W2 or not W2, What do I do? Is the question

irs1040We all been there before. Year after year filing the tax returns ride high for a minute and back right where you started the next. I’ll make a big purchase and by a car. I’ll pay 3 months ahead on my rent. That’ll give me enough breathing room  til May or June.

The car breaks down. After the 3 months are up, the landlord will be knocking at the door singing “What have you done for me lately?” Then you think, What Happened?

We look at television and see MTV cribs. 5000 sq ft houses on the lake. Yes they exist and everybody wants that but chances are it may not happen immediately. The chances of going straight from a rental flat to there may not immediately happen. Winning the lottery or becoming the next hottest rapper may not be on the agenda either.

The next time you walk out your door look around. What do you see? Any lakes? Any 5 car garages? No, but you ride by them sometimes. This owner is the CEO of this company, that one is owned by a person who owns 60 rental houses in your area. Get the point? If you rent a property in the worse area of the city. It does not mean that you cant do better. YOU CAN DO BETTER! You can own a house in the worse area of the city. You live there anyway. Why not cut your largest expense? If you pay $500 a month in rent and you make $10 an hour on a full time job. You bring home $1200 after taxes. Do you realize that 55 to 65 percent of your money will go to living expense. This leaves you with very little of the wants because you are always buying the needs.

Weigh your options pay upfront for a house today, never have to pay rent again. Cut your expenses drastically.

Finance a house, cut your payment down. Gives you more stability.

Or continue to rent, with nothing to show but a rental receipt.

Remember you can always sell your property. But you can’t sell your rental.

There  are so many opportunities to buy a house right now and cut that expense so eventually you can get some of the wants. There are houses in your same area that can be purchased for cash. Some for the same amount of your tax return. Some properties can be financed and monthly payments can be at or below what you pay in rent. Some down payments can be about the same to what you would pay to move into someone else’s property.

Look to gain your financial freedom and empowerment.

Your 1000 sq ft castle is just as good as the 5000 sq ft house that you dream of. WHY?!?!!? How?!?!

Because it’s yours !!


Tis The Season to be Weary! A crash course in dealing with home repairs.

How many times have you needed repairs done on your house? Sometimes you don’t know who to call or if that estimate is for painting one room or painting the entire house. Only to find out it covers one closet after your job is completed.

Did you get or check references? Have you ever seen any of the person’s work?  Did you even go as far as doing a background check?

Sometimes it pays to be judge mental to people. Especially when you are going to fork over your cash and trust someone to work on your castle.

Look for the tell tale signs of the type of work that person does. You can usually tell a true painter by his/her whites. You will see joint compound and drywall dust on the shoes and hands of a lot of people that deal in drywall. A carpenter will be able to read the measurements on a tape measure pretty fast and accurate. If he says your room is 10 feet 12 inches by 11 feet. Think twice.

Look for a fast talker and a hurry up sign this contract right now give me a deposit and I’ll see you later type of person as a NO. Most contractors will let you look over the contract and let alone take a day or two so they can calculate a proper bid. A good contractor may not ask for money upfront because they are able to sustain themselves through a job until completion. Depending on the size of the job.

Also look out for the materials that are laying around in the garage but I will charge you for them routine.

NEVER!!!!! Pay for an entire job upfront. Anything can happen. The contractor may act in good faith but can walk into the street and have a piano fall out of the sky on to them. Job gets pushed back or bye bye $.

Always get more than one estimate. The cheapest is not always the best. Get everything in writing. Itemize every step of the job, the materials that you will be using. An estimation of materials. A time frame of completion. What will be covered in the total job and if a warranty is in place.

Don’t fall victim to ” That wasn’t part of the deal.”  Then you say, “well the house had working lights before you got here”.

His reply, “Yea, I agreed to tear the old wiring out. Not replace with new wiring”. Your walls are closed up, painted, finished and cabinets are hung.

ASK questions, look over a shoulder , stick around and make surprise visits when no one is there. Take a second person over to do a little inspecting.

Cover yourself and your money.

The Super Real Estate Agent

As an agent you meet many kind of people. Some good and some are a nightmare. Customer service is of importance. There comes a time when the buyer wants you to make their decision and you want them to make their own.
Do you tell them yes, this house is great?
If you do you may be looking at a bitter former customer in the future. Every creak, squeak and leak in the future will be your fault.
A lot of real estate agency is based on emotions, a little on psychology, and a small percent on sales.
I put myself in the buyer’s shoes because we all are buyers of something at one time or another.
How does a person feel, when they leave the store and they leave with a printer ,tablet and laptop? All they did was ask about how many pages an ink cartridge yields.

Advertisement and House Hunting

The advertisment you use when looking for a house plays a vital part.

