Thursday, April 30, 2009

Don't Get Too Close.....It Might Be Contagious!

No, not the swine flu, BLOGGING! Never one to go more than a few hours without checking in online, this week I have been spending waaay too much time sitting here. And I have decided that I really like writing a blog and have started a second one!

As you know, I am a realtor by profession and initially I thought this blog would be more about real estate. I hoped to pass along information that might be of interest to people trying to figure out what's going on in this crazy market and to offer some help. A little hesitant at first wondering whether anyone would be intersted in what I have to say, I have been encouraged by the feedback and comments received.

Because I have been writing about personal topics and other non-real estate issues here, I have decided to start a second blog where the main focus will be just.....Real Estate. So stop by and check out my Rhode Island Real Estate Blog. The first few posts are reruns of some I posted here just to get going. But I have new topics that will be ready soon, so please, keep reading!

Image from Google Images

Monday, April 27, 2009

Good Food+Good Friends=Good Times

Last Saturday was girls' night out with The Dinner Club. Gisele, Kathy, Ruth & I have been doing this for at least 20 years. With histories that go back 35+ years, this started as a way to celebrate birthdays. Then Gisele (our semi-pro party planner) came up with the idea of a dinner club--$20 per person per month thrown into an account. Back then we didn't always have the money on any given weekend, but who is going to miss $20 a month? We go out on the account 4-5 times a year when a Saturday night works for all of us. Nobody looks at the right side of the menu and it's whatever you want....who cares what it costs!? Gisele picks up the tab and takes it out of the account. It's just us girls (no husbands) and just the four of us. We used to get pretty dressed up but lately it seems to be more casual but I gotta say, we still look pretty good!

Last Saturday we went to Stoneforge in Foxboro, just up the road from Gillette Stadium. A huge place with a really casual atmosphere, the food was good and the place was very comfortable. We sat for a couple hours after dinner near the lounge talking and listening to the guy with the acoustic guitar who played everything from Beatles to The Fray. Someone mentioned going over to Patriot Place and checking out a couple of clubs but that didn't happen. Although Ruth, our designated driver, did drive us through the complex on our way home. (We're getting old)

Saturday's selection was one of the more casual places we've gone to. Over the years we have been to the nicest restaurants in RI and MA, and we never go back to the same place twice. We've also done a couple trips including a long weekend in Bermuda about 15 years ago. One night recently we went to Fred & Steve's at Twin River and had a fabulous dinner. Afterwards we dropped into the Comedy Club for the show and then went into the casino for a couple hours. In charge of the account as always, Gisele paid for dinner, paid our way into the comedy show and then gave us some money to gamble with. Picture this: Three grown women standing around another who is passing out $20 bills. We had a blast that night.

Of course, the most important aspect of this 'club' is the friendship. Although there are always lots of laughs, there have been more than a few tears over the years. We've all been through our ups and downs, and we're always there to listen. I can't imagine not having Gisele, Ruth & Kathy in my life, and I expect that when we're in our 80's, The Dinner Club will still be out on the town!

Image from Google Images

Friday, April 24, 2009

The Value of Buying An Owner-Occupied Multi-Family House

When I was growing up they were called tenements or tenement houses. I haven't heard that term in years; they are now most often referred to as multi-family houses or just multis. I grew up in a city in the Northeast with many textile mills and neighborhoods full of tenements. Back then it seemed most of those houses of 2-3 units or apartments were owner occupied and often housed several generations of the same family.

That practice became less common as people who could afford to left the cities and moved to the suburbs often keeping the multis as investment property and becoming absentee landlords. Without the landlord right there to keep an eye on things, the properties often fell into some disrepair and showed less pride of ownership. When values of real estate skyrocketed in recent years, many of these owners sold their multis at incredible prices. Now we are seeing many, many of these multis being sold as short sales or after foreclosure. The poor condition of some of these houses is unimaginable.

If you are considering buying a multi-family property to either live in or invest in, my advice is to try to find one that is or was owner-occupied. Certainly that is getter more difficult in this market but it's not impossible. Sometimes you can tell by the information available on the multiple listing service (MLS) or your Buyers' Agent may be able to find out. It doesn't hurt to ask.

An owner-occupied multi is less likely to be for sale as a foreclosure or as a short sale so the price may be more of a conventional market price and not seem like such a bargain. But the condition of the property may more than make up for the additional cost of purchase. Also if the house is vacant and needs work before you can get paying tenants in there, every day it's empty is a negative for you.

No matter which way you go, find a Buyers' Agent to represent YOU and do your homework!

Thursday, April 23, 2009

What Would You Do Without Me?

