The highs and lows of parenting and real estate.

Yearly Archives for 2010

Blogging From the Trenches

I’m writing this from the bench in a BounceU. It’s one of those places where you can take your kids and they have like 25 different inflatable jumpy castle type things. I’m hiding out from the cleaning people who are currently at our house. My white suburban middle class guilt leaves me horrified that I’ve hired an Hispanic couple to clean my bathrooms and do my floors; so once every two weeks I flee the scene just so I don’t follow them around apologizing for the dirt I’m paying them to clean up and centuries of oppression by my people.  Yes, I sprayed Febreze throughout the house right before I left so it would smell less like used cat litter, I confess.

I will not, however, be posting this from the bench at BounceU because the sadist who owns the place does not offer wifi to parents. What kind of monster creates a place you can take your kids and let them run wild for 2 hours at $8.95/kid but does not equip it with the internet so parents can enjoy themselves equally? A sick bastard who was probably tortured by his own parents and is now taking his pain out on the parents of the East Valley, that’s who.

Anyway. There’s the matter of the Holiday Card Typo Contest to address. Clearly not everyone who reads this site got a Christmas card. Let’s face it, not even everyone I’m related to got a Christmas card (one lady in the neighborhood I’ve been mailing to for 4 years did get one, however, and called me to tell me she thought it was ‘in poor taste’ because it took her 10 minutes to figure out it was a mailer from a real estate agent and not one of her friends. I had to resist the urge to explain to her that means it was a successful real estate agent mailer).

Honestly, this year I had lofty goals of staying organized and updating my database every time anyone I knew moved (or hey, at least with the new address of people who I helped BUY a new house), but that all totally swirled down the drain about June when I started to be really depressed about how dead the real estate market was. Then, the day I actually mailed out the cards it was all I could do to print the labels directly from what was in Outlook at that moment to get them out at all. I have a stack of 50 or so cards and a list of people who I need to email and get their new addresses (or even just copy it off the card they sent me), but it’s been staring at me for the last two weeks in an excessively accusatory manner, so I hid it under a Christmas dish towel last night so I could get some peace. They’re probably not going out any time soon. Or any time ever.

The point is; here is what the card looked like for those of you who didn’t get yours (also feel free to insert a holiday hug from me, if you’re into that sort of thing, and as long as I can do it ‘virtually’ and I don’t really have to hug you. It’s not you, it’s me. I’m not a hugger):

The Newlins think you’re hilarious. Jonas especially finds your wit efflorescent.  Bennett thinks you’re amusing without being obnoxious.  Gray says you make him giggle. Elizabeth just laughed so hard her eyes couldn’t bear to stay open. Jason detects an off-color note to your humor and is pleased.

The Newlins hope your holiday season is as charming and amusing as you are.

So, yes. As many of you pointed out (Amanda Cowan being the first!) the word I was going for in the first line was: effervescent, which means sparkling, bubbly or lively, not so much with the efflorescent, which means (among other things) foaming and like a skin rash.

Ed Najim put it the best in his comment: We don’t wish to think that Jonas thinks our humor is flowery or like crystalline deposits on a rock, but he is the trouble maker. We’d prefer to think of ourselves as effervescent, even though we don’t release gas bubbles too often.

Amanda and Ed will each get a $10 iTunes gift card (thanks to Tyler for teaching me that with Apple it’s always lowercase ‘i’ followed by an uppercase letter). At some point. When my husband comes back into town and I stop breaking down in the middle of grocery stores weeping and clawing at strangers begging them to come home with me and do the dishes or take out the trash or even just keep an eye on Jonas so I can pee with the door closed for once.

My Biceps and My Pride Are Both Still a Little Sore

Reason # 496 it’s good I’m not particularly concerned about humiliating myself publicly: If I was, my clients and I would likely still be trapped on that balcony of a vacant house in North Scottsdale.

