The highs and lows of parenting and real estate.

Category Archives for ‘Advice’

Your Wife is Like Your iPhone

WARNING: This is one of those that’s going to fall under the umbrella of “Super Sexist and Assuming But Sometimes True,” so if you’re going to be a baby about that you should probably skip it.

You know how sometimes you’re driving down the freeway, mind wandering from topic to topic (If peacocks mated with flamingos, their spawn would be the fashion models of birds, right? Just how many calories are in a spoonful of Nutella mixed with a spoonful of crunchy peanut butter? Is Neil Patrick Harris a total waste of a spot on my list of celebs I’m allowed to sleep with or is there a chance he’s bi?) and you’re struck by a brilliant lightning bolt of inspiration that can only be explained by a muse, The Hand of God or LSD?

Well it happened to me the other day. It was a brilliant epiphany, similar to when I figured out being a parent is like smelling your own farts. Only this time it was about the secret to a blissful marriage.

So without further ado, here it is:

Dear Men, Your wife is just like your iPhone. Treat her accordingly. 

See how simple and beautiful that is?? I know. Go forth and have a perfect marriage.

Oh. You need more details? Hmm. I thought it was kind of self-explanatory.

OK, so menfolk. You have your iPhone. At this point it’s like another arm. It has your email, your texts, your Twitter, your Words With Friends, that weird Secret app you can’t decide if it’s going to get cool or not, it pays your bills, it tells you how to get places, it takes your pictures, wakes you up and records your workouts. Occasionally people call you on it. It does your shit, right? You can’t function without it.

Your iPhone can do a really lot of things, but it has limitations. Specifically: its battery life. It carries with it a finite amount of power and you are constantly aware of this. When you turn it on to do anything, your eyes automatically flit up to the bar in the top right that tells you just how much juice you have left. When it starts to dip down into the 70% range, you get a little nervous. At 50% you mentally calculate how long until you’ll have access to a charger and start to cut back on your social media usage. If it ever gets down to 20% you consider asking strangers if they have a spare charger on them.

You know if your iPhone dies, you’ll be stuck. You’ll be cut off from all the things you’ve grown to depend on it for. And beyond that, when your iPhone gets low on battery, it starts to get a little janky. The maps function gets slow. Sometimes texts don’t want to go through. You can’t tell if your comment on Facebook actually posted, so you end up posting it three times in a row, which makes you look like a fucking weirdo who doesn’t really ‘get it’.

To keep all of this at bay, you keep a charger in your car and a cord at work. When you’re home, you keep it plugged in if possible. When you’re traveling, you keep a charger on you at all times, and when you’re killing time, waiting to get on a plane, you find a seat at the bar near an outlet so you can keep your iPhone charged while you have a beer. You want that baby to run at optimal performance at all times, so you keep it happy.

Now let’s talk about your wife. If you’ve been married more than a handful of years, there’s a good chance you’ve gotten a little comfortable about things. Maybe you still make an effort to poop in the upstairs bathroom if you know your wife is hanging out downstairs, but beyond that life is stressful and complicated, and being nice takes effort. Some days you feel like you’re just doing the best you can to get through work and fight traffic to get home and pass out on the couch. Add in kids and/or working out and who has time for anything else? Occasionally you don’t even put a smile on your face and act happy to see her when you walk in the door.

So here’s the deal*, your wife has her own ‘feeling loved’ battery. (OK, you do, too.) Obviously, you depend on her for lots of things (companionship, shared household duties, childcare, comfort, sex, entertainment, etc) and if she gets completely empty, and stays that way for long enough, things get super fucked up. You’re definitely not getting laid, and you’re probably looking at a divorce or an affair-type situation that’s messy and awkward for everyone involved.

But it’s also possible you keep her consistently at about 20%. You’re just nice enough, or you make a grand gesture every once in awhile to keep her from getting completely empty, but she’s generally not functioning at optimal levels regarding you. She’s isn’t super motivated to make your favorite dinner. She’s cranky and distant. She buys that toilet paper she knows you hate just because it’s cheaper.

Plus, keeping her low runs the risk of something outside of your control depleting her final stash and her shutting completely down on you. As with technology, of course this always happens at the most inopportune moment. You get stuck in a meeting at work and are late meeting her to a dinner with friends. She’s pissed because she feels like you did it on purpose because you don’t really care about her, so you have an awkward, We’re not fighting, but really we are, conversation in front of everyone before going home to a blowout and ultimately, porn on your iPad (which is probably charged) and the couch.

Imagine, instead, you’d kept her at 100%. She would have only been mildly irritated, instead of taking it personally (dropping her down to 80%) and possibly even sympathetic to your long day at work. She might have ordered you your favorite cocktail so it was waiting when you got there and watched porn with you when you got home. At which point, you’d have a full enough ‘love battery’ because of how kind and understanding she’d been, to reciprocate and she’d bump right back up to 100%.

See, that’s the thing. If you’ve kept her on the low side, it probably will take some effort to get your wife fully charged (and it might even take some research on what sort of actions recharge her), but not only will keeping her charged be in your own best interest, but it will likely be much easier than you expected. Being nice sort of feeds on itself.

So, the point is, figure out what keeps your wife’s battery charged. Is it sitting next to her on the couch at night? Texting her during the day to say hi? Washing the bottles at night before going to bed so when she gets up in the morning they’re clean? Taking her car to get washed once a week? Planning a date once a month? Grabbing her ass in her yoga pants and telling her she looks hot? We’re all different, but it shouldn’t be that tough to figure out.

And then, keep her plugged in, and reap the rewards of a wife at optimal performance.

(OK, OK, this totally could have been gender neutral and women are just as culpable of not keeping their spouse plugged in. But I thought men would appreciate the technology angle! Or maybe it’s just my husband who’s OCD about plugging in his iPhone. And I’m super sexist. Sorry.)

