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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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Posted on Dec 5, 2012 | 0 comments

We sold our house… now what?

Last Thursday Michele and I received the call that we had both hoped would come, but had nearly given up on… a legitimate offer on our house. The offer was over 9% less than our asking price but at least we had some action! Let me back up a bit… We had grown disheartened at the numerous showings, followed by exceptionally minimal second showings, followed by a complete lack of offers. “The street is too busy,” “loved the house,” “buyer showed interest,” “great kitchen!” were all followed by a noted lack of action on the buyers’ parts. With that in mind, you’ll understand why we were excited to get any offer (even one that was almost 10% lower than asking price). We had talked about the price and had settled on 93% as our lowest acceptable price, definitely in range for this buyer. Our goal was 97%, however. After a few tense rounds of negotiation we were able to come through with our exact goal… right on the dollar.

We now are faced with weeks of inspections, tests, and (hopefully not) the possibility of more negotiations over any requested repairs. Our house is in exceptionally good condition so any requested repairs are most likely nit-picky (that doesn’t sound biased, does it?). Thankfully we were able to get the buyer to agree that no repairs would be made as a result of these inspections.

We looked at each other once the last counteroffer was accepted and Michele said what we were both thinking, “Now what?” We had been focused so much on getting our house sold that we hadn’t thought about the actual possibility of it selling. Crazy, I know. Now we are at a cross roads. We can find an acceptable apartment for a couple hundred dollars less than we were spending on our house, providing a decent boost to our future cruising kitty. We can also purchase a “starter/rental” house and spend almost nothing, we’re talking less than a normal car payment here, per month. The second option saves money over time but is also the riskier option. We would have the opportunity of renting the house after we are done with it, or selling it and (hopefully) making a profit. There is, of course, that nagging possibility that it wouldn’t sell or sell for less than we bought it for. Either way the bottom line is we are making progress.

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Posted on Aug 15, 2012 | 0 comments

To See or Not to See

Yea, it scares me too.

For those of you following closely, you will know that LASIK eye surgery is on our To-Do List before we leave (aka lose insurance coverage.) Both of us currently wear glasses and contacts and while we understand that people certainly can go cruising with prescription lenses, we would prefer not to. Losing or damaging expensive glasses is an inconvenience when it’s a pair of sunglasses, its a danger when its a prescription that allows you to see anything farther away than the bow of your boat.

The flip side of this coin is the fairly high cost. Eye surgery is considered an elective procedure by most insurance companies and is generally not covered. We’ve been quoted $1000-$2000 per eye depending on the type of lasers used and the warranties included. That’s a total cost for 4 eyes of up to $8000, a cost that will be coming directly out of our cruising kitty. Seeing as how we’ve moved up our planned departure date by a few years, that’s quite a chunk of change that has to be seriously considered.

After a lot of consideration, (and some help from my parents’ insurance plan) we have decided to go through with the surgery. This Friday to be exact. Let me just say that it definitely does make both of us nervous. While LASIK is a very common surgery at this point, there are no true guarantees that something won’t go wrong. It is a little scary when going wrong could mean permanent damage to our vision.

We’ll be heading up to Chicago for our surgery Thursday night for our appointments Friday morning. And if you think of us as you’re getting to work on Friday, send a little prayer our way. Hopefully, we’ll “see” you on the other side!

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Posted on Jun 6, 2012 | 1 comment

Bull Shoals Houseboat

We were impressed all around by Bull Shoals.

Michele and I were fortunate enough to be able to spend a few nights aboard a 60 ft houseboat on Bull Shoals Lake recently. I was quite impressed with both the lodging and the diving. It’s no Caribbean, but it’s way better than anything around us. The houseboat was a four bedroom, 2 bathroom (ok, head) model that was custom designed by the owner of the boat dock. I’ll get to how we met the (super nice) owner later…

The main reason Kyle, Becca, Michele, and I decided to go on the trip was for Kyle, Michele, and I to finish the open water portion of a few scuba certifications… advanced for all three of us as well as rescue for Kyle and I.

Not what I was expecting. (Credit: BSLBD website)

To be honest my expectations were quite low. I’ve seen houseboats on the Illinois River… and, well, they look like houseboats on the Illinois River. Most are barely more than tents or campers precariously perched on a few rusty pontoons. Not so with the houseboats from Bull Shoals Lake Boat Dock. The boats were open, clean, and basically felt like a house inside (I know).