When Paul came in this morning saying he was having trouble getting the old battery out of his Corvette without removing what he thought were way too many parts and was just going to change the oil in the tractor instead, I calmly asked if he wanted me to see if I could find something online about it. At first he thought I was joking but waited while I typed "removing battery from 1990 Corvette" into Google. I started opening a few things and reading to him bits and pieces of the 107,000 hits that came up. It was obvious he is not the only owner of a '90 Vette who has had this problem. I found one site with photos and instructions, and he sat down and read through it. He said the photos would be helpful so we printed out the 6 pages and off he went back to the garage to hopefully finish what he started.

A couple years ago he would have scoffed at such a suggestion but obviously he didn’t this time. My husband has built and rebuilt cars going back to when he was a gear head in his teens. And you can be sure he didn’t even consult an automotive manual, never mind a computer, to figure something out. But a '90 'Vette is a long way from a '55 Chevy and cars sure are alot more complicated in this century (sorry, honey, couldn't resist). And while my involvement with my car and its maintanence pretty much stops at putting gas in it and running through the car wash, I do remember one time consulting Google about how to reset the Check Engine light after the mechanic who did an oil change forgot to.

To be fair, I must say Paul's computer ability has come a long way since he wrote that first email years ago which I suggested printing out to send to the grandkids to post on their refrigerator. But it hasn’t been easy. I am not a particularly patient teacher and he is not a very easy student. There have been a few lessons screamed rather than taught. And I have to say this sharing of one computer at home is getting old.

He still goes to the telephone book (I keep throwing them out, he brings another home) when looking for a number and will probably NEVER read a newspaper online but I do think he’s starting to see the value of the internet as a research tool. So there is progress!

He just came back in from the garage with a huge smile on his face saying “It’s amazing how easy that is when you know how to do it.” No kidding. My comment was “what would you do without me?” I’m not sure I heard his answer; maybe I don't want to.

NOTE: The Corvette in question is FOR SALE. It’s a 1990 Convertible in Polo Green with a tan top & interior with 28,000 miles and a NEW battery. If you or someone you know might be interested in it, drop me a line for more details and photos.

Wednesday, April 22, 2009

Spring Awakening at PPAC

I saw the opening of Spring Awakening at the Providence Performing Arts Center (PPAC) last night. The Tony-award winning musical closed on Broadway in January and has been billed locally with the disclaimer: Parental Discretion Advised--Mature Themes. They aren’t kidding.

My stepdaughter, Pam, started talking about it recently. Pam & Geoff have season tickets to PPAC. She said she wouldn’t be taking either Katie or Madeleine as the content wasn't appropriate. Geoff wasn't interested, so she offered me their second ticket. I went with an open mind with no idea whether I would like it but I really did.

Adapted from a play written in 1891 in Germany and originally banned there, the play deals with teen angst and blossoming sexuality. Among the subjects touched upon are homosexualtiy, masturbation, rape, suicide, incest, teen pregnancy and abortion. I think they got 'em all. Although there is only a small amount of nudity in the play, there is some pretty nasty language in some songs, and there are scenes which could make you uncomfortable, although often done with humor.

Set in a German town in the 1890's, the opening scene is a young girl who, saying she still believes in 'the stork,' asks her mother to tell her the truth about where babies come from. The mother tries but can't bring herself to explain the facts of life to her daughter, and she later pays dearly for that lack of knowledge.

The best part of the production, for me anyway, was the music which was written by Duncan Sheik. Several songs made me think of Rent. The band (basically a rock band with guitars, strings & percussion) was set up at the back of the stage and in full view which was pretty cool. The set was interesting and made to look like the inside of a brick building. Not much moved around during the play. They did a lot with various colored lights throughout; depicting various times of day and different settings.

One very curious thing was that there was a set of “bleachers” on each side of the stage facing each other. We arrived several minutes before the curtain and there were already about 20 teenagers sitting there. They stayed for the duration of the play. There were a couple times when they were quite ‘up close and personal’ to the action on the stage, and I thought that I would have been a little bit uncomfortable sitting there.

As I said the music was great. The lead of “Melchior” was played by Kyle Riabko who debuted in that role on Broadway and is now touring. A singer/songwriter in his own right, I really enjoyed his stage presence and his voice. I bought his CD (with two songs from Spring Awakening on it)on the way out of the theater and have already listened to it several times. His style makes me think of an edgy John Mayer; lots of acoustic guitar alone with his vocals.

In some of the quotes I have read, Steven Sater, who adapted the story and wrote the lyrics, says that the play is appealing to a broad audience and is creating a ‘dialogue between the generations.’ I don’t know that I can really envision that but I guess it’s possible. Anyway, I’m glad to have seen Spring Awakening and will be curious to see what other people are saying after the Providence run.
Images from Google Image

Tuesday, April 21, 2009

Some GOOD News About the Real Estate Market

Calling all first-time home buyers!!

