossible to embarrass me, as you may have realized if you've read my blog for any amount of time. But I have to admit that I'm embarrassed. I'm embarrassed that others may associate me with them just because I've lost money on my investments. As a buyer, I'm embarrassed that they're blaming their lack of purchasing savvy on their agent and not themselves. As a taxpayer (well, not literally for the past seven years), I'm embarrassed that tax money is being spent to hear this case--even if it's just to dismiss it.

Maybe this couple wants their 15 minutes of fame and they know that anything "real estate market downturn" will grant them the publicity that they so desire. I don't know. Let's just hope they wake up one day and realize that the only people to blame for buying a house at it's peak are themselves.

Monday, January 28, 2008

And the Answers Are . . .

It's Monday and I know you've all been standing around, anxiously wringing your hands together for three days, waiting for me to post the answers to these obscure fascinating MLS terms. Well, the time has finally come! Correct your own papers---and no cheating.

1) FROG--Family Room Over Garage

2) TMTL--Too Many To List

3) BTSA--Bonus To Selling Agent

4) GLFP--Gas Log Fireplace

5) WBFP--Wood Burning Fireplace

6) EA-- Exclusive Agency

7) ERS--Exclusive Right to Sell

8) FFE--Furniture, Fixture, and Equipment

9) O/F--Owner Finance

10) RTO--Rent to Own

11) LA--Living Area

12) HSF--Heated Square Feet

13) BOM--Back on Market

14) L/O--Lease Option

15) L/P--Lease Purchase

16) MAO--Maximum Allowable Offer

17) CH/A--Central Heating and Air

18) MUD--Municipal Utility District

19) ST/W--Storm Doors and Windows

20) A/GP--Above Ground Pool

Thursday, January 24, 2008


It's quiz day, so find a seat, get your pencils ready, and no talking until the bell rings. Below are acronyms used in MLS ads around the country. Tell me what they stand for, if you so dare to guess (no fair searching the Internet). I'll give you the answers when I post again on Monday (try not to miss me too much for the next three days--but I'm super busy with our new business and the kids). Since the majority of my readers are of such high intellect, I think you'll know many of the answers already. Make your guesses (extra points for witty answers) or add some of your own.






6) EA

7) ERS (Opposite of EA)

8) FFE

9) O/F

10) RTO

11) LA (I see this a lot in Texas)

12) HSF

13) BOM

14) L/O

15) L/P

16) MAO (This one is silly!)

17) CH/A

18) MUD

19) ST/W

20) A/GP

Wednesday, January 23, 2008

Inflation Causation

About all I can do with these important economic terms is rhyme them with something else. Not helpful, I know, but a talent nevertheless. That's why we have people who can break down these expressions into simple explanations like this one.

Let me get this straight--we may be in a recession, or headed into one, because housing and other factors are tanking, but we better be worried about inflation. Did I get that right? Okaaaay. Is this for real or is the media tiring of reporting the same information about foreclosures day in and day out. I'm really starting to get bored with it. I know, already, house prices have fallen and continue to do so. That's not news anymore.

What was news to me was reading recently that the Fed pumped money into the banks this summer to stave off a worse impact from the loan and housing sectors. Whoa! (I must have been on vacation when that happened. Since I don't have television or the newspaper, I miss some key stories at times.) I know enough from my son's Economics videos that that is definitely an inflation threat.

There are many very intelligent people who read this blog (don't ask me why), so it would be interesting to have their perspective.

Tuesday, January 22, 2008

A Little Too Little, A Little Too Late

In October of last year, some of you may remember the complaint that I filed against our incompetent "management company" (and I use that term lightly here) with the local apartment association in Kentucky. Eight days later I received a reply stating that the Executive Committee would be meeting in a week to consider my complaint and they would get back to me.

Of course, I knew that the association had no teeth and that they would find no wrong doing. I just wanted everyone to know that a fellow board member was not what he claimed to be, and for him to be removed from the association. So, yesterday, three whole months later, I receive this e-mail (as always, my comments are in red):

As 2007 President of the ####### Apartment Association, I have met with the Executive Committee concerning your complaint filed again (sic) ####### Property Management. I'm sorry your experience was unpleasant (why, that's a nice way of putting it) with this particular company, and hope it in no way tarnishes your views of our entire Association (uh, he was chosen to be on your board and you referred his company to us). We make every attempt to educate our members of their responsibility of conducting themselves in a professional and ethical manner at all times while members of our Association (but those who serve on our board of directors may lie, cheat, and steal to make an almighty dollar).

After reviewing the complaint and discussing this matter with legal council (I'm sorry, but it's so hard to take her seriously when she doesn't know the difference between "council" and "counsel"--and why didn't her legal "council" review this e-mail?), it is our opinion that due to the extent of the allegations you have submitted, and because the ####### Apartment Association is not a party to the contract between ####### Property Management and yourself (no duh! It took three months to figure that out?), there are no steps we as an Association can take to remedy the situation (I wasn't seeking a remedy. I wanted them censured by the association). We have, however, made ####### Property Management aware (I think the more appropriate term would be "alerted") of a complaint filed against them and will keep this matter of record. You may seek legal action against ####### Property Management to recoup your loss (thank you, but I don't need your permission to sue anyone).

Again, we regret your unpleasant experience and wish you and your family the very best for 2008 .

Respectfully submitted,
##### ########
2007 President

Here is my more than kind, yet insistent, reply:

Thank you for your reply. I would like to clarify one point. I was not asking the ####### Apartment Association to remedy the situation. Due to the gross incompetence, negligence, and possible illegal activities that I outlined in my complaint, I am requesting that ###### Property Management be censured as a member of your organization, and, more specifically, that #### ##### be removed from the board of directors. Accepting and responding to complaints against its members and board is the responsibility of any legitimate association. My biggest concern is that the ####### Apartment Association is still referring unsuspecting property owners to ##### Property Management to oversee their properties.

Please assure me in writing that these reasonable requests will be granted by your organization. Thank you for your assistance and cooperation in this matter.

Monday, January 21, 2008

Whatever Happens In Vegas Stays in the Suitcase

As you know, in order to help us overcome our real estate losses, my husband and I started a business about seven months ago. Last week, my husband attended a promotional products convention in Las Vegas. The rep for the association that was sponsoring the event told him to make sure that he brought something to carry all the samples that he was sure to pick up there. There would be 5,000 exhibitors (yes, that's with THREE zeros).

My husband, a.k.a. Sample King of the Universe, took a large suitcase on wheels. Before the first day was over, he had gorged it completely with all the freebies that he was sure to market to his customers. The next day he shoved things everywhere (including the free bags that they were handing out), while pulling his overstuffed suitcase along with him because he had to check out of his hotel and didn't have anywhere to put it.

