Thursday, August 7, 2008

I've Had the Time of My Life

It's been such a fun ride for me--writing this blog and getting to know some of you. I have no complaints and every bit of it has been a blast!

At this point in my life and in the growth of our family and business, I have no choice but to end the run of this blog. The great news is that, after over a year of steady increases, the company that we started from absolutely nothing (technically, it was less than nothing, but I digress) has become something. We've grown so far that we've changed the name of our business, maintain a large client base (which, hopefully, will become even bigger), and have a much wider array of products (thousands more, to be exact).

Not only that, I have other writing obligations now that will prove to be more fruitful than my "little journal," as someone once called it. I wrote here and on my previous blog because I didn't want those who've lost money in real estate to feel alone--plus, word groups are constantly forming in my head and usually have no where to go (which may have been for the best, now that I think about it). However, if I wanted my writing to become known, then my goal has been reached. I'd like to thank all of you for spreading the word about my blogs and for helping to keep me motivated to publish in this venue. Honestly, I wouldn't change a thing about my experience.

My family has always come first, and they still do. School will be starting soon, so I have to ensure that my schedule can accommodate my children's education and my tasks in our business. I have an excellent system set up now, but the test will begin after our activities start for the school year.

I feel so blessed to be able to do what I do and to have the amazing husband and children that I've been given during my short time on this earth. I hope that many of you feel the same about your lives and your vocations.

You may be hearing from me again. I look forward to meeting you one day or, at least, bumping into you in cyberspace once more. I have so much to tell you, but it will have to wait for another place and time. Since I haven't been able to edit all of the drafts that I've written for this blog, I may use them for my column in our local paper.

If you ever get out to Whine Country Temecula, please stop by. The kids and I will keep the whine chilling at the perfect temperature for you.

God bless!

Monday, July 28, 2008

Confessions of a Former TV Addict

Here is the column that I wrote for the August edition of The Temecula Bugle:

We fell in love with Wine Country Temecula the first time we drove through. We wanted acreage, but couldn’t find the right area—until our jaunt through the groves and vineyards.

It was 2003 and finding a home proved to be a race. Every time we wanted to make an offer, someone beat us to it. We finally purchased a house on the day that it was listed. It was so far out that there was no cable service. No high speed Internet. But, worse, no television! Satellite was out of the question for us. I knew that it was best for our family to leave the reception behind.

This was no small detail for me. Watching television was the best part of my childhood. How could I abandon it after so many (enjoyable) years?

My desire to move trumped my horror at giving up my addiction. Since I’d soon be forced to forgo my beloved set, my husband suggested that I stop cold turkey before we relocated. The thought alone sent me into uncontrollable shaking, sweating, and gnashing of teeth. The withdrawal symptoms caused a dizzying spin of flashbacks—Happy Days, Little House on the Prairie, Partridge Family, Brady Bunch. It was hard, but I successfully kicked the habit before we moved.

That doesn’t mean that it’s always easy. Sometimes, when I want to know what’s going on in the world, it would be easier to have a talking head tell me rather than read it myself. Or, when I hear about my old favorites like Survivor, American Idol, and CSI, I feel a slight longing to see them again.

However, between our daily routines, homeschooling, and running a business, we don’t have time for television. When we have an opportunity, our seven children enjoy watching DVD’s of old shows like Gunsmoke, The Waltons, Andy Griffith, and MacGyver.

Yet, when I’m in a hotel room, I grab the remote and dig right in. Unfortunately, the face of entertainment has changed so dramatically that I hardly recognize it. It’s not about diversion or information anymore. It’s about which network can be the most shocking. Unfortunately, I don’t enjoy most of what I’ve seen recently.

Choosing Wine Country over television was a decision I'll never regret.

Thursday, July 24, 2008

Time, What's Become of You?

No time to post for a few days. I'll try to be back as soon as possible--maybe this weekend. Not sure. It's all good! Business has me hopping and my other writing obligations take priority. I have a few posts in draft form that I need to edit before I publish, so I'll try to get to it soon.

Wednesday, July 23, 2008

Back in Time

Wouldn't it be great to go back and revisit some of the happiest times of your life (assuming that you've had good times)?

In 1996, we moved from the stadium area of San Diego to Sabre Springs, a north San Diego suburb near Poway. I started homeschooling that year. A friend of mine, who has never homeschooled, introduced me to a group in the Poway area. This started some of the best times in my life.

The women in this particular homeschooling group accepted me immediately, even though I didn't have a clue about anything: education, religion, politics, style, etc. They never preached to me, but just taught me by the examples that they lived on a daily basis. I was never judged, and no one ever gossiped about me when I wasn't around (I know this because I never heard a word of gossip from any of those women). Sometimes we would combine our activities with a group in Escondido. These women were of the same caliber as the ones in my area.

All of my children's friends were in this group, and no one ever felt excluded. Watching teenagers playing soccer with eight year olds--or even three-year-olds--was always entertaining. Everyone managed to have fun. Utopia it was not, but it was about as close as you can get. Happy, carefree, supportive, and united.

For the past several years, many of us have moved away. Most left for other states. It's sad, but that's how life is. You expect that what tied you together before will always be there. I'm blessed to be able to communicate and visit with our friends down south, who I still keep in close touch with today. It's not the same, but, as children grow and we age, we are all bound to change.

One of these dear friends, who relocated to another state, was in San Diego a couple of weeks ago. Unbeknownst to me, she wanted to re-create our group for one afternoon. She invited nine of her friends in that area, who met every week at a park in Poway.

