Friday, March 20, 2009

Ready to Fire The Pimps

It's on the market. Our old home. For $187,900.00. 

In case you just landed here because of a random google search for something about pimps, our former home, that we let go back to the bank because we couldn't sell it for what we owed, that we had an offer on a year previously for $333k, is now for sale for less than half of that.

All over our county there are foreclosures, short sales, abandoned homes, bank owned property. There are some pretty great deals. But I think I've decided that I don't want to own anything for a while. See, I'm firing the banks.

There are so many people that I know, have read about, hear about through friends that have tried to renegotiate the terms of their mortgage, sell for slightly less than what they owe, these types of things, & the banks refuse to work with them. The banks are offered a certain amount of money to walk away from the previously negotiated situation. They refuse. So the people end up, like us, in bankruptcy, or in foreclosure. The banks end up having to pay attorney fees, cleaning, painting, lawn maintenance crews. In the end, these properties are sold, by the banks, for hundreds of thousands of dollars than they would have settled for, & the owners' credit wouldn't be in the toilet. It makes no sense.

The banks that are refusing to work with us are then asking for our tax dollars because they have so many derilect properties that they can't sell for what they own them for. It is absolutely the worst example of sound business practices I've ever seen. 

I forgot to elaborate on why I was so upset about the houses we've seen in Cape Coral. They are not built well. It feels like if you lean up against the wall you will leave a dent in it. There are miles & miles of these houses. Biggie says that because the cost of land was driven up so high so quick, the only place left to cut corners was in the construction. I think he's right. But although you can't tell from looking at the pictures I posted of the mafioso house, that's what it feels like. So we have a whole City full of abandoned, poorly built houses. I want out of here.

Thursday, March 19, 2009

Less Hate, More Love

When Andy Cook came to interview me for his blog, he made me realize something that made me feel like the biggest idiot. He asked me what sacrifices our family was making either as a result of the recession or to get us through. I stopped to think, besides the bankruptcy, besides my serious lack of new clothes, besides not getting haircuts, it'd have to be Biggie. 

He's always worked a lot of hours. When he would hold them up as proof of the sacrifices he makes for our family, I would scoff. He did this before I was in his life. He would still do it if I weren't in his life. The difference now is that it isn't a choice, but a necessity. Before things started to go bad with the economy & all, if I asked him to take a day off, it wasn't a problem. While the other salesmen would get fired for showing up five minutes late, Biggie can just call them & tell them he wouldn't be in that day. No consequences, other than he didn't sell a car that day. They like him at his dealership that much, & it's not because he's cute. It's because he's an awesome salesman.

Everybody knows the jokes about car salesmen, lawyers, mechanics. How they are immoral, liars, leeches. While I'd like to think most people out there wouldn't use these stereotypes as justification to treat these people rudely or somehow subhuman, after being with Biggie for eight years now, I can no longer be so optimistic.

Maybe it's the economy getting everybody down. I think it's more that since there are such fewer buyers out there, he can't tell people to leave when they are nasty. They are nasty, though.

There have always been the ones that don't want him to wait on them because they think he's Hispanic. Then there are the ones who are just brazen enough to ask him where he is from. They get all frustrated & flustered when he's tells them Ontario, because it doesn't tell them what they want to know. Then there's the people who he actually tells them that he's Italian & they actually apologise because they had assumed he was something somehow insulting. 

There are people that are on the lot, walking around cars, that he walks up to & says hello. Just hello, I'm here if you have any questions. Some people ignore him. Literally act like they don't hear. Some people mumble that they don't need help, they're just looking. Some people tell him to leave them alone. People have actually told him to Fuck Off. For saying hello.

Biggie doesn't do as well as he does as a salesman because he manipulates people. Don't get me wrong, he does manipulate some people, but he saves it for the people that deserve it because they are mean or stupid. The biggest reason that he does well is because he listens to what people say, he doesn't let them buy more car than they can afford without caution, mostly because he doesn't give up. He assumes people come into a dealership because they want or need a car & he does everything he can to get them one that works for them. Sometimes this means spending four hours going on test drives, or searching on the Internet for the car for someone, or pushing the finance manager to try yet another bank to approve a customers loan. & in these times, he spends a lot of time in the finance office. 

People have been being really nasty to him lately, though. People screaming at him, that he's a liar, because there has to be something he is doing that is keeping them from getting a $250 a month payment on a $30,000 car with no money down over 5 years. Trust me, as soon as we find the place on the planet where 250 x 60 = 30,000 + interest, we'll be letting y'all know. 

Biggie is the kind of person that goes out in the parking lot to look at our waitresses car when she tells us that a body shop has given her an outrageous estimate. He's the kind of person that goes into the repair shop to get an extra hub cab for the guy in the produce department at our favorite store because he lost one. He's the kind of guy that drives 40 minutes out to the little old lady's house that can't figure out how this new fangled electric car starts, again. He's the kind of guy that answers a customer's questions about their lease or transmission or suspension on his cell phone while standing in line with his family at Disney World.

So, in the event that you find yourself in a car dealership, do me a favor. Recognize that the person, or people, trying to help are in fact, people. They don't get paid unless you buy a car, & if you have to humiliate them to do that, well, that just sucks. Yes, I know some of them out there that are assholes, just don't assume that they are. For my sake.