The diving was varied… a recent lack of rain coupled with unseasonably high temperatures has created a large algae bloom, reducing visibility to 5-10 feet in places. Below the thermocline at 26 feet the visibility greatly improved to 50-70 feet. Unfortunately the temperature dropped from 75-80 °F above the thermocline to around 55-60 °F below… too cold for our 4/3 wet suits.

The dives consisted of a few wall dives, some sunken machinery, and a ton of fish. My favorite dive, however, was our advanced class “deep” dive. Deep in quotations because we’ve already gone deeper in the Caribbean. Don’t tell PADI. When the Bull Shoals dam was built a huge swath of land was flooded, creating Bull Shoals Lake. The houses were dismantled prior to flooding but the trees were not. On our deep dive we were able to swim through an underwater forest of decades old trees… it was unreal.

Bull Shoals Lake

While preparing to descend for our night dive Michele was injured by Kyle accidentally jumping in on top of her. One of the instructors was bringing us over closer to the boat’s lights so he could explain the dive plan more easily. In the time between Kyle checking the water and announcing he was about to roll in, we entered his drop zone. We should have been aware divers were still entering the water. The instructor with us (who was facing the boat) should have been aware divers were still entering the water. It was dark. Kyle followed the proper procedures for entering the water… accidents just happen, however.

The owner of the boat dock was simply awesome. He instantly picked Michele and I up in his speed boat and brought us to a waiting ambulance at the dock. He then was kind enough to pick us up from the hospital at 3 in the morning after Michele was discharged. If you are ever in the area, I would highly suggest renting a boat from Rick at the Bull Shoals Lake Boat Dock. I am confident Rick will take great care of you.

Fortunately the three of us were able to complete our additional scuba certifications despite the accident. Kyle and I are now ready to begin divemaster training! The road to our dream won’t always be easy, but it is a path that is worth taking. It felt great to live on the water, if only for a few days. We can’t wait until it becomes full time.

Follow your dreams. Follow the Horizon.

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Posted on May 4, 2012 | 0 comments

Review: Deep Water

You think a giant mechanical shark was scary? Just wait til you have nightmares of monster waves eating your tiny sailboat in the Southern Ocean.

So recently, Dan and I found this fantastic sailing blog called Windtraveler, written by a couple from Chicago who is living the dream of sailing their boat Rasmus on the open seas. (Actually, they are currently back in Chicago for a pit stop while they have their baby girl, but that’s irrelevant to this particular post.) So anyway, I’ve been reading their blog from the beginning and found a post about the movie Deep Water about the Golden Globe solo circumnavigation race in 1969. Windtraveler highly recommended the movie as “gripping” and says “there is definitely a lesson to be learned from Donald Crowhurst, may he rest in peace.” Well, I’d say I learned about 2 main lessons from the movie:
1. Never, for any reason, allow your husband to sail the open ocean without you.
2. Ever.
I mean, seriously, I don’t think I have ever watched or heard or read of a story that was so devastatingly heart-breaking. I mean, you could not make up a story so tragic as the story of Donald Crowhurst. Not to beat down on Brittany from Windtraveler or anything, but you could have warned me that I am going to have separation anxiety from my husband for weeks now, clinging to him like a two year old who thinks his mommy is never going to come pick him up from day care. Why? you may ask. Well let me give you a little breakdown of the solo race around the world.
Of the nine contestants, 4 didn’t make it out of the Atlantic, 1 got just past the Cape of Good Hope and gave up after having 27 straight days of terrible weather, 1 got 1100 nautical miles from the end before sinking his boat, 1 decided he would rather leave his family in France and keep on going around the world*, 1 committed suicide after losing his mind, and 1 finished. Not a great outcome if you ask me.
The movie focused mostly on the experience of Donald Crowhurst. He was left in an absolutely tragic state of trying to decide between death by drowning and absolute financial and reputational ruin after his boat started taking on water in the beginning of the race, and in the end he chose both. Truly, though, the real lesson that I took from his story was this: there is nothing so tragic as losing your life because you are afraid of losing it. You have to face your problems head on, even if there is nothing scarier that you can think of doing, especially if you have someone you love who will face them with you. It is always better to stand with your family, rebuilding out of the rubble, than being alone in the end.
So there you go, maybe I did learn something from this terribly depressing movie. (But seriously, Dan is never going to do a solo circumnavigation now.)
*So I know a lot of people are inspired by the writing of Bernard Moitessier, but couldn’t he have just gone back for his wife and then gone to Tahiti? I mean, really.
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