Tuesday, August 16, 2016

hawaii 5-0 for my big 5-0...

I blame my travel anxiety on not being very helpful when it comes to planning a trip far, far away.  I’m actually even anxious about travelling nearby – I think of my cats, I think of the possibility of never coming back, getting into an accident; let’s not even talk about all the anxiety surrounding air travel.  The drudgery of packing, making sure you have everything you’ll need…but not OVERpacking.  Then the drudgery of coming home and having a pile of laundry that it will take days to wash, fold, put away.  The house always seems dirty when you get home, even though you cleaned it before you left - closed up – like it died while you were gone – temporary suspended animation.  Besides, unlike what one of my friends had suggested when I posted pics on Facebook during our last short trip, I actually do really like my house.  I’d like to spend all of my time there; cleaning, washing windows, organizing, working in the garden on those oh.too.few days that are PERFECT to work in the yard.  Not too hot, not too humid, not too windy, not rainy.  You don’t get many of those days and because of that and other things that I will elaborate on in this post, my garden and yard look like I have abandoned them…and I have to an extent.  I can’t wait for retirement!

The computer is a HUGE time waster…you realize as you are reading this ;-)  I am addicted.  Click, refresh, scroll, endlessly.  Oh, comment!  Like! Heart!  Sad face.  Stealing my life.

The other time hog is what we acquired while in Maui, Hawaii.  It’s a time hog!  But it has to be in order to be successful.  Any business will take a lot of your personal time.  And all the spreadsheets that I want to create about this investment takes time too.  I like spreadsheets!

OK, so this is what happened.  You already know that we have a couple, 2, 3 rental properties, so we have some experience with this.

Jerome started planning the trip to Hawaii for my 50th birthday in December of 2015.  I think that’s about when we purchased the tickets…actually, because he had some air miles and then he read that American Express would give you a huge amount of air miles if you spend a little bit of money and pay it off – our tickets to Hawaii ended up being something like $17 each.  Hard to beat that.  He researched things that we could do like a helicopter ride, things to eat, snorkeling, biking down a volcano crater, driving a windy-twisty road.  I hardly helped.  He finally asked me for some ideas, so I posted on FB to see if anyone had suggestions.  Renting a replica Porche Roadster was one suggestion that we took.  We got suggestions about where to eat.  I told him I wanted to go to a luau.

I was trying to remember what the Brady’s did while they were there.

Anyway, the time came quickly to head out on our trip to a set of islands in the dead-center of the Pacific Ocean.  Crazy that anyone even found these things.  They are not all that big.  I imagine “island fever” for lots of people who live there.

First we visited Oahu.  As we flew over the island, I noticed a cool crater that had some monuments inside.  I took note that was one place I wanted to see.
Slightly disappointed that we didn’t de-plane on the tarmac.  Slightly disappointed that no one came up to us and gave us a lei.  You could BUY a lei, but no one gave you one.  Apparently you have to arrange that with the airport before you arrive.  It’s not very Brady anymore.  

It was a lovely evening and the sun was setting on our way out of the airport.

First impressions were that Honolulu is busy and crowded, a bit dirty.  But when you are on top of Diamond Head, it looks pretty cool.  The BLUES of the ocean are amazing!  There has to be like 7 or 8 different colors of blue.  And that against the skyscrapers jutting out.  Cool.  

Be prepared.  There are a lot of homeless people that have made make-shift homes of tarps and plastic bags, shopping carts, etc.  Reminded me of NYC in the 90’s.  Oahu seems a little “depressed” as wherever we went, there seemed to be a lot of poverty or lower-middle class housing.  A lot of litter.  Don’t get me wrong, we still enjoyed ourselves by eating off food trucks (a must), snorkeling, hiking up Diamond Head, visiting the North Shore, watching surfers, watching sunsets, Punchbowl, Pearl Harbor, Dole Plantation, Polynesian Cultural Center for a luau and show (HIGHLY recommend the show), oh! and we got lei’s; 3 of them! Flowers, shells and nuts.  

We stayed at a couple of Airbnbs where we met a former Brazilian pro-surfer and also a family that have been on the island for generations.

But, not to bring the room down, it just wasn’t what I was expecting from ‘Paradise’.

We were there for almost a week and then we flew to Maui.  It’s different on Maui.  It feels more ‘vacationy’.  We joke that it takes about 20 minutes to get anywhere on the island.

We were on Maui long enough to get our rental car and find out where our Airbnb was located.  We couldn’t check-in because it was 10am and check-in time was 3pm.  So, we started driving around.  I noticed an Open House sign and said that we should take a look.  We walked through the house and were not really all that impressed.  After another couple was done talking to the realtor, we were approached.  We talked about that we were only looking, wasting some time before our room would be ready.  We told him that we own rental properties in Michigan and that it never crossed our mind but it might be interesting to have something here.  He said that he would dedicate his whole week to us, showing us some places to see if anything peaked our interest.

As we walked away, I asked Jerome “so, what do you think?”  He said “I think I would be disappointed if we didn’t get something”. eyebrow raise.

