Monday, May 31, 2010

Memorial Day

In honor of those who made the ultimate sacrifice so that we may have freedom. A mere "Thank you" will never be enough.

Saturday, May 29, 2010

Faux Foreclosure

First let me just say that I don't have anything against faux finishing. My favorite Aunt Ninny does beautiful faux finishes and I had the pleasure of having her do most of one of my houses. It came out gorgeous and even Mister C (aka "Mr Everything Should Be White") really liked it. Having said that, there are a lot of people who should really consider putting down the paint and backing away from the walls. Because something that looks good when done well and in moderation, will make future buyers stop in their tracks with jaws agape when it's done on every surface and not necessarily all that well.

As a case in point, we have the following home that I showed to some prospective buyers. Now, the house had other issues aside from the paint that made it less than desirable to my clients.

First of all, the house almost backs to a major intersection. Standing in the backyard we couldn't even talk because we couldn't hear each other over the traffic. It was not a big yard to begin with and I'm not sure you could get enough trees into it to muffle the sound of the cars and trucks going by all day and night long. Hence, the backyard is largely unusable.

Secondly, and also why we couldn't talk in the backyard, were the F-16s from the (very) close by Luke Air Force Base flying over every few minutes. The house is in the flight path of the base. Personally, I love the "sound of freedom" and I'm always happy to hear and see them flying over my own home which is also in the flight path of the base. But this house was REALLY close and the jets are REALLY low when they go over it. How low? Well, let's just say if the pilots flew shirtless I could probably tell you if they had tattoos. That low.

Thirdly, it would have needed work even without considering the paint. The house had no counter tops in the kitchen and the cabinets were sub-par at best. The master bath had been "re-done" but apparently when the owners realized they were losing the house they decided to "undo" most of it. They had pulled out the fancy shower head and managed to completely obliterate the tile when doing so. There was no toilet. As a side note, I do see a lot of missing toilets. People must really love their toilets.

So anyway, on top of all of the previously mentioned drawbacks, and the unreasonable price the bank was hoping for, we have the following faux finishing going on.

This is the master bedroom. I don't find this particularly offensive. I think they did a fairly decent job and I do like the crown molding they've added. But if you look out the door, you can see a different type of finish in a different color. Add in the two different types of flooring and it starts to get a bit overwhelming on the eyes.

This is the doorway to the hallway where the bedrooms are. The wall finish is poorly executed and the color choice is a I have no idea what the thing above the doorway is supposed to be. I really don't. Maybe someone out there has a clue, but it's not me.

Here we see where the original homeowner has painted the door to look like wood. Sort of. It's not a horrible job, just a bit too obviously painted. That and the fact that this was one of only two doors in the house where they had done this makes it stick out like a sore thumb. This is a better look at the amateur technique employed by the painter. The door finish does not help the paint look any better.

And this is the island. It's not painted in a faux finish, but it is covered in faux stones and I think that qualifies for our purposes. Again, not horrible, just overwhelming when taken in with all the other surfaces.

On the plus side, the floor tile is nicely chosen and well installed, the neighborhood seems pretty stable and the small yard will be easy to keep landscaped. And if you time it right you might be able to get that yard work done in between the F-16s flying overhead with their half-naked pilots.

Friday, May 28, 2010


So check out what Mister C saw on his way into the building at work the other day. Two adult javelinas hanging out in the parking lot. You can see in the one picture that there are foothills really close by and that's where these guys would usually hang out. But on this day, they decided to come down for a visit. According to the security guards, they come down fairly regularly and like to nap under one of the windows.

In case you're wondering how Mister C was able to get relatively clear and close up pictures of two wild animals with self sharpening tusks, just know that he did not exercise the proper amount of caution. Another employee was showing everyone the pictures he had taken from the safety of his vehicle. Mister C all but ignored basic safety and opted for better pictures. He brushed aside my concern with a comment about not having the ability to zoom on his phone. Well of course that makes it totally acceptable. Anyway, it's a pretty cool way to start your work day.

Javelina One

Javelina Two

Thursday, May 27, 2010

Updates in real estate

I don't think I've mentioned too much on here what's been going on with my real estate clients, so here goes...

Texas and her husband have an accepted offer with the owner of a house in a short sale situation. They have been waiting patiently for five weeks now to hear a response from the bank. The funny thing is that the bank had already previously accepted an offer that would have netted them slightly less than our offer. We honestly thought it would be a no brainer and a quick approval. Three weeks before we put in the offer, they were going to make X and they accepted it. The buyer walked. We come along and put in an offer where they will make X plus Y and they have to think about it. I can't imagine why people think so ill of banks...

