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Archive for June, 2009

This is why I have faith

July 1st, 2009 at 01:03 am

It seems all too coincidental that right as all this is happening, I am starting class. Tonight I went to my first summer class this semester.

Title of the class - "Negotiation and Dispute Resolution"

I'm taking it as an elective & I have a feeling I'm going to really enjoy the course. The professor is from Ethiopia and exudes an aura about him that is very peaceful, inspiring, and thought provoking. It sort of reminds me of Eckhart Tolle's books to look deeper into the causes of problems to help reach successful negotiations and mediation.

I told him about the situation with the tenant. It all seems so timely how I am taking THIS class at THIS time.

He told me that sometimes we cannot avoid conflict, but his suggestion to me would be to calmly communicate to the tenant that I am not trying to take advantage of her but rather do what is fair.

I am skeptical the deposit will cover all the damages. There may be a difference but even if the deposit fully covers the damages or I write off some of the damages, I anticipate that I will get an email from the tenant when she receives the letter that her deposit will not be returned.

And I don't want to create a bad relationship or bad karma. What the tenants did was disrespectful but I have to move forward now & these tenants run in the same communities that I do... military and we will likely frequent the same stores now that they have moved closer to our neighborhood.

Hopefully all will work out. I'm still waiting on the estimate for replacing the siding with paint on it. The contractors today were very skeptical they could get the paint off without damaging the siding, it would need to be replaced. There are four sections with paint (I found another behind the back door today).

Then the wood trim.... and I'm not even pursuing the floors or the broken curtain rods or cleaning of the property because they did not do it properly.

So I just find all the coincidences intriguing & have to think that we are always given the tools we need to handle any challenge that comes our way. The coincidence that this class occurs at the most needed time reminds me of why I have faith.

Estimates on Damages

June 30th, 2009 at 11:10 am

Called LG yesterday to get quotes on replacing the cooktop & two refrigerator panels that are badly dented.

$822 for the Fridge including installation
$340 for the Stove
$2 for the curtain rod in the living room
$10 for the rods on the backdoor

I think I'm entirely entitled to getting both replaced. It looks like the tenant used the stove as a cutting board. That is just excessive.

I've had extensive conversations with the neighbors that basically the tenant just couldn't turn her back on her FOUR boys and that she was overwhelmed. The hubby deployed and the house was allowed to get like this.

I'm going to get estimates today on fixing the wood trim. I think replacing it in an unprofessional matter is just careless so I should be entitled to getting that done RIGHT as well.

I won't press the flooring. I used a rejuvenate product and although you can still see its faded if you are looking for it, its not nearly as noticeable.

I'm more concerned with the paint on the siding. If that doesn't come off with pressure washing I'm going to charge her for that too.

The plumbers are working on the house this week to get it re-piped. I'm VERY pleased with them. I've been working with the owner (small business) and he has been wonderful. They are meticulous and careful about one's possessions.

HE was actually the one to tip me off about the property's condition when I called about the estimate. So I'm extremely grateful for that and think I'll use him for future work. Obviously he has standards too if he felt obliged to tell me about my property's condition vs just giving me a quote over the phone & leaving.

I toured the house yesterday after he left, they locked up, put down plastic over the floor to make sure it didn't get messed up while they were working on it, they left a mat on the floor with their stuff on it (cause they'll be there all week). So they cleaned up after they left regardless of how much they did today and were very careful about our floors.

Today I have to go back out to the house to meet the contractor the property manager referred me to. They'll be replacing the fascia boards on the house that rotted over time and wood trim on our garage door (Basic home maintenance).

As for the property manager, I let her know that the tenant's defense to the property's condition is that PM didn't inspect the property. Or as the tenant said "These things wouldn't be a problem if the PM had done her regular inspections"

She had also told the neighbors the PM was part of the problem. So I told the PM that and she was floored. She stated she had gone to the property several times and the house was not in that condition, she's responded timely to the tenant, and has documentation proving it. She was floored that the tenant was trying to say that its the PM's fault that the house had those damages when the tenant should have been fulfilling her contract.