So, over the course of the next few days, in between activities, we looked at maybe 6 or 7 different condos in Kihei.  We got pre-approved and we put in an offer.

We were torn between two condos; one had a nice view of the ocean but desperately needed to be updated; the kitchen and the bathroom – the two most expensive updates.  Lots of money, lots of challenges to take care of something like that from Michigan.  The other one had a “peak-a-boo” view of the ocean, which we hadn’t even noticed until we had already put in an offer.  It had been updated in 2006 and the owner lived in Boston and rarely used it.  It was in good shape, came fully furnished and appointed.  So, we went for it.

We were able to do all of this real estate stuff remotely.  My mother tells me that is how my grandparents had to do it once in a while when they were buying their rental properties in the US when they were still living in Belgium.  But when that was happening, it was sight unseen.

It took a couple of months of e-signing things when we finally met up with our mobile notary and signed the closing papers!  Now it’s ours.  How fricking RISKY!  OMG!  We are not risk takers…until now.  It was sometime in the middle of the paperwork that I had decided to see how much money we would be left with every month after everything is paid and the outlook was not rosy.  We started working on a budget.  We need all of our tenants to pay on time, every month.  We need both of our paychecks (super risky if you know me).  If something happens, we’ll have to start selling off properties.  The only “extra” money we have coming in that isn’t budgeted is our Airbnb money from renting out two rooms in our house.  Plus whatever we make on this new condo.

We have to have an ‘On Island Agent’ that has a real estate license to take care of any emergencies.  Luckily, we have a good relationship with our realtor.  He offered to help out with stuff.  We offered him a week a year for his family at our condo.  

During our vacation on Maui, we stayed at a condo with a 180o view of the ocean.  It was an Airbnb and we enlisted the help of the woman who was the Property Manager of that place.  Then finally we had to hire a housekeeper.  Jerome had looked at a lot of websites and called a lot of places but no one ever responded.  Finally I thought of Craigslist.  I found a lot of people who were interested in being a housekeeper.  We phone interviewed about 6 ladies and really liked one of them.  Of course, she was the most expensive; twice the cost of anyone else.  We felt confident with her and since we were going to expect a lot from her, we felt the money was well worth it.  She was going to have to do an initial clean, set up the place, receive packages by the millions from Amazon, etsy, IKEA and Lowe’s.  She will also have to keep the place stocked, shop for us, keep inventory, let us know if anything is amiss and be a good communicator.

We made the Airbnb listing ‘LIVE’ on June 15.  Blocked the dates to make it so that the first available date would start on July 1.  Nearly immediately we had a booking for 2 months in January->March 2017.  Right now we are almost completely booked to the end of this year.  We have a couple of weeks open in November and a couple in December.

Our plan is to go in March 2017 to take care of a few small things like painting, backsplash, decorations/art and hopefully still have time to do some travelling around.

While we were there this year, we rented the Roadster and took it on the Road to Hana, we went to see the sunrise on the top of Mt. Haleakala and biked down, we went on a sunset sailboat ride and saw whales…and we bought a condo.

Monday, August 15, 2016

the happenings over the past year...

I have written down everything of note that has happened over the past year, and they fall under a few specific (main) categories; Milestones, Rentals, Relations, Creativity, Volunteering.

I’ll start with milestones.
Jerome turned 40!! (October 10, 2015).  We had a party with friends, family and co-workers.  You could call it our Annual Pot Luck with a twist.

I turned 50!! (April 18, 2016).  In March we went to Hawaii (5-0) for my big 5-0!  Jerome and my sisters threw me a 50th birthday party in May.  So, I pretty much had a 3 month long birthday J

I guess the next big thing that happened this year is that while in Hawaii, on Maui, we bought a condo!  We are already using it as an investment, vacation rental property on Airbnb (and other websites too, such as VRBO/HomeAway, Flipkey/TripAdvisor).  More on this in a different post.

In other Airbnb news, in 2015 we hosted 2 students.  One was from Ireland and was working as an intern at an engineering facility in Romeo and the other was from Canada and she was a third year medical student working at Crittenton Hospital.

We also have had 28 other bookings in our home since this time last year.  It seems that the biggest reasons bringing people to Romeo are weddings, visiting family and central stop between Canada and Chicago.  It’s nice to have people come and visit us, getting to know people from all over and it’s also nice to have the extra money.  Airbnb brings money into the area as the people that come and stay with us typically ask us where they can eat and shop.  Support local businesses.

Since we’ve started (July 2013), we’ve had 58 bookings which included hosting 4 international students.  Other than the students, we’ve had 6 return guests.  Mom says that we must be doing something right otherwise they wouldn’t come back.  We have also finally convinced my sister to list her place in Sagamore Beach, MA on Airbnb.  She started in February and the last time I looked, she’s had 10 reviews.

We still have our three rental properties that come with their own little dramas…maybe I’ll elaborate in a different post.

Family and relations; we’ve had the French invasion since November of last year starting with cousin Noemie.  Then Jerome’s brother, SIL and kids, finally last month it was Jerome’s sister, BIL and daughter.  We’ve also had my sisters at different times this year, including my birthday party.