Another client of mine, an investor, has an accepted cash offer on a little place. When I originally wrote the contract five weeks ago, I put in a closing date of today. Cash deals usually close in two-three weeks but I threw that far out date in the contract "just in case". I figure it's better to close earlier than your projected date than to assume it will go well and have my client hit with a "per diem" for delaying the closing. Thank goodness I did because the people running her IRA/trust have to be some of the biggest buffoons I've ever had the displeasure of dealing with. Seriously. All they had to do was sign the paperwork that my client and the seller agreed to and sent them three weeks ago and they've managed to drag it out until the last possible second. The funding came in yesterday. As of last night they still hadn't managed to get the signed paperwork to the title company.

The investors from Colorado came into town last week and we went out viewing homes on two of the days they were in town. We found three possibilities and put in an offer on one of them. Hopefully we'll hear something good on that one today. The listing agent was in Australia and had another agent dealing with her business while she was gone. A really low ball offer had come in just prior to ours (within hours) and the other agent immediately had the sellers sign off on it and submitted it to the bank. The listing agent landed on Monday at noon, the exact deadline that we had given the sellers to respond to the offer. She saw what had been submitted and knew that the bank would reject it outright so she called me and asked if we would be willing to wait until today to get a response. So we're waiting.

Another set of clients I'm working with whom I refer to as "The Two Robs" is still waiting for Rob-1 to get his money. When we first met, he was in the process of selling his business to one of his employees. It's taken forever to get it done but it looks like (fingers crossed) it might be wrapping up tomorrow. If that's the case then we can put in an offer on a property that we found a month ago that had gone under contract but that just came back on the market yesterday. Fingers crossed people, fingers crossed!

I have another client coming in from Detroit next week to view some homes. So far he hasn't even decided that he wants to live in Arizona but I think once he gets out here that he might actually like it. I mean the man is coming from Detroit, what's not to love about Arizona? We'll see.

As for our own real estate well, we're getting hit as much as the next guy. When we bought our home in late October of 2008, we thought we were getting a great deal. We were paying $85,000 less than our next door neighbor did when he bought the exact same floor plan a year earlier. The only difference between our homes was that his house had the fireplace and ours didn't. But for $85,000 less, I think I can live without a fireplace that I can't use anyway because our city has "no-burn" days for most of what little winter we have. All in all, we got a great deal, right? Not so fast Sparky, the decline continues. Now our neighbor that's in the closest cul-de-sac is trying to sell the exact same floor plan in a short sale. There are several things that her house has that trumps ours.

1. It's in a cul-de-sac.
2. Because of #1, she automatically has a larger lot than us. About 40% larger.
3. She has the fireplace.
4. She has a pool.

Worst of all, she's asking $75,000 less than we paid eighteen months ago. Aghhh!

Sunday, May 23, 2010

Some flowers in the desert

Saturday, May 22, 2010

One fine day

I finally got around to getting pictures off of my camera and onto my laptop. This shot of Master J was taken outside of the Phoenix Art Museum when we visited a few weeks ago. I love the falling water behind him as well as the palm trees against the gorgeous blue sky. And of course I'm only a little biased when I point out the fantastically good looking kid in the picture.

Friday, May 21, 2010

Wounded knee, not the original

Do you see that second lump, just below my knee?

Picture if you will...

I've just woken up, I have had no coffee. I open the dogs kennels and stumble towards the door to release them to the wild. They are very wound up because IT'S ALMOST TIME TO EAT! I open the door, the dogs bolt out and then I hear the birds. Yes, birds are right outside the door. Yay! But it gets better. Because the closest bird is a toddler and therefore is not the best flier. It manages to get about six inches off the ground and is trying to gain altitude, but two insane canines are right behind it. When I realize it cannot get high enough to clear the fence, I start yelling at them to stop. Which is always effective. The baby bird manages to get about two feet off the ground but then corners around the grapefruit tree and starts losing altitude. The Insane One is on top of it so I start running towards the chaos in the hopes of preventing an avian death from occurring before I've even had my coffee. Bad move. Evidently I cannot run. At least not in any sort of graceful manner. Because two steps in and I can feel my upper body getting ahead of my legs which are apparently still sleeping in. Three steps in and I hit the grass, still wet from dew. So my brain is saying "stop" but now my legs are finally waking up and pumping full speed ahead. But since my upper body is moving in a downward arc, my pumping legs are basically serving to propel me at top speed into the ground. I hit the ground on my right leg and left breast and then proceed to slide a solid five feet, landing about two feet from the now horrified dogs and the still struggling bird. I weakly say "leave it" to the idiots and lay there while the bird manages to walk down towards the gate. The rest of the birds are flying around screaming in a panic about the whole situation. Both dogs take one more worried look at me lying there and then head off to do their business before quietly waiting by the door to be let in. I finally stand up and check my injuries. One rapidly swelling lump on my leg and "grass burn" on one breast. Nice. I can already tell this is going to be a fantastic day.