The PM told me that she never ONCE received a reference check for the tenant's new place of residence which means that new landlord is in for a BIG surprise. A bigger house doesn't change habits like liking your 3 year old pour syrup on the floors, falling out the living room window, or the mother forgetting her three year old on the trampoline in the rain or leaving candles burning when you leave to go on vacation (all stories from BOTH neighbors).

So I told the neighbors that when I leave I'll give them my info and the PM's info and if there are ANY problems, to let me know.

Hopefully this never happens again. I'm sure the tenant will contact me when she finds out she is not getting her deposit back & possibly a bill. But she'll be lucky if I don't send her to small claims court. She'll probably turn to JAG but I know I have my bases covered with tons of pictures and copies of their move-in inspection.

Pictures of the damages

June 29th, 2009 at 12:32 am

Here are pictures of the damages. Not much else to write, plumbers are coming tomorrow & the neighbors and I had an extensive conversation. The tenant was just trashy and even a bad parent. They were all glad we were back fixing it up & wanted to know a good family was moving in.

They expressed concern that the property manager is partly at fault. They say no 6 month inspections were done & she wasn't timely in her response. DH has expressed concern because she stated this condition as "Standard" or otherwise, not the best but not the worst.

So we're considering switching property manager. Just not sure when, seems pretty shady for her to screen over 50 people, get new tenants & a lease signed and when the old tenants move out say "We want a new property manager". So we'll see how she handles this turnout, if we have to move and rent this place out I have an idea of a different guy I want to use. Stakes are higher for this house & this guy does QUARTERLY inspections. If we end up liking him better then we'll just switch both places to him.

Oh, and I counted the dents - TWENTY-ONE on the FRONT ALONE. There are two big chips in the ceramic framing of the stove also. We priced replacement PARTS ONLY for the stove & refrigerator and it comes to $1100. Their deposit was $1525


Bent curtain rods


Paint on the siding & their shoddy repairwork to fix the damage to the wood trim from their dog

Closeup of the "fix" to the trim

More paint on the siding (NOTE: The two little handprints) - This better come off with pressure washing

Move-out inspection

June 28th, 2009 at 02:26 am

We did the move-out inspection with the tenants today. The property manager said it wasn't the worst she's seen, but not the best either.

The tenants said they paid professional cleaners but there was still 2 large burned in rings on the smooth surface of the stove. After taking a razor to the stovetop for 2 hours, I discovered lots of scratches on the ceramic framing of the stove & 2 large chips.

The stainless steel fridge was left with ONE dent in the upper panel. NOW, there are 15-20 dents in the bottom (french door style) as if they would just kick the freezer shut.

There is also a large faded circle on the laminate flooring in the master bedroom.

We put in the flooring in 2005, it had a 25 year warranty against fading. So this is excessive wear and tear.

The refrigerator was $2K and also bought in 2005. The stove was $1500 and bought in 2007.

The repair to the woodwork on the back door trim due to their dog chewing it... was shoddy. Basically they just put wood filler in and painted. It looks like putty and is FAR from a professional job.

There is paint on the siding on the front of the house with two little handprints (her kids) on there as well.

Soooo... now on to the action steps.

I spent 4 hours cleaning the place today, 2 of which was entirely on the stove. While I had myself and the girls at the rental scrubbing baseboards and stains off the wall (another reason I doubt a professional cleaning was done because there were still crayon marks on the wall and all it took was a magic eraser to get them off), DH sold our Plasma TV for $600.

With the $600 we went to Home Depot and spent $190 to get painting supplies (we're going to paint the place ourselves) and this thing called "Rejuvenate" to see if the floor could be salvaged. Being laminate, once its faded - its done. You can't refinish it like hardwood.

It looked fine once we applied it, so I'll see how it looks tomorrow. There is also some basic home maintenance that needs to be done:

Replacing some broken siding
Replacing a rotted fascia board & wood trim on another door
Replacing a broken light on the front

So not HORRIBLE. The excessive damage on the appliances is what we were mostly upset about but if we can deduct that from their security deposit to see if there is any way to get them fixed - that will be ideal.

Its all sort of a pain but I keep telling DH and myself that in the end, this will pay off. Someone else is paying our mortgage and we are just doing what is in our best interests which is to maintain what is ours. Years ago we made the decision to buy this place, so we're being responsible, going to fix it up, and even after WE cleaned it today I started feeling better.