*Full disclosure: Like the only relationship book I’ve ever read was that Love Languages one and I kind of totally buy into that shit. Part of this mentality comes from that. You should read it. It was good.

How To Have The Perfect Body

Yesterday I drove with a friend to circus class and we discussed eating healthy, working out and how the scale generally fucks with our heads. Like most people on this planet, I’ve spent an excessive amount of time wondering how to achieve The Perfect Body. I’ve tried diets, embraced various forms of exercise, considered plastic surgery. So far I have been unsuccessful (and too chicken to go under the knife). But, I did some serious thinking about all of this and I’m pretty sure I’ve got the whole thing figured out. I mean, really, it’s not that complicated to have The Perfect Body once you boil it down.

8 Steps to The Perfect Body –

  1. Hire someone to follow you around and hand you organic apple slices or cucumbers with lime juice and sea salt whenever you have a twinge of hunger. If this is prohibitively expensive, cancel your health insurance to pay for it. Having The Perfect Body is obviously an assurance of health. Same diff.
  2. Never clean your house. That shit takes time that could be spent perfecting your abs. You need to ask yourself if you’d rather look amazing in a swimsuit the 3 or 4 times a year you wear one, or walk down your hallway in the middle of the night without stepping on a Lego or in a damp spot of unknown origin. If the answer isn’t obvious, you’re not committed enough to the goal of The Perfect Body.
  3. Don’t engage with media depicting the human form. Don’t read fashion magazines, watch TV or visit The Chive. Having The Perfect Body is impossible to achieve or maintain, when you have access to pictures of other, Perfecter Bodies. Comparison is the enemy of the The Perfect Body. Live in a vacuum.
  4. Have your taste buds lasered off.  Don’t worry, it’s not weirder or more invasive than having silicone injected into your lips, and it won’t make you look like a duck. Late night ice cream is far easier to resist when it stops tasting like heaven, comfort and the feeling of being loved and starts tasting like snow.
  5. Only be friends and surround yourself with people who could accurately be described as ‘fluffy’. If any of them are smart and/or funny, you’re not going to have The Perfect Personality, but that’s not what we’re going for here.
  6. Be a vampire. Not having a reflection or appearing in photographs makes it nearly impossible to be aware of any impediments to The Perfect Body.
  7. Don’t have any kind of subjective pre-existing notions of beauty or physical perfection. How can you possibly have The Perfect Body if you grow up thinking it’s perfect to have flawlessly spherical kneecaps, when in fact yours are actually more oval? Duh, you can’t. You have to start with a clean slate. Ideally, be raised by wolves.
  8. Never (NEVER) look down when you’re at the beach in a bikini and you hunch over to eat a bite of an amazing beach chilidog with cheese. Just keep your eyes closed while enjoying your lunch. It’s literally impossible for your midsection to maintain perfection in a situation like this.

Or, failing all of that:

Eat real food. Veggies and lean meats, shit like that. Do your best to shop at the ends of the grocery store (where they keep the actual food) and stay mostly out of the middle. Sometimes (but only when it’s really worth it) eat delicious things that are horrible for you, like tater tots, hollandaise sauce and bacon blue cheese burgers.

Find a few things that involve movement and make your soul joyful. Hockey, rock climbing, long nature walks, strip teases – whatever they are, do them regularly. Train your body to do them better because it makes you feel awesome and strong.

Look in the mirror and be proud of your muscles, bones, blood and skin and what they can do. Be amazed they can lift you up and perform beautiful actions. Continue to feed your body things that will make it strong, happy and able to support you. Realize you do have The Perfect Body.

 

The Duck Dynasty Boycott Flow Chart

Yesterday, while watching the Duck Dynasty/Phil/GQ/A&E drama unfold on social media, I got really confused about whether or not it’s socially and politically acceptable for me to be watching Duck Dynasty. I mean, what does it really say about me as a person if I tune in?

So I decided to take a crack at a quick flow chart to help me navigate the complicated Duck Dynasty controversy and answer the question, Should I boycott the show? (click to enlarge):

duck dynasty corrected typo

And there you have it! The answer is simple. You’re welcome and Happy Friday!

How to tell where you are in Metro-Phoenix – The Flow Chart

Your company is transferring you to Arizona. You’ve been to Phoenix before. Twice. Once was in the winter and you got to play golf while it snowed back home. It was glorious. This won’t be so bad, you think. But then they fly you in to find somewhere to live. You’re shuttled to a Chili’s for dinner and then to a nondescript hotel. You wake up in the morning, and realize you have no idea where exactly you are. Are you actually IN Phoenix? Or are you in one of the seemingly endless suburbs? How do you even tell?

No worries, my dear, I’m here for you. Metro-Phoenix is a massive monster of suburbs. You know how The Blob just ate stuff and it all turned into more blob and he got bigger and bigger? That’s Phoenix right there, in a nutshell. It’s large and spread out and always growing. Suburbs glomming on to suburbs.

There are some distinct differences to the areas, however, so I’ve created a handy flow-chart for you to use to clear up the confusion and figure out exactly where you are at any given time. Click to enlarge it and start in the blue square with the rounded edges (specific descriptions of each area are provided below):

South Phoenix - Welcome to South Phoenix! It’s close to hiking at South Mountain, freeway access, the airport and a bunch of old car lots with barbed wire and stacks of tires. But if you stay away from Broadway, you won’t even notice those.

Fountain Hills – If you’re super rich and reclusive, this is a great place to buy a mansion on the side of a hill, hole up and enjoy the views.

Ahwatukee - No one’s really sure exactly what Ahwatukee is. It’s not a city (even though half the population is pretty sure it is) and it’s not a subdivision… it might be the Bermuda Triangle of Metro-Phoenix.

