Pearl and Saber Learn How to Gift-Wrap a Cat

Pearl and Saber are earning their Masters of Catness degrees through home-schooling. They decided to earn extra credits during the Christmas break in the hopes of graduating early. Saber enrolled them in a "Holiday Wrapping" course because he thought it was about hip-hop caroling.  They found out too late that it wasn't that kind of rapping. … [Read more...]

My Encounter with the X-Men

Well, maybe "encounter" is too strong a word for what happened.  "Being in the general vicinity of the X-Men movie production for a few days" is more accurate, but hardly rolls off the tongue.  I recently returned from a family trip to Jekyll Island, off the coast of Georgia.   As happens all too often, I wasted no time showing those I just met exactly how unhip I am.   … [Read more...]

The Cat’s Guide to Preventing a House Sale

Listen up, fellow felines!  Your peeps are trying to sell your home out from underneath you.  And they haven't even asked permission, have they?   Everyone knows that we cats hate, hate, hate change.  Not like those silly dogs, so eager to explore new places.  We like things just the way they are.   If you have never had the trauma of being forcibly moved, let me tell you it's a nightmare.  The locations of your  food bowl and litter box - totally changed!  You have to fend off who knows what to claim the new place as your territory.  You must cultivate new napping spots.   You will have … [Read more...]

How to X-ray an HOA #8 – Home Businesses, Leases, Parking and Pets

Home-based businesses.  Most associations allow them, but restrict signage and require that the business not cause extra traffic in the neighborhood.   The Governing Documents in older associations may flatly prohibit home businesses and you may be told, “Don’t worry about that, we have never enforced it.”  That may be true, but if you proceed with a purchase under these circumstances, you risk that this attitude may change someday. Leases.  Do you want the flexibility to lease your place?  Many smaller associations prohibit leasing entirely but most other communities allow it.  As always, … [Read more...]

Take It Off, Take It Half Off!!!

When your house is on the market, impressing potential buyers is critical.  Among other things, your home needs to feel spacious. Not the empty-and-abandoned kind of spacious, but the "look how my stuff fits nicely with room left over" kind of spacious. You can get that effect by halving certain things, like the ones mentioned below. Bookshelves.  Take half of the books off.  Put 1-3 artsy objects at different spots on the shelves to add visual interest. Closets should be half empty.  Store your out-of-season clothes somewhere else.  Donate excess stuff to charity.  Get rid of extra … [Read more...]

Foreclosure Rescue Scams

The possibility of losing your home is terrifying.   Scam artists prey on the hopes and fears of desperate owners by claiming they can save your home.  These criminals want to trick you into giving them your money and your home.  They will then disappear, leaving you worse than they found you.  The Federal Trade Commission publishes a "Facts for Consumers" sheet describing the danger signs that you are dealing with a scammer.  Red Flags.   If you’re looking for foreclosure prevention help, avoid any business that: guarantees to stop the foreclosure process – no matter what your … [Read more...]

The Story of Christmas Valley

Christmas Valley is an unincorporated area in Lake County, Oregon.  It has a population of 749 and was named after nearby Christmas Lake.  The town didn't exist until 1961 when the M. Penn Phillips Development Company bought 90,000 acres there.  Penn Phillips was a veteran developer who specialized in creating new communities on desert terrain.  In a 1959 Time magazine article, Phillips claimed … [Read more...]

How to X-ray an HOA #7 – Management Companies and Community Amenities

Management.  The first question to ask is whether the HOA works with a professional management company.  Most HOAs prefer to be managed by companies with expertise in the issues surrounding home owners associations.    Delegating the business affairs and routine chores to HOA professionals is a big contributor to the “carefree lifestyle” touted by condo and townhouse communities.  But many smaller developments choose self-management for budgetary reasons.  Self-management is inherently neither good nor bad, but some HOA’s handle this task much better than others.  If you are thinking about … [Read more...]

How to X-ray an HOA #6 – Lawsuits, Judgments and Insurance

Pending lawsuits must be disclosed on Minnesota’s Resale Disclosure Certificate when the HOA is a party to it.  If you are considering a home where the association is in litigation, it is imperative to know what’s at stake.  Is someone suing the HOA over a $2,000 invoice or is the association suing the builder for a multi-million dollar construction defect?  Banks generally don't want to lend money for houses with pending lawsuits and may insist on a higher interest rate to do so.  If you are determined to buy in that complex, first consult an attorney for advice.  I also recommend that you … [Read more...]

How to X-ray an HOA #5- Delinquency Rates, Foreclosures and Short Sales

Buyers should be wary of cash-strapped developers or bank-owned buildings.  Developers and banks tend to lowball the cost of major repairs or improvements.  These groups may also fail to aggressively market the building or fix construction defects.  If the developer still controls the association, review the financial statements mentioned in Part 2 of this series.   Has the developer made the reserve fund deposits on time?  If instead, those payments have been deferred, try to verify the developer’s financial health and reputation.   If it has not already been disclosed, buyers should … [Read more...]

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