By the time he arrived home, he could barely walk and his arms and back ached (and he's very fit). The kids and I had a blast rummaging through all the samples and receiving an explanation about each item from my husband. There really are some amazing products out there. They now have items, like paper notebooks, with "lenticular" pictures on the covers. These are like holograms, where the image pops out at you and you actually think that you can touch it. It's very cool. I tried to take a picture to show you, but it didn't do it justice.

However, I was able to snap some pics of other interesting items that he found at the convention.

Here are dangerous hypodermic needles for drug addicts some unique looking pens and highlighters. Why they're in the shape of needles, one can only guess. Let's hope that they are marketed to medical professionals and not kids who think it's cool to look like a junkie. Oh, and the pen on your right has liquid ink in the chamber.This is not an 18-inch baton for midgets. The bottom rubber piece is a suction cup for retrieving your golf ball. If you're so arthritic that you can't bend over to pick up a golf ball off the green, you may want to reconsider your choice of athletic activities. Here is an erasable highlighter. I don't know about you, but once I highlight, I'm committed. If I have to go through and reconsider what I feel is important, then making up my mind is impossible anyway.

This item kind of scared me. It's a bag full of bright orange wrist bands for children to wear on school field trips. You can write the bus number on them, so that a five-year-old can read it and find their bus if they get separated from the group. I assume that this would replace the name label that teachers stick on the backs of young students. OK, let's think this one through. Do schools plan to lose a kid or two once they leave campus, or is this the emergency plan? The bracelet is easily removable, so if you're missing a child in your group, you may want to check the trash cans before including the orange wrist band in the description to the cops.

Now this item, I like. It's a wipe container that fits into your cup holder. No matter how old the kids are, wipes should be a staple in every car.

And what item were a bevy of vendors promoting? Sanitizer. Now that's my type of product!! Here are a few samples of the unique way you can keep your hands clean and not spread those dreaded germs.

I thought I'd throw this one in. I opened it up along with some of the sanitizers and didn't read the label. I like the spray idea, since I carry alcohol in my purse in a little spray bottle. So I promptly applied it to my hands and thought it smelled quite nice. It wasn't until later that I heard my husband telling the boys that it's an inhaler. Yes, that's what everyone needs when they're having an asthma attack and are struggling for breath while they're signing their credit card receipt.

Here is the product, besides the lenticulars, that was my favorite. It looks like one of the two and a half million pens that my husband collected at the convention. However, when you turn the clip on the barrel . . . . . . it exposes what I thought was a magnifying glass. But when I held it up to the print, the letters weren't any larger. It took me a minute to discover that it's actually a little pair of drug store reading glasses. So, if you're writing, and then you want to read what you've said, you can hold it up to your eyes without having to reach for your prescription pair. Yeah, I think you'll look real cool before inserting it back into your pocket protector.

Friday, January 18, 2008

Recession Impressions

As I sat through the long wait of filling the gas tank of my 12-seater van yesterday, I noticed that gas prices are still quite high. At the Costco on Overland and Ynez in Temecula, the regular unleaded was $3.119 (can we just round it to $3.12, already?). The damage was to the tune of $92.03.

House prices are dropping. The stock market can't make up it's mind, but seems to be getting lower, yet gas prices haven't caught on to the current economy. I am familiar with all the variables that make the price per gallon what it is. And this isn't going to be a post that rants at the oil companies. The reason that I bring it up is because, as I watched the rushed consumers at the gas station, I thought of dear friends of mine who moved out of Temecula to the mid-west exactly two years ago.

They had two kids in college and he had a great professional career (except for the fact that he would be laid off every now and then). Anyway, they couldn't make ends meet without borrowing from their house every year. They certainly didn't spend an inordinate amount of money, and he made a good living. So, I have to believe that they were not the only family in America who lived this way while the market allowed it. When they sold the house by owner at the beginning of 2006, they were able to make a small profit after using most of the equity. Selling at that time was a good move on their part because they may have been heading to foreclosure now if they had held on to it. My friends predicted that the market would drop, and that's why they sold when they did.

What about everyone else whose timing was not so precise? Are they some of the ones who are in foreclosure now? Since many states didn't appreciate at nearly the rate that California and others did, maybe this isn't a universal issue. But I think the lack of easy access to equity cash when needed is a large contributing factor to why there may be a recession in the near future. Even those who are not at risk for foreclosure feel the impact of a declining real estate market, and are not able to tap into "instant equity". No, I haven't had time to read the doom and gloom blogs lately, and I don't pay attention to the Chicken Little media.

I think one of the variables important to whether or not a recession is imminent is the unemployment rate. Reports indicate that the nation’s unemployment rate has jumped from 4.7 percent to 5 percent, a two-year high (thanks to the lending and construction fields, I'm sure). Retail sales are in the sewer. Manufacturing activity has slowed. The nation’s major banks are piling up big losses and stocks don't know what their doing.

When people aren't able to dip into their equity and spend on cars, remodels, boats, vacations, furniture, exorbitant outdoor landscaping that they never use because they're working too hard--or even necessities--it impacts many sectors. With the weakening dollar and hurting businesses, it seems inevitable that something's got to give. Rumor is that key interest rates will be cut by half of a percentage point at the end of the month. If the low interest rates on long-term lending don't stimulate the housing sector, we could be in for a long haul. Then what? The government is talking about giving every family a $1,600 rebate check. The $600 we received in 2001 must have made an impact, but, even with my seemingly endless optimism, I don't see that permanently helping too many people. And, as much as we'd all like a check in the mail, is it the government's role to hand out money when people have recklessly borrowed too much?

It makes sense that Americans not purchase items that they can't afford. But this rings true no matter what the economy is doing. If everyone starts buying prudently now, many businesses will be shutting down, which only serves to exacerbate the problem. But, if people continue to spend like in the time of the heyday, then we're also in trouble if they can't truly afford it. So, I sit and wait because the ball is rolling, and when it stops is totally out of my control. This too shall pass, so we need to watch carefully and take notes so that we will be more prepared the next time. That's my impression, anyway.

Thursday, January 17, 2008

Your House Can Be A Movie Star

Have you ever wondered where TV shows, movies, commercials, and print ads find the properties that they use for their productions? Well, lose sleep no more--location agents. Yes, real estate can be represented by a different type of agent than what we're used to. Specifically, your house can be marketed to location scouts for a variety of uses.

So, if your house looks like this

or this or this or, heck, even this (yikes--is that a house?!),then you may be sitting on a gold mine. The charge for using your home is dependent upon a number of factors, but figures thrown out there are anywhere between $500 to $5,000 a day.