Apache Junction – The Old West is still alive and kicking out here. Most of the cowboys just live in mobile home communities and go to swap meets now.

Northeast Mesa – This area likes to think of itself as the poor man’s Fountain Hills, but it’s really the rich man’s Apache Junction.

Scottsdale - You’ve heard of Scottsdale, haven’t you? It’s everything you’ve heard.

North Scottsdale – North Scotts is pretty sure it’s better than Scottsdale. And everyone else.

Tempe - ASU is in Tempe. ASU with the kids with their loud music and short shorts and GET OFF MY LAWN.

Phoenix – There really is an actual place called Phoenix where people live. Unless you’re within spitting distance of the Biltmore Hotel, prepare to be unimpressed.

Mesa – All of the hipsters moved out of Scottsdale and Tempe when they got too mainstream and now they live in Mesa, wearing wolf t-shirts they bought on ebay and going to shows at Hollywood Alley.

Cen Pho - That’s how the cool kids refer to ‘Central Phoenix’. Although I’m pretty sure that fact that I’ve figured out what it means indicates it’s no longer cool. I’ve heard they have food trucks there. I feel like if the food trucks were really that awesome they’d drive to my house to bring me lunch.

Paradise Valley - They breed unicorns in Paradise Valley. But it has a magic door you can’t see. If you happen to accidentally stumble in, you have to make a choice to abandon your friends and family and live there forever in peaceful beauty or leave and never return again.

Surprise - They know they’re Westside and they’re proud of it. No really, they’re not even embarrassed that most people East of the avenues have never set foot in their city. They have the airforce base! It’s a benefit, not just a disclosure requirement!

Glendale - You’re probably there for a game. Or a concert, right?

Chandler - For awhile people in Chandler would go around saying, “Chandler is the new Scottsdale,” but it didn’t catch on, so now they’re going with, “People like it here.” That seems to be sticking.

Buckeye - I… have never been to Buckeye.

Maricopa - I heard they’re getting a Target soon.

Gilbert - They’ve got a dairy farm or three. And elementary schools. Lots of elementary schools.

San Tan Valley - It used to be called Queen Creek, but then everyone started saying, “OK, but do you mean Queen Creek… or QUEEN CREEK?” and it felt less offensive just to give it another name so people would stop referring to it with an exhausted tone of voice.

And that is absolutely everything you ever needed to know about Metro-Phoenix. You’re welcome.

Magical Unicorn Foreclosure Websites Where the Hidden Listings Live?

You: DUDE. WTF is up with the lack of inventory in the Metro Phoenix market right now?

Me: I know. It’s been really tight for a long time. And certain price ranges are nearly impossible to find a house in.

You: OK, but seriously. This is not alright. I’m ready to buy a house! I’m prequalified! I have like actual money to spend! But there are no houses coming on the market that fit my criteria! It’s sincerely upsetting. IT MAKES ME WANT TO TALK IN ALL CAPS.

Me: Simmer down there, buddy. No shouting. Take a deep breath. I totally get it. It’s an incredibly frustrating market for a lot of people.

You: AND THE GODDAMN INTEREST RATES!! Sorry, I mean, and the interest rates! Have crept up to like 4%! FOUR PERCENT!! My head is exploding!

Me: Um… yes, the interest rates are not going down. This is true. Although can we please acknowledge that 4% is still really amazing as far as interest rates go? Because when you get all stressed out and screamy about 4% it kind of makes me want to punch you in the face over the 6.25% I’m carrying on my mortgage. Just saying.

You: Sorry. Ok, yes, 4% is still pretty good. It’s just making me nervous they’re going to shoot up to 111% like tomorrow before I can even find a house to buy. It’s like every second that ticks by is costing me more and more money and when I think about it I just want to drink tequila straight from the bottle and cry.

Me: No, I can understand that anxiety. And the loss of control is not fun. You feel impotent.

You: Now wait a second here. I’m not sure what you’re implying, but I’m unfamiliar with that sensation.

Me: No one’s doubting that. I’m just saying I can empathize with your frustration.

You: So I know you have me set up on a search of the MLS and that it emails me automatically when anything comes on the market that fits my criteria, but I’m barely getting any emails and what if it’s broken or accidentally missing the perfect house?

Me: It’s unlikely to be broken, but it’s possible that there are houses that fall just outside of the bounds of your criteria that might still work for you. Do you want me to tweak the search?

You: No, I think I’ve got it as open as I’m willing to go, but I have been searching other sites…

Me: I’m sure you have. That’s also a super natural reaction. And you’re a go-getter who likes to have his fate in his own hands. Have you found any houses you want me to pull from the MLS?

You: Yes, these three: 123 Summit Place, 875 Barrow Drive and 666 Lucifer Way.

Me: OK, Summit and Barrow are both under contract. Lucifer closed escrow a month ago.

You: What? Why are they all showing as ‘active’ on sites like Zillow and Homes.com?

Me: Those sites actually pull data directly from the MLS, but they don’t do it instantaneously. Some of them only pull once a week. Also, the MLS currently has a category of listing called ‘UCB’ which stands for Under Contract – Backups, and this pulls in as ‘active’ on many sites. It means they’ve accepted an offer in first position, but they’re willing to hold other offers in backup, in the event the original offers falls out of escrow for some reason.

You: Oh.

Me: Sorry, Man. If you find any others, keep sending them to me. I know sometimes it helps stress levels to be actively searching, and there’s always a small chance a house you like might have been listed wrong on the MLS and not popping up on your search.

You: How about this one-

Foreclosure # 187915880, Mesa AZ, 85202
$133,100 | 3 br, 2 ba, 1,296 sqft

Me: Hm… it’s not enough information for me to pull… I need an address or a 7 digit MLS number… where did you find it?