I have a feeling that as we keep helping the property to get to what we had it to, all this will become a memory & the new tenants will be better. For one, only three people will be living there versus six. In addition, we screened over 50 people before picking them.

I look at it this way, we made some bad decisions in the past. When our previous tenants came up we just wanted someone to rent the place, and that's what we got. We learned & are making better decisions now. Now we want someone who will value this property and be great tenants, not just give us a check every month to live there. I know tenants will never treat a rental the same as their own, but I believe its perfectly reasonable to want someone who enjoys living in a well-kept home.

My property manager thinks I'm being picky and constantly says "No one will treat this home as well as you will." Which I understand, BUT I want our tenants to KNOW we value this home. I want them to know we pay attention to how it is cared for & hope that in making that statement, they will follow suit and treat it well in return.

They've actually done studies that in neighborhoods where people were proactive in maintaining their residences, people in general cared more about that neighborhood. Perhaps it is that Law of Attraction stuff, if someone else sees you placing value on something - they are likely to as well.

We'll get it done. This hasn't phased me off of being a landlord. Just taught me valuable lessons - have a proactive property manager, screen tenants carefully, document everything, and maintain your home.

When we're retired or not here, we'll just have to hire people to do this for us - but until then, I have no issues whatsoever putting a little sweat equity into it. I did receive over $30K over the past 2 years from these people and lots of deductions for it on my taxes.

So yeah, despite its occasional pains - still worth it IMO. After all, anything worth anything is worth a bit of work and investing a piece of yourself into it.

Day ended up well

June 26th, 2009 at 11:35 pm

I took pictures of the stroller/travel system, Plasma TV, and the desk so I plan to put them on Craigslist later today.

The inspection for the rental got pushed back to tomorrow.

Then we took the van to get the oil changed. While there we asked them to check the rear windshield washer because the water line wasn't working.

I was so proud of my four kids. We were there for 3 hours and they took it so well. Turned out that the line to the rear windshield washer had been chewed through, maybe a rodent or something? Not sure when it happened but we think it was when we went to Missouri in March because we noticed it not working then.

So it cost $43.99 for the oil change, $98 to fix the rear windshield wiper. I felt good though that I had the money in savings so I wouldn't have to add more to a credit card.

Being at the dealership that long, DH kept talking to me about a new car. But as we kept going over it, walking by all the new cars - I kept getting that feeling in the pit of my stomach that "Yeah, it may be nice to buy something but what he is talking about is not what we really WANT."

So we'd be settling, and we don't want to. We have a great car right now that we don't have any car payments on. At the very least we plan to pay off the van before considering something new & not having to worry about the van payment will likely free up a lot of money for us to get what we want when the time comes.

Other than that, not much else. No additional spending, just on the car - so we stuck to the plan and I feel good about that.

Renewed beginning

June 26th, 2009 at 04:11 pm

I'm feeling more and more positive about everything. As if I had been asleep for the past six months & I've had a new beginning or awakening.

We leave in an hour or so to do the move-out inspection. I'm confident that our tenants did a wonderful job & that all of this is a start to something new.

I'm not entirely sure what the future may hold or where I'll be living in a year from now (Military) but I have the confidence that no matter what happens, its for the best and we will land on our feet.

Speaking of which, that reminds me that I need to list the plasma TV on Craiglists and a few other baby items. We had a garage sale in May but there are some bigger items that I need to get rid of. The clear space & extra money will help add to a sense of freedom.

I think it all started with a desk to be honest. We were credit card free back in June '06 and I wanted a desk. We had $1000 in a CD & I told myself, "Lets buy this desk, its for my home office. I'll put it on the CC, cash the CD and pay off the credit card with it."

Well, I did the first two, but I never followed through on the third. And once I had a credit card balance again it made it easy to charge things up.

I think once I can get rid of the desk & the source of what started all the debt, the feelings from that will start to cause more momentum to help us get back to our goals.

As we pay off our debt, I plan to continue reducing our credit lines. Not necessarily because I think I can't trust myself, but because I am so confident I will not need those lines of credit that I have no need for them to be open. I guess I could use the analogy of how I felt getting married at 18. I was so confident I had found the man of my dreams that I was going to get married that young and not worry about "What I may miss" or "Something better coming along".

