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Trailer Park Treasure

I mentioned that my friend, Dee at Losing Stuff, Gaining Freedom, was looking to buy a used travel trailer to live in for at least a year starting this summer.  She ended up buying a 20 foot long 2008 Malibu in April, but then she needed a place to live in it starting in August when her apartment lease runs out.  Today we went hunting for a decent trailer park/mobile home park/RV park that was closer to her job (and as a bonus, me!).  :-)

Dee's Trailer

This is the 20 foot Malibu that Dee will be living in until August 2015. It takes advantage of its limited space…

Options

As with any other housing choice, finding a place to rent out a trailer slip involves choosing something between disgusting and ranges up to amazing luxury.  Dee called the four options that seemed to fit her basic needs that were also closer to her job than she is now.  Two of the places were completely filled up and didn’t seem interested in worrying about backups.  One place rents out mobile homes that they already park there, so it doesn’t have slips for other people’s travel trailers.  Lastly, there were two places that we checked out in person.

The Basic Choice

The first place looked nice but extremely basic.  It had the land and a low price.  In short, it was an open area to park at, but it also only costs $275 per month.  That includes free water, but Dee would have still had to cover electricity and find somewhere to do her laundry or take a nicer shower once in a while other than in her tiny bathroom.  It also was in an area that would get muddy and marshy when it rains.

$275 Trailer Park

The first mobile home park was nice and green, but it didn’t have anything extra at all.

The Luxurious Choice

The second option was just awesome!  It is an RV Resort, which is a very nice way to live in a mobile home.  The slips for the travel trailers are paved, there is a huge lake that makes for a great view and lends to good drainage, and the amenities kicked butt!

  • Water included
  • Basic Dish television included
  • All hookups for the travel trailer are easy to use and readily available
  • On-site laundry facility that is open 24/7
  • Bathrooms with full showers that are open 24/7
  • Computer room with a printer
  • Two enclosed dog park areas
  • A swimming pool and hot tub
  • A recreation room with treadmills, a shuffle board table, a pool table, a coffee maker, and a popcorn machine
  • A huge lake that can be used for fishing
  • Free air pump for tires
  • Dog wash station with an actual dog washing platform and sink
  • Grills
  • Outdoor kitchen with bar stools
  • Fire pits with comfy outdoor seating
  • Friendly staff

The only downside is that the monthly rate is $475-$540 a month.  BUT, they offered Dee a deal that she couldn’t pass up – rent for one month and get the second month free!  That will make it $270 a month at worst for two months, and then she can decide to stay or move on!   How cool is that?!

The Lake

Pool

Rec Center

Fire Pit

Obviously, she chose the RV resort.  She’ll be moving there in early August and I am so excited for her!!!  I think it’s a perfect fit and still costs her $400 less per month than her apartment complex wants now.

This is proof that housing treasures and great deals can be found with any type of home – even travel trailers.

Any cool housing deals for you lately?  What do you think of this RV resort?

 

Our Rent Home’s Air Conditioner is Back to Life

The air conditioner in our rental property died Sunday afternoon.  Our friend and Mr. BFS figured out it was the capacitor.  I thought of a couple of options – finding the part ourselves online or hiring our normal a/c guy.  I didn’t want our tenant to suffer any longer than necessary, but I also didn’t want to pay an a/c guy for something that we can actually do.  Oh well.  :-)

Broken AC

A/C Success

Our normal a/c guy wasn’t working Sunday evening, but I tried again Monday morning.  He made it to the rental house by 12:30pm and the air conditioner was working yet again by 1pm.  It ended up costing $40 for the capacitor and $75 for the trip and labor fees.  We’re okay with $115 total but now know that we can replace it ourselves quickly if it happens again.

Third and Future Option

I thought of a third option for the future.  If we ever need to replace the capacitor again, I’ve decided that I’ll call around and find someone who sells the part here in Houston, TX.  That won’t take 2 days to get thanks to shipping, and Mr. BFS says he can have it installed in less than 20 minutes.  So we’d save $70-$80 overall.  Not too shabby.

Overall, this is a happy ending.  Our tenant isn’t melting anymore and one thing is off of my errands list.  Yep, that’s a win even at $115.

Any happy financial endings for you lately?  Let’s share good news!

Summer is Here – Of Course Our Rental Home’s A/C Would Die…

You read that right, the air conditioner in our rental home stopped blowing cold air.  It’s hitting 91 degrees during the day already, so this is pretty dang important.  Forgot to add in the original post that I first tried calling the a/c repair guy that we have always used, but they were already closed.  Mr. BFS and our friend went over immediately and narrowed down the problem, but our quick fix didn’t work for more than an hour or so.  It definitely didn’t buy me any time.  Now I am searching for a working a/c capacitor that can be delivered ASAP.