After a very crazy morning, I packed up six of my kids and made the hour drive to this get together. When I arrived, it was as though nothing had changed. Yes, the kids were significantly older, and many weren't there because they were starting lives of their own. However, our circle of conversations, the children playing soccer in the field, and the dads who came by to say hello to old friends, was nostalgic to me. I felt as though I had taken a time machine back to 1998. The sense of peace and happiness at being able to recapture a few hours of bygone years was overwhelming.

Thanks to a friend, who has embraced the present, yet had a vision of the past, we all felt a bit more content that day. This makes me wonder how many opportunities I have missed in connecting with those who were once special to me, but have quietly vanished over the years. In some cases, I don't think that the Christmas card is enough. Maybe I should pick up the phone or find those e-mail addresses for a quick hello that may evolve into a rekindling of old friendships.

Maybe you should do the same.

Sunday, July 20, 2008

A Picture Is Worth Thousands of Square Feet

I had told you about how commercial properties and developments keep popping up regardless of the state of the economy. If big corporations are behind all the building, I can understand how they can float the cost until a recovery takes place.

But what do you make of regular homeowners adding on and improving their homes now? I know the market will recover, but spending tons of money on a currently depreciating asset doesn't make sense to me unless you're sprucing it up to sell--especially if your cost basis is more than market value. It's not like the price of construction has dropped significantly out here. When we were asking for estimates for a garage conversion (that we never did), the quotes we received seemed to be just as expensive per square foot as it was two years ago.

Temecula has so many foreclosures now that it's mind boggling. Even in Whine Country. Yet, I've driven by homes with pools or other elaborate exterior landscaping being added. It's not too many, but today I saw the most ostentatious display.

On Avenida Lestonnac across the street from the only Catholic school in Temecula, a rather large construction project is taking place. The houses on this street are five years old or newer. This house was a beautiful, large Spanish-style estate, with a big separate guest house.

When I drove by a few weeks ago, it looked like they were tearing down the front portion of the home. I hadn't watched the progress before I saw it today. It appears that the homeowners are expanding the front of the house to extend about 30 feet wider and, maybe, 80-100 feet longer, almost to the guest house. Oh, and they're adding a second story to the bottom floor expansion. Here is one part of it:

Here is the other angle:

Those arches aren't all garages. The original separate guest house is behind the porta potty.

Here is the full add-on. I had to drive up another street in order to get the whole project in one shot. I'm sure that, by the time we were done, the residents had our license plate number and the cops are on the way to question us now.

Not only is it two stories of more room than I've had in all of the homes I've owned put together, but it has a catwalk on the second floor (why? I don't know--it just looks like a floating hallway) encased on both sides by glass. Wow! It almost looks like a gaudy hotel.

This project completely eclipses the portion of the original structure that's still standing. So we had to drive by it, turn right at the next street, drive up the little hill, and take a picture from the back to show you the rest of the house. It starts just beyond the white fence. You can see the construction directly behind the roof of the house from this angle. (I'm not sure, but that may be only the guest house.)

So, what parts of the economy are thriving right now? Hmmm. Maybe the owner works for an oil company. Why he took up residence in Temecula across the street from a school, I'll never know.

And, by the way, the house next door (not pictured in my shots) is for sale. Remember how we talked about why anyone would want to sell in this market (I can't find the post--perhaps it was all in my head). Well, maybe, just maybe, the neighbors are having financial problems. Is it Rich Guy's fault? Heck no. But, if I were Struggling Guy, I'd want to hightail it out of there before the Motel 6 opens next door.

Thursday, July 17, 2008

The Deal of the Century

Well, maybe not the century, but definitely the decade.

We owned two just like it, one on the same street. The floor plan is wonderful, but the lot is the size of a postage stamp--literally (Z lot--meaning that eves from this house and one next door over lap with each other). The one we bought on this street was our very first rental. We paid $187,000 in 2000, including the upgrades, and sold it in 2005 for $385,000. The other one had an even smaller lot, but we bought it for $193,000 in 2000 and sold it in 2005 for $405,000. The other one was harder to sell because it was still occupied by tenants whose lease was about to expire. Too bad we spent our profit on rotten apartments.

The one on this street rented for between $1,695 and $1,795 (private with slightly bigger lot) and the other one $100 less. It's in a tiny gated community with a pool and playground directly in the heart of town right between elementary and middle schools--both within walking distance. Taxes were a low 1.03% and the HOA was $109 at the time it sold. HOA fees pay for front yard (not much of one) maintenance.

If I could, I'd snap this up in a heartbeat. It's probably too late already, as most in the neighborhood are listed for mid to high $200's.

Check it out:

42090 Calabria DR, TEMECULA, 92591, CA
Price $199,000

MLS #: H08090675
Year Built: 2000
House size: 1,985 sq. feet
Lot size: 3,484 sq. feet
Status: Active
Bedrooms: 4
Bathrooms: 3.00
TG#: 959A5
APN: 921790011
Pool: Y
Spa: Y
View: N
Area: 209 - Temecula-North
Type: Single Family Residence / Detached

Property Description
This great home located in the Sycamore Creek Gated Community, home shows light and bright, open floor plan, formal living room, formal dining room, kitchen with eating area, open to a large family room. All bedrooms on 2nd floor with an office area at the top of the stairs. Upstairs Laundry room, 2-car garage attached, long side driveway for extra parking. Located by the kids' park, guest parking, and community pool.

How Would You Like to Have This Job?

I think this is worse than the foreclosure auctioneer.