I remember riding down Riverview to the HallsFerry circle as a kid in the 80s. The high point of the trip was seeing the water fountain in the middle of that circle. This was and still is a beautiful area , nice 60s style brick homes (which may have been about 30 years old then). I used to say man I want to live over here , this is a nice area. I loved houses even as a kid.

As time progressed , I noticed there was advertisements for the homes in a local crime newspaper. Afterwards there was a skyrocket in the crime rate in that area.

Is this just a coincidence? Think about it. Who reads this type of paper and where are the local retail outlets?
Is it the white collar suburban person making $100,000 a year and is this paper sold in high classed areas?


Advertisments attract a certain audience.

Look, Your Existing or New Neighborhood Final Part


Ok, you’ve found that perfect home on a treelined street in the perfect area.

Is it right for you?
The main thing you want to look for are people with the same values and typically in the same era of life that you are in.

Look at the cars in the area, are they like yours. Do you see Hybrids, do you see blue collar vehicles (pick up trucks) or do you see the cars with the big shiny 34″ wagon wheels on it?  This is one of the first tell tale signs of the area.

If you are at the stage of starting or raising a family , you want more of the same in your neighborhood. You will have more in common with your neighbors. You will be on the same wave length and can typically look out for each other a little better.
Your kids can attend school together , strengthening the bond even further along with picking up my kid from school and vice versa. There can be a person going through a mid life Harley Davidson baby waking  crisis.

It is not quite always a good idea to be the spring chicken on the block either. If majority of your block is in their retirement years and there is a 30+ year span in age difference, you could see a major area swing because they will eventually die off. Leaving you in limbo with a newer generation as you grow towards your retirement years. In most cases the offspring do not keep the neighborhood as well as their predecessors did.    The Ofallon and Penrose Neighborhoods  are good examples. These areas also were part of the good job era , GM plant on Union an Natural Bridge, that is another story.

Remember your values and morals , your common grounds.  Diversity also is what makes the world go round. Just don’t venture TOOOO far.




There is a great neighborhood of single and multifamily buildings. The block is clean and tree lined. Hmmmm…. this may be the  perfect spot. Or is it?

Neighborhoods vary from area to area, street to street , block to block , house to house, then person to person. This can also be inverted but we tend to recognize the larger scale and not the individuals because then you would have to get into norms and values.  That’s another subject.

It makes the topic simpler to understand to stick with the area as a whole.

Over time areas make swings for the worse and some for the better. The instability of multifamily buildings have an adverse trickle down effect on to the single family units in the area. Most landlords will try to police buildings as best as possible but cannot be in the area 24 hrs a day. As the area changes the single unit owner is forced to endure the situation because they are tied into a longterm mortgage and in some cases the property becomes difficult to sell because of an area decline. Sometimes the SFO can choose to put his property on to the rental market causing an even more adverse effect onto the stability of the neighborhood.

There are some good renters out there and they will take care of the property like it’s their own. These good renters cannot live in the situation if the people nearby watch and wait for them to go to work. Then the watchers decide to go electronic shopping at the workers expense.

The worker class moves out and the landlord is forced to fill the vacancy , so in moves a person who can endure the negative behavior.

This is the beginning of neighborhood decline.

In order to have stability there must be a homeowner base. If a block is at least 60 to 75% owner occupied the stablity of the block would have a positive effect on the neighborhood as a whole. Stimulating more people wanting to own homes in the area. The 25% rental units would not matter because the renters would want to fit into the majority. Bringing more stability.

In Part 4 I will look into Single Family Options and what to look for.



Look, Your Existing or New Neighborhood part 2


Ok, Public Housing is not your first choice.
You decide on an apartment complex.
Apartment complexes range in A,B,C,D standards. A class gets you tennis courts,meeting rooms, saunas and other bells and whistles. These places usually command higher rent to go along with those bells and whistles. So people will compromise with themselves and take away free wifi here and a sauna there and they usually have different classes of neighborhoods to correspond with the change in scale.

Complexes tend to attract a younger clientle , usually 9 to 5 then happy hour crowd with a few retirees here and there.
The higher the class of complex the less chances there are for government subsidation. Meaning in order to qualify for Government tax credits and other benefits, the complex must have a certain ratio of subsidized units per market rate units.  This usually happens when a Public Housing Complex is torn down. This will help keep the displaced tenants in the same area amongst being politically correct. Over time the assisted units tend to expand as the people who pay market rate move on to buy their first home.
Some complexes start off with great intentions but as time goes by the newness wears off , management companies change and so does the amenities. Then you lose a lot of the working class and here comes more assisted units. Then it becomes a step above Public Housing.

