“Take it or Leave it” – Joys of Home Ownership

I’ll preface this post by saying, yes, I agree, I’ll call the “waaaaambulance”.  There are people really suffering right now with this housing crisis, so by contrast, our problems are quite insignificant.

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I have railed in the past about how the real estate market is another bubble and how I wouldn’t make the same mistake I made in 2007 when I bought a house at the last peak of the real estate craze… well obviously I’m full of shit. We bought the worst house in the best neighborhood of Seattle in August 2016. This is the house in the neighborhood that is currently being torn down at a breakneck pace and replaced with a beautiful/modern/million dollar box. It’s small and beat up, but we love it.

When we bought it we didn’t have much leverage. To say it was a seller’s market is a massive understatement (we put 7 offers in before this and lost every single one). Sure the foundation was sloping 8 inches in the front; and in the words of our inspector, it had “the oldest working furnace” he had ever seen (in 40 years of doing business), but the sellers basically said, “take it or leave it” and we took it. They on the other hand took a 160% return in less than 4 years of owning it.

Recently we’ve been doing things to make it either nicer (adding an external dwelling) or routine maintenance that comes with an old house (backed up drains from years of buildup). In both cases we’ve been dealing with a ton of “take it or leave it”. There isn’t an opportunity to “leave it: when it comes to plumbing issues, so I’ll start there.

Fina called a bunch of plumbers and all of them are so busy that they either a) wouldn’t  commit to coming and giving a quote or b) wanted a ton of money just to come out and give us a quote. It was unpleasant to say the least. So she went on the Nextdoor app to see if there were any recommendations from neighbors or amateur plumbers looking to help us out.

Jim’s wife contacted us letting us know that he was a recently retired plumber, doing a little daylighting and he’d like to help us.

Everything started out fine. Jim came and checked out our place and was able to figure out that we were totally screwed, but fine, he could help us. This was after quite a bit of time spent by me trying to plunge the sink-in-question, and I was not about to try any more DIY. Fina is home on maternity leave so she had been dealing with him and there was something a bit off – so she asked that he call me.

“Jim hereereree. The plumber.”

“Hi Jim”

“So, I fsjdlkfsdklfj took a looook. Loooook it’s real bad. It’s gonna be $680. Take it or leave it.”

“Uh, hi Jim. Nice to meet you. Can you explain a bit more about what  you found out.”

“Oh, sure kaj;fjsdfkljsdaklfjsd (incoherent mumbling – sound of a juke box in the background)…. and the pipe is completely backed up. And you gotta lot of problems. So it’s gone be a LOT more than $700.”

“Wait, Jim, you just said it was going to be $680.”

“Fine, I’ll do it for $675. Whaddaya want to do (more incohherent mumbling)?”

I had been out of town on business the week prior and our bathroom sink had been out of commission for over 2 weeks, so I said: “Jim, do you mind coming by so I can meet you in person and you can show me what you plan to do?”

“sdjaflksdjfaklsdjflasdjklfajsdlf (which I took as an affirmation”

Jim and his wife, Sonja showed up reeking of cigarettes and only mildly less incoherent than he had appeared on the phone. For most people, that would have been when conversations ended, but I was feeling desperate and hired him anyway.

Fast forward 3 days, he appears to have done great work and everything is fixed. Sure, he may have left the job site both days by noon to go get drunk, but he fixed it for the price we agreed to, and after a couple of days feeling like I’ve made a huge mistake and endangered my family, it seems resolved. Not pleasant, but resolved.

Next, I’ll tell you about the time we tried to build a sleep shed/guest house, hired a “fixer” to get us the variance so we can keep it when we eventually tear down our house like everyone else, and it ended up costing 3 x as much and taking 5 x as long as our “fixer” said. We are still dealing with it, so those numbers are just preliminary estimates and will probably take waaaay longer. Again, I realize this is some first world problems.

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It’s Mourning in America Again (Or, when is it ok to go back on tinder?)

For students of history, they know that Ronald Reagan’s famous commercial in the 80’s titled “It’s morning in America again” was really veiled racism and what Donald Trump styled his whole Make America... blech….

We are all tired of hearing about how upsetting this week’s tragedy is, and I really want to find a way to move on — which I know is completely ridiculous. It’s way to soon and raw to move on. I know this.

Then again; when will it be soon enough and who decides that? When the world devolves into chaos and anarchy? Yeah, that’ll probably be just about the most American time to move on.

Please go to that Youtube clip and thumb’s down it and realize that the idiot that posted this terrible commercial doesn’t know that the caption should read IT’S not Its. Don’t read the comments unless you want to be more depressed.