Here’s how the humiliation went down:

When we stepped onto the balcony of house number 4 on our list, I had the MLS listing sheet, my camera, my ekey (that opens lockboxes) and the key from the lockbox all in my hands or pockets. What I didn’t have was my cell phone, a rope, a lock picking kit, or even a rock to throw through a window, just in case you’re keeping track.

My clients (a fun couple about my age) took in the lovely mountain views, discussed whether the neighbors seemed a tad Clark Griswaldian in their backyard holiday light display and then headed to the door back into the master bedroom to finish our tour of the upstairs.

Of course (I’m sure you can see where this is going), when I went to open the door, the knob was locked. And, of course, when I pulled out the key and tried to unlock it, the key didn’t work in that lock.

I would like to take a moment to tell you who should be shot over this predicament we found ourselves in:

1.       The owner/agent of the property. This house didn’t just have a regular civilian owner; it had a owner who’s also an agent. So he should really really with a cherry on top, KNOW BETTER. Dude, you couldn’t tape that knob unlocked? Or put a little sign up? Or would it have killed you  to change all of the locks out to the same key when you rekeyed the front door? There are just so many options that would have been a billion times better than the nothing we were given.

2.       The dumbass who invented knob locks that can be locked and still open from the inside. Really, who on Earth does this serve a purpose for? We have a balcony off the master in our home and it also has both a knob lock and a deadbolt. When the knob is locked, the door cannot be opened from the inside or the outside. This makes sense. What does NOT make sense is a knob that turns and opens from the inside, even when it is locked and then leaves you locked outside in the frigid 72 degree winter weather. We could have died, Man. And I would have sued you.

So there we were, my clients and I, on the balcony with a lovely view, stranded. The house backed to a neighborhood street, so we tried, for a bit, to call out to the joggers and speed-walkers passing. We weren’t successful in even catching anyone’s attention. I think the problem was that we didn’t feel like we were in any kind of mortal danger and we hadn’t been out there long enough to really even be distressed about the situation yet. So it felt silly to scream ‘HELP’ at the top of our lungs. Apparently, “Excuse me, Jogging Lady?” or “Yoo hoo, Fast-Walking Sir, Can you look up here?” don’t cut it. “Hello? Neighbors of people whose balcony we are on? Are you home?” also did not generate any sort of assistance to our situation.

I, of course, had left my cell phone in the car, but my client had his. We tried calling the listing agent/owner, but he didn’t answer. It’s probably for the best that he didn’t, actually, because I just would have immediately ripped him a new one for the idiocy of the door, and then what would he have done? Left where ever he was to come rescue an agent and her clients who were just going to scream at him some more? Unlikely.

My client discussed calling his sister to drive over and come in through the unlocked front door and break us out of the balcony, but I thought that would take too long. So I did the only thing I could do in a situation like this.

I removed my pretty brown boots, my tacky socks with holes in them, my gray velvet blazer and my long beaded necklace. I told my client to cover his eyes. I hitched my denim pencil skirt up to mid-thigh and swung my legs over the metal railing surrounding the balcony. I dropped over to the other side of the railing (praying none of the previously oblivious to us joggers finally snapped to attention just in time to see my lime green edged in hot pink undies), crouched down to the bottom of the railing and slid down the bars until my toes just touched the top of the swimming pool gate that surrounded the bottom porch. From there I was able to jump to the ground without breaking my legs.

All in all, it was not my most graceful or lady-like effort, but it got the job done. Humiliation is no match for me.

The view we were taking in while the door slammed shut.

The railing I climbed over.

The swimming pool fence I dropped down on to.

End of December Showing Snapshots

From a house on the water in Dobson Ranch (Mesa) I showed on December 22, 2010:

I want to like this tile. Maybe it just needs a better shower head? Or maybe it just needs to be 1978.

On the water doesn't suck. No, you can't swim in it and you can't eat the fish from it, but you can pretend.

I don't know why there was a cord hanging out of the attic access door in the upstairs bathroom, but it creeped me out.

Fireplace in the family room.

Remodeled ceiling in the living room.