Broken AC

The Hypothesis

The system worked when our friend pushed along one of the rotating parts of the capacitor.  I’m calling this the “starter-thingy”.  BUT, then it stopped working again in an hour or so and the trick with pushing along the starter-thing didn’t work again for long.

Our hypothesis is that the air conditioner unit has a dual capacitor – a capacitor with a “starter-thingy” and a “main-capacitor-thingy”.  Well, we’re guessing that both parts are bad.

Long story short, I’m hitting Amazon.com and other online sites to find a good, FAST deal on the correct capacitor.  But we have the wrong numbers written down and my tenant is asleep (she also wanted to double-check the numbers in the morning when the sun was up), so we’ll need to figure out the exact capacitor model number as early this morning as we can so I can keep hunting.  I’m writing this post at 1:30am and haven’t had any luck yet.

Best and Worst Case Scenarios

Best case – I find the capacitor we need on Amazon via Amazon Prime and we have the part by Wednesday, install it, and it works.  This would run us less than $50.

Worst case – we call out our a/c repair guy, it isn’t just the capacitor, it’s something irreparable, and we have to fork out $5000 for a new air conditioner.  This scenario also takes WAY longer.

Realistically – I find the correct parts but it takes us a week to really find out every issue or to have the part(s) delivered.  So this would take about the same amount of time as the worst case scenario, but costs way less.  It costs more than the best case scenario, but takes more time.

I’m handling this all right now, so this is to be continued…

How is your house or rental property treating you or your tenant right now?

5 Strategies for Relocating on a Budget

The following is from James Felton, a homeowner living in Atlanta. He writes about real estate, family and home, and personal finance.

If you’re thinking of moving to a new residence this year, you’re not alone. According to the Census Bureau, roughly 36 million Americans moved in the last two years. And while moving might appear tempting, or even necessary, it’s certainly not cheap. If you’re gearing up for a move, keep tabs on your expenses by employing the following five strategies for relocating on a budget.

Relocating

1. Move Yourself

The process of moving isn’t as overwhelming as you might think. Invite your friends and family members over and make it an event. Serve some inexpensive snacks and beverages to keep everyone fueled, and knock out the work in a matter of hours. You can even go DIY, packing your stuff on your own and arranging it carefully for the move.

2. Declutter Before You Move

Getting rid of unneeded stuff before you move solves two problems – first, you can generate cash to offset moving costs, and second, you reduce the total amount of items that need to be moved.

Sell your unwanted furniture on Craigslist, and open an account on eBay or Amazon to sell outdated electronic devices. Price everything low so it sells fast. Sell your books to Cash4Books - you don’t even have to wait for a buyer, you just send them in.

If there are other items you no longer need, but don’t feel comfortable selling, donate them to an IRS-approved charity to get a tax break on next year’s return. Ask for a receipt when giving items away so you have the necessary documentation on hand when you file your return.

3. Take Advantage of Tax Deductions

If you’re moving for job-related reasons, there are several tax deductions you might qualify for. Refer to IRS Publication 521 to get more information. You might be able to write off the cost of packing and shipping your stuff, as well as the cost of gas and lodging while you move.

4. Negotiate Monthly Services

As you’re in the process of setting up Internet and cable TV service, negotiate hard for better pricing. Competition is high, so vendors must vie for your business. Research the best deals (bundled options are usually cheaper), then call the provider to see if they can beat it. Avoid signing a long-term contract whenever you can so you have the option to switch services down the road if another great deal comes along.

5. Reduce Costs Post-Move

Think ahead to the first few days after you’ve moved – the kitchen probably isn’t set up and the fridge is most likely bare. To reduce the expense of eating out and exploring your new town, sign up for a deal of the day website, such as Groupon or LivingSocial, and enter your new zip code. You’ll get deals and discounts sent straight to your inbox for half off (or more) on local restaurants and other entertainment options.

If you’re planning to use a moving company, check with the Better Business Bureau to see if the company has received any complaints. Be sure to choose a company that inspects your belongings before providing an estimate – onsite estimates are much more accurate than those conducted on assumptions. Seek out at least three written estimates before choosing a vendor, and do not agree to pay a hefty down payment before the actual move. It’s incredibly important to do your due diligence with any moving company before committing your cash to a provider.

How have you saved when relocating?

Home Auditory Torture Leads to a $200 Ladder…

*BEEP*  Wait 2 minutes…
*BEEP*  Wait 3 minutes…
*BEEP*…

STOP BEEPING!!!

*BEEP – “Battery is Low”*

GREAT, NOW IT’S TALKING TO ME…

And that was Monday morning from 4am to 4:15am while my hubby and I waited under smoke detectors to figure out which one decided that we don’t deserve sleep…and of course, it was the stupid, freaking detector that is at the top of our 2-story entry hall.  POOP

How to Reach a 2 Story Fire Detector

First, we tried using wax earplugs to go back to bed for a few more hours.  Nope.