Thursday, March 12, 2009

Home Hunters: Foreclosure Crisis Edition

A major portion of the stimulus package consists of the previously mentioned Neighborhood Stability Program (NSP), that provides down payment assistance as well as rehabilitation funding in areas hardest hit with foreclosures. For my Australian readers, Florida led the nation in 2007 with the highest percentage, 16.5%, of High-Risk Negative Amortization Loans. Lee County, where we live, has a foreclosure rate of over 11%. 

I really want to get out of here, but I have to balance what I want against the best interests of our family. We, well, mostly MiniMe & I, are looking at houses. I really wanted to be in downtown Fort Myers as there is a public arts magnet elementary school there. The girl just held yet another concert in our living room tonight where she sang her original work on jellyfish, which poetically emphasized that jellyfish indeed do not have hearts. She's 3, for crying out loud. She plays guitar & piano. No joke. No, I don't force her to sit & practice nor does she take lessons. But I digress. The point is that it seems like an arts magnet elementary + she = positive feelings about school.

The area we are now looking at houses in is the city of Cape Coral. It's killing me, my peeps. I mean, I'm a fricken Urban Planner. ("Um, we know that, crazee ladee. You ramble on about it in every fricken post!") I'm from the bellweather of failing Urban Policy. But, Cape Coral? There is a book about it entitled, "The Lie That Came True". It honestly was a real estate scam that so many people bought into it actually got built. If you look at it on google earth it's freaky. It's a bunch of crazy manmade canals to nowhere. The streets are all number names to the extreme ie. NE 12th Place, NE 12th Street, NE 12th Court, NE 12th Avenue. & it's in several of my textbooks as the perfect example of sucky suburbia. There's a fairly popular heavy rock band from there who entitled one of their albums "Cape Coma" as a reference to the city. I feel like I am one giant sellout. 

I can't ignore the incredible deals on homes in the City of Cape Coral, however. For the same amount of money, or less, we could buy a home that is twice the size of the one we are renting. I spent one Saturday afternoon driving round with MiniMe and Grammie & came upon an unsettling revelation, however.

The first home we went to look at is owned by Fannie Mae. It is  4 bedroom, 3 bathroom two-story house that was built in 1999. It is on a canal, has a 2-car garage & a pool. It's listed for $214k. Sounds nice, right? Well, it's not. 

When we walked into the house I was immediately struck by the prominence of the colors, or lack of them. The home is decorated in entirely black, white & grey. When the agent started discussing things that could make the house better, I suggested perhaps a centrally located globe with some neon lettering around it. He was all, "I think I've seen that somewhere before!" Um, uh-huh. 

Take a lookie at this gem of a bathroom. It's hard to tell from the photo, but the bathtub is pretty much in the middle of the room. Faux black marble? How about badly airbrushed fiberglass? Combined with the etched glass mermaid (which MiniMe seriously swooned over), complete with exposed nipples, I would feel obligated bathing there as if I were expected to put on some kind of show. 

But hey, if I did there was the built in radio/intercom system! When I asked the realtor if he knew what it was for, he lodged into some explanation to the effect of, "See, back in the 80's it was considered classy to have built in radio systems..." I cut him off. "No! This is for Issac Hayes!"

I was waiting for Tony Montana to show up, but I guess he's moved on.

Sunday, March 8, 2009

See, people love me!

I often get asked if I have considered making things to sell to the public at large at craft shows or on etsy. It always makes me think of my Grandma, MiniMe's namesake, who frequently got requests from my friends to make things for them that she had made for me. A very few times she did oblige, but for the most part, she had a canned response that she only made things for those she loved, out of love. She said taking money for something was just too much pressure. 

When grandma died there was quite a volume of fabric that she had acquired. If I needed a shirt or a skirt to go with another fabulous piece, she would rifle through her cabinets to find a fabric that I might like that she could craft into what I needed in a single afternoon. I completely took it for granted until she was gone.

I currently have a backlog of my own. About three new jumpers for MiniMe, some sweet organic knit I scored off ebay for leggings or twirl dresses, two different groups of fabric for a vintage mommy & child apron pattern I found. Oh, & three pairs of pants to hem for Biggie. (BOR- ring!) I am still trying to find places for things in the new house. MiniMe's craft drawers are barely able to be opened, they are so in need of purging. Someday, my sweet Singer.

Dear, Sweet Kristine sent us a package last week. I had requested a hat, as we were going to be going on a trip to somewhere cold that has since been cancelled, & Kristine knits. She went above & beyond, not only making a hat that MiniMe has decided resembles her & my favorite vintage Strawberry Shortcake character, Blueberry Muffin, but also a little version of an apre-bath wrap, in Hello Kitty of course. There was also a matching person-pillow, who has since become Rosebud's, & a lavender belt with musical notes on it. It's almost like Kristine knew I had said that if we put the kid's gold collection on her from her christening with certain pants, it would make the perfect LL Cool J costume for Halloween.

The wrap was tried out immediately. MiniMe decided she had to wear the hat, too, since it matched so well. After the pictures were taken, a rowdy game of Hide & Go Squeak was played with Dad, while MiniMe pranced about happily. 

I have to say, while I love getting gifts, I love giving them so much more. It is awesome to open Kristine's flickr account & see her daughter in something I made for her, even though I've never actually met her. But, I will. Soon. They are coming to the Even-Farther-Down-South in the next month. I am so excited I seriously am already contemplating what color roses I will get from the farmer's market for the dresser in the guest room. Yep. I've lived in The South too long.