Wednesday, May 19, 2010

Arizona law update

Any idea what these public officials have in common?

1. President Barack Obama
2. Assistant Secretary of State, PJ Crowley
3. Attorney General, Eric Holder
4. Homeland Security Secretary, Janet Napolitano
5. Mayor of Los Angeles, Anotonio Villaraigosa
6. Los Angeles City Councilman, Ed Reyes

Give up?

Well, here's one thing: All of them have vehemently and publicly decried Arizona's newly signed law on illegal immigration.

And here's another one that absolutely SHOCKED me: None of them had actually read the law at the time they went public with their outrage.


It kind of makes me wonder how many of the rest of the screaming protesters have read it if their illustrious leaders can't even be bothered.

Saturday, May 15, 2010

Is this normal?

How can he possibly be comfortable all hunched over like that? I know he's not completely normal anyway because he sits up and watches television with the rest of us, but this is just ridiculous. He's completely passed out and he looks like a balloon that's slowly deflating.

Just once I would like to be the proud owner of an animal that acts like an animal. Just one cat that doesn't steal the tissue from your face while you are blowing your nose. Just one dog that doesn't walk around on her hind legs like a trained poodle even though she's really a pit bull terrorist with absolutely no manners. Just one cat that doesn't regularly sit like an orange Buddha on my bed. Just one. normal. animal. Is that so much to ask?

Friday, May 14, 2010

Flag is Offensive?

Is this offensive to you?

Evidently at Gavilan Middle School in California it is.

This picture was drawn by a thirteen year old student. Upon seeing what she was drawing, her art teacher told her that she couldn't draw it because "it's offensive".

Really? What is this country coming to that it is offensive to draw the American flag? Would it be okay if she had drawn a Mexican flag instead? Just checking.

Thursday, May 13, 2010

Short Sale Screw Job

Mister C and I put in an offer on a short sale almost seven weeks ago. We offered the full asking price with no contingencies. The owner of course, immediately accepted our offer. We've been patiently waiting for the bank to sign off on it.

On Tuesday, I got a phone call from the listing agent saying that the bank was going to approve our offer as written. Yay! Except for one small thing. The bank was refusing to pay the buyer's side commission to me. According to the listing agent, the bank never pays when the buyer's agent is the principle. And he knew this when the offer came in but chose not to tell me. But what the hell? What gives the bank the right to deny the commission to me? And to my broker?

I could (almost) understand if this was a foreclosure because then the bank would have the right to have whatever sort of commission they want to establish. But it's not. This is a short sale. The bank doesn't own the home. The bank doesn't have an agreement with anyone. I signed a contract with the owner of the property and their listing agreement states that they will be paying a buyer's side commission. It shouldn't matter that I'm representing my husband and I instead of paying another agent to do so. The bank does not have the right to deny me my commission just because their client is not honoring their original contract. Why should I get punished for the bank and the current owner's greediness?

That's right, greediness. The current owner on this house pulled one hundred thousand dollars in equity out of the property at the high point of the market. I have no idea what they did with the money but I can almost guarantee that they didn't put a dime into the property they refinanced. As the market was falling, they went out and bought a bank owned property in a prestigious neighborhood. Then they put renters into their original home. At some point early this year, they quit making the payment on the property. I don't know if their renter left and they couldn't make the payment anymore, or if they just got tired of being landlords. It doesn't really matter. The point being that they quit making the payment sometime this year. They decided it was better for them to no longer honor their contract with the bank.

At the time of the refinance, the bank more than willingly loaned the extra money on the home. I'm sure they got paid some nice fees to do the job so they did it. Earlier this year however, it probably occurred to them that it wasn't such a good idea when the homeowner quit making their payments. Now they were about to be stuck with a deficit between what they were owed and what the market value of the house was.

So here come Mister C and I, looking for a nice property in our own neighborhood that we can use as a rental. It's a great neighborhood (if I do say so myself), the elementary school is walking distance and the newest high school is just around the corner. A perfect scenario for us. We do some math and realize that although the repairs are going to be around ten thousand dollars, my commission check will be able to cover at least some of that. So we put in an offer. And because we know we're not trying to "flip" it for the most profit possible and because we're not trying to screw anyone over, we put in an offer at full price. We don't ask the seller, or the bank for that matter, to pay our closing costs or for any repairs. Full price offer. No concessions. Why? Because we want to do what's fair. We don't want to low-ball the price and try to steal the house from the bank. Silly, silly us.