If you're real serious, you can snail through the 27 .pdf pages of this California pamphlet for more information about your property in a starring role. So, if you wouldn't mind the following vehicles on your property or your street, then this might be the perfect money-making opportunity for you. Check it out:

Parked closest to the location:
• 35-foot, 5 or 10-ton electrical truck (contains all lighting equipment)
• 35-foot grip truck (contains other equipment)
• 60-foot, 10-ton production truck (may include generators at rear of tractor)
• 20-foot camera van (camera equipment)

Space permitting, this equipment also needs to be parked as close as possible to the location:
• 30-foot, 5-ton set dresser’s truck (contains props, flats, greenery)
• 30-foot, 5-ton special effects truck (if required, contains material/props for stunts, special effects)
• 30-foot crane (if needed, a large crane on wheels)

Parked nearby:
• 65-foot dressing room – toilet unit (commonly called a "honey-wagon")
• 30-foot pick-up truck with wardrobe trailer
• 30-foot catering truck
• Motor homes 8 x 25 feet (two or more), for actors or director
• 15-foot maxi-van (for shuttling crew, cast)
• Production cars – 2-3 vans (for errands, runs to studio)

In addition, there may be "picture vehicles" – cars/trucks used

Oh, no, I don't think your neighbors will mind one bit.

Let's see, I have acreage, a ranch house, a killer view with lots of hot air balloons, and tons of privacy for the production crew. My only concern: what if they ask to black out the windows and move the beds into the living room?

Wednesday, January 16, 2008

Want A Timeshare? Just Charge It!

Thank you to the reader who sent this little nugget my way. How about owning this penthouse (you need to click on the "penthouse" link at the top) at an "exemplary address" in Manhattan for a week every year? The best part? You can charge it on your American Express card! Prices for this timeshare range from $40,680-$121,400. And, if you buy before March 31, 2008, you get ten times the Hilton Honor points! Yippee! The irony is that, once you purchase the timeshare and earn your extra points, you won't need one because you'll probably have enough points to stay in hotels for the rest of your life.

Just knowing that I'll leave my week vacation in Manhattan with a "sense of clarity" certainly is enough for me to charge my life away and make outrageous payments for eternity. I mean, isn't "clarity" priceless? (I know, it's the wrong credit card.)

I've never been a fan of timeshares, and it's something that I don't think I'd ever buy. I may be wrong because I've never researched it, but I see them as depreciable assets. For one week a year, it doesn't seem worth it to me any way I look at it. However, I must say that I have several friends who own one or more timeshares and love them.

Speaking of timeshares, have you heard of "condo hotels"? It takes the idea of timeshares up a notch--but you're stuck in one location. Basically, you can buy a hotel room and, when you aren't using it, the staff can rent it out to others. Some are as low as $200K, but others are a bit more pricey. Here is one that came my way. I looked at these when I thought that we'd actually be able to pull our money out of the apartments. I ruled it out quickly, but it was one of those, "Wouldn't it be great to own a vacation rental in a totally cool spot that we could use whenever we want, and make money from it the rest of the time?"

I gave up on vacation rentals long ago because A) I think it's kind of gross, B) Supposedly, you are lucky if you cover your taxes and insurance with the income that you make, and C) The management fees are exorbitant (30% in the areas where I was researching).

When we stayed in an upscale cabin in the mountains, it was surprising to me how many personal effects the owners left in the home. The medicine chest was full of prescriptions, pain relievers, toothbrushes, etc. The owner had just stayed there before we arrived, and the shower had a used bar of soap in it. I mean, was that what they considered hospitality? Did they really intend for the renter to use it and then for them to lather up with it after we did? There were clothes in the closet. Works of art. Knick-knacks. It felt like home, just not my home. But the really important stuff was kept in a locked cabinet. Do they just leave on the days when a vacationer is scheduled? I almost expected to find them behind the false wall of a hidden room.

I keep looking, though, waiting for the prices to fall low enough in tourist areas. Not that I'd buy--it's just what I do for fun. Don't people try to unload their second homes before losing their primary ones? I haven't noticed a big decline in the places where I'd be interested in visiting. If anyone knows of a good vacation rental location where prices have dropped significantly, please share for others who may have the funds to jump in.

Tuesday, January 15, 2008

Good News!!

After close observation and analysis of recent activity (and a reader tip), I'm happy to report that the "fake" searches linking to my site are . . . well . . . fake! The trolls have been busy gobbling up the rat bait--so now I know for sure and I won't worry about being associated with illegal activities anymore. Their "rallying attacks" and fake comments (that are so obvious I don't publish them) now serve only to gift me with endless amounts of amusement. See? Every creature has a purpose. Actually, I'm quite flattered to be getting their undying attention and devotion. Don't worry, though. They'll crawl back into their holes, and I won't waste my precious space and your valuable time mentioning them again.

I'm so glad to be committed once again--and I'm more excited than ever! I will be posting regularly about real estate, business, and family-related subjects. That should be my mission statement, but let's not get carried away.

I wasn't prepared to write anything for today, so I'll be back tomorrow with more blather about my losses, recovery, and everything in between.

I do have one quick tidbit, though. Yesterday I received a phone call from a 1031 exchange company. The sales person told me that I had contacted them a while ago and wanted to know if I still needed information on T-I-C's. I told her that we lost our prospective investment money in real estate. She said, "Oh, I hate it when that happens!" I'm sure she does.

Then she asked if she could e-mail me her contact information just in case I "changed my mind". I said, "Huh? Um . . . I . . . lost . . . all . . . the . . .money. So, please don't bother." She sounded a bit disappointed as I hung up. I'm not sure, though, because I put the phone down so quickly.

One must wonder how desperate these firms are now if they have to dredge up year-old contacts based on one-call inquiries. I think they must have glued their shredded phone logs back together or something. I wonder how many of these businesses that specialize in T-I-C's will be around next year--or even next week.

I guess I just created another angle to the foreclosure fiasco. This time, I can't blame the media.

Monday, January 14, 2008

Fake, Fake! It's Just a Joke!

You will not believe the search that has brought traffic to my blog: "fake foreclosure"! This must be some kind of a joke. Who would search for a fake foreclosure?

I mean, when I blogged about the businesses that I would start if a venture capitalist gave me a million dollars, it was all in good fun. I was merely creating the most absurd business ideas that anyone could ever think of (if I were serious, why would I blab them to the world?). I really had no idea that someone would need or request a fake foreclosure. Why do you think they would do that? Maybe they're trying to get their spouse to divorce them and, instead of splitting their assets, want to be spiteful by losing everything. Maybe they were researching for companies that "rescue" homeowners threatened with losing their homes and they meant to find "fake foreclosure companies". Whew! Maybe it was just a fluke.