Ten years later, I am still confident about who I married. I've learned more from him as my life partner than any other relationship I've had.

But thats a different story.

We should find out next week if we can go back to Hawaii or the West Coast, wish us luck. So many people have told us its impossible for us to go back with four kids, especially now - but we've wanted this for so long, THAT is where home is. And no matter how many people tell us it will never happen, I know it will - its just a matter of when.

And I love DH's persistence. Even though his detailer said it would never happen, he said "Well, I'll never know unless I ask and I'll keep asking until they tell me to stop."

Wish us luck, I have a good feeling about it all that in the end, everything will all fall into place so perfectly even I couldn't have planned it.

BTW, Financially the only thing I plan to spend money on is getting the oil changed in my van. Then its home for dinner, dessert, and movies Smile

Confessions of a Shopaholic

June 26th, 2009 at 03:27 am

We finished watching the movie, and I'll be honest. I loved it. If not for the sheer fact that on some level I could identify with it and on the other being thankful for the awareness to recognize it as well.

Shopping isn't quite so much my thing. Clothes, no.

Cars, eh... I'd like to say no - but 15 cars in 10 years of marriage says otherwise. I think we've curbed that. No car purchases since January 28, 2008. We've even done our own maintenance on our paid off (although that is not entirely true, the debt was restructured into my student loan - but we do hold title to the vehicle) 6 year old car. If DH keeps his car past January 2010, it will be the longest we've ever owned one car (3 years).

Home stuff... THERE is my fault. Ok, and skincare. I love Clinique. I did stop highlighting my hair. I've been back to my roots for a year & love how healthy and shiny my hair is. I get it cut maybe 3-4 times a year for $25/each time. I tried one of the bargain salons & ended up just spending more money to get a stylist to fix a bad cut.

But anyhow. Thats my fault, things around the house.

Its not any ONE thing. Its seeing things break around the house & thinking what I have needs to be replaced.

Case in point:

Our desktop is 5 years old, 3.2 GHz, 512 RAM but its slow as ever and keeps saying I don't have memory space. My laptop is 2.1 GHz, and I don't know the number of RAM but its only 2 years old and is so loud now that you can hear it on the phone.

I browsed online all day looking for a new computer to replace them both. Consolidate them down into one. I thought since I was price comparing THAT was at least a step in the right direction vs the $3K and $2K I initially spent on the computers.

DH came home and off to the store we went.

But as I was getting in the car, I had a feeling come over me. That feeling of - I don't really NEED a new computer. Yes, I work from home and if I absolutely NEED one my work gives me a $1200/year office allowance so I can always buy a computer with that money, but my computers both work fine. A little slow, but they work - no viruses.

And I'm always talking about how I want to spend less time on the computer. I'll admit it, I'm addicted to being on the computer - but when you work on one, that makes it a little bit more challenging to just "stop". But thats when I realized, going from 2 old computers to 1 NEW computer is not going to make me get on the computer less. If anything, it'll put me more into debt and I'll probably want to be on the computer MORE because it'll be fast and new.

No. We didn't buy a computer. I just didn't quite see the necessity after I put it into perspective like that.

But I did buy SOMETHING today. After dinner I was craving something sweet so I took my oldest to the grocery store with me.

I walked up and down the aisles price comparing cookies, brownies, cupcakes, then cake mixes to premade cakes. Ugh! I wanted convenience but convenience OBVIOUSLY costed $10 more.

SO we bought cinnamon rolls that you had to bake in the oven. Sort of convenience because it could be done in 15 minutes, but at $2.97 was a bit better than $4.97 for 6 cupcakes. We also bought some mix to bake a German Chocolate Cake later. I think total it was $6.22

And while I'm on this confession kick, as I was checking out my daughter asked if we could by a lottery ticket. There was this new Corvette scratcher & DH LOVES Corvettes, so I let her get a $5 one.

I don't carry cash on me so I asked the customer service guy if he could give me cash back from my debit card so I could buy the scratcher for my daughter to give to DH. He said I'd have to buy something & behind him was a bunch of cigarettes, and I don't smoke. So I told him to just put $5.00 on the lottery and give me another $5 for the scratcher.