You: On this website. I’ll send you the link. It says I need to register to get the address. Should I register? What if it’s like a special secret website with all of the houses that don’t get listed on the MLS? Maybe I’ve been missing out on all of these perfect houses this entire time! 

Me: Let’s take a second to think that through. The banks are kinda dumb, yes. But is there any way you can think of that a scenario where the banks with foreclosure properties to sell would benefit from making them exclusive to one website and difficult for the general public to find? Is it possible at all for it to be in the seller (the bank)’s best interest to decrease competition on the houses they’re trying to move by keeping them off the MLS?

You: No… I guess not.

Me: Many banks actually have guidelines in place that require their properties to be listed for a certain length of time before they will review offers just so they can get as many people in to view and compete over the house. This is the best way to ensure they will get the strongest offers.

You: That makes sense.

Me: But let’s take a look at this house you found and the website to see if we can figure out what’s going on.

You: Please. Because WHAT IF??

Me: OK, so I clicked on the link and this is what I see:

So we’ve got the picture of a cute house with a price of $133,100, a zip code and a square footage, but all of the rest of the info can only be obtained with a registration on the website.

I tried doing a search of the MLS of all active properties in that zip code priced between $130k and $140K, but I didn’t come up with anything that looks like that house.

Next I tried actually registering with the site. It turns out the registration requires a fee-based membership and a credit card number.

You: But all really good things cost something, right? So maybe this is one of those times it will be worth it to pay for the information?

Me: Let me try one more thing. I’m going to do a search of the zip code for all properties with that exact square footage that have sold in the last year.

You: So?

Me: Bingo.

It was a foreclosure that was listed in January of this year and sold for $153,000 on April 28th.

You: WHAT? So it sold over a month ago for $20K higher than it’s even saying on that stupid site?

Me: Apparently.

You: And I was thinking I needed to give them my credit card info so I could get more pictures! Those sneaky *&^%-^#^*(*& @#$!%^#&@ *&#$%@&*(%#@$.

Me: I just censored you because that was too filthy for even this website.

You: But so deserved.

Me: Agreed.

 

 

The Guide to Social Networking Sites According to Your Outfit

As I am a veritable bastion of knowledge, people often ask me things*. So I’ve decided to start an occasional advice column.

Dear Real Estate Tangent,

I was watching Jimmy Kimmel the other night and he just kept mentioning how huge this whole ‘social media’ thing is. Plus my grandma asked me the other day why she isn’t able to ‘friend’ me online. I’m not really a ‘tech-savvy’ person, but I feel like maybe it’s time for me to get involved in this whole internet networking thing. But here’s the problem; once I decided to join up, I realized there are like a billion of these social media networking websites! Facebook, Pinterest, Twitter, Instagram? How should I know which to join? Where will I fit in? I feel like I’m having an identity crisis just trying to understand what Google+ is!

Sincerely,

Late to the party

Aw, Late, you’re pretty cute. I’m aware there are people like you out there, but every time I meet one of you who doesn’t ‘have the facebook’ I just kind of want to pinch your cheeks.

But hey, listen, I can totally help! In fact, the solution is pretty easy and I’ve even created a little visual guide for you to follow.

The first step is to go into the bathroom right now and stand in front of the full-length mirror. Try to observe yourself objectively. Now, just choose which one of these most closely resembles what you’re wearing:

1. Are you sporting a t-shirt that could either be interpreted as ironic or non-ironically ironic? Do you have on anything that could possibly be seen as hipster? Is there a superior look on your face because you ’get it’ even though most everyone else does not?

If so, you belong at Twitter! Soon you’ll be Chatting and Retweeting and Favoriting like crazy, with that smug smile firmly in place because you’re one of those who knows Twitter is where people are truly authentic (mostly because they know their Aunt Gina and their high school boyfriend probably aren’t reading everything they say).

2. Are you wearing a calf-length vintage skirt and a tanktop made of bamboo and dyed with vegetable dyes? Did you accessorize it with your grandmother’s pearl necklace adorned with a charm you made yourself? Do you have an apron over the whole thing because you’ve got special, gluten-free, two-ingredient snacks baking in the oven for your kids? Is your hair braided to the side and up the back in a Katniss-style you learned from watching a video on YouTube?

Congratulations, you belong at Pinterest! There you can find all kinds of other crafts and recipes and design ideas! In no time at all you’ll have an inferiority complex the size of Peru and be crippled by Too-Many-Ideas-Can’t-Start-A-Single-Project syndrome. Best of luck to you.

3. Are you wearing a businessy-type suit with dark lipstick and inexplicably tall heels**? Do people often remark on how ‘professional’ and ‘appropriate’ you are? When you stub your toe, do you hold in the ‘FUCK’ bursting to get out and instead mutter, ‘darn it’?

You definitely belong at LinkedIn. I don’t really know what they do over there, but I’m pretty sure it involves clean, professional language and I think stocks and bonds are involved. Or at the very least the online version of the Wall Street Journal. So… have… fun?

4. Are you wearing yoga pants that may or may not have been washed in the last week and a t-shirt that has holes in the bottom from leaning against the granite counter in your kitchen? Is your hair on it’s third day of not washing and you’re telling yourself it’s because you’re ‘training it’ to produce less oil but it’s really because you’ve been too lazy to get it wet and then have to dry it? Are you clutching a wine glass that holds half a bottle of wine if you fill it all the way to the top?

Yay! You belong at Facebook! But here’s the thing to remember; even though you actually look like the picture above, if you’re going to come to Facebook you must remember to project the idea that you look like the picture below at all times:

Don’t worry, you’ll get the hang of it pretty quick. Everyone does.