Again, I really want to like these counters and the cabinets. But all I can think about is that it's the #1 and #2 room.

From 7 houses I showed in North Scottsdale December 27, 2010:

This is the view from the balcony I didn't have to climb over and scale down the side of a house.

Holy hail damage, Batman!

I like to think there was no bird on the ground outside this picture window because Mr. Feathers got up, brushed himself off, said 'Ouch' and flew away. Let me have my fantasies, OK?

This was the view from the balcony I DID have to climb over to scale the side of a house to get down.

Gift-Giving Success Despite Procrastination and Feral Dogs

I’m assuming because you’re reading this you have survived Christmas. You weren’t trampled to death at Walmart at 10pm on the 24th attempting to snag the last bag of Ghirardelli peppermint bark or suffocated under a mountain of discarded wrapping paper. Whew. Glad to hear it; I was worried about you.

I also have survived. My big success is that I didn’t have a brain aneurysm while frantically brainstorming last minute Christmas gifts for impossible to buy for family members.

My mother is a compulsive shopper with really good taste. So when she sees something she wants, she researches how to buy it for 10% less than anyone else has before and obtains it. My poor, shopping disabled father has been trying to years to find things she hasn’t already bought for herself that she will like (let’s not speak of ‘the briefcase incident of 1989′, it will only cast a cloud of darkness over the holiday season).

This year I bought my mother a living succulent wreath:

Like anything else I ever do, the steps I took to get from, ‘I think my mom would love a living succulent wreath’ to ‘Here is your living succulent wreath, Mom!’ didn’t exactly proceed in a logical straight line.

Step 1: Determine I’m going to create wreath myself.

Step 2: Find a video online explaining the process of creating wreath.

Step 3: Get Jason to watch the video with me so we can figure out how to make the wreath.

Step 4: Have Jason look at me like I’m a lunatic and threaten to commit me if I even attempt to add this herculean task to my already undoable to-do list.

Step 5: Decide I’ll just wait until December 23rd and buy one somewhere (logic being: we live in Arizona where there are lots of succulents, it’s Christmas time and people make wreaths around Christmas, a living succulent wreath is a really awesome thing, they probably sell them in every nursery, right?).

Step 6: Drive around to 5 different nurseries (ranging from the charmingly rural to the feral dogs running around old oil drums covered in vines variety) become increasingly frantic with each confused shake of the head, “Naw, I don’t have any of those. I don’t know who would. Maybe try Cactus and More down the road two miles. They have weird stuff there.”

Step 7: Rush home and Google ‘living succulent wreath, Phoenix’ (no, Google, not ‘living successfully with screwed up people,’ we’ll discuss that tomorrow) and find this article.

Step 8: Make poor Patti Smith really sorry she gave Phoenix Magazine a phone number for contact by leaving her an 8 minute voicemail begging her to make me a wreath and let me come over on Christmas Eve to buy it from her.

Step 9: Get insanely lucky that Patti Smith doesn’t think I’m a deranged lunatic and change her phone number and instead calls me back to tell me she’ll make me a wreath and I can bring cash and pick it up (she did, however, call me a ‘crazy lady’ on the phone).

Step 10: Drive out to Apache Junction and pick up the stunning wreath from the super nice and clearly compulsively creative wreath artist.

As much as I curse the universe for regularly raining chaos down upon my life, it does occasionally reward my total procrastination and incompetence with insanely undeserved success. So I guess we’re even for now, Universe.

My other gift-giving success this year was a cookbook I made online and had printed out for my family. This year we did a bunch of food competitions and group dinners that were really fun, so I compiled some of my favorites of the recipes and added pictures and color commentary. It’s filled with family jokes, but here’s a link to check it out if you want to see it.

My favorite recipe is Todd, John and JT’s Smoked Meat (and Marinated Livers) on page 13.

I think I might make this book a yearly tradition. What were the favorite gifts you gave and received?

More Winners Who Win Super Awesome Things!

