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Posted on Jan 30, 2013 | 0 comments

We Interrupt This Winter…

Strictly Sail Chicago 2013Whoever first started scheduling Strictly Sail Chicago in the middle of January was a genius. Winter has never been our favorite part of the year (hello, planning to move to the Tropics for more than just the piña coladas) but this year has been doubly hard with the knowledge that we could have moved to Florida instead of staying here to pad our purse a little more. This past Saturday we were able to leave winter behind for a few hours and spur the excitement we’ve been missing for the last couple months. Just one day of being able to talk openly with people about our dream of cruising does wonders for our attitudes.

Three Cruising Budgets, Snapshots from the Life of Jimmy Cornell, and Perspectives from a Cruising Couple seminars filled our schedule. These seminars weren’t really intended as fact finding for us, in fact we hardly learned any really new information at all. What they lacked in new information, they made up for in validation and motivation. It’s one thing to read a bunch of cruising blogs and forums and compile a $1000-$1500/month budget that we think is realistic; it reaches the next level to hear the founder of Blue Water Sailing confirm that for us in his Three Cruising Budgets seminar. (He actually described four budgets, but the highest was labeled “Silly and Unnecessary” aka why are you even in this seminar, just go hire a 5 man crew for your million dollar yacht.)

The boats were what we really wanted to see. We won’t be buying a new boat when we leave, of course, and we probably won’t even be looking at buying a used version of any of the brands available to tour due to quality and dependability recommendations; what we wanted was to feel the size of the living space. Last year, we hadn’t done a lot of research into boats when we came and toured all of the boats. We left that day saying, “yeah, the smaller ones are okay, but I think we should look at boats in the 40-45′ range.” And look I did…at the price tag. There are hardly any good boats on the used market in the 40-45′ range that are under $50,000, and especially not ones that are close to being ready for ocean voyaging.

This year we needed to go in with the question “what can we do” instead of “what do we want to do”. It’s amazing how much that question changes your perspective, because we quickly realized that 30-35′ boats would probably do just fine for us and one little boy. (Depending on the boat, of course.) We are now looking for boats in that range with one cabin/quarter berth layout or two cabin layout (which is much harder to find in older boats that size). To be honest, I was a bit shocked to see how much that downsize of 5-10 feet slashed the price tremendously. If you search yachtworld.com for boats 38-45′ in the US between $30k-$50k, you get 197 boats boats to choose from. And let me tell you, they aren’t exactly the cream of the crop most of the time. If you search 30-38′ instead, you get 757. That’s a significant difference in selection, making it much more likely for us to be able to find what we are looking for in our budget.

While we had intended to stay for 2 days of the show, winter fought back and forced us to return home early with a nasty ice storm that came through Chicago on Sunday. We didn’t want to brave the ice in my mom’s car that she let us borrow – Thanks Mom! – because my brakes went out just as we were getting to their house Friday night. (Whole story in itself.) It seems that we will have to wait until next year to get a good second day, since last year Dan spent most of the day on his back on the floor outside of the bathroom of Navy Pier or puking his guts out inside of said bathroom. Even just one day though was enough to refuel our systems until the end of the dreariness when we can start sailing and diving again.

 

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Posted on Jan 23, 2013 | 0 comments

Welcome to the World of Rent

How would you like to live here? Too bad, it’s already rented!

As of January 16, Dan and I are the proud owners of our first rental home and even in just a week we are starting to get a picture of the ups and downs involved. On the upside, we already have most of the repairs finished that we wanted done before having a tenant moved in. We were also pleasantly surprised by the great response we had to our Craigslist ad. Within 2 hours of first posting the ad, we already had people calling and filling out rental applications online. In fact, we had 10 showings in the first 3 days which was enough to find multiple candidates that we were fairly confident in renting to.

One of the candidates seemed like a great fit for us. She was an elderly retired woman (let’s call her Mary, not her real name of course) with two handicapped grandchildren that she cared for and received monthly payments from the government on their behalf, in addition to a decent pension. Mary also had lived in her last two locations for almost 10 years each, which sounded pretty darn good to us. Older woman with guaranteed income and longevity? Perfect! We let her know that pending a reference and credit check we would be interested in moving forward with her application.

During the course of our research into becoming landlords, multiple individuals recommended to us that previous landlord references were one of the crucial screening calls to make. With this in mind, we prepared to make a few phone calls. We noticed that Mary hadn’t written down her past landlord’s number, so we gave her a quick call to which she responded that she didn’t have it on her but she would call us right back with it. After waiting a couple of hours and not hearing back, Dan decided to try to find the number himself using her listed address. Luckily, he found a full listing provide by the city housing authority of all of the owner/property managers for each rental unit including name and phone number. However, we needed to call Mary back anyway to get a few more pieces of information and this time she gave us her landlord’s number herself.

We called the landlord with the number she provided and he gave her a raving review. Never late on payments, grandkids don’t cause any problems, just everything perfect. However, there were a couple of discrepancies that didn’t quite pass the stink test. First, Mary had written on her application that she paid $525/mth at her current address and the landlord said $1200. Second, she claimed that her reason for leaving was that the landlord was selling the property but the landlord was very emphatic that they didn’t know she was moving and how disappointed they were in losing her. Finally, the name and number of the landlord didn’t match what was on the city spreadsheet as the legal contact, and the number was only 1 digit different from her personal number (which also happened to be from a different area code then the local one). We had Dan’s brother double check the owner of the cell phone number – he works for a local cell distributor – and found that Mary was the owner of the account.

Now I’m usually a pretty relaxed person and don’t get angry too easily, but this situation really rubbed me the wrong way. I mean, seriously? You’re going to give me a fake phone number and have your family lie to a prospective landlord? We don’t know why she lied to us, whether she didn’t have the other landlord’s number or was intentionally hiding problems she was having, but to us it doesn’t matter. She will not be living in our house under any circumstances. Luckily, we had a second choice tenant whose credit check showed exactly what she told us it should and her landlord’s name and number matched the spreadsheet and also happened to be a former mayor. Somewhat more legit.

It is easy to see how people who own businesses can become cynical very quickly. Most people just want to do the right thing, but some really are trying to take advantage of you. The important thing is having a healthy balance of faith and skepticism about other people, so hopefully you can determine which is which. And remember, if it stinks…it’s probably fishy.

 

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