It’s Wednesday! You know what that means? It’s time for a little wisdom from my mom… otherwise known as “The Real Estate Mom.”

Hi, LITTOF readers. I’m Pam Weinert, Steph’s mom and, as Steph has mentioned in many of her posts, a Realtor here in Chicagoland. I’ll be posting every Wednesday on topics as they relate to Love In The Time Of Foreclosure, and I’ll answer any questions you may have relating to real estate, foreclosure etc.

One of the biggest frustrations for me has been watching my kids go through this financial meltdown, slipping, slipping like a drunk sliding down a wall, and not be able to do anything about it. Sure, I’ve dealt with foreclosures and short sales, I’ve even taken the big Kahuna class in distressed properties through the CDPE (Certified Distressed Properties Institute) and I’m now certified in handling distressed properties. But, like anything, when it happens to someone close to you, it becomes gut wrenching personal, like a sick doctor trying to heal herself.

Steph and Bob’s purchase of Silver Ridge was partly because of my coaching. They doubled their money on their condo and I always said “There’s no better investment in the world than real estate”. I can hear those words coming out of my mouth. I said them to whomever would listen, I believed them, lived them, and I practiced what I preached.

For almost 30 years I’ve been a Realtor helping people buy and sell their most valued possessions, their homes. My husband, Tom and I bought and sold 12 homes. We have had rental properties, and we even rehabbed an old boat. Real estate investing was Tom’s full time job.

Twenty five year’s ago, when I was a single Mom, I bought two houses, rehabbed them and sold them for a profit. The first one was a huge, crazy project. I had way more enthusiasm than money or skill. The house was a 100 year old Victorian home that had been neglected. It was one of three Victorians a father built for his three daughters so they could live close to each other. I liked to think that our house was the house of the “individualist’ because our turret was round while the other two were square.

The Victorian today.

Stephie and my son Tommy tell me one of their first memories is coming home from grade school and rather than being given warm chocolate chip cookies fresh from the oven, I handed them each a paint scraper, some sand paper, and a fruit roll up and we got busy with the work of rehabbing. We stripped old wood, removed wallpaper, and pulled up flooring. We were so excited one day to find beautiful maple floors under cracked and ugly red and black linoleum. As I learned, they learned, and our lesson was your home is a sanctuary to be nurtured and loved. It should reflect who you are. It should be a place you share with your friends, and it will always be a great investment.

So Steph came by her real estate investment savvy honestly. Bob, right off the condo doubling experience, was enthused. So, when the Silver Ridge home came on the market at a drastically reduced price, they asked my opinion and I said, “as long as you can afford it, go for it.” Who knew the real estate bubble was about to burst? I didn’t. When the downward slide began I advised them to list their house immediately. I thought it would sell fast and they could salvage something. And the rest is history.

Yes, mistakes were made, but as in any crisis, lessons were also learned.

I learned that my kids have tremendous resilience. I learned that having a home has nothing to do with bricks and mortar. I learned to ask very tough questions of my clients. “Is your mortgage current or have you missed any payments? Sounds pushy doesn’t it? Well, the reality is that 80% of people who are in jeopardy of losing their homes never talk to their lenders or ANYONE! They’re in denial, depressed, embarrassed etc. As a Realtor I want to give them a safe place to unburden themselves so I can help them. I’ve also learned that real estate is only a good investment if you can truly afford a property, and if it’s a really good buy.

Do I still believe in real estate? Do I still like being a Realtor? Yes. Now, more than ever, because people need good Realtors who are educated, and who really care about them. Do I still believe real estate is a good investment? I do. There are some great opportunities out there in realestateland. There is cheap money to borrow, if you qualify, and wonderful plans for first time home buyers. So, yes, I still believe. But as the old song says “Money can’t buy you love” and neither can owning a home. You have to find love and happiness on your own, even in the time of foreclosure.

This is a picture of the house we moved to from the Victorian (only a block away.) We rehabbed this one too- and installed that beautiful stained glass window you see in the photo that I found from an old church.

