Parents, Teach Your Children Well

Parents, Teach Your Children Well

I was thinking about an old Crosby, Still, Nash and Young song today while doing a little property management maintenance.  The song, “Teach your children” kept running through my mind.  Why?  Two reasons.

One, the house under our care has four college students in it.  They don’t know anything about life andTeenager taking care of themselves. They don’t know how to change a light bulb, use a rotary dimmer, mow the grass, and a host of other things.  It’s stunning.  I have a great deal of dread for them if they leave the classroom and don’t end up in their chosen profession right away.  They will starve.

Second, we had an issue with the washer there.  So, I decided to replace it.  Before Thanksgiving, I bought a washer and dryer and had them delivered.  The day after Thanksgiving the company delivered them, and I received a call.  The delivery man (an early 20 something) decided they wouldn’t fit in the house.  Really?  I asked my son, “Did they measure everything?”  “Yes.”  “What are the dimensions of the units?”  He gave them to me.  “What are the door and opening dimensions?”  He gave them to me.  It seemed reasonable that they wouldn’t fit.  They took them back to the store.

I was out of town so I couldn’t confirm anything.  When I returned, I went to the house, measured everything and then went to Home Depot to measure the appliances.  The dryer would be a squeeze, but the washer would fit.  There was a catch though.  You had to put the washer on the basement landing, pull the bottom out until it was lying flat on its side and then slide it down the stairs.  It went right in.

When I went back to Home Depot to pick up my appliances, I learned they had sent them back to the factory.  Geeze!  I was only out of town for 5 days.  They reordered them and asked when I would like the delivery.  I said, “Never.”  “Why?”  I told them their deliverymen had no vision.  They were victims of functional fixedness.  They could only see one way to deliver an appliance.  This appliance delivery was going to take finesse.  They didn’t have any.

Once, I traveled 4 hours to reset a GFI receptacle for one of my tenants in the Tidewater area.  I told him (a 20 something student) how to reset it, and he was sure it wasn’t that.  I also promised him that if I drove to Virginia Beach and reset a breaker or receptacle, I was not going to be happy.  I did, and I wasn’t.  My maintenance guy took over those kinds of calls shortly thereafter, but it made me wonder, “What do kids learn today while they are with their parents?”

Changing a light bulb should be home education 101.  Resetting a GFI breaker may be more advanced, but barely.  Tracking down where a leak is only takes a set of eyes and a little snooping.  Mowing the grass only takes a decent mower and a little energy.  Moms and Dads, teach your children well.  One day, somebody else will have to deal with them.  I did tell the boys in Virginia Beach to never call me again unless the house burnt down.  I explained to them that I am not their dad or mom, and I really don’t care if their bathroom receptacle works if they can’t push a button.  They never called again.

Parents, teach your children well.  Their landlord doesn’t care if they are on Broadway, or if they can defuse a bomb or they can create a fossil fuel free rocket that will take men to the moon.  He/she does care if they can turn a rotary dimmer and cause the lights to come on, and they know not to put chicken bones in the food disposal.

Crosby, Stills, Nash and Young


Live, love and laugh, and eat dessert first.

Live, love and laugh, and eat dessert first. 

We have a tradition at the Cooper house that goes way back.  Throughout my entire adult life, I have Eat Cakealways eaten dessert first.  My philosophy?  Life is short, eat dessert first.  We did eventually pare that down to special events such as birthdays, holidays, graduations and such, but the principle still remains the same.

Don’t put off til “someday” the things in life that you would love to do.  Sometimes, someday never gets here.  When my boys were small, I wanted them to feel the sensation of flying over the open ocean.  So, we took off for St. Thomas so they could have that sensation.  When they studied Spanish, we went to Puerta Vallarta where everyone spoke Spanish.  It’s the same principle.  I wanted them to experience life first hand.

Life is too short to put things off.  Do what you’ve always wanted to do with no regrets.  No one will care how many weekends you worked when it’s all over.  They won’t care how many awards you won.  They won’t care that you were a top producer.  They will appreciate how you squeezed every drop out of life, and that might just turn their envy into action.  Live, love and laugh, and eat dessert first.

Don’t let your Christmas decorations burn your house down!

Don’t let your Christmas decorations burn your house down!