OK, People, roll a drum here or something. I have picked the final winner of Happy New Website Day! If you’ll remember, this pool of potential winners came from the comments that got lost in the Land of Stupidity and Moderation. The final winner of a $25 gift card to Paradise Bakery and a Real Estate Tangent Tshirt is:

Dena Stevens

Woo! Yay Dena! Dena is a client of mine who sold her condo this year with me. She also got married and is currently gestating her first little one! So she can totally use extra calories provided by Paradise Bakery, I’m betting.

I actually got the other two shirts I ordered for the first set of winners in the mail a few days ago, so I took a minute to model one for you (although I use the term ‘model’ loosely):

Stop staring at my muffin top. Quit it. It's really hard to remember to smile, point, not fall off the back of the balcony to a gruesome death on the pavers below, keep my eyes open AND suck in. I could never be a contestent on ANTM; it's true.

I’m wearing the shirt I ordered for Ann. Ann, I may have sweat in it a little bit while I was running back and forth from the tripod pushing the timer to take the picture and then climbing up on the decorative railing thing. It’s ok, though, Ann and I are related. She’s ok with my sweat, aren’t you, Ann?

No, my Dear Neighbors, you don’t have to email me to tell me you saw me doing this and I looked ridiculous. I know it. Ridiculous is my default mode.

I have one more winner to announce. Amanda Cowan was the very first person to email me yesterday about the typo on my Holiday card. She will receive a $10 iTunes card in the mail and the satisfaction that she is smarter than I am. Don’t forget, though, that there’s one more card up for grabs. I’ve already had some decent entries for the best description of why my typo was stupid, but there’s still time to get yours in. I’m taking entries till Christmas Eve.

Alright, you can stop rolling the drum now and go on about your business.

Merry Multitasking Fail Day To You, Too!

The last few days have been rough. You know, like the Rocky Mountains are ‘rough’. Like South Central LA is ‘rough’. The webmaster’s been out of town attending a funeral (so, yes, it’s been more ‘rough’ for him and I’m a giant baby for complaining about anything in comparison. But this isn’t his blog. And funerals aren’t as funny to read about.) so I’ve been going at the usual chaos solo.

Things I’ve learned in the 72 hours he’s been gone so far:

1.       We definitively do not have enough dishes to go three days without washing any. And we really don’t have enough wine glasses for that.

2.       People who say you shouldn’t use the TV as a babysitter don’t have three boys, no parenting partner and 500 holiday cards to mail out. And are judgy and mean.

3.       The GOV’s back-up sensor thingy doesn’t account for my idiocy. It’s not smarter than I am stupid; is what I’m saying.

4.       I should probably be nicer to Jason. He really does a lot around here. But let’s keep this revelation just between us; if he figures out how much I actually need him, he’s totally going to want a raise.

So yes, the holiday card mailer and calendar went out Friday. I’m not going to go through that whole story because I told it last year (although going back and reading that triggered a bit of PTSD for me. This year wasn’t THAT bad), but suffice it to say I had several visits with Mary, The Nice Bulk Mail Nazi Who Regardless of her Niceness Still Makes Everything Excessively Complicated (that’s her official title).

You should probably get them tomorrow. This is your official announcement that there is a GIGANTIC TYPO on the card. I found it about 13.5 seconds after Costco printed 500 copies of them. My buddy (and fellow real estate agent), Ken, suggested I hold a contest for who can find it and point it out first, so that’s what I’m doing. I’m giving away two $10 Itunes gift cards as prizes. The first will go to the first person to send me an email pointing out what the typo is. The second will go to the person who emails me the best explanation of why the typo is wrong. You have until Christmas Eve to get that to me and I will choose my favorite and post it here. (Yes, I’m aware I haven’t chosen my final New Website Day winner yet. I’m getting to it. Don’t worry; I haven’t forgotten.)

That was the cheerful part of the post. Now on to the part where I describe the day that will be known until the end of time as The Multitasking Fail Day. Oh you thought that day already existed? Yeah, so did I. Until yesterday happened. Yes, it involves number 3 on my ‘Things I’ve learned…’ list.