Cruising the Waterways – Pam & Tom’s blog about their year on the boat

 
 

One year ago today was my 33rd birthday and the first open house at our house on the ridge in Silver Lake.

We had put the house on the market on August 8th then opened it up to the public two days later. A Sunday.

I remember cleaning frantically. De-cluttering to get it show-ready. The first boxes we packed were for that open house. We woke up early, finished cleaning and then drove to the Ocean. To the beach. Leo Carillo. Friends joined us. We enjoyed the sun and the time together at the ocean. It was really lovely. And though we were just North of the Ventura County line, our house was never far from our thoughts.

We were definitely shell-shocked. What did we just do? We are actually selling our house? Where would we live?

At that point selling the house felt like the only thing we could do and the very thing that would save us from bankruptcy. The house would sell in a matter of weeks and we’d pay off our debts and just be renters. Jarring, yes. Unexpected, yes. Not my ideal birthday present, no.

In the back of my mind listing the house was somehow just a formality. A sign to the universe to let it know: We know this is serious and we’re willing to do what it takes. It would work like Murphy’s Law. Someone would put an offer in on the house and then, just like that, jobs would appear. Money would fall out of the sky to save us and we wouldn’t have to sell. It was my birthday, after all. And I’m always optimistic on my birthday. Things were bound to get better. I didn’t want to sell. Nobody wanted us to sell.

I remember talking about the economy and how maybe things had to get bad before they got better. That maybe all of this was good for ‘us.’ I meant ‘us’ in a largely symbolic way. I didn’t mean us. I meant, the world. Americans. This will teach us (Americans… other people, not us) to not be so wasteful. Yep. I said that. I still wasn’t dealing with the fact that everything that was happening was actually happening exactly and specifically to us. It was too early. And I was too shell-shocked.

Right next to the sand in the parking lot was a camper with a little sitting area out on the beach. Wood benches, a little table and a grill, a multi-million dollar view of the Pacific and a sign that read: Campground Host. I pointed that out. What’s a Campground Host? Our good friend Jenna knew exactly the purpose of a campground host as she had always fantasized about being one. It’s someone who managed the campground in exchange for a free place to live and sometimes a small salary. Hmmm, I thought. At least there are options.

Last night after a lovely day spent on the little lake down the road near my mom and stepdad’s house we were reminiscing about this first open house and my mom (the Realtor) said, “We should have lowered the price right away.” Yes. But we didn’t know. We didn’t know how bad it would be. How bad it would get. How LONG it would take. Bob’s theory all along had been to list the house at the price we paid. I was adamantly against that. This was August 2008. Things were bad for us, but didn’t seem so apocalyptic then as it did later. We weren’t at that point yet. We were at the beginning and we had to start somewhere.

Bob was right, though. I know that now. I knew that when we received our first notice of foreclosure. Bob was right. If only we’d listed it at that price… we would’ve been out from under so much faster. Moving on. Cutting our losses. Not drowning. We would have avoided months of agony. We know that know.

Then? A year ago? We didn’t know. The feedback we got on the price from that first Sunday Open House a year ago today was that it was just right. We had close to 30 people come through on that first day. Everyone loved the house. Everyone thought the price was right.

The thing about price, though… it’s only right if someone is willing to pay it.

So we know that now. That day at the beach we didn’t. That day at the beach- my birthday- we sat in the sand trying to forget. Trying to look at the bright side. We looked at the ocean. The vastness and the power.

“I want to live by the ocean,” Bob said. And he meant it.

“I want to live in our house,” I said. And meant it.

One of us was going to get their way in the end. But neither of knew the journey we would take to get there. We will be living by the ocean. Not ON it, per se. A few miles away. Closer than we were, though, that’s for sure. On an island in the Pacific Northwest. I still can hardly wrap my mind around this twist of fate.

And that’s the thing. A year ago I never ever could have dreamed up this conclusion. That things would get so bad, that it would take almost 11 months to sell, that we’d sell it for almost 100,000 less than we paid, that we’d sell all of our possessions, end up living with my family, planning a future to take care of someone else’s house on… an island.