I was in Vegas during the election for a conference, and I really can’t think of a more dismally accurate place to be when the world decided to go completely batshit. Surreal doesn’t begin to capture the feeling  of being slathered in loud noise, blaring lights, cigarette smoke, and desperation. Tacky, guady, and overpriced is what we are now. That is, until we run out of money. Then maybe we can make Vegas great again: Quiet, dark, and peaceful. Continue reading

Can I Get a Witness? We are in Another Real Estate Bubble

I’ll tell you what NOT to do when you are thinking about buying your first/next house; DO NOT read The Big Short. “Who reads a book after the phenomenal movie comes out?” may be your first question, and look, I get it and completely agree, books are for nerds, but my wife and I are seriously considering buying our first house together.

We even recently made an offer on a house we were very excited about that we saw as not a starter home, but a place that we could live forever. It was a fixer (though mostly cosmetic) in a very desirable neighborhood of Seattle, had great bones, and a lot of space to grow into. Sure that house sold for close to 25% more than asking and had 15 offers, but we were pretty disappointed when we didn’t get it. They are not making more land (as they say), but how can we not be repeating some of the same stuff that happened less than a decade ago.

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Is Authenticity Unnatural?

I didn’t watch any recent Republican debates. This is not because I didn’t¹ think it would be entertaining, or for any political objection to our democracy being made mockery-of; I didn’t watch them because I don’t have cable. Is that an authentic revelation or am I just cheap? I’m certain I missed a lot of zingers and whole lotta intentionally inauthentic behavior and I’m also certain it would have been pretty boring.

While I did have a nightmare that Trump was marrying my wife...

Revealing that I had a dream that Trump married my wife and that it didn’t bother me would have been a pretty authentic revelation, but like most things having to do with Trump, it would have been made up. Photo credits: Ninian Reid – Flickr (for the stock Trump face photo), Peter (for our wedding photos in Copenhagen), and me (for photoshopping Trump’s face on my body to what we all must admit is a pretty accurate scale).

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2nd Time’s a Charm – Fomenting Modern Love & Marriage in the Digital Age

I am getting married this summer to the love of my life and I couldn’t feel luckier about it. She is an amazing person, a kind partner who puts up with me even when I’m terrible, and a great step-mom. We have adopted a hashtag on instagram, #makingpeoplebarf, that is supposed to be a joke, but definitely could be construed as “braggy” — humblebraggy, but braggy nonetheless¹. Believe me when I say that I am genuinely not trying to brag, it is my dumb way of alleviating guilt with a joke.

 

Her selfie got 356 likes and 100+ comments - so go ahead and feel bad about yourself now.

Speaking of guilt; her selfie got almost 400 likes and 100+ comments – so go ahead and feel bad about the fact that none of your posts have ever gotten anywhere near that many.

Coming from someone that was definitely in the romantic toilet for years at the end of my marriage and beginning of my divorce, I have mixed emotions about the happiness I feel. I feel guilty for romantic happiness. Not a Catholic-guilt in the romantic sense per se (but I probably have that too), but more a feeling of empathy for people who are giving up on love².

I get the feeling talking to some friends that they feel like it’s never gonna happen for them and that by talking about how much I love Fina, I am rubbing salt in their wounds.

I know when I was single-daddying at the beginning and feeling like I’d never again find anyone that could love me, that I didn’t actually feel jealous of romantic love. I didn’t feel anything hearing stories of conquest and it wasn’t some buddy out there with a ton of game that made me feel inadequate. I was definitely jealous of what I perceived as stable, happy unions. I hated my brother (who coincidently has never had any game), because it felt like he had made a successful family and partnership with his wife³ and I thought I would never have that. Perhaps I felt I didn’t deserve that.

I have many friends that desperately want to find “the one” and social media just exacerbates all of our feelings of inadequacies. I’m a realist and not going to tell you to quit compulsively checking what only makes your feel worse. It’s not advice I could give myself even though I knew it to be true.

What I will say is that there is a chance, a random encounter, something that could quite possibly happen when you least expect it that will turn this around. So go ahead and believe that it’ll work out for you. It did for me. Considering all of the cool things that are happening with marriage now, there’s never been a better time for that either.

Love you Jo and can’t wait to marry you.

 

¹ How do you like all of those 4 year old social media cultural references all in one sentence?!!?

² Reading that sentence kind of makes me want to punch myself in the face. SHUTUP YOU BLOWHARD!

³ That’s sick, I know I should be jealous of my friends that are crushing tinder. What’s wrong with me??