The pertinent background info: Yesterday was the day my two older sons were being picked up by their Grandma Linda to go visit Texas for a few days before Christmas. I spent the morning rushing around like a meth addict wrapping the presents for that section of the family, helping the boys finish making the Christmas cards, keeping Jonas from taking the scissors, stickers and stamps to our cat, Blue, and packing all of this up to make it plane-ready. By the time 1:30 PM rolled around (the drop-dead time we needed to leave for the airport) I had locked the boys all out in the backyard for 20 minutes so that I could finish shoving underwear and socks into suitcases without worrying that Jonas was peeing on something or grabbing an ornament off the tree to bring over to the tile and throw it at the ground as hard as he could. I was at the end of my rope, is the point.

The incident: When we finally began piling into the GOV we were already 5 minutes behind schedule. I opened the side door and let the kids get in while I went around the back to put in the suitcases. As I stooped to pick up the first one I heard the telltale beeping to indicate the door to the back of the GOV (the one that I was standing underneath) was about to begin closing.

I dropped the bag and ducked out of the way while grabbing for my keys to double push the button to open it again. As soon as I did this the stupid door began closing again. My poor, feeble, over-taxed brain couldn’t come to a conclusion for why this was occurring besides occult possession. This went on several more times, with me almost getting crushed to death attempting to shove suitcases into the back before the door closed on me, until I realized Jonas was standing at the front of the car pushing the button to close the back every time I pushed mine to open it. So it was less occult possession and more Jonas possession. Although, really, 6 of one, half a dozen of the other, right?

I’m actually kind of surprised my head didn’t explode right there and splatter brain goo all over the inside of the garage.

Once the screaming stopped and I had all of the kids secured in their seats and all of the bags in the back (closed under the exorcised door), I got into the car, threw it in reverse and smashed directly into the half-closed garage door.

At least that’s how I remember it went. According to Gray, who was seated behind me quietly observing my mental breakdown, it actually went like this:

I put the car in reverse.

I reached up and pushed the button to close the garage door.

I smashed directly into the closing garage door.

We’ve gotten to the point, in our family where screaming and swearing on my part doesn’t really bother my kids. They know it means I’m a little overstressed and they just need to be quiet and follow directions and I’ll get through and apologize later. Abject sobbing, however, still apparently has the power to freak them out.

I did get the kids to the airport. We were 10 minutes late, I had to further break the garage door to get it up far enough to back out and then shut it and I had mascara tracks down my cheeks, but we made it there.

Jason gets home today. I’m going to let him deal with getting this repaired:

Arcadia Dream House: Part II

Where were we? Ah yes, Arcadia. In Part I we talked about where Arcadia is and what makes it special and desirable. Now on to the houses we saw:

House 1, Vermont Ave.- The first house we saw was a bank-owned property right at the base of Camelback Mountain. It was built in 1982, 3180 square feet and priced right around $800K.

A bit of the camel from the upstairs deck.

This house was kind of a weird one. At first glance it seemed pretty fabulous. Excellent location with mountain views, recently remodeled and very modern kitchen and baths, nice big backyard with a pool, spa and covered BBQ area. But when we really started to discuss the intricacies of how you would live in this house, its shine started to fade.

The kitchen didn’t actually have much in the way of cabinet or pantry space. The upstairs bedrooms connected in a line, like adjacent hotel rooms and one of the three upstairs bedrooms had a wall that opened up over the family room (it wouldn’t feel like a very private room). All of the remodeling had a faint odor of DIY (the paint edges weren’t nice or subtle, the cabinets had IKEA stickers, the flooring was different in every room).

The house just wouldn’t work for my sister and her family at all. It was a no. And a disappointment. $800K and 3180 square feet in Arcadia isn’t necessarily a slam-dunk, we learned on that one.

House 2, Exeter Blvd.- The second house was a traditional sale (not a bank owned, not a short sale). It was 3572 square feet, built in 1955 and priced at $880K.