What can I say about all of this now one year later?

It is what it is. Maybe it is all good.

And…

I’m grateful. For so much. Just grateful.

PHOTO: Bob took this picture of Mom, Tom & I having a little birthday sail in a friend’s Butterfly on the little lake by their house.

 
 


*THE SWEET TASTE OF ‘MORTGAGE APPLE CAKE’
A woman saves her home from foreclosure by baking and selling cakes she called ‘Mortgage Apple Cake.’ Have you heard this story? I thought we tried everything to save our house, but apparently we didn’t. We never tried baking. This woman did. It’s very inspiring. I love a good ‘triumph in the face of foreclosure’ story.

-She Baked Her Way Out of Foreclosure– Today [MSNBC.COM]

Angela Logan’s Mortgage Apple Cakes – Bake Me A Wish

*A VERY HAPPY ACCIDENT

Greg Pincus – creator of The Happy Accident– wrote about LITTOF and our story on his blog recently. He characterizes our story as a ‘happy accident’ courtesy of social media. The fact that we ended up landing this amazing caretaking opportunity via us documenting our story on this blog. He says:

Once again, the lesson re-learned for me is this: you truly can’t anticipate everything that could come your way when you’re active online… but if you’re focused and prepared, you’ll be ready when it does.

Greg’s point has been sticking with me since I read it. Why? Well, because I think when the word ‘accident’ often gets equated with ‘luck.’ But I don’t think that’s at all Greg’s point. It’s not an accident in the way you accidentally spilled a glass of red wine on the carpet. No, it’s an unexpected outcome as a result of being ‘active, focused and prepared.’ What does that mean? And what is the point? The point is that you can set yourself up for a happy accident. The way that we did… and in the way that Greg suggests.

-A Happy Accident: Blog and Home Variety – The Happy Accident

*TALES FROM THE TRENCHES
This blog is in my Google reader. I follow it every day for it’s incredibly useful and insightful information about the mortgage crisis. For anyone facing foreclosure, they have a wonderful resource of short videos answering questions such as:

-What is a reverse mortgage?
-I received a foreclosure notice in the mail. What do I do now?
-What should I write in a hardship letter?

-Answering your questions – Facing the Mortgage Crisis

*EXFOLIATE YOUR LIFE!
What the heck does that mean? Well, Jessica, the creator of the wonderful website Makeunder My Life does an End of the Week Exfoliation every Friday. Here’s what she says on her site:

Each Friday, readers and myself toss out, pass on, or repurpose one item we no longer need/use/love.

Why? Well, as she says: “There is something really freeing about passing on things that no longer have a place in my life to someone who needs them.”

Bob and I definitely experienced this freeing sensation when we had our “freeing-up sale” and the subsequent purge of things. We also have since realized that we still have more we could shed. Or, ‘exfoliate.’

So, I’m joining Jessica’s ‘End of Week Exfoliation’ starting today. With this black bag. I bought this bag at a boutique in Silver Lake that is no longer in existence. It was called Edna Hart and it was a victim of this economy, unfortunately. I loved this bag so much when I first bought it that I bought my mom one in red for Christmas. The thing is, I don’t use it much anymore. Because I don’t love it like I used to. But, my mom still does. And she is the happy recipient of my first Friday Exfoliation. Enjoy the bag, Mom. Now you have one in red and black. (Feels good.)

-End of Week Exfoliation – Makeundermylife.com

(Thanks to The Lovely List – a new and lovely site- for leading me to Makeunder My Life)

…Speaking of The Lovely List, they have teamed up with bikebuyers.com to give away this lovely Cruiser Bike once a month:

How do you win? Share the lovely list. Details are here.

So those are the Friday links. I hope you enjoy and find value from them as I have. Let me know what you think. If you have any other blogs or links to suggest, send them my way please. Thank you!

Enjoy the socks off your weekend!

 
 

Back in May I wrote the post “5 Ideas for Rent-Free Living.” The ideas ranged from being a Lighthouse Keeper to a Professional Housesitter.