The negativity in real estate can be overwhelming for people who approach it with integrity. There are so many dishonest and illegal activities that it almost makes me never want to do another real estate transaction again . . .almost. At least I can sleep well at night knowing that I have never been a part of these shenanigans. Heck, I never even knew they existed until recently. I can see now how someone like me can get eaten up alive in this business. I think the commercial market takes it up a notch. The piranhas are strictly out for themselves. I'm glad that I made it out alive and financially solvent. That happy ending was a true miracle.

The one positive note from all this stuff is that I'm grateful that we lost only what we did and nothing more--especially our souls. I should thank these people who searched for "fake foreclosures" and stumbled onto my site instead. They have given me more optimism, humor, and hope than I could have ever accomplished in such a short period of time.

However--and this is the sad part for me--if my site continues to be a magnet for those who are contemplating or performing illegal and immoral activities, I will have to reevaluate the direction of my blog. My purpose was to bring investors of all kinds together for moral support--and some fun--but only the Internet can twist such pure intentions and expectations into something so underworldly and lurid.

Everyone wants to leave their mark on this world. I am no different. However, if I simply raise my children right and be a good wife to my loving husband, then I need do no more. With seven kids and the hope of a large progeny, I will make an impact on the future, regardless of what happens here.

You may be thinking that I should just remove the undesirable key words that make my blog detectable by search engines. But, frankly, I won't be censored. I don't want to put myself out, as I have been for the last 101 posts, and worry about what someone will think or do, and try to predict the sickness that will be attracted to my site. I won't allow people, who I don't even know, to dictate what and how I write.

I make no income from this. My life would be much easier if I were to discontinue sharing my experiences and (very expensive) education with you. I've enjoyed myself immensely, but I've also taken on this responsibility as seriously as I would have a paying job. I think you can sense my level of commitment by what I've put before you. I am a writer, and this was a great way of turning something negative into a powerful learning experience for all of us.

My favorite part was hearing from all of you--even the negative doom and gloomers. Exposing their ignorance and hatred was so fun, wasn't it? I really don't care what those kinds of people say or think about me because if they wanted to obsess about me, when I didn't even know they existed, then more power to them. You know what they say about negative publicity. They did more for bringing traffic to my blog than I could have ever paid a public relations expert to do.

Anyway, this is the deal: If I continue to get hits on my blog from searches for fraudulent and illegal (I know that's redundant) activities in the next few days, I will reconsider continuing. I want to stay with you, but, in the end, I never desired to be associated with something evil. My goal was to educate and entertain. And I hope that, to some extent, I have met or exceeded that mission.

Friday, January 11, 2008

All I Really Need to Know About Investing I Learned in Kindergarten

While contemplating the lessons that we all try to impress upon our children, I have come to the conclusion that investing in apartments follows the same rules as the popular book All I Really Need to Know I Learned in Kindergarten by Robert Fulghum.

(Property Managers) Share everything, even your parking lot with the complex next door.

(Owners) Play fair, unless you're trying to sell a property.

(Tenants) Don't hit people, except the person who lives in the apartment above you and the police who come out to control the melee.

(Maintenance) Put things back where you found them, especially if you need a few tools for your garage--and an air conditioner.

(Tenants) Clean up your own mess. Don't leave it behind for the owners to pay someone to haul it away.

(PM) Don't take things that aren't yours, unless you need to pay your bills.

(Tenants) Say you're sorry when you hurt somebody, and you end up in jail, unable to pay your rent.

(Tenants) Wash your hands before you eat after diving into the dumpster.

(Tenants) Flush~especially if you dump your cigarette butts in the toilet.

(Owners/PM) Warm cookies and cold milk are good for you, but don't help if you're showing a vacant unit.

(Tenants) Live a balanced life - learn some and think some and draw and paint and sing and dance and play and work every day some. And when you draw and paint, feel free to use the nice, clean, white walls in your apartment as a canvas. And don't bother working because your housing is free!

(PM) Take a nap every afternoon, even if you're working in the on-site office.

(Owners) When you go out in the world, watch out for traffic, hold hands and stick together because there's a crazed tenant out to kill you.

(Owners) Be aware of wonder. Remember the little seed in the Styrofoam cup: the roots go down and the plant goes up and nobody really knows how or why, but we are all like that. And when some tenants put their roots down, it's awful hard to dig them out when they haven't paid the rent in months.

(Owners/PM) Goldfish and hamsters and white mice and even the little seed in the Styrofoam cup - they all die. So do we. Unfortunately, the rodents that the tenant smuggled in don't die until they've chewed up all the carpet and half of the walls.

(Owners/PM) And then remember the Dick-and-Jane books and the first word you learned - the biggest word of all - LOOK. "Jane in #2B deals drugs!"

Have a great weekend! I'll be back posting on Monday.

Thursday, January 10, 2008

Surprise, Surprise

Here is a shocking article. Not really. "Prices will continue to fall in 2008." "Rebound forecast pushed back to 2009." Well, I have even more shocking news for you, folks. I don't think we'll have any rebound in 2009. Prices may start to level out, but a rebound? No. Let's put a personal spin on an earlier market decline in order to determine how this current downturn may play out.

We bought our second PR in 1992. The market had started to sour and we sold our condo in Point Loma (a beach area in San Diego, not far from Sea World) for a little less than it was worth the year before, but more than what we paid for it in 1987. We bought a tiny old 1,000 square foot house up the hill from Jack Murphy Stadium in a section of San Diego called Mission Village. It had a giant yard and pool, but still no garage for us. All this for $165,000. We needed to move. Having two boys in an upstairs condo was enough to drive our downstair's neighbor to call the police on us. Well, I told him to call them the next time he tried to complain. My little ones were running up and down the puny hallway and jumping off the couch. Like I said, we had to move. We seriously looked into renting out our condo and buying another home, but my dad talked us out of it. I'm sorry we didn't.

In 1996, we drove north up the 15 freeway a bit to a section of San Diego called Sabre Springs. It was just a couple of miles away from the city of Poway. Pardee was the master planner and everything from Poway to the 15 was new. We were afraid to buy in a new development because we "knew" that prices in the first phase were always higher than subsequent phases. That scared us, but it was the only information that we had about buying from builders.

However, we found a beautiful 2,600 square foot house with a THREE-CAR GARAGE!! After 12 years of marriage, it was our first garage. We bought it for $256,000 which included the few upgrades that we put in. However, in order for our deposit to be accepted, we had to agree to use Pardee's contracted real estate agent to sell our current home. The purchase price for it was $155,000--which was $10,000 less than what we had paid for it four years before.