Is it Getting Hot in Here? Seattle’s Overcrowding Sandwich Metaphor

Seattle is the fastest growing major metropolitan area in the US and we are all feeling the heat from it. Or maybe that’s heat emanating from this global climate change? Regardless of causation, soon Seattle will basically be Houston, and I for one don’t like it.

The population explosion is undeniable — or so says some reputable sources like recent census data and the guy that was complaining about all the recent traffic congestion that was standing next to you having a conversation with no one while you waited in line at Jimmy Johns. I don’t eat Jimmy Johns per se, in fact I think Jimmy Johns is a microcosm of everything that’s wrong with America and is a great illustration of why everyone should leave Seattle.

It’s so uniform and sterile, like the high-rise condo complexes that are exploding on South Lake Union, Ballard, and Interbay — and you know exactly what kind of perfectly-manicured-genetically-modified sandwich is coming out of the assembly line of smiling-sandwich-assembling-faceless-bots that are asking you if you want extra cheese for just $1 more – NO I WOULD NOT LIKE EXTRA CHEESE.

This may look like an innocuous sandwich, but I got it the day this place went out of business... I generally avoid going-out-of-business food

This may look like an innocuous sandwich, but I got it the day this small “Mom n’ Pop” place went out of business. As a rule, I generally avoid going-out-of-business food, but I also believe that this sandwich represents what was once right with the world. Yes it made me sick because this was the last of their inventory, but I took one for the American dream.

Give me an old-fashioned $5-footlong from Subway with brown lettuce and green tomatoes any day of the week or an instantly disintegrating meatball marinara sub from TOGOs that I can eat with a spoon in front of the TV. These were sandwiches that you could drive to without being stuck in gridlock, be treated terribly by staff while no one else was waiting with you, and then shame-eat in the comfort of your own desk or dark living room while Die-Hard 3 was playing in the background. You didn’t have to worry about all these other people coming in and demanding higher quality ingredients and timeliness. He’d get to making your sandwich as soon as he was done with his text, k!? Stop being so pushy!

All of the transplants migrating to Seattle for that great tech job are jump-starting the course of sandwich innovation and ruining all of our lives in the process. Don’t get me started on the concept of innovation. There is good evidence that innovation in fact hurts our economy and well-being. The argument being that making things cheaper/faster/easier leads to more consumption.

Let’s all collectively agree to take a deep breath and not worry about the fact that our sandwiches are sloppily made with terrible ingredients. Let’s get back to the simpler times where everyone was getting a  no-interest/no-income mortgage that allowed them to live out their American Dream of moving to the ‘burbs to live in a 4,000 square foot McMansion. They can all work from home making up to millions of dollars per day in their spare time as well. That should cut down on all of this traffic congestion and get us back to the day when a modular condo wasn’t created every 3 seconds!

 

 

Weird Work Travel V. 2: The Armpit of ‘Merica – Jacksonville, FL

“Both fragrant and moist” America’s Majestic Armpit, Jacksonville FL. Jax Bidniss Trip: December 2011

Walking across the street from my Springhill Suites suite to a TGI Fridays in Jacksonville for the 2nd night in a row, I realize I may have hit rock bottom. My marriage is pretty much over and I’m in Jacksonville, ‘doin’ business’ with some pretty vague directives and very little initiative. It’s pretty lonely here in Jax; and in my 48 hours I’ve yet to meet anyone doing anything particularly worthwhile.

Companies that distribute restaurant POS (Point-of-sale/ not necessarily Piece-of-sh*t) all seem to be located in tucked-away and dilapidated office parks. They also all seem to be run by sales guys. In my experience many of these sales guys tend to be over-sharers. Or perhaps there’s something about my personality that makes people want to drop way to much personal information on me within a short period of knowing me — it’s hard to say.

They share their financial difficulties (strange behavior with a new business partner) and how both the bottoming out of the real estate market and the unfair settlement their ex-wives received have decimated them.  They share the triumphs of their kids sports teams and prestigious educations taking place a long way away from wherever we are as well.

That being said, on a “get-to-know-you” trip like this they aren’t completely negative!! 🙂 They’re “real excited” not only about this new technology that’s both disruptive AND revolutionary! But most of all — that recurring revenue!!! I paraphrased some actual email communication there.

Jacksonville guys only want to talk about jaguars. Both the local NFL football team, as well as the plethora of 40-50 year old platinum blondes that overrun the local BW3s (more on that magical place, later).

The interim President of the company I’m working with has a background in the NFL and some vague connections to current and former players. Timmy Tebow was a part of his youth ministry. “I was his youth pastor.”

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