5. Are you wearing an outfit you spent more than 25 minutes picking out this morning? Do you have the perfect accessories to tie the whole thing together? Could your shoes be described as ‘dramatic’? Did you just take a selfie to complete this quiz?

Oh, yes, my dear. You definitely belong on Instagram. Before you joined Instagram your outfits were almost wasted on the general public, but now you have a forum! The whole world can appreciate just how that one necklace really pulled that otherwise unremarkable outfit together. You’ve come home.

6. Are you wearing anything even close to this?

You, sweetheart, will fit in just fine over at MySpace. I have not a fucking clue what they do over there or how it works, but I’m pretty sure it’s wacky and vaguely NSFW.

7. Or… are you wearing a Snuggie?

Yes, darling, there’s even a place for you. Goodreads is where you want to land. It’s safe and warm and inviting over there for book-lovers of all sorts. If you’re single you might even connect with a blue-Snuggie wearing guy who likes to read Stephen King, too. Do they make two person Snuggies? They probably should.

So! That’s my guide to which social media site you should join based on what you’re wearing. I hope it was helpful. Send all your requests for advice to Homes@ElizabethNewlin.com.

PS – No one understands what Google+ is. So don’t actually even let that worry your pretty little head.

*Nope. They don’t. Just making shit up here.

**Dear Business Ladies, What is up with the inordinately slutty shoes you regularly pair with frumpy business suits? Is it an attempt to reclaim your femininity while fitting in in what has typically been a man’s world? How about just taking the shoulder pads out of your jackets? Or better yet, don’t wear suits, just wear cute outfits and act professionally. I feel like that would work and be less weird than dressing like a man from your knees to your neck and a stripper from your calves down.

If It Walks Like a Duck, It Might Be a Land-Lease

Saturday I showed houses to a couple I’ve been out with a few times already. The first 6 houses featured the following:

1. A shattered sliding glass door

2. Ungrouted tile floors

3. Miniscule master baths

4. An unfinished garage

5. Popcorn ceilings

6. Melty blinds


7. Water damage in the ceiling

8. Unidentifiable odors

9. Carpet you wouldn’t want to touch with a bare hand

Among other things.

So when we got to house number seven and discovered:

1. Brand new interior and exterior paint

2. New flooring

3. Remodeled kitchen with gorgeous cherry cabinets

4. Fantastic, comfortable layout

5. Brand new kitchen appliances, including a beautiful, new fridge

6. New, high-tech looking water heater

7. New AC unit

8. New front-loading washer and dryer

We got a little excited. Or like pretty excited. Or possibly really excited. I mean just the lack of offensive smells was kind of fantastic. But then I took a closer look at the listing and realized it had been on the market 22 days and I started to get that little itch I can’t reach in the very middle of my back that tells me a house might be too good to be true. Then I read something in the Realtor Remarks about ‘exclusions’ and a ‘Land Trust Program’ and I knew there was something hinky going on.      

It turns out this Perfect Unicorn House is part of something called the Newtown Community Development Corporations Community Land Trust Program (you can probably call it NCDCCLTP, if you want. Or maybe just Newtown), and is a ‘land-lease’.

If you’ve always lived in AZ, you maybe aren’t familiar with the term ‘land-lease’ because it’s not that common here. What it comes down to, is when you purchase the house, you are only buying the structure and the things in it. Regarding the land, you’re entering into a long-term rental agreement. For this particular property, the rent on the land was $35 a month.

I know what you’re thinking: Uh, dude, $35 is less than even the cheapest HOA. What’s the big deal?

And true. This house didn’t even have an HOA, so whatevs. But chew on this a minute: When you buy a house, the structure and the things in it aren’t actually appreciating. They are getting old, out-of-date and used. It’s the land under the house that’s gaining in value. So if you’re only purchasing the stuff and renting the land, how is that a reasonable investment at all? 

You: OK, I see your point. But the land is inextricably tied to the house. If you want to sell the house, part of the draw of the purchase for someone else will be where it sits geographically. So why does it really matter?

Me: I think a case could be made for that being true, especially when the land-lease amount is as low as this one is (I’ve seen them in Scottsdale where the landlease amount was almost as much as the probable mortgage). But listen to this; the Newtown people have put together a whole bunch of weirdo restrictions on this land they own that you’ll have to live by. For instance, you cannot build a pool. The Q&A doc I read claims ‘pools are expensive to build and maintain and work against the goal of creating long-term affordability’. 

You: What does that mean? 

Me: I think it’s government-speak for ‘we know best and that ain’t it’. 

You: Hrm. I don’t know that I want a pool but I feel weird it’s ‘not allowed’.

Me: Yeah. And you must live in the house while you own it.

You: Well I’m planning on it anyway.

Me: That’s valid. But what if in two years you meet the man of your dreams, fall in love and he wants you to move in with him and help him raise alpacas? And what if the market has tanked again (GOD FORBID) and you can’t sell it for what you owe on it? But you also can’t rent it out. It just shrinks your options pretty significantly.

You: Yeah. Although I think alpacas are gross.

Me: You might change your mind for the perfect man. You never know. Anyway, I haven’t even told you the kicker yet.

You: … kinda getting bored with this story.

Me: Stay with me. This Newtown group places specific restrictions on how much you can sell your house for when you do eventually go to sell it. The documentation indicates they want you to ‘pass on the savings’ to the next buyer, but what it comes down to is you won’t be relying on the ‘market value’ to determine what you can get for your house because you’ll be limited to a formula based on the appraisal. You will only be allowed to sell the house for what you paid for it plus a maximum of 25% of the increase in appraisal value. 

You: What??? Like for reals? That seems pretty effed up. 

Me: I know, right? I get that it’s a government subsidized program meant to keep houses affordable and help people with lower income purchase homes, but I honestly don’t see how this is any better than renting to those people. And it seems like just a terrible deal to pretty much everyone else. 