We were pretty excited about the prospect of this house. It seemed like the traditional Arcadia cutie. It should have lots of charm from the 1950s and at almost $900K we should be getting a fair amount of fabulousness, right?

Well… sort of. It definitely had some 1950s charm.

The mantle had a detail that might be pretty if it didn't look like it had been painted by a 5 year old with a nail polish brush.

The kitchen had little kitchy saltillo tiles painted with fruit in random spots. OK, I didn't really think this was charming or cute either. But I guess maybe it was interesting? To people with no taste?

Unfortunately, it also had the low ceilings, narrow halls and almost non-existent closets of the 1950s. It had obviously been remodeled in the 1980s, but not completely, and not since. My sister liked the Saltillo tile and butcher block kitchen counter, but not much else.

Dear Sink, Backsplash and Gold Faucet, If you were a person, you would be on a fashion emergency show. One host would play good cop by holding your hand and nodding sympathetically while the other would tell you how you were NEVER in style and are embarrassing yourself. Love, The Bad Cop

This is the best warning against early adoption of brand new technology I've ever seen. "I'm totally going to have this new fangled awesome electric can opener built in to my wall! Everyone on the block will be so jealous of how high-tech I am."

It was another lesson learned for my sister. People often want the history and unique touches of older properties, but the lack of closet space is a deal killer. Or the claustrophobic panic they get from walking down the hall to the bathroom. Clearly people were smaller, thinner and had lamer wardrobes in the 1950s; it’s important to remember. Also, ‘unique touches’ don’t even usually equal ‘pretty and in good taste’, much less always. It’s not like tacky is something that didn’t exist in the olden days.

At this point in our tour, we were a little bit bummed out. Even if we could scrape together a million dollars, it didn’t look we could get what we wanted out of Arcadia. Under a million gets you a house in need of an epic remodel.

Luckily, the next house cheered us up a bit… (To be continued in Part III. When I get around to it.)

Divert Your Eyes From the Failure and Focus on the: NEW WINNER!

I know, I know, I totally owe the final Arcadia Dream House post. Like yesterday. I completely inhale. Here’s the thing: Christmas is seriously kicking my ass. In fact, Christmas isn’t even kicking my ass yet; Christmas is waiting in line to kick my ass. Life, Work, 5th Grade Homework and (Not-Unexpected-But-Still-Sad-and-Complicated) Death in the Family are currently beating me to a pulp in a gang-like fashion with brass knuckles and nun chucks. Christmas is standing behind them, 10 feet tall with a shaved head and a menacing looking on his face. He’s tapping his watch and saying, ‘I’m going to give you guys about 3 more minutes and then I’m going to stomp on you and really start in with the wailing on her.’

So yeah. I haven’t started shopping yet. And my cards aren’t stuffed and labeled and mailed yet. And there are too many more things to even list that need to be done. So what am I doing? Well I’ve totally given up and I’m just screwing around with immense creative projects that wouldn’t even get done if I HADN’T waited till the very last nanosecond to do anything and everything this year. Because that’s how I cope. I learned it from my mother.

Anyway. I will post the Arcadia Dream House wrap up. Probably tomorrow. Ish. I’m no longer promising anything (she promised, learning no lessons from past failures).

I do have a small confession I need to get out of the way today, however (I have to use ‘however’ at least once a post or my eyelid starts to twitch). So my new awesome website? Apparently some trained professional should have tested me for my operating license before just wantonly handing over the keys. It’s now clear I didn’t totally have a handle on how to work the thing before I busted it out.

The day I rolled out the new site and ran that contest where you just had to leave a comment to enter? Well, I had some box checked in the new WordPress back area thingy that put all of the comments from people who’d never commented on my site before into a ‘moderation queue’. And that moderation queue sent notification emails of these comments to some random realestatetangent.com email address my web designer set up for me in case I ever wanted to use it, but then I told him I didn’t and he didn’t delete it.