Apartment complexes are great for starting until you get established and want to start a family.  The higher the class the less chances there is for crime. There may be an outsider that will smash a car window every so often. The people in the complex know who belongs and there tends to be less traffic. As the class drops there tends to be more crime , traffic ,etc.

Next , we look at the singlefamily-multifamily mixed neighborhood.

LOOK , Your Existing or New Neighborhood

When buying a house take a deeper look.

This is a 4 part series on neighborhoods and surroundings.

What is an ideal neighborhood?

Compare these scenarios a public housing complex , regular apartment complex , single family and multi family mix and entirely single family owner occupied homes.

The more people you have in an area , the more chances of crime, violent and drug related, They both go hand in hand.

The more densley populated and area is the more chance there is for crime. This leads to the differences in places like Public Housing complexes compared to market rate apartment complexes. There are too many personalities to deal with in this situation.  Think of it as 20 fish in a 1 gallon fish bowl.  It’s not a good site. This is what leads to anger and frustration. Word travels fast , everyone sees what everyone else has , and there is very little privacy, even though you close your own door at night. 

While the complex comes together as a whole against outsiders, there is still conflict internally.  The complex will mainly police themselves , the police step in when things get too out of hand. If you’ve never seen this you may not understand the concept.

Some people will get out and some never will because they get caught in the loop of this style of living. It is not because of the lack of knowledge or education. It is mainly because of the environment and lack of exposure to anything outside. So this becomes the norm.

The crime spills into the immediate area surrounding the complexes. There is always someone up and wandering in the projects but the people in the surrounding area go to sleep and have set patterns. (work , school, sleep , whatever the case may be)

This is where the opportunity arises for robbery , burglary etc.  The outlying areas are the well to do people to the people in the complexes and are considered outsiders. This makes them and their property fair game. 

Next we will compare market rate apartments.




Public Safety or Is it?

First there were the redlight camers and now here come the speed cameras.

We all run a little behind at times and we must make up for that time somehow.
I know , I’ll just smash on the gas a little more. Then you get a letter in the mail with the amount of your fine on it.

Is this making your commute safe , or is ot just to keep the economy going? Someone has to pay the letter carrier for bringing you this news. Since there are no points added to your drivers license and only a fine, chances are you will smash the gas again and again, At least until you have to buy or sell your house and go to a different location.

Buying your property in the right area is the best solution along with laying off of the snooze button.




Have you ever had the feeling you were being duped by a repair person in your time of need?

When something breaks or we need work  done that is very foreign to us we usually enter that fear or panic mode.

 The picture can be painted a lot darker than it actually is and people can sense your mode of fear , desperation and in some cases your lack of knowledge. In most cases it’s the lack of knowledge.

My personal experience taught me a lot , I paid large sums of money for work that took hours so you rationalize by saying , well at least the job is done.

The down side to learning is the more you know , the less you want to pay and the more of your to do list will pile up. Believe me it piles up pretty fast.

Here are a 8 tips.

1. Evaluate the solution and not the problem.  The more you dwell , the bigger the problem becomes.

2. Get a professional opinion and an opinion from someone you trust. (Family member, friend, coworker etc.)

3. Take your time, a fast draw decision can cost you a lot down the line.

4. Be careful where you find you contractor and watch how they approach you. If they ask for money upfront, be afraid ,be very afraid. In some cases money may be for materials and a little insurance that you will bind the work agreement. If you are uncomfortable with the number they are asking upfront. Tell them, a good person will understand. He/she will even give you a list so you can secure your own materials.

Think about it, do you get paid in advance when YOU go to work?

5. Look at appearances, it may not be right to judge a book by its cover.

If I came to your house to do drywall work and I am covered in drywall dust chances are I know the job. Look at the shoes they can tell you a lot about the line of work a person is in.

What line of work am I in if I came to  give you an estimate and I have on more jewelry than Mr. T?

6. Watch your estimates. If someone gives you an estimate upon the end of  your conversation, tell them thank you. Then run.

Chances are they already had the price in their head upon entering your front door. This estimate will only rise because of  “incidentals”.  There are always hidden defects and they do happen , it’s common . Be prepared.

(This mainly applies to larger jobs. Some smaller routine jobs such as a leaky toilet or a drippy faucet may not apply. So an upfront estimate may be ok.)

Case and point, I had some landscape work that needed to be done. I had a guy come out and he gave an estimate “on the spot”. We said we would think about it. We got a call back some days later, he said he’ll knock  X amount of dollars off and the price kept dropping.

WE Passed!

7. Google your problem. You are not the first person who needed your gizmo fixed.

8. Finally, sleep on it. Give it some thought and in the morning clarity will appear.