You: Yeah. I’m out. Let’s go back to looking at stinky houses. At least I can air those out. 

So I guess it all goes back to the old adage: If you find a penny, pick it up, all day long you’ll have good luck. (Or the other one about seeming too good to be true. One of those.)

 

Everything You’ve Ever Wanted to Know About Boxed Wine

If you’re my Facebook friend you’ve probably noticed that anytime anyone I’m friends with sees anything wine-related on the internet he or she pastes it to my wall with a ‘This made me think of you.” comment. Someone else might be concerned that everyone thinks she’s an alcoholic, but I choose just to be happy my Facebook friends understand my wants and needs so well. It makes me feel loved, is what I’m saying.

Last week, one of my readers (do you like how I just pretended it was one of my legions of followers and not my sister’s friend/coworker who happens to read my blog?) asked me about boxed wine. She said she was interested. She suggested I write a post about it. And I thought, Damn it, that’s not a bad idea!

I’m an expert in lots of things: making friendship bracelets, talking people into doing stuff with me, having a big mouth, things that are delicious with butter and salt on them, how to make your outfit way cuter with the right necklace or scarf, sweet-talking another agent into trusting me even though he shouldn’t, winning at holiday work parties, I mean lots of really important things. But hello, a completely untapped market in which I am an expert; something the public should truly be educated on, is obviously boxed wine. I don’t know why I didn’t think of it. How could I have kept my genius in this field a secret for so long? It’s really a tragedy.

So the point is, I’m remedying that right now. I’m here today to impart my wisdom about the amazingness that is boxed wine.

First of all, if you’ve never made the foray into boxed wine before, I know what you’re thinking:

We’re not talking the wall of Franzia, here people. There are generally two sections of boxed wine in any grocery or liquor store: the one that consists mostly of white zinfandel or non-specific ‘white wine’ in enormous boxes that look like they were designed by people who still have floral wallpaper in their homes and like it, and a section of slightly more expensive boxed wines with hipper packaging and actual varietals and vintages.

I’m not judging those of you who love your ‘crisp white’ for $5.99 for 3 liters, but just me, personally, I tend to stay away from the former section and gravitate toward the latter. (See how I just made boxed wine into like a snotty elitist thing? That’s how I live with myself when I pour my wine from a spout every night. I only drink the fancy boxed wine, is what I tell myself.)

I’ll drink almost any type of wine handed to me, but if I’m buying for me, I usually stick with the Pinot Grigios, because they are delicious and don’t turn my tongue and teeth purple. I don’t need any more glaring reminders of how much I like to drink; I  already have my Facebook status updates from the night before for that. Thus, here is a rundown of the brands of boxed Pinot Grigio (or the like) I’ve tried and my general thoughts:

Box 1 – Target Cubes

I began my boxed wine journey a few years ago with these adorable Target cubes. They’re actually a really decent value at $18 (which, since each box holds the equivalent of 4 bottles, equates to $4.5/bottle), and I like the taste just fine. It’s not sweet and not too acidic. Also important to note is that the boxes are super cute and the alcoholic content of the wine is a fairly robust 13.5%.

Isn’t it adorable how it says it will stay fresh ‘up to 4 weeks’? Aw, thanks boxed wine people, but it won’t last nearly that long in my fridge. Sweet of you to assume, though.

Box 2 – Big House 

This one violates my ‘it has an actual varietal’ rule a little bit. It’s a white blend. But it’s got super cute packaging and it’s one of my favorites taste-wise. I used to be able to get it at Albertson’s and they still carry the brand, but the one by my house has only been stocking the Chardonnay and the Cabernet Sauvignon lately, so I have to drive over to Total Wine to get the ‘House White’. Luckily, it’s considerably cheaper at Total Wine, so it’s worth the drive. You’ll pay $24/box at the grocery store for this one, but only $16/box at Total Wine. The alcohol content is 13%; which is not too terrible.

Box 3 – Black Box

This one is a brand one of my clients just recently gave me as a thank you gift at her house closing (how nice is that, right?). I hadn’t tried it before (probably because I totally judge books by their covers and the packaging isn’t that cute), but it’s actually really good (that’s really the extent of the sophistication of my palate: good or icky). It can be purchased at most grocery stores (I definitely saw it at Albertson’s) and Total Wine. It’s a pricier $26/box at the grocery store and $19/box at Total Wine. (That means it’s more delicious, right? I’m pretty sure that’s how it works.) The alcohol content is again an acceptable 13%.

Box 4 – Fish Eye

With Fish Eye we head into the low-end side of the fancy boxed wines. The packaging is cute, but even though this box is only $15 in the grocery store, I expected more. It tastes grody, is what I’m saying. I opened it and choked down a glass and a half a couple of weeks ago, but I actually poured out the second half of my second glass. I wasted wine, that’s how bad it is. And I haven’t even gone back to it. PLUS the alcohol content is a pathetic 12%! A Facebook friend suggested I use it to make sangria and I’m thinking that might be the only way to salvage it.

Box 5 – Bota Box

This cutie is my current favorite. It can be purchased at Bashas for around $22/box (or Total Wine for $16). It tastes light and crisp, has 13% alcohol content and I love the box. I’m partial to the color orange. Plus I liked them on Facebook and they have cute social media advertising which totally makes them seem more respectable to me (because I’m a sucker like that).

AND, as a bonus, they have teeny boxed versions that hold three glasses and are perfect for sneaking into movie theaters in your purse:

How fricking adorable is that? Dear Bota Box, I <3 You.