So, we have the decline starting in around '91-'92, and still not recovering by '96. By 1998 the development was sold out and a house like ours went up for sale for $294,000. Wow! That was almost $40,000 more than what we had paid. We did a jig. As the years followed, the prices kept creeping upward until we sold that house in 2004 for $835,000, which was $300,000 more than they were selling when we bought our current home in Temecula and rented out the one in Sabre Springs. (I have a very sad story about that area. I've mentioned it in a prior post, but never expounded. One day, I'll give you more details. In life, as in real estate, timing is everything.)

That was a typical cycle--around six years from bust to appreciation. However, would we call what's happening today typical? With the loan fiasco, many buyers who would enter the market now to pick up lower priced foreclosures are unable to do so because of their inability to obtain financing. Meanwhile, we have more houses clogging up the MLS. Not a good combination.

The peak of this cycle seemed to have been in 2005 (although I noticed a little bit of slowing that year, but nothing too significant). It's now 2008. A typical turn around takes much longer than this and that doesn't account for the lender twist. Therefore, we probably won't start seeing values "rebound," or perhaps merely stabilize, for at least another three years, which takes us to 2011.

Only time will tell the accuracy of my, and the myriad other, predictions. For this one, I hope I'm wrong and the recovery is sooner than expected.

Wednesday, January 9, 2008

Feeding An Army

I've stated many times that during the height of our financial crisis, we only bought food and other necessities. Last night, as I was making dinner, it dawned on me that I probably spend more on groceries alone than others spend for food and luxury items. So maybe our total output is the same as others who may not be as prudent in their purchases.

As I washed the three hearts of organic romaine lettuce for our dinner salad, I wondered if you knew what it took to feed my little army (yesterday's setting was the Navy--I'm just trying to be fair). Then I wondered if you cared. I think that, for people who are not familiar with big families, it may be interesting to know. Not only that, while my husband was out with the kids, I was desperately attempting to come up with a post for today.

Since we moved the baby out of our room last weekend (HURRAY!), I've been catching up on some much-needed sleep, and my writing has been flowing quite well (for me, anyway). Yet, last night, as the house and my Dobies lay quiet, waiting for the light bulb to flash over my head, I felt a block coming on. That's when I was washing the romaine. Shoot, now you know the secret to how I come up with these lame posts!

So, if this doesn't interest you at all, or if you feel that I'm going too far off-topic (which, by the way, I don't think that I am), maybe I'll be a hit tomorrow. You just never know.

I'll give you an average day of meals that I cook when my oldest son is home from college. He'll be graduating this May. He's hoping for a job offer (and has been told that he's getting one) from the company where he's been interning for 18 months (telecommuting from school, at times). So, he'll be moving back in with us and paying room and board for a shared room with his brother, food, and utilities. All his other expenses with be his responsibility. Also, the amounts of food that I use are based on feeding the equivalent of four adults and five children, three of whom eat very little.

For breakfast on most days, I make three cups of organic steel-cut oats OR about 18 eggs and two pounds of bacon OR a triple batch of pancakes (I don't know what this entails as my husband makes it from scratch).

For lunch, if we are having deli sandwiches (our lunches run the gambit of just about everything), we'll go through about two pounds of meat (preferably nitrate free, but not always) and almost an entire loaf of whole wheat bread. Sometimes the kids like quesadillas, so I use about a dozen tortillas (we buy the uncooked 36 pack from Costco) and about 1.5 to 2 pounds of sharp cheddar cheese with 32 ounces of sour cream.

For dinner, I'll give you the example of Salisbury steak. I use three pounds of ground beef and about 5 pounds of potatoes. I've found a great mashed potato mix with only potatoes, butter, and salt. If I use this, I make two of the large packets. That brings me to our almost nightly lemon/olive oil salad of three hearts of organic romaine with 1/2 a package of organic grape tomatoes and an organic cucumber--all from Trader Joe's and less expensive than the conventionally grown produce in the supermarkets. I figure that we save a ton of money on medical expenses (we have private insurance) by eating healthy in the first place. My children are usually seen by our pediatrician for check-ups only.

We've recently eliminated all candy from our diets, except for special occasions. It threw me off guard a bit when one of my sons asked me if he could have an orange for "dessert." Also, between meals my children may choose a snack from bananas, oranges, organic apples, bell peppers, or carrots.

Believe it or not--even with the use of a hand sanitizer when we're out--my kids still catch a virus sometimes, but fight it off quickly--one by one. If they are stuffed up from a cold or have an earache, the best fix is xylitol (pronounced "zylitol") gum. For about $2, xylitol gum will demolish any ear infection in a day. No $30 doctor co-pay. No antibiotics. No pain. This is the most effective remedy that I've used. I have never seen it fail. If my children are too young to chew gum, I put some loose xylitol in the corners of their mouths before they go to bed. Since we've started using this technique, we've have never had an ear infection.

The biggest splurge on my food bill? Raw milk. The cost is $6.95 per half gallon. We buy two per week and only give the kids half a cup in the morning and half at night. If they have a lot of congestion, then we buy an extra one and let them drink more.

So, with all that being said, and keeping in mind that we shop the sales and don't just buy what we want, our grocery tally for an average month is about $1,000.

Living on two acres, it would be ideal to grow our own fruits and veggies. I don't know if it would be any cheaper, but it would be very convenient and nutritious. Right now, we have a few apple trees and a couple of orange and tangerine trees (our lemon tree was eaten by a gopher). They don't produce much. That's probably because it takes more than just planting them, setting up the irrigation, and returning in a year to see if there's any fruit.

The vegetable garden has been on my mind for a while. We have every critter imaginable, so I can't just spread some seed down and water every day. Between the birds, squirrels, rabbits, mice, gophers, every bug know to man, and our loyal watch dogs, there may be nothing left for us. I've considered a giant planter with a wooden bottom and high sides--but birds, squirrels, and mice would still have access.

Anyway, I've decided to scale it down--way down--in order to experiment this year. I have five large 16" diameter planters. I'm going to set those up on an old six-foot patio table in the sun and cover the whole thing with bird netting. If I do it well enough, it'll keep the crawling rodents out, too, while providing access to the "garden". I already have strawberry plants and will be transplanting them after this rain spell is over. Then I'll buy a variety of tomato seedlings. I'd like some cucumbers, but the vine would end up wrapping itself around the table a few times. Lettuce would be nice, but I've done that at another house and the bugs are very aggressive and wiggle their way to the center of the head. Plus, I'd need a ton! Next year, maybe we can do more directly in the ground.

OK, I think I'm ready. There's just one small detail: would someone please tell me how to keep the tomato bugs and slugs at bay?

