Trees, tree removal, and trees that fall down all on their own…

This last year has been very tree-centric. Last fall, I had a big chainsaw party, at which three of my closest guy friends showed up and cut down most of the “weed-trees” that had been allowed to grow along my fence line — in exchange for beer and a big pan of homemade lasagna. It opened up the yard a lot, and let a lot more light in — paving the way an actual lawn that grew actual grass (as opposed to creeping charlie). The one tree that they couldn’t handle, though, was the enormous 100-year old box elder with a definite lean to it. The tree that’s had me a bit worried since I bought the duplex. I always hoped that it would fall down slowly, in small chunks, or at least just fall directly to the ground in the direction that it was leaning…

Cosigners, a signed lease, and a successful turnover

Well, this last turnover turned out pretty well — possibly the best so far. I sent out one cosigner application (I really only needed one additional guarantor), and received a complete application from not one, but two parents of the couple moving in. (Maybe each father wanted to be on equal financial footing if things were to go awry?). I pulled credit reports on both guarantors, and they both checked out just fine. I scheduled a lease signing, got a check for the security deposit, and received signed and notarized cosigner agreements within a week. The couple really seemed genuinely excited about the duplex, and it seemed cute that it was their first place that they would have together.

Decisons, Decisions…

So, I got my first applicants after only a few showings. I love love love getting applications. It’s like a big scavenger hunt, calling references, checking credit, figuring out who these people are and what they’re like… That, and I’m one step closer to getting a lease signed, which means I can take the ad down and stop scheduling showings.

Sorry, I have a maximum of 3 people for that unit

I don’t know how many times I’ve said that in the past week. My unit is billed as both a 2+ and a small 3 bedroom, and totals about 1200 square feet including a large front porch. However, two of the bedrooms are quite small, and there is one common water heater for the whole duplex. That, and I live downstairs. I don’t really want a huge menagerie of people above me, for a multitude of reasons. So, I put a cap on the number of people I’ll accept. And I can’t believe how often I have to enforce it.

Showing the apartment

So far, I’ve had three showings — two groups of two girls, and a couple that’s moving in together. Both of the two-roommate showings were one roommate only, which is always a pain, because it means another showing if roommate #1 is interested. However, it’s looking like neither one of the two-roommate groups are going to bite. One emailed me thanking me for her time, and the other I haven’t heard back from. The couple seemed extremely interested, however, so they may come around.

Renting vs. Buying – Myths that created the housing bubble and the foreclosure crisis

I read an interesting article today at – detailing 5 “Rent vs. Buy” myths that we’ve all heard over and over in the past few years, dissecting them, and telling us why they are just that — myths. Myths that created a real estate buying frenzy that seemingly everyone got caught up in, buying houses they could barely afford because they were such a great investment. Certainly, some people were able to sell at the right time, and made a lot of money off of the housing bubble. A lot of other people, though, are currently losing their shirts. This article won’t help them now, but it does make a pretty good argument for renting.

Keeping a mileage log for tax purposes

I recently met with my tax accountant — early this year, as I had a hunch I would have to pay in. I’m self-employed, and have been paying taxes through payroll, but hand’t been withholding quite as many as I should have. That, and I haven’t done much work on the duplex this year, so my “loss” from the duplex venture isn’t quite as great. One thing that could have helped a bit – keeping a better mileage log.

How to fix a sticky door (or a door that doesn’t even close)

My house is over a hundred years old, 108 to be exact. It’s settled a bit over the years, and seems to be still settling, ever-so-slightly. I’m a bit concerned about it, but most of my house-savvy friends tell me not to worry about it, the house is 100 years old and it’s only settled this far already… Because of all this settling, though, my front door has always been a bit sticky. In the past year or so, it’s apparently settled just enough to cross over from sticky to the top of the door not closing all the way.

Grounding an ungrounded outlet, and other electrical wiring adventures

There are many electrical shortcomings in my duplex. Lucky for me, I have a friend who is an electrical engineer, and likes to work on houses. Of course, I don’t want to wear out my favors with him, but he’s started helping me with a few wiring projects here and there. I’m a bit sheepish when it comes to electricity (beyond installing new light fixtures, etc.), so it works out well for me.

“None of our subprime borrowers that have demonstrated the ability to make payments should lose their home to foreclosure solely as a result of a rate reset,”

Thus spake David Sambol, the president and chief operating officer of Countrywide, in an official statement today. But is that really fair? I mean, I’m not advocating throwing people out into the street or anything, and I don’t like to see people go into financial ruin, but when you sign up for an adjustable rate mortgage…. you’re signing up for an adjustable rate mortgage. That means that the rate ADJUSTS. You should be ready for that. It shouldn’t be a surprise.

Including neighborhood information in rental ads.

Location location location. When I’m trying to rent my apartment, I’m not just trying to sell people on the space, I’m trying to sell them on the neighborhood, too. The last ad that I ran included a list of “neighborhoodhood amenities” — restaurants, coffeeshops, stores, bars, parks, etc., that were within 5-15 minutes walking distance. It helped catch the attention of people who were unfamiliar with the neighborhood, and made my apartment sound like it was right in the center of everything.

I recently found a website that lists that information for you automatically, and gives your location a “walkscore” – a rank between 0 and 100, 100 being th highest.

The would-be, could-be landlord.

I have a friend who just bought a half-million dollar house on the lake for about $300,000. Why so cheap? The previous owners left it in sorry condition, and he plans to fix it up over the next couple of years, while living in it, and sell it for a hefty profit. The trouble is that he’s currently trying to sell his old house… and not having much luck in the current real estate market. Its been on the market for over two months, with only 5 showings. A second showing had him hopeful last week, but still no offers. Not even any low offers. And its a nice house.

It’s hard to find a good handyman

My uncle recently bought a fourplex, using some inheritance money as a down payment. He’s a realtor, and this is his first foray into investment property. I saw him last weekend, and was excited to see how things were going. But my innocent (and excited) “How’s the fourplex doing?” was met with a good deal of defnesiveness… So, not so great, I take it?

New neighbors – the duplex next door is sold

Well, in the process of waiting-and-seeing about the duplex next door, it looks like someone else has swooped in and bought it. Not exactly swooped, because I wasn’t sure how badly I wanted it anyway. The new owners are a husband and wife with two dogs, who plan to owner-occupy the upper floor, and rent out the lower unit. They seem to have grand plans for renovation, too — they’ve cut down most of the scrub trees from the backyard, put up planters in the front, and have some lumber sitting out behind the house…

Credit card issuers getting nervous, lowering credit limits

After the whole subprime mortgage catastrophe, credit card issuers are worried too, and have startedslashing credit limits at the first sign of trouble (a single late payment, for example). The ratio of credit used vs. credit available is used in calculating people’s credit scores, so this may have a negative effect on many people’s scores. That, and if you don’t notice that your available credit is lowered, it could be pretty easy to accidentally go over it. Also not good.