Would you or someone you know like to purchase a home in the next 6 months? Well, if you haven't owned a house in the last three years and meet certain criteria, this may be your year to become a homeowner!

Chances are you have heard about the First-Time Home Buyer Tax Credit which is part of the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act created in July of 2008. Revised earlier this year, it provides a maximum credit amount of $8000 to purchasers who qualify. This is not a loan; as long as you live in the house for three years, it doesn't have to be paid back; basically it's a GIFT. Only single family residences (including condos) qualify. Purchases of multi-family houses, even if owner-occupied, are not eligible. Only applicable to homes purchased between January 1, 2009, and December 1, 2009, there are a few rules.
  1. Purchasers must have an adjusted gross income of no more than $75,000 for individuals, $150,000 on a joint return.
  2. Purchaser and spouse may not have owned a house in the 3 years previous to the purchase.
  3. If the home is sold within three years of purchase the whole amount of the credit must be repaid at closing.

Home prices are at the lowest they have been in years. There are many great opportunities out there. If you would like to find out if you qualify for a mortgage and the First-Time Home Buyer Tax Credit, give me a call or send me a message and I'll give you a referral to a lender who can answer all your questions. And if you need help finding your home, let me know! It's an exciting time to be a home buyer.

Note: I am a licensed Realtor in Rhode Island & Massachusetts. Even if you are not looking for a home in my area, please call me. I am part of Leading Real Estate Companies of the World, the premier real estate network providing service nationally and internationally. I would love to give you a referral to a qualified, professional Realtor in your area!

Image from Google Images

Monday, April 20, 2009

R.I.P. Aunt Marilyn

My aunt died in Florida two weeks ago. She was my father's sister Marilyn and my favorite aunt. Aunt Marilyn was only 77, and she passed quickly after an illness she was fighting got much worse. My Uncle John died 3 1/2 years ago. They had been married nearly 55 years.

Most of my immediate family has moved to the Southeast over the last 20 years so we don't see them as often as when I was growing up. I've been thinking lately about how strange it is when someone who lives far away dies. It sort of feels like they are still there, living their lives as usual. I haven't seen my aunt in almost 3 years, the last time was when we went to Sarah & Mike's wedding in Florida. Sarah is Marilyn's granddaughter, my cousin Don's daughter.

And although I'm not a conventionally religious person, I have also been thinking about that saying "When God closes a door, he opens a window." Four days before my aunt's passing, Sarah gave birth to her first child, a son, Matthew; my aunt's second great-grandson. Because my aunt was so sick at the end and just seemed to be hanging on, I think she was waiting for Matthew's arrival. Once she knew he was here, safe & sound, she could go. And she did.

I have wonderful memories of time spent with Aunt Marilyn. She & my uncle shared a big two-family house in Rumford with my grandparents, and we had Sunday dinner there every Sunday until I was a teenager. As a matter of fact, their house was referred to by my parents as just "The House" even though we never lived there. We'd arrive about 11 a.m. and stay until Walt Disney was over or later after Bonanza if there was no school on Monday. One of my fondest memories is sitting downstairs in my aunt's living room between my cousins, Don & Dave, with an enormous bowl of popcorn my Uncle John had just popped feeding their dog Blackie popcorn from between my toes!

We celebrated every Christmas and Thanksgiving in that house for at least 35 years. As my cousins & I grew up, we brought girlfriends, boyfriends, wives, husbands and eventually grandchildren. Holiday dinners were at Aunt Marilyn's, that's just the way it was. My aunt always had a gorgeous tree in her living room and Christmas morning we couldn't get into the room because of all the gifts under and around it.

I wasn't able to travel to Florida to my aunt's memorial service. I was really sad about that but for now I will think about all those great memories of time spent in their house and envision her in sunny Florida. R.I.P. Aunt Marilyn.

Sunday, April 19, 2009

Sometimes a Hard Day's Work Feels Good!

Billed as a day to "put garbage in its place" the 7th Annual North Smithfield Clean and Green Day appears to have been a tremendous success yesterday. My husband, Paul, is Chairman of the North Smithfield Conservation Commission. He and the other commission members formed a team to clean up a parcel of land in town that is being donated to North Smithfield. He also enlisted the help of myself, Paul, Jr., and four of our grandchildren: Katie, Madeleine, Travis & Julia.

Left dormant for many years, the property was once a business, Green Meadow Nursery. As we raked the tons of leaves that have mulched down over the years, we uncovered daffodils, bugle weed, hardy geraniums, lungwort and a few others I couldn't identify. There are also two magnolias which were just getting ready to pop plus an enormous larch and an assortment of cedars, holly, rhododendrons & azaleas. It was a little like a horticultural scavenger hunt. Julia, Trav & Maddy helped clean up a shed and found a mouse nest. Katie just put her head down and raked and raked and raked.