Then we started thinking of who we’d know with a 20 foot extension ladder.  The list was small and they were still sleeping at 5am, so we didn’t want to bother them.  Not to mention that we’d still need to figure out a way to get it to our house since the ones who own the ladders don’t own trucks…

So I called handymen that were within 15 minutes of my house that I found on Craigslist.  I ended up receiving two quotes - one for $65 plus the time it took and the other for $135.  REALLY?!

We gave in to the auditory torture at 6am and headed to the nearest home improvement store…

Design Flaw

I walked around our house and figured out that we have 9 smoke/carbon monoxide detectors.  All of them are either in or near bedrooms, and the one at the top of the stairs (also two floors up but accessible) is just as likely to sense anything as the one two stories in the middle of no where.  What the heck were they thinking with this silly detector?!

Ladders Are Expensive!

This is when we encountered $130-$300 17-22 ft. extension ladders.  We ended up with a $189 ($205 with tax) multi-position Werner ladder.  It was short enough to fit well in my Honda Fit, and it can be used on uneven surfaces – like that spot above the stairs where I want to hang the rest of our artwork.  So I am trying to look at this as a useful investment.

It ended up working but now there are rubber marks all over our paint job about 15 feet in the air.  :-(

I posted my dilemma and end result on Nextdoor.com and met a few neighbors that have been in similar positions.  One ended up paying $175 for a handyman to change super high light bulbs.  I decided that anybody stuck in my position in the future can borrow our ladder.  Hopefully we’ll help save some frustration for someone down the road…

And To Add to the Misery

Oh, and did I mention that while we were tracking down the second beep (about 3-4 minutes), I let our new foster dog outside to pee?  He decided that potty time would be better used to escape our backyard.  This 15 pound Yorkshire Terrier actually moved a brick and the piece of wood behind it in less than 4 minutes and ran for it.  So, as if the beeping piece of poop wasn’t bad enough, we took a 15 minute break to walk the streets and find a bolter.  Our friends that live with us helped us, which was super sweet.  We were wondering around at 4:15am in robes and pajamas.

Campbell May 2014

Cute as a freaking button…but too much for me.

Luckily, we found Campbell.  I also drove him back to the main rescue lady the same day since that was just the last, scary straw.  He was also beyond hyper and not house trained.  It was just a bit too stressful for me, and it was just made worse with the amazingly annoying beeping.

So, we’re out $205 and I wasn’t successful with our third foster.  And that wasn’t our most expensive day so far…stay tuned.  BUT, I’m actually perky.  Money’s just money, right?  ;-)  I am super thankful that we have the padding to take care of unexpected expenses.  I am also extremely thankful that we found Campbell and got him back to the rescue before he simply ran off permanently.

Hope your Memorial Day was a little less stressful!!!  :-D

 

I Protested My Property Appraisal and Won…Sort Of…

The Harris County Appraisal District thought my life wasn’t busy enough and gifted me with a HUGE problem.  They sent me my property appraisal for 2014 and it boggled my mind!  My new home, built in 2012, had apparently went from being worth $259,500 to being worth $315,000 over the last 18 months!!!  Wow, that’s more than $55,000 in a blink of an eye!  This $315,000 would have been capped at $286,000 for tax purposes since they couldn’t actually go past a 10% increase, but I thought $286,000 was ridiculous too.  Plus, if you give them an inch, they can keep hitting you with a 10% foot every year.  I considered calling them and offering to sale at $315,000 immediately, but then my sense of humor died away and I was just frazzled.

How I Protested My Property Appraisal

  1. First I took some deep breaths and looked into my options based on the forms they included with my appraisal.
  2. Then I used search engines to verify my options like an online iFile protest and the formal Appraisal Review Board (ARB) hearing.
  3. I used the Harris County Appraisal Disctrict’s (HCAD) website to look up my neighbor’s new appraisals and verified that mine was WAY off the mark.  My home was being appraised at $85 a square foot while everyone else’s was between $63-$70 per square foot.
  4. I used their online site to submit the iFile protest to see if they would offer me a realistic settlement offer and save me a trip to a formal ARB hearing.
  5. A month later, they offered a settlement at $280,000 instead of the original $315,000.  But I thought my $259,500 was still more realistic, so I asked for a formal hearing.
  6. I used the “evidence” that they sent me to find the sales prices of homes like mine and in my subdivision.  I combined that info with my own home appraisal research and came to the conclusion that my home really should be valued at $258,000-$269,000 (I obviously went for the lowest number).  This breakdown was shown on an Excel sheet that contained the addresses, market values, appraisal values, price per square foot, etc. of the properties that I was comparing to my own.  This was my “Comp Sheet”.
  7. I took pictures of my home and the comp homes and pointed out that I have the worst lot that is surrounded by power lines.