Box(ish) 6 – The Climber

Last, and while maybe not least, definitely down there on the list, is The Climber Chardonnay. I bought this one awhile back because I liked the idea that it’s marketed toward campers. Not that I camp. But if I did, I would totally appreciate having a bag of wine with a handle I could park next to my chair near the fire. Sadly, I hated the taste. It has a sharp aftertaste I did not care for. But, since it only holds two bottles (instead of the normal 4) and the alcohol content is an astounding 14.1%, I managed to get through it without having it go to waste. But I probably wouldn’t buy it again. Unless I was actually going camping.

That’s my experience to date with boxed wine. While I was ‘researching’ and photographing this blog post (yes, this is sometimes what I do with my day) I saw a new pretty box at Total Wine I just couldn’t resist picking up:

So cute, right? I haven’t tried it yet because I still have an open Bota Box AND the gross Fish Eye I can’t make myself finish, so it seemed excessive to open a third box, but I’ll let you know when I do. It was $18 and has a 13% alcohol content, so I have high hopes for it.

A Comprehensive Guide to Stalking

Have you ever wondered if you’re a stalker? Or have you wondered about the types of people who are potentially stalking you? The world of stalking is a complicated and confusing one and navigating it can be awkward for newbies. So to help those of you who are considering becoming a stalker or being stalked, I’ve put together a little guide from an expert’s perspective.

8 Ways To Stalk: 

Business Stalking

Stalker – Realtors, lenders, salespeople, etc.

Stalkee – Professional acquaintances the stalker needs something from who do not return voicemails in a timely manner. Occasionally this form of stalking is used on family members or friends of stalkers who are particularly proficient in the art of Business Stalking.

Stalkery Activities – The stalker usually begins with a phone call and will then proceed to text, email, call home numbers, tweet and even possibly facebook the stalkee in succession at regular intervals until the stalkee is irritated enough to reply with whatever information or document the stalker is requiring.

Level of Danger – 2. This form of stalking is really only dangerous if the stalkee gets pissed off enough to retaliate or hold his stalkery behavior against him. Most business people consider a certain aptitude in cheerful Business Stalking a respectable asset.

Friend Stalking

Stalker – Normal, nosy, bored people sitting in front of a computer who don’t feel like doing actual work at that moment and who’ve already read all the pertinent celeb gossip of the day.

Stalkee – Friends of the stalker.

Stalkery Activities – Pulling up good friends’ facebook pages and going through old pictures. Seeing if you missed any status updates. Scrolling through friends’ friends to see if they are friends with anyone you’re not but should be. Checking friends’ twitter feeds directly to see who they’re talking to that you aren’t friends with.

Level of Danger – 1. How are you going to know what you’re missing out on if you don’t stalk your friends’ social media?

Spousal Stalking

Stalker – People who wanna know what her husband is up to. You know, just in case. Because she has an overactive imagination and watches too many movies where the wife is like, “I just had NO IDEA my husband was actually a CIA agent and had a whole other family in Cincinnati.”

Stalkee – Emotionally removed spouses who aren’t ‘secretive’ really, just sort of quiet about his feelings in general.

Stalkery Activities – Same as Friend Stalking, but with an emphasis on suspicious wondering and concern over contact between the stalkee and attractive members of the opposite sex.

Level of Danger – 4, but mostly just to the stalker’s mental stability. It’s generally not healthy to get sucked down too far into the rabbit hole of ‘Who is my husband talking to and why is her goddamn hair so pretty in her avatar?’

Boy-You-Knew-Years-Ago-Who’s-Now-Cuter-Than-You-Remember Stalking

Stalker – Everyone

Stalkee – That nice but unremarkable guy who just friended you that you knew a little bit when you were a teenager who aged really well and is way cuter and more interesting than you thought he was back then.

Stalkery Activities – Looking through his pictures and thinking how adorable he is with his dog/tattoo/kid/garden/haircut. Lamenting the fact you didn’t think to date him when you were a teenager because you were interested in his best friend. Liking his status updates and being proud of your own wit when he likes yours.

Level of Danger – 5. This type of activity is generally harmless and everyone does it, but if you’re too obvious and aggressive about it people (and especially the stalkee) are going to think you’re a weirdo.

Ex-Boyfriend Stalking

Stalker – Again, everyone. Don’t pretend you’re above it.

Stalkee – That guy you dated that summer between your sophomore and junior years in college who played the guitar and had to go back to his east coast school in the fall, so you both ended up just moving on to other people. He’s not like ‘the one who got away’ or anything, but you still sometimes wonder how he is and if he ever wonders how you are.

Stalkery Activities – Clicking through the photos of his wife and wondering if she’s prettier than you are in an objective sense. And is she more fun? Checking out his ‘About’ section only to realize he has an inordinate amount of religious/conservative/gun related/sport related things he ‘likes’ and realizing you maybe didn’t discuss all that many important life details that summer when you were 20. Deciding you are definitely prettier than his wife anyway, especially in that photo her friend tagged her in where she has spinach in her teeth and is laughing with her mouth open.

Level of Danger – 2. EVERYONE DOES IT.  Plus it often lays to rest any thoughts of ‘what might have been’. It also helps if he got fat and now wears Hawaiian shirts.

‘Friend’-Who-Posts-Something-Weird-or-Outrageous Stalking

Stalker – People on facebook enough to see random shit other people decide is appropriate to post.

Stalkee -  That chick you knew in junior high who never really interacts on facebook and then one day just busts out something overly personal or revealing as a status update or photo (examples: boudoir photos as profile pics, any photos involving nudity, angry status updates about exes who’ve hacked their accounts and are scumbags, announcements involving gender identity reassignment, closet exits, etc.).

Stalkery Activities – Visiting the stalkee’s page and looking for any evidence of previous crazy.

Level of Danger – 0. If she’s going to put it out there, she really can’t blame you for looking for more of the story.