Over the course of the day, 13 of us worked at the property. We raked, we clipped, we carted, we trimmed. We filled up a dump truck 3 times with dead branches. Teams of 2-3 toted a tarp loaded with leaves off to the side. We worked for a total of 43 man hours. When we finally called it quits at 3:30, the property looked beautiful!

This morning when I woke up, my sore muscles told me I had done a hard day's work but thinking back to what we accomplished, it feels good!

Tuesday, April 14, 2009

The Importance of a Home Inspection

You have finally found The House. Your buyers' agent has negotiated a great price, you have signed a Purchase & Sales Agreement and now it's time to have The Home Inspection. Never skip the Home Inspection!! No buyers' agent worth his salt will let a client forego an inspection.

Hopefully before you get to this point, your agent sat with you and discussed the inspection process. Some of the inspections you may want to consider include Physical & Mechanical, Termite & Woodboring Insects, Radon Measurements, Water Analysis & Flow Test (if the house has a private well), Septic Inspection (if the house isn't connected to public sewer system) and Lead Hazard. Generally there is a time limit by which you must have the inspections completed. Check with your buyers' agent to find out what the practice is in your area.

A qualified Home Inspector will look for deficiencies that seriously compromise habitability and safety of the home or would be expensive to repair. You may get a written report or the report may be delivered to you electronically. For first-time homeowners, the inspections are especially valuable because your inspector may also give you some information about the workings of some of the mechanicals in the house and provide some maintanence information.

Hopefully your reports will be short on problems and the rest of your transaction will go along smoothly. But at least you will know you've done your best to avoid any nasty surprises after the closing.

Saturday, April 11, 2009

Earth Day 2009....The Green Generation

April 22 is Earth Day. First celebrated in 1970, Earth Day was the beginning of the modern environmental movement. Coming at a very turbulent time in American history, Earth Day 1970 achieved a rare coming together of people; enlisting support from Republicans and Democrats, rich and poor, city slickers and farmers, tycoons and labor leaders. The first Earth Day led to the creation of the US Environmental Protection Agency and the passage of the Clean Air, Clean Water, and Endangered Species acts.

What began as an American grassroots demonstration on the environment with 20 million American participants has grown over the last 40 years to include more than 1 billion people worldwide. The Earth Day Network works with organizations all over the world to provide opportunities for all citizens to become active at the local, state, national and global levels.

On a much smaller, more personal level, my town of North Smithfield will hold its 7th annual Clean and Green Day on Saturday, April 18, in recognition of Earth Day. Volunteers (you don't have to be a town resident) will gather to cleanup roadways, parks and riverbanks in town. People can organize their own teams and either designate an area in town they would like to clean up or choose from a list of suggested areas in need of attention. For more information or to pre-register as a volunteer, check the North Smithfield Clean & Green Day website .

Paul and I will be working on a parcel of land recently donated to the Town of North Smithfield by the family of Dr. Monica Wawszkiewicz. Including several acres of land, the property will eventually be used as a Peace Garden in Dr. Monica's honor. We have enlisted the help of all the grandchildren and hope to make it a family day. Our whole family is very environmentally conscious, and this is one of many projects the kids have been involved in over the years.

If you'd like to get involved, let us know. If you don't live in North Smithfield or can't make it next weekend to help out in our townwide effort, you can always help by cleaning up your own property borders or around your own town, no matter where you are!

Friday, April 10, 2009

About Me

Hello, my name is Sandy and welcome to my blog, It's a Jungle Out There.

For the last ten years I have been a full-time real estate agent working with clients in Rhode Island and Massachusetts. I started in business after retiring from 25 years in human resources. I love my work in real estate because I meet people from many different places and all walks of life, and I love learning about new people. I am married and am blessed to be part of a wonderful family which includes two stepchildren and five terrific grandchildren.

A big part of my life involves community service. In addition to my career in real estate, I also run a local Christmas charity for children of needy families and serve as a member of my town's juvenile hearing board. For the last 30+ years I have also dabbled in genealogical research and am proud to be a direct descendant of Reverend John Robinson, Pastor to the Pilgrims.

I love to read anything and everything and am a member of a Book Club. My husband, Paul, and I share our house with two crazy dogs: Lucy, a Jack Russell Terrier and Rosey, a Golden Retriever, both of whom I'm sure you will hear lots more about. Paul and I love to travel and I hope to share some of those stories, too.

When I thought about becoming a blogger, my intentions were to share some insight into the real estate market and provide some general information about buying or selling a home. For that information please visit my real estate blog at Rhode Island Real Estate. Along the way I hope to also blog about our travels, town and life in general!

Thanks for stopping by. I hope you will again!


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