    My Home's Front

    This was the picture from the front that clearly shows the power lines.

  8. I made 4 copies of all of my “evidence” since they said I needed a copy for each of the 3 ARB members and the HCAD representative.
  9. I showed up to my ARB hearing date on Tuesday 15 minutes before my scheduled 3:05pm time.
  10. I was hustled back to the hearing at 4pm.
  11. The ARB members pretty much ignored me and took the HCAD guy’s assessment completely.
  12. Luckily, the HCAD guy wasn’t a douche and I was re-assessed at $262,000.
  13. I walked out simultaneously pissed that I had wasted so much time getting my “evidence” perfect yet was completely ignored, but happy that my 2014 property appraisal is at $262,000 instead of $315,000.

The ARB Hearing

The hearing was short and freaking frustrating!  Especially after waiting for more than an hour to be seen.

I was asked to sit and was sworn in that what I was attesting was true.  They made a point to tell me that the three ARB members were not associated with HCAD in any way.  Then they asked for me to present my case.  One of the members was obviously ignoring me – to the point that he asked me “So, did you add on anything since the home was built?” about 7 seconds after I finished presenting my case with “And there are absolutely no additions to the house since it was built in late 2012.”  Grrrr…

Then they asked the HCAD guy to present his case.  He flashed up two sheets of comps – one that was realistic, one that wasn’t – and an aerial view of my lot.  He then said that based on that info, my home was probably worth $262,000 in total market value and suggested that the appraisal value be left at $314,000.  In my rebuttal, I asked why the appraisal value should be so much higher than what I could sell it for and he flashed up the non-realistic sheet again.

They accepted his case word for word, and then stated that the taxable value is the lower of the two prices that he set forth.  So I walked out with a “receipt” that said I would be taxed on the $262,000 amount.

I steamed a little on my drive home in commuter traffic.  I am 100% sure that the ARB members are worn down by a job that involves handling ticked off people all of the time.  I just wish they would have at least attempted to act like they actually cared about what I was saying.  My hubby thinks that they may have ignored my actual evidence, but the HCAD guy might have made the realistic settlement offer because of all of it.  That’s a nice thought – that I had made some difference.

Now I’m moving on.  Except I still have an outstanding protest waiting for an iFile settlement offer for our rental home…GRRRR…

Have you ever protested your property appraisal?  How did it work out?

What is Your Dream Home?

I am enjoying catching up on Dee’s blog, Losing Stuff Gaining Freedom.  She is getting ready to move into a 20 foot trailer as her living space for at least a year, so she is shedding her belongings and prepping for living light.  This got me thinking…

Dee's Trailer

We Like Our Home

I enjoy my home.  It’s fantastic for my husband and me right now.  It’s the opposite dream from Dee’s though – definitely not minimalist.  It’s 3750 square feet with 5 bedrooms and 4 full baths.  I’ll admit it, it’s a McMansion.  And I love it.

Our Home

My husband and I work from home and two of our friends live with us too, so we do make use of the space.  The 4 of us rarely get in each other’s way but we have the room in any one area to hang out together too.  My husband and I share an office and frequently can be found hanging out together in the media room, but when we want to be apart, we can be.  He can watch sports downstairs while I watch scary movies in the media room.  He can play video games in one room while I read a book in the library.  Overall, our dream space is just that – space.  But I’m not close-minded.  I can see the draw of living with less stuff.

Stuff does mean more maintenance.  Maintenance means time and time is precious.  So, as with money, it’s about finding the right balance for yourself.

What’s Your Dream Living Space?

Are you a minimalist?  Or do you want more house than you need?  What’s your personal dream home?

While I sit here and just think about it, my true “dream home” would be more handicapped accessible than what we have now.  When my grandparents visit, it’s become obvious that it is not friendly for anybody having difficulty getting around.  Steps to get into the house, tight corners, etc.  I’m betting we move within the next 20-30 years into a one-story home with a master bedroom, master bath, living room, and a media room that is similar to what we have now.  Then we’d just need 2-3 more bedrooms (an office and 1-2 guest bedrooms).  I would like our current kitchen, but I’d have set the built-in microwave a bit differently and we’d have a completely different dishwasher.  But we’d still be talking about 2000-2500 square feet.  I’m not a minimalist at heart.

That said, I am really looking forward to an overnight visit to Dee’s trailer when she moves in.  It will be insanely fun to have a sleepover in a home about the size of my dorm room in college.  I’m already thinking about talking from the couch and her from the bed, and possibly popping outside to have a small camp fire or something.  Sounds fun, right?!

What’s your dream home?