At the time I truly had no idea we would actually become professional housesitters or “caretakers.” Seriously. No idea! We were leaning more towards the living in an Airstream option (though it wasn’t really an option because we didn’t have an Airstream.)

My point is that we didn’t know that we would end up signing a contract to be caretakers and live rent-free for 2 years on an island, but I did write about The Caretaker Gazette in that post and not long after I got my own subscription.

From their site:

“The GAZETTE provides its subscribers with thousands of house sitting and property caretaking jobs each year. We have housesitting jobs in all 50 US States, Canada, Mexico and dozens of other countries.”

It costs $29.95 for an annual subscription where you get access to opportunities like this:


OREGON

ESTATE CARETAKER needed. We are seeking a live-in caretaker for a gorgeous, private, riverfront estate near the Oregon coast. We will provide an apartment and all utilities (including phone, internet and satellite TV) plus a salary of $1,500 a month and a $150 vehicle expense. Applicants will need a background in grounds care, landscaping, home maintenance and housekeeping. You must be non-smoking, dependable and a caretaker who can work unsupervised. The property is located approximately 70 miles from Portland and 15 miles from the beach in Manzanita.

Sounds amazing, right? Not only do you get a place to live rent-free you get all your utilities covered AND a salary. Of course, this opportunity requires a work. It sounds like a full-time job. And is perfect for the right person.

Other opportunities that don’t involve as much work usually don’t come with a salary…but are still rent-free. And you can even find vacation opportunities. Once I came across a post that was advertising a cabin in Costa Rica near the beach for a week as long as you were willing to take care of the owner’s dog. A free vacation spot for a dog-lover in Costa Rica.

This is beginning to sound like an infomercial for The Caretaker Gazette. I assure you, I am getting nothing out of posting this. No toasters involved, I swear. Only the satisfaction of sharing our good fortune. Our caretaking gig in the San Juan’s didn’t come from the Gazette, but it might have… as the owners were about to post a ‘Caretaker Wanted’ ad in the upcoming issue. Which will be available online to subscribers starting tomorrow.

So what are you waiting for? Sign up and find your rent-free paradise!

And if you have any other proven resources for housesitting/caretaking or rent-free living ideas, please share them in the comments section. Thanks!

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In my last post I mentioned that for me structure allows for more freedom. I have certainly been lacking structure since we’ve been crashing with my family. I’ve felt a lot lost without it and have committed to have August be all about the structure of my life.

Guess what? That also applies to the blog. Yep. LITTOF has lacked structure. I’ve been posting when I feel like I have something to say, rather than sticking to a structure and just writing what is there for me in that moment. I’ve always worked better on a deadline. So here we go.

At the minimum, there will be new LITTOF posts on Mondays, Wednesdays & Fridays.

MONDAYS will be open-ended. I will be writing about whatever is there for me/us. Like always.

WEDNESDAYS will be regular posts from my mom, the Realtor. We’re not sure what we’ll be calling her guest blogs. Perhaps simply “Mom the Realtor.” Mom will be writing from her perspective as a Mom and as a Realtor. As a mom/Realtor who watched her daughter lose her house. As a Realtor for 30 some years who is constantly re-inventing herself. So… here’s where we need some input.

WHAT would you like to hear from my mom? What kind of questions do you have for her? Either post them in the comment section or please e-mail them to: loveinthetimeofforeclosure@gmail.com

FRIDAYS will be dedicated to links and stories around the web related to LOVE & FORECLOSURE… pretty broad topics, actually. It’s an effort to share my research and stories/websites/blogs I find interesting.

So that’s the minimum. I’m committed to continuing to write as honestly as I have been about our situation. We continue to be on a roller coaster ride. Thankfully there is now a light at the end of the tunnel. The island. And… that is a happy ending.

Which leads me to the final note. “A Foreclosure with a Happy Ending” is a story that Dennis Rodkin from Chicago Magazine’s “Deal Estate” blog has written about us. It’s up on their site today. You can see it here.

Okay. Please let us know what you’d like to hear from my mom in her new weekly guest posts. And as always, send me your questions/thoughts/suggestions.

How have you found freedom in structure?

 
 

My entire life I’ve related to the entire month of August with serious mixed emotions. On one hand, it’s my birthday month and as a Leo I’ve always loved my birthday. Like really loved my birthday. BUT, on the other hand, August is also the end of summer. The end of sunshine and swimming. The last month of freedom.

The start of August would cause a sense of anxiety and resignation. A feeling of “there’s not enough time” and “it’s almost over!” A subtle depression would seem to settle in and permeate everything like the humidity in Chicago. Summer is ending and there’s nothing we can do about it! All those things that you planned on doing this summer that you still haven’t done?

Such as…

-Go for a picnic by the lake/ocean
-See a concert at Ravinia/Hollywood Bowl
-Plant a garden
-Get a tan
-Lose 10 pounds
-Learn to speak Italian
-Run a 10K
-Organize a family reunion
-Read 5 new books
-Take a vacation

Yes? Well, you only have a few weeks to get them done. How does that make you feel? Stressed? Pressured? Resigned? Depressed? Perhaps?

This is what I call August Blues. And this August Blues is more noticeable to me now than ever. It’s hard to miss it being back in the Midwest as the leaves are already beginning to change! I know. I’m sorry to have to point it out. But the above image is a picture I took yesterday of a tree at my dad & stepmom’s house. See? The yellowing of the leaves. Change.

Also, on August 10th I add another number to my age. This is the first time in my entire life that I’m having a bit of an issue with that. Why? I don’t know. Maybe because I’m feeling it for the first time. The number. The age. The change… aches in joints. Grey hairs. You know… I’m deeper into my thirties. And I know I should appreciate it. Because I’ll never be this young again. Right? Ah… well, it is just a number. But it adds to the August Blues.

And my brother- who is in high school- has a serious case of the August Blues. To him, August not only means the end of summer but also the start of school. The end of freedom, the beginning of structure.

Ah, but does structure really equal no-freedom? Lately, being in this perpetual state of transition, I’ve realized what I need is structure. With structure, I will actually feel free. But that’s another topic.

Since we’ve been here (Barrington,) we’ve definitely been a bit shell-shocked. Okay, a lot shell-shocked. A couple of deer-in-head-lights. And, yes, blue. Depressed-ish. Okay, depressed. At times.

We lost our house. There’s no sugar-coating it. And we stepped off of an 11-month ordeal to this other world. This space of transition. Eleven months of a steady regime of adrenaline and anxiety… pushing air out of lungs. Fighting, running, working, thinking, worrying, struggling, struggling, struggling, creating… constantly.

It’s not that life stops, it changes. Like training for a marathon for months and months… then completing the marathon. The day after it’s like, okay, what now? For us it was like that. We were dangling off a very steep cliff, hanging by our fingernails and we finally let go…

Now what?

Well, to our amazement we discovered a safety net. A future. Two years on an island living rent-free. Amazing. But there’s still the here and now– the recovery and rebirth. Though we would really love a week on a beach to rest, recuperate and just do nothing, that’s not in the cards. We still have learning to do and a future to build.

Someone recently asked us if the house on the island was a happy ending to our story. Bob’s response was, “It’s not an ending at all. It’s like one chapter closing and a brand new one opening.” There’s no ending. Only beginning. Anything can be looked at that way. August may represent the end of the summer… but first of all, it’s not over yet. There’s still an entire month. It isn’t over until it is. Until September.

And even then, when one thing ends, another begins. September represents the beginning of the fall. And a new school year. A new fiscal quarter. A new look. A new outlook?

On August 1st Bob and I got up and went for a run. (I’ve been running again and it feels great.) In realizing that it was August 1st, I decided rather than let August just happen (the way July did) I would have a say in the way it goes. Each day I will go further than the last. In my daily runs & in my life. Day in and day out. We will put ourselves out there. Going a bit further each day. Building momentum.

Instead of the Blues August will be a rock ‘em sock ‘em, pedal to the metal momentum building month.

My motto for August: HOLD NOTHING BACK!

What’s yours?