Guess we'll try on a different property at a later date. And this time I'll use another agent to write the contract.

Monday, May 10, 2010

Car Show in Peoria

We hit the local car show Saturday night. It's not really a car show per se, more like a weekly get together of people with cool cars. They've been meeting every Saturday at various locations for years. Unless it rains, they meet. For the past few years, they've been meeting in the parking lot of a nearby grocery store but we've never actually gone until this past weekend. Due to a miscommunication, we didn't arrive until almost dark so I was only able to take a few pictures. I was racing the sun just to get these few but they give you a taste of what was there. I think we'll head back on another Saturday soon so I can get some more. Of course, Master J had a whole lot of fun checking out all the cool cars, especially a Camaro decked out like Bumblebee from Transformers. For a nine year old boy, that is the apex of awesomeness.

Sunday, May 9, 2010

Mother's Day Blessings

My wonderful mom...

My beautiful son...

I am so blessed!

Friday, May 7, 2010

A response to those who disagree...

I've gotten a few responses to my previous post about not boycotting Arizona.

First of all, to the loser that tried to do a quick copy/paste of a rant s/he had obviously previously written on my comments section without actually reading my post...I don't think so. Disagreeing with me is fine. Not bothering to actually read the post but just going straight to the comments and attempting to commandeer my blog won't fly with me. If you want your comment posted, be respectful and actually read my post first.

Secondly, to Anonymous #2 & 3: Thank you for not being disrespectful in your comments. I appreciate that and that's why I published your comments. As a side note, I would prefer people not hide behind their anonymity, but I do understand that not everyone has their own blog but would still like to comment. That's cool.

Thirdly, to Anonymous #3: I don't believe I portrayed or implied any contempt for anyone. I simple asked that people be careful of their actions in that it could adversely affect the very people they are trying to help. Further, I would agree that if businesses "simply not hire illegal immigrants" a lot of the problem would go away. Unfortunately, that's not going to happen any time soon. There is the issue of cheap labor, that's a definite factor. But there's also the problem of lack of workers who want to do the work. Have you ever picked lettuce in Arizona? Neither have I and if I can help it, I never will. It's back breaking labor in miserable conditions and most people wouldn't want to do it. But it needs to get done, so the people that will do it are hired. So let's be simplistic and see what we can do.

Here's what we have so far...

1. A large population of workers here illegally that we don't want to encourage to stay.

2. A surplus of low wage, exceedingly crappy jobs that nobody wants to do.

3. A huge federal deficit and a country that is going broke due to too much spending.

4. A large population of able bodied Americans sitting on their a$$e$ collecting welfare every month.

You know where I'm going. Want to solve the deficit, get people off welfare and rid the country of illegal immigrants all while still taking care of the crappy things that need to get done? Put the people currently on welfare to work doing agricultural and other low-end jobs and take them off the government dole. The jobs get done. The companies pay the same miserable wages. We save millions every year not paying people to do nothing. And with no jobs available, the illegal immigrants will have no reason to cross our borders.

Problem solved.

But we all know it's not that easy.

A lot (not all, not even most) of people that are on welfare are perfectly capable of working a job. A lot (not all, not even most) of people that are on welfare are not first generation welfare recipients. Welfare has turned from being a helping hand to a complete support system for multiple generations of families. They don't even try to do something differently. Maybe what we need more than immigration reform is welfare reform. You think the screaming is loud now? Wait until you tell people who have never worked a day in their life that they need to now support themselves. But it will be okay, we'll just tell them that there are thousands of workers needed in places just like Arizona that need manual labor every day. We need them to get up before dawn and head to the fields to work twelve hour days for somewhere around minimum wage (could be lower, could be higher). Their bodies will hurt and age more quickly than they should, but they'll sleep well at night knowing they put in an honest day's work and didn't take a handout.

Here's the thing, there has always been a large population of immigrants in Arizona. Heck, the southernmost one fifth of the state used to belong to Mexico until we bought it in the mid 1850s. For many, many years the border was completely open down here. But it's not open any more. Most of the time people don't really have an issue with immigrants because Arizonans recognize that the immigrant population serves a vital purpose in our economy. Most of the time, immigrants go through the proper channels and get work visas or citizenship, thereby allowing them to be in the country legally just as if they were visiting any other country.

What we are concerned about is illegal immigrants. Those are the people who are unwilling to get or incapable of qualifying for a work visa or citizenship. Because if they can't follow the basic rules of applying for paperwork to come in to the country, what makes you think they can or will follow the rest of our laws once they get here?