It’s that time of year where lights fill neighborhoods; flashing, flickering and glowing everywhere.  It’s Christmas lightsbeautiful.  Ironically, Christmas lights can reveal electrical problems with your home, or they can create them.  So far this season, we’ve answered two service calls related to Christmas lights.

The first one came in with this description:  Half of the lights and receptacles were no longer working and the homeowner could not find the cause.  The cause?  The cause was a couple dozen interior styled extension cords plugged together and lying on the ground outside.  The cords were exposed to water every time it rained.  They were plugged into an exterior receptacle that was GFI projected.  It tripped early on and continued to trip every time it was reset.

Exterior lights need to be on GFI protected circuits, but the cords that connect to the strings of light should also be rated for exterior use. Where the male and female cord ends plug together should also be weatherproof.

The second call had this description:  All of the lights in the house do not work any longer.  The cause?  More Christmas lights than the circuitry could handle.  This was an older home with an exterior panel.  Electric ShockThe homeowner had so many lights plugged in that it was blowing his 30 amp fuse.  Finally, it melted his fuse base.  The fuse fell out and all of his lights that were on the same fuse went out

The solution was to pull the old fuse box off the wall and replace it with a small sub-panel.  A breaker replaced the fuse and the breaker size was reduced to the correct size to avoid creating a fire hazard.  The former circuit was a 30 amp single phase circuit.  It was 100% too big.  The new circuit was a 15 amp circuit.  It is no longer safe to put the Christmas lights on that circuit.  To make sure the homeowner didn’t try, we removed the exterior receptacle that was non-weatherproof.

Christmas lights are beautiful, and they do inspire a warm fuzzy feeling this time of year.  It’s important to make sure your electrical service is capable of handling the extra load.  Also, make sure any exterior wiring or lights are appropriate for a wet environment. That will mean they are controlled by a GFI circuit and have weatherproof cords and junctions.

On a side note, emergency electrical service calls are very expensive.  Save yourself the expense and the aggravation by doing your decorating safetly.

Buying a Foreclosure in Winchester, VA

Buying a Foreclosure in Winchester, VA

If you’re thinking about buying a foreclosure in Winchester VA, there are certain things you should know.  Foreclosures can be great buys, and many of them are listed at bargain prices.  But, and there is always a but, foreclosure purchases do have characteristics that aren’t always like fair market sales.

  • A foreclosure becomes known as an REO (real estate owned) once the homeowner Foreclosure Signhas lost it and the lender has taken control of it. Most consumers don’t know the difference, so “foreclosure” is often used to avoid confusion.
  • A foreclosure is typically sold “as-is”.  That may mean that some repairs will NOT be made.  Lenders will usually take care of any problems that could be considered a hazard.  For instance, an electrical meter has been tampered with and someone could stick his hand inside of it and get electrocuted.  Water, air, mold, heating and structural issues also come to mind when considering repairs that are hazardous.  They may end up being negotiated.
  • Lenders really don’t care who you are.  They will not discriminate against you for any reason.  They view you from data on a piece of paper as a potential buyer who they will never see, hear from or get to know.  All they want to know is, “Can you buy the property?”  If they seem like they are being hard to get along with, it’s not personal.  When a bank’s asset manager has 200 files sitting on his desk, he doesn’t have time to discriminate.
  • Banks who are trying to liquidate their REOs are not like a seller who has to sell.  You can’t demand things from them.  Expecting the same level of response time, offerings of closing costs or just about anything else is more than likely going to frustrate you.  If you start demanding things during the negotiations, they will just say, Banker“Next.”
  • Threatening a bank with legal action because they are not responding to your demands will not win their favor, approval or respect.  Again, their response will be, “Next.”
  • When you buy a foreclosure, you normally buy caveat emptor.  Buyer beware.  That doesn’t mean that all foreclosures are dumps in terrible condition.  It can be quite the opposite.  A bank in California may not have a clue what a house in Winchester, VA looks like.  So, they can’t afford to make any disclosures or promises about a property they will never see.  You buy at your own risk.
  • Some banks will work with you on closing costs and some will not.
  • Banks may charge you a daily per diem if for some reason you cannot close on time.  I’ve seen it go up to $150 a day.  It’s best to have all of your paperwork ready, as well as your loan approval done