Sooo plus side... I didn't buy a $1250 desktop, I decided I didn't need a new computer

Downside... I spent $16.22

BUT... it was on my debit card, so I only spent money I had. And the sweets can't be entirely bad, nor do I really think the scratcher was (No he didn't win anything). The sweets we had to bake together as a family, the Corvette scratcher was something that reminded me of DH - not cause I actually thought I'd win - and well, the lottery. Well... ok, perhaps I'm rationalizing the scratcher and the lottery ticket

But really, I think if I knew I was going to falter in some way - I'd choose the $16.22 over the $1,250 ANY DAY.

Wish me luck tomorrow. Our tenants are vacating the place so we're doing our move out inspection & on Monday the plumbers will start work to replumb the house and get the old plumbing out.

But I'm feeling really good about it all Smile Some of the comments you guys have left the past few blog entries have resonated with me so much & brought me back. I'd fallen off the saving wagon for awhile but the comments and inspiration this place has provided in the past few days have inspired me & I know I'm getting back on track. So... THANK YOU!

Reducing Credit Lines

June 22nd, 2009 at 01:20 pm

So I know Suze Orman doesn't recommend reducing credit lines, but doing so actually makes me feel better. To me, its a way of helping me to control my spending and forcing me to not rely on credit cards.

So I called up one of my card's today and reduced the credit limit to just above my card balance. Then I did a balance transfer to help pay off my other card at a lower interest rate. Once that processes, I'm going to cancel my other card. So that is reducing my available credit by $17K.

Perhaps it will hurt my FICO score but at this rate I don't really care. I don't want the opportunity to get into more debt.

If it lowers my FICO score then I know it'll reduce the chances we'll be able to get a good rate on a car loan or any other sort of loan - so maybe that isn't a bad thing. A bad interest rate will make me less enticed to rationalize another loan.

Maybe this is a mistake? But if it is, it feels really good and reassuring that I now have a lower credit line meaning I'm less likely to get into much deeper trouble.

How do you keep motivation?

June 22nd, 2009 at 11:58 am

I find it so tough to stay motivated & I need it. Feels like everything is hitting us at once and we are worse off than we were 6 months ago.

We had to replace the HVAC system in the rental, we are replacing the plumbing next month, and due to a bad storm last week... discovered we need new windows because they were leaking (cheap builder grade windows that are 12 years old).

We contacted our window contractor we used with the other house... energy efficient lifetime warranty windows. To do the entire house... $27K because some of the windows are custom. After doing numerous hours of research we decided we wanted a good product for life vs another cheap product we'd need to replace in a few years.

We're going to do this in phases, so we replaced the ones that NEEDED to be replaced. So that was $9K

I didn't feel great about having to put all of this on a credit card, but this stuff is for the house & to protect it. How do we NOT do it?

So we feel like we're doing the right thing but we're still dismayed. We want to have financial freedom and we can't do that if we have credit card debt.

But now we know in a few years, we'll need to fork over the rest of the money for the second phase of the windows, likely need to replace the doors in this house cause they are rusting.

DH's car is starting to fail. Talked about buying a new one but I told him I never want to have a car payment again. With our credit card debt he knew he didn't have room to argue with me. This is just the way things have to be.

So how do you keep motivation? Right now I just need to know there is a way. I feel like once I see a light at the end of the tunnel, something else happens or something else needs to be done. Windows, doors, car repairs. I know we were over-leveraged to begin with, but we're just trying to correct it on our own.

Bright side - DH is up for a promotion to Chief. If he gets that its an extra $300/mo or so. My company is doing better and reinstating their $1200/yr allowance for office expenses. We found new tenants so we will only have a 2 week vacancy in the rental.

What we want to save for is the 2nd phase of the windows, new doors, and other home repairs that will need to be made. Eventually DH's car will need to be replaced but I'd like to hope that will be when my car is paid off and we can pay for a newer car in full.

But here is where we currently stand:

DH's Card (Will be $27K by the end of all these repairs)
The van $30K
Student Loans $38K

So that's what we have to work with... $119K in debt that is not related to primary mortgages.