Tuesday, January 8, 2008

Apartment Envy

Last Friday, a Naval reservist friend of ours took our family and a few others on a tour of his frigate (why do I always feel like I'm cussing when I say that?). His wife invited another friend of hers. I had never met the other friend before, but I knew that she and her husband bought a 20 unit complex for around $500,000 in Tennessee a few months ago. After learning of our experience, our mutual friend tried to talk them out of it because they were buying with very little down (I can't remember how much), but they were adamant that they were doing the right thing.

As my reservist friend attempted to supply us with passes to get on the base, I had an opportunity to chat with the new apartment owner. Meanwhile, the Navy sent us through the ringer in order to gain access to the ship that my friend serves on (even though it was already arranged with the Captain). If terrorists have as hard a time accessing Navy bases as we did, our national security faces few threats (I doubt it works this way, though).

Anyway, I smugly asked the other friend how the apartments were going. She said that they were cash flowing, so it was all good. Of course, my interest was piqued and my eyebrows were raised. Did she say "cash flowing"? Did I even remember what that meant? You see, when we were shopping for apartments, it was all about the monthly income. But after owning them for a couple of years, I began to think that "cash flow" meant money pouring out of our pockets and into the general accounts of the incompetent property managers.

No, I'm sure she meant that the apartments were paying her. She said that they flow $1,000 a month. What?! By now she could no longer see me in the van because I had slithered off the seat and onto the floor, totally deflated and dejected. Don't get me wrong. I'm happy for her and glad that it didn't turn into the disaster that I had predicted, but it really was the salt in the wound for me--a wound that's taking it's sweet time to heal.

Let's tally. After much experience managing up to a dozen properties at a time, we bought two apartments--one for $2,950,000 with almost 20% down, and one for $1,110,000 with 20% down and we couldn't squeeze a penny out of either of them in TWO whole years. As a matter of fact, we paid them lots and lots of money. Now my friend's friend buys one with very little down for $500,000, has zero property management and investment experience, and they flow a projected $12,000/year.

Needless to say, I was speechless.

She wasn't, though. What I found out was that her father-in-law is an experienced apartment investor in the same area of Tennessee. He found the apartment complex for them, hired his management company, and has been overseeing the property. Her husband does make trips back often, but mostly to visit his parents. Also, her father-in-law is a contractor and controls the expenses on her property very closely. He's even looking for another complex for them to buy.

So, what have I learned from this depressing episode:

1) I hate gloaters.
2) I'm green with envy, which is not a good color on me.
3) I should have married someone whose father was an experienced apartment investing contractor in Ohio and Kentucky.
4) I have a hard time believing people who say that they are doing much better than I.
5) How does anyone expect me to overcome my real estate losses with optimism and humor when I'm trying desperately not to be bitter from someone else's success?
6) I'm an idiot.
7) Local ownership--or, at the very least, representation--is key to making a commercial investment work.

I learned all this before we launched the three-hour tour (which we all thought was very informative and fascinating). So, for the entire time, I had to smile and pretend that I liked her. My green coloring was easily explained by the wooziness that I felt being on a perfectly still frigate docked at the pier. The worst part is that I really did like her. I bet her management company likes her, too.

Monday, January 7, 2008

It's Hammer Time

Whew! It was a long descent, but I finally made it down from Friday's soapbox. I feel much better now.

Well, it's January and our accountant sent us our tax organizer last week. My husband has been working on the year-ending books for our LLC's. It's time to hammer out those fateful numbers. I'm hoping to have the tragic news of our total losses to you by the beginning of February or sooner.

Talk about losses. Here is an article about rising from the ashes. Good ole MC Hammer is baaaack. He's found a new avenue to overcome the loss of his fortune and bankruptcy. He blew through $14,000,000 in money, and now a "small group of investors" is handing over $1,000,000 so that he can start an online dance contest web site. Okay. Am I the only one befuddled by this?

The article goes out of it's way to emphasize Hammer's technological savvy and entrepreneurial genius. But he lost $14M, remember? (I hope that others will be as generous with me at some point in the future.)

Maybe the big-time investors are holding off on real estate purchases, so they have some money to burn. And, since they just seem to be giving it away, I'll stand in line. I've developed a wealth (pardon the pun) of entrepreneurial ideas to spend their start-up cash on:

~Lying Bathroom Scale--set this scale to the weight on your driver's license! Feel good each time you flop onto it. It's portable enough to carry to family get-togethers and high school reunions to prove that your size is just an illusion.

~Dating Service--for a $250 per hour fee, we will inspect all of the clothes in your wardrobe and give you an approximate date of when they were in style.

~Adopt-A-Whale---for $1,000 a research scientist will attach your name to a whale's flipper. However, you have to be willing to share because your name may not be the only one on the whale. The number of tags allowed will be determined by the whale's buoyancy

~Pretend Family--$150 will buy you senseless sidewalk chalk drawings on your driveway in order to prove to the neighbors that you have kids. This will alleviate their suspicions that you are the childless couple who is filing the anonymous complaints about noise and trespassing with the police department, Child Protective Services, and the Humane Society. $15 a month we will send you a fake e-mail once a week from your boss, proclaiming your outstanding work performance and the fact that you are indispensable to the company. May be used as a reference when applying for other positions. **For entertainment purposes only!**

~Fake Foreclosure--Now, the lifestyle of your neighbors can be yours! For a small percentage of your assets, we will surprise your unsuspecting spouse by draining your bank account, maxing out your credit cards, claiming the title to your house, and scheduling couple's counseling in order to determine if your marriage is strong enough to withstand such a tremendous amount of stress. Only the most thoughtful husband will buy his wife a Fake Foreclosure.

Friday, January 4, 2008

Boyz 2 Men

(Quick update: I'm still getting links from Google by people looking for "fake" pay stubs. If that's you, please reconsider your actions.)


Some of you may be asking, "What's 11D?" I had the same question when I saw that a few hits to my blog were coming from there. I found that my blog was linked in this post (my site is linked to the word "bloggers" only). The post is about the "sub-culture" of "debt blogging." I had never heard of this term before. I guess it refers to people who have accumulated an inordinate amount of debt on their credit cards. The post on 11D even links to an entire list of debt blogs. Guess what, I'm NOT on that list. For good reason, too. If you are an 11D reader, I'm sorry, but I'm not a debt blogger--and hope never to be one. You may want to hit your "Back" key now.

When the doom and gloom bubble blog readers descended upon me because my good friend at HousingPANIC told them that I was a flipper and they believed it without reading any of my posts, I could almost understand the connection. After all, I did lose my money in real estate--just not that way. Yes, most of the comments I received made absolutely no sense considering my situation, but I good-naturedly published them to highlight the ignorance of those readers. I kind of felt sorry for most of them, too.

However, now I'm referred to as a blogger who is in credit card debt because of what? I bought too much furniture or went on too many vacations, none of which I could afford, so I put everything on my credit cards? Huh? If you've read anything that I've written, I'd say that I was just the opposite. I have no credit card debt--and I only did during our most trying time of apartment ownership to purchase food and other necessities. We don't even have a car payment! I refer to my lack of spending on frivolous items so often in my posts, that I can't just link you to one in order to prove it.

I'm not only annoyed by the fact that I've been misidentified, yet again, but I'm referred to on a blog that's sub-titled, "Leave saving the world to the men? I don't think so." What's that supposed to mean?

I have a wonderful husband and FIVE amazing sons. My very brief perusal of the site shows a picture of the author's two sons and refers to her husband. So she has plenty of men in her life, too. And I'm sure that she adores them just as much as I value my family. Maybe her subtitle is tongue-in-cheek. I haven't read all of her posts, so I don't know how she portrays herself.

But when my radar senses any type of male bashing, my wife-and-mother horns begin to appear from the hiding place deep (not real deep) within my forehead. I won't bash the author of 11D because I refuse to stoop to the level of how I've been treated in the past. However, I will talk in general about raising boys into men. (I'm about to rant and rave off topic like I have never in the past, so you just may want to reconsider continuing with this post.)

My husband and I teach our sons on a daily basis what it means to be real men. This is what we try to tell them and what my husband models:

Being a man means . . .
. . . recognizing that there is a God and praying every day.
. . . being honest.
. . . taking responsibility for all of your actions and not being a victim.
. . . honoring your commitments and keeping your word.
. . . being the head of your family through servant leadership.
. . . treating others with respect and kindness in all things.
. . . running ahead of everyone and opening the door for them (we're still working on this one).
. . . it's okay to rough play and to channel your endless energy productively, but know how to control it and don't hurt anyone or break anything.
. . . allowing women to embrace and cherish their feminine genius.
There are so many other manly attributes that I don't have the time nor the space to list them here.

In today's world, when men's contributions to society are downplayed by PC rhetoric, I spend an inordinate amount of time instilling in my boys the value that they bring to this world. And I do the same for my two little girls. If my boys are proud of the characteristics that make them male, does that minimize who I or my girls are as females? Heck, no. Read my blog. I'm sure you'll find that I'm a strong, intelligent (that could be debated somewhat--especially with the "sandpaper on the wooden toilet seat" incident), confident, and very out-spoken human being. The more I embrace my femininity and teach my daughters to do the same, the better I am at allowing my strengths to impact the world around me, but, mostly, my family.

(I should tell you that I spent many years as an investigative analyst in Equal Employment Opportunity with a large city government. I know what gender discrimination and sexual harassment are. I performed the training for 10,000 city employees. If all men were raised with the qualities that I recite above, our society wouldn't have these problems. Also, in my investigation of hundreds of complaints over the years, I found very few to be based on discrimination, but more on how people treat others, or on poor management skills. Unfortunately, gender discrimination does exist, but not on the scale that some will lead you to believe.)

It's troubling that many people today equate a feminine identification to weakness, subordination, marginalization, and inferiority. Frankly, it's insulting to me. Therefore, you see women defining equality to men as taking on innately male characteristics. Unfortunately, this suppresses the best of who they are. I'm proud to be a woman and I'm proud that my sons will grow up as productive men (two of them are already there!).

With the qualities of both genders flourishing in this society, I believe that many of our challenges will find creative solutions. And, yes, if need be, I would leave saving the world to men--my men, anyway.

Thursday, January 3, 2008

I Stuck My Hand Where?!

I had an embarrassing situation with my toilets, specifically one--the half bath. It had a permanent stain around the water line. I'd say that it was the inevitable Southern California hard water deposit, but this mark was black. Looked like a dirty toilet. I would scrub that sucker and blast it with bleach. I even used the best toilet cleaner that I've ever come across, the new Clorox one. Squirt it in, return a few minutes later, flush. Viola, a clean toilet. It didn't work on my nasty, nasty stain, though.

It got to the point where I was considering having the toilet replaced. But, as you now know, we couldn't afford it. We have people over here all the time and I didn't want to have to explain the ring every time someone walked into the bathroom to do their business: "Oh, just a minute, I need to let you know that the toilet bowl is clean. Really, I just cleaned it. But it has a stain that I'm not able to remove. But, don't worry it's clean. Really."

The house is only seven years old, so it's not like there's mold and mildew growing out of every edifice. It's a new looking house. We owned a 50 year-old house by Jack Murphy Stadium in San Diego in the early 90's. That one had a tub that was so stained it looked like it smoked three packs of cigarettes a day for five decades. That was really embarrassing because you know that every person who walks into your bathroom peeks behind the shower curtain. Ain't no way we could scrub that puppy clean!

Anyway, back to my toilet. So, over Christmas, my sister and her family stayed with us. I gave her the "my toilet is really clean" spiel. She casually mentioned that she had the same problem in one of the houses they lived in and she told our brother. Now, my brother can fix ANYTHING and EVERYTHING. He told her to use fine sandpaper on the stain because it was porcelain and it would take it off. She said it worked like a charm. I couldn't wait until she left (not really) so that I could get to work on the commode.

So there I was. Fine sandpaper in hand. Looking down at my toilet. The first thing I did was clean it with the new Clorox cleaner that I love. I even gave it an extra scrub. Then I wondered if sandpaper worked when it was wet. Then I realized that getting it wet would mean that my hand would actually be in my toilet. Hold on here! My hand has to be in my toilet? I have seven children who have spit up, pooped, vomited, and rubbed their snotters on me. I even watch as they dig their fingers into their collective noses and, in one fluid motion, scoop it directly into their mouths. But as I stood gazing into my permanently stained bowl, with raised sandpaper in hand, I never bargained for this.

This is the place where everyone's unmentionables happen. Where visitors go when they have to go. With my five boys, it happens everywhere in the bathroom if they don't concentrate on what they're doing. It's where they run when they have the runs--or the stomach flu. And I'm supposed to stick my hand directly in it? OK, if it'll save me some money, I'm game.

I had another problem, though. I decided that the sandpaper would work better if the toilet drained and I dried it out with a rag (I'm actually still gagging as I write this). As I gingerly peered behind the toilet, I found that the water shut off valve was in a very hard-to-reach place. I, literally, had to stick my head part way into the toilet to turn off the water. I held my breath. Not that I expected to take a dive, but I didn't want to risk smelling anything--even the Clorox. Way too close for comfort here. (Now I know why plumbers are so expensive and how they manage to show their crack while they're working.)

Once the water was off, I flushed the toilet and wiped (still gagging) the inside of the bowl with a utility rag (fancy name for an old kitchen towel). I started to scrub with the sandpaper. What do you know? The stain disappeared!

There was a little bit of water left in the bottom of the bowl. I was so enthusiastic about getting the black off that my hand slipped under the water line (I'm going to puke just thinking about it) a couple of times. End result--sparkling toilet! Just don't expect me to do the same for any of my rentals.

By now, I was mesmerized by the magic of sandpaper. I decided that I would use it to clean the front underside of the toilet seat. Guess what? It's not porcelain. It's painted wood. Do you know what that means? Yes, my husband is going to Home Depot tomorrow to buy a new toilet seat. You live and learn. At least we didn't have to go through the expense of changing the entire bowl. I actually tried to repaint the toilet seat. It didn't work.

I did have another idea, though. I called out to my son to get me another sheet of sandpaper. (I don't even know where it is in the garage.) Our third bathroom is another one that's accessible for guests to use. When the house was custom built, someone didn't put the vanity on exactly level. It looks good and all, but a small amount of water tends to pool in the corner--we usually keep a folded up utility rag there--except when we have people over. This has caused dirt and water deposits to stain the fake marble. I have scrubbed it to no avail. I even used a straight razor which helped a little. But then it just looked like dirt that had been scraped away with a razor blade.

I took the new sheet of sandpaper and attacked the vanity and the sink. The result was amazing! It looks brand new. My only question is: how often can I do that until the vanity finally disappears into a massive ball of powder?

Wednesday, January 2, 2008

Would You Like Some Cheese With That Whine?

(Well, I'm still being linked from Google searches for "fake pay stubs," but no one has been brave enough to explain the rationale behind needing one. What a seedy business! If I have any new info, I'll let you know.)

I am so partied out! I can't even begin to tell you how many celebrations my husband, children, and I have attended, or will be attending over the course of two weeks. Don't get me wrong. I'm having the best time! Just tiring~especially with a one-year old. Up a bunch at night because we're off schedule.

Today, I'm actually going to do some whining--or, at least what I consider to be whining. You see, I'll be talking about something of very little importance in relation to many things in this world (God, family, health, life, world hunger, peace), but it's been bugging me nevertheless.

OK, here it is: My husband and I are in a conundrum. We need a bit more room in the house. Although we have, what I consider, an ample amount of square footage (over 2600), we don't have enough bedrooms (just four--three of which are very large). We need a minimum of five bedrooms and an office. (I know, "Oh, poor thing!")

So for the past several months, we've been getting estimates on a variety of scenarios:
1) Convert our gigantic attached garage to a bedroom, office, and family room (over 800 square feet for $37,000 not including permits, paint, or flooring), or
2) Convert the one-car garage to a bedroom and office (almost 300 square feet for $17,500), or
3) Convert the back part of the garage to an office with no direct access to the house (120 square feet for $7,000) or
4) A combination of #2 AND enclose our covered patio with mostly glass to take advantage of our killer view (over 500 square feet for $43,500) or
5) Enclose our patio into a sun room (with "pop and sizzle," as the sales rep claims) for $38,000 (just a total rip-off no matter how many sf are involved--240 to be exact), or, and this is the least desirable,
6) Do nothing. Reorganize with the space that we have now. Or just move out of the Master Bedroom, so the baby can have it all to herself.

Unfortunately, my husband is leaning heavily toward #6. I think it's the most prudent because we shouldn't do anything until we have all the money saved to do it, but--can I whine a bit more here--I need to move the baby out of my room! She's a light sleeper, so any movement or light awakens her. When she pulls herself up and sees me, she goes quite crazy and has a hard time self soothing. Meanwhile, I lay there with the covers pulled over my head, pretending that she doesn't see me (there you go, I really am an ostrich!), even in the dark. If my husband so much as breathes, I bop him on the arm. No reading before I fall asleep. No talking in the room. No flushing the toilet. No lights on after she's down. I have a new respect for people who don't have their sight because walking through my room and bathroom in the pitch black is like trying to get around without my glasses.

Am I whining enough here, or would you like to hear some more?

Anyway, we've been going around about this for at least six months. Then, yesterday, I saw this and the clouds parted and the angels started singing:

Price $549,900 (Look at this price!!!)
Year Built: 2006
House size: 4,580 sq. feet (That's FOUR THOUSAND, FIVE HUNDRED EIGHTY whopping sq. ft.)
Lot size: 190,357 sq. feet (Tons of room--OK, so most of it is dirt, but there's lots of it!)
Status: Active
Bedrooms: 6 (Would you look at that?! That's the equivalent of the number of bedrooms we need!)
Bathrooms: 3.00 (Yikes! This may not work. We're squeezed into 3.5 now--whine, whine, whine.)
Pool: N
Spa: N
View: Y
Type: Single Family Residence / detached

Property Description (See, it's literally shouting out to me to go see it.)
• Custom Built
• Ceiling Fan (Uh, just one?)
• Driveway (Yes, but it doesn't appear to be paved.)
• French Door (Can you have one French door--really?)
• Great Room
• Horse Property Improved
• Lot over 40,000 sq ft
• Main Floor Bedroom
• Main Floor Master Bedroom
• Recreational Vehicle Access/Parking
• Desert View (What desert--it's got my same zip code)
• Panoramic View
• Valley View

You notice that I didn't give you the MLS or parcel numbers. That's because this house is all MINE. It's MINE, I tell you. MINE, MINE, MINE! (Fade to maniacal laughter and wringing of hands.)

There's also one more teensy-weensy, little detail--I can't find it on any map. Well, my Thomas' Guide is out-dated. And you know as well as I that Mapquest can't find everything. OK, so maybe it's in the boonies off of miles of bumpy, washboard dirt roads. Listen, with over 4,500 square feet on over four acres, will I need to ever go anywhere else? I can grow my own food or just go to Costco once a year and store everything in the giant house (remember, it has a "LARGE gourmet kitchen"). The kids can go out and play for days on end and, as long as the mountain lions don't have them for dinner, they'll have space to endlessly explore.

The best part is that, with the price so low (and I bet I can get it for closer to $500K), we can keep the house we live in now and rent it out--even with the inevitable rise of our interest rate this summer. Heck, we can even sell ours in this rotten market and still be ahead (although I'd be a deadhead to do that).

I have to run. I need to go, um, feed the kids--another breakfast because they're darn hungry kids. Do you, by chance, remember the name of the post where I list my agent's number?