Last Friday as I was getting ready to post what I had just written I noticed a comment ‘awaiting moderation’ on the left-hand side of my screen. That continuous banging sound you hear for about 10 minutes Friday afternoon? Was my head. On the computer. Echoing across the state of Arizona. It’s total marketing genius to host a contest to draw new traffic to your blog and then not respond to comments from all of the new people who stopped by. I actually had a client email me that she thought I was mad at her for her comment and so she’d been censuring herself ever since. *GAH* I blame the professionals for my lack of skill and licensure.

So what this all comes down to is there were a bunch of people who never got included in the drawing. And actually, we made it up over 100 entries, so I really should have done three drawings anyway. Tomorrow I will put together a list of everyone in the comments that were lost in the Never-Never Land that is my own stupidity and pull another winner.

Yay! Another winner!

Dream House: Arcadia Part I

Arcadia is one of those areas in Metro-Phoenix you just happen upon because you’re going to a party at a work acquaintance’s house who lives at Camelback and 48th Street. You pull into the neighborhood 10 minutes before the party is set to start because you thought it would take longer to get there. You don’t want to be the first one in the door because you’ll end up making small talk with the work acquaintance about your mutual boss’s tendency to speak to the front of your shirt rather than your face and the boss will inevitably wander in right at the moment you say ‘boobs’ and point to your chestal region and you’ll spend the rest of the party wondering if he heard any of that and over-analyzing whether he’s looking at your cleavage now or specifically avoiding it. To circumvent this you drive around for a bit to kill time. As you’re wandering you realize it’s a fabulous, adorable neighborhood. It’s filled with unassuming, but unique ranch-style homes on large lots. There’s no tract home feel and some of the houses are spectacularly well-maintained and originally remodeled; it’s clear even from the exteriors. I could live here, you think.

And of course you could. Everyone thinks that. That’s why it’s insanely expensive and exclusive. Arcadia is kind of a Reese Whitherspoon neighborhood. It tricks you into thinking it’s all down-to-earth and accessible, and you could probably totally be BFFs if you could just get your hands on a phone number, but really it’s just as unattainably rich, famous and heavily body-gaurded as Jennifer Lopez (McDowell Mountain Ranch). Your co-worker is probably married to a plastic surgeon.

My sister and I picked Arcadia for our first ‘Dream House’ tour because she’s always appreciated the slightly old-fashioned, but interesting and expensively beautiful esthetic. You know, Anthropologie-esque. That’s her look. We wanted to see what kind of scratch it would take for her to buy one of the fabulous little gems we’d always driven past and coveted.

Geography Lesson: OK, so I had to actually do some Googling to figure out what the boundaries of Arcadia are. It’s not a specific subdivision with an HOA like we know and love out in the East Valley. It’s more of a large neighborhood. It’s sort of like Ahwatukee (which some morons are still convinced is a city. I showed a listing out there a couple of months ago with Ahwatukee in the MLS as the city. Not a city, Dummy. Phoenix is the city. Tangent.). I found a Wikipedia entry on Arcadia that called the boundaries Camelback to the Crosscut Canal and 44th Street to 68th Street. I have, however, heard it described as a much broader area. For the purposes of this tour, we kept mostly in that main area, although we did see one house just North of Camelback, right up against the mountain.

The home building in Arcadia began in the 1950s and many of the houses there now were originally constructed in that time period. Because the location is in such high demand, however, there has been quite a bit of land-subdividing and new construction, complete remodels and even total knockdown rebuilds. The lack of a Home Owner’s Association makes for some unusual sights as you drive around. We saw an enormous yellow house with a purple block fence across the back. We saw blow-up Santas and houses coated in holiday vomit next door to homes clearly worth millions. It’s a neighborhood like a box of chocolates; you never know what you’re gonna get.

The basic parameters of the houses we toured were:

2500-4400 square feet

4 bedrooms

2 car garage

Built between 1955 and 2001 (although one I’m convinced was a total knockdown and built this year)

Priced between $600K and $1.465MIL.