Mom’s been in and out of the hospital and re-hab.  After putting a down-payment on a place at a luxury senior living unit, she decided she’d rather stay in her home.  We have cashed in her Long Term Care Insurance and so she now has aides that come twice a day, seven days a week – except the evenings that my brother comes and cooks her dinner (3x a week).  The LTCI will likely last her the rest of her life – smart investment (note to self).  I still take her to her doctor appointments and have been taking care of her finances/bills for nearly a year.

My favorite cousin/niece has decided that she wanted to end her long distance relationship with a boy she met while visiting family in Belgium.  She moved to Belgium last month and I’m afraid I’ll rarely see her again.  Makes me sad.  But as long as she’s happy.  Our kitties are sad as well since she was becoming our primary cat-sitter.

Speaking of cats, (I’m sure you were on the edge of your seat, waiting to hear) we found all the kittens homes.  Two went to one home and two went to another.  It was a little harder to find a home for Bubbles but we finally did.  I have no guarantee that she is still with the person who adopted her.  I can only hope she’s happy.  We loved Bubbles…Smokey, not so much and eventually Bubbles didn’t want to put up with Smokey’s sh!t, so there was trouble.

Creativity was another category and I have a few entries to talk about.
I had entered 15 photos into the art competition at work and 3 were chosen!  I can’t say that they were my most fantastic pics but someone liked them.  FCA had a dinner, honoring the winners where I got to meet Tyree Guyton, founder of the Heidelberg Project in Detroit.  I was gushing all over him.  He didn’t even notice, I’m sure.  The art pieces will now go on tour for the next 2 years.  They will be displayed at different FCA (Chrysler) facilities.  Right now they are here, at CTC.

At the end of the year last year, our suite at work had a pot luck.  I suggested a “decorate your door” competition which got totally upgraded to “decorate a conference room”.  I got a large conference room to decorate.  As much as I thought I would win with my “Winter Wonderland”, I was totally “upset” by the “Grinch that stole Christmas” room.  It was a bummer to say the least but I guess ‘Kitsch’ wins over ‘Class’ these days…which hopefully won’t be repeated in November (elections).

My wreath making workshops were a big hit last year, completely due to my husband who apparently is my Agent.  We went to an open house of a local landscaping/gift shop/event barn and when we were talking with the event coordinator, my husband really sold her on my wreath classes.  They were so popular; we ended up having 3 at the #eventsinthebarn which also spun off another in-home workshop + one at my own home.  I made so much money that I had to pay employment taxes as though I worked for Heritage Oaks.  We are starting to shop for old bulbs right now so we will have enough to have another workshop at Heritage Oaks this year.

Finally, Volunteering.  FCA (Chrysler) allows each employee; contract or direct to volunteer 18 work hours to charity.  I have been the key person in my group to schedule team volunteer activities for the past two years.  This year my hours went mostly to Meals on Wheels for Auburn Hills.  I volunteered during lunchtime, twice a month to deliver to 8-10 senior citizens or shut-ins.  I only had enough hours to do this for the first few months.  I wanted to keep some of my hours so that I could also attend the team activities.  This year our team activities included the Flint Water Crisis, where we passed out bottled water, water test kits, filters and recycling bags.  Our team also stopped to have lunch in Flint, so as to boost the local economy.
Another activity close to my heart is the lake clean-ups.  As a team, we cleaned Lake 16 at Orion Oaks and we also cleaned Buhl Lake at Addison Oaks.

A sort of ironic thing happened this year regarding the whole volunteer activities and had to do with our PLM (Performance & Leadership Management) a.k.a. Goals (which I hate…I think I’ve talked about this before).  One of the Vice Presidents of Powertrain made it his goal this year to have 100% Powertrain participation in a volunteer activity.  He even made it into a Scorecard metric.  Forced volunteerism.  Blows my mind.

blogs and pregnant nieces...

An old friend of mine just contacted me over FB messenger asking about the checkers I painted on one wall in one of my bedrooms many years ago.  She wants to share it with her cousin – hopefully so that the cousin has an idea how something like that looks…So, I opened my blog to send her the links of the progress.  That’s when I noticed that it’s almost been a year to.the.day that I have updated my blog.

So, here’s a post about some things that have happened recently, such as this weekend.

One of my two pregnant nieces had their baby shower on Saturday.  It was held at her mom’s house, which used to also be my brother’s house.  Even though we’ve been there a couple of times since the divorce and have also met up with our old sister-in-law, it is still a little weird to be there.  Everywhere I look, I see my brother’s handiwork.  But I also see her very colorful decorating style.  It’s such a nice place – somewhere you’d just like to ‘be’ to look at all the pretty things.

It was nice to see her side of the family too.  It’s been since my sister-in-law’s father passed away in December of 2012 since we’ve all seen each other.  It was nice to see her mom, who seems to be doing well, but frail.  That’s sad.  I hate that that happens.

The other notable thing that happened, one of my two pregnant nieces had their baby this morning.  1:30am.  I was sent a picture and he is adorable.  A boy; Parker Simon.  He was 7lbs. 14oz.  Born in a birthing pool at their home.  Hippies. 😀