Minor-Internet-Celeb-With-a-Dramatic-Event Stalking

Stalker – People who read blogs.

Stalkee – That blogger who built her platform on how much she loved her husband and being totally open and transparent and then just randomly and with no warning announced she was getting separated.

Stalkery Activities – Checking the stalkee’s twitter, husband’s blog and even gossipy opinion blogs about why this possibly could have happened and how you didn’t know it was happening. Feeling overly emotionally invested in the life of someone you do not actually know.

Level of Danger – 7. This activity can be weird and dangerous if you have a proclivity for crazy and instability. If you don’t, it’s probably just pretty normal. Don’t send her gifts or write her personal emails telling her you’re so sorry she’s going through this. That’s crossing a line.

Criminally Prosecutable Stalking

Stalker – Crazies

Stalkee -  Normal people, famous people

Stalkery Activities – Researching where the stalkee lives In Real Life. Visiting the stalkee IRL. Calling the stalkee’s cell ‘just to chat’ even though you don’t know each other. Mailing anything live or that was one time alive to the stalkee. Attempting to assassinate presidents in the name of love for the stalkee.

Level of Danger – 35. Don’t participate in this type of stalking, People. It sullies the good name of stalking, and I won’t stand for it.

So there you go. You now have all the information you need to be a proficient and socially acceptable stalker. And remember, stalking is not to be confused with lurking. Everyone stalks, but only weirdos, deviants and creepers lurk*.

*Edited to add: Dear Self, It’s probably inadvisable to make a joke (that was really aimed at your twitter-lurking brother) insulting people who potentially are nice enough to read your blog and just don’t care to comment. Way to alienate your traffic, dopey. (Also? That joke was totally Jason’s idea. I blame him.)

Sales 101: You’re Doing It Wrong

Last weekend at a new build site in the models with a client –

Builder rep: So here’s the master bath. It’s nice, right?

My client: Well… I mean I wish it had a separate tub and shower. The last one we saw did… could I upgrade the bathroom at the design center to make the shower and tub separate?

Builder rep: Where would you put it?

Me: It looks like there’s not the space to do it…

My client: So you’re saying I can’t do that?

Builder rep: Ah, basically, yes.

My client: Why didn’t you just say, ‘You can’t do that, there’s not enough space.”?

Builder rep: Well I didn’t want you to feel like I was telling you you can’t have what you want. I wanted you to figure out why it won’t work for yourself. We’re all about you having what you want here. We’re not like your dad who said you can’t have an ice cream cone when you wanted it.

My client: I don’t know what the hell you’re talking about. But it feels like you’re saying I can’t have what I want so…

Me: We should move on.

And later that day in the specialty tea store at the mall –

Teenage salesgirl: Hi, welcome to our store. Can I help you find something?

Me: Well I don’t really know anything about tea but my husband loves it and I’m looking for something to add to his Father’s Day Gift. Something smallish, probably.

Teenage salesgirl: Oh, well if he loves tea, he would absolutely adore one of these cast iron tea pots. They’re the perfect way to brew tea. They keep the water the perfect temperature.

Me: Uh… I’m not sure. He has a really specific sense of style. These are kind of froufrou looking for his taste…

Teenage salesgirl: No, no, they’re really manly. This one has a dragon on it. It’s super manly.

Me: Definitely not his taste. But these over here are slightly more simple and sleek. They might be ok. How much do they cost?

Teenage salesgirl: $170.

Me: *COUGH* Oh. No, I’m just really looking for something smallish for him right now. But I’ll keep that in mind for Christmas or something.

Teenage salesgirl: OK, well I also have this electronic teapot that does everything to brew your tea exactly right (pulls out a teapot with lots of buttons and levers and demonstrates it’s high-techness).

Me: How much is this one?

Teenage salesgirl: $250.

Me: OK, no. I’m just going to look over here by myself for a minute.

Teenage salesgirl (completely ignoring my not at all subtle plea to be left alone and following me to a wall of tea travel containers): If you’re looking for one of these, you shouldn’t get this one (taking the container I’ve picked up out of my hands). The tea strainer is way too shallow. You should get this one instead (demonstrates its features).

Me: Great. Fine. I’ll take it. In dark grey. I think he’ll love it. (Subtext: get me out of here.)

Teenage salesgirl: Alright, but what about tea? Don’t you want to get him some tea to go with it? I mean what good is a travel tea container without tea? There’s a sampler gift set up here at the front of the store he might like…

Me: No, I don’t want the sampler.

Other teenage salesgirl walking over to join the harassment: What type of tea does he like?

Me: He just bought himself a sampler thing, so I don’t think he needs any more right now… chai? I think he likes chai.

Original teenage salesgirl (grabbing two giant bins of tea from a wall of tea bins, removing the tops and using them to fan the scent in my direction in what I’m sure is a copyrighted tea store motion): Try these. Aren’t they wonderful? We sell them by the ounce in these aluminum canisters. We also have decorative canisters. And if you fill them up you get (sales talk fades out in my head and I just hear ‘Wah wah wah wah’. Walls begin to close in but the door seems so very far away I’m not sure if I’ll ever reach it).

Me: OK, fine. Just give me the smallest amount I can buy and leave the store now. Here’s my card. Please take my card so I can leave.

Teenage salesgirl: So which container? The regular or the decorative?

Me: The regular (I start to say and then my head explodes all over the inside of the tea store. The girl charges my order anyway, forges my signature, shovels my remains into a plastic shopping bag with the tea store logo along with my purchases and sets me out in the walkway of the mall, effectively ensuring I will never enter the tea store again.).

Can we come together as a civilization and agree these ‘sales techniques’ do not work and stop using them? Pretty please with my sanity and your dignity on top?

Yes, I spent $76, but I hope it was worth it because you could not pay me to set foot in your store again.