And let me tell you; what we saw ran the gamut.

My sister did find her dream house. She actually found two she could happily live in for the remainder of her existence. She also decided that if she had $600,000 to spend on a home, she probably wouldn’t spend it in Arcadia and her antique-loving heart learned to appreciate the benefits of new construction.

Monday I’ll share the details…

Dream House

The first day after you get your license as a real estate agent, when you’ve gotten all of your red-tapey things squared away and you’re officially a member of your association, you spend 7 hours straight searching the MLS for your dream home (and calculating all of the potential commissions you would make on each of these homes).

You investigate all of the amazing neighborhoods you’ve always wanted to live in and you scour the high price ranges looking for that very perfect house you kind of have to have right now even though it costs 8 times what you can afford as a newly licensed agent. Oh sorry, did I say you could afford an eighth of what you’re looking at? Because I just realized that 8 times zero is actually still zero. It’s actually infinity times what you can afford PLUS 3 million.

Eventually you tire of looking at pictures of amazing houses you’ll never have and move on to the number 2 activity of newly licensed agents: looking up what people you know paid for their houses in the tax records and reassembling your opinions of them accordingly.

The sad thing is that when you become a real estate agent, you think you’ll spend your days strolling through amazing properties with titanium and diamond bidets and hologram butler services and your evenings hammering out deals with independently wealthy buyers and sellers over cocktails and tapas. But really you spend more time stepping gingerly through houses trying not to get on your shoes whatever the previous owner let their dog do on the carpet before the bank foreclosed on the house and holding your breath to keep from retching on the dried out sewer trap smell (or explaining what a dried out sewer trap smell is). And the only ‘cocktails’ involved in contractual debates are the glasses of cheap wine you have to pound back to de-stress after spending 5 hours stalking a ‘busy’ listing agent who won’t call you back because he already has 3 offers on that property anyway. But I digress.

The point is, although I’ve had occasional clients looking for expensive and/or unique properties, they certainly aren’t the bread and butter of my business. So I have decided to start a new feature on my website that is almost completely and solely for my own entertainment and call it: Dream House.

The Dream House blogs are going to involve me picking a ‘client’ out of my own social sphere and setting up an afternoon of showings of houses that they (or maybe just me) would love to live in if they won the lottery (or were able to successfully train their baby to be a Disney star).

I know, you’re thinking this sounds unethical on my part. I’m touring houses without a buyer who could actually afford them? It’s actually totally not. They tell us all the time in the How to Be a Fabulously Wealthy and Awesome Real Estate Agent seminars we should be constantly previewing homes on the market, even if we don’t have a buyer for them, just to have a good understanding of what’s going on in the market. So it’s actually research. Super fun, expensive houses with rad design features we could never afford, research.

And don’t worry: if the listing says it’s occupied by an 87 year old couple who is on oxygen and has 11 golden retrievers and a niece with a 3 week old baby staying with them, so please make an appointment 5 days in advance so the sellers have time get everyone (and the oxygen tank) out of the house for the showings, I will leave that one off the list. I’ll stick to houses that are slightly less of a hassle to show for everyone involved.

Plus, please. It’s really in the seller’s best interest to have me see their house and know its features. Who knows when I might meet the Lithuanian heiress at a soccer game sitting next to me in her camping chair cheering for her North East Valley 6 year old nephew, who’s thinking about buying a house in Arcadia with a pot filler and surround-sound controlled by Ipod docking stations built into the walls? It could totally happen.

All of this is a build up to my Friday post on 5 homes in Arcadia I took my sister (who is the heiress to a small Dobson Ranch fortune split three ways) to last week. It was really fun. Although her newborn, Colby, was not amused by the part where I tried to teach her how to carry him in one of those baby slings but I showed her how to put him in wrong, so he had to tour three houses with his feet sticking up out of the top of the sling and his sweet little face smashed into the side of her boob. I think he’ll get over it, though. Babies have short memories.

Tune in Friday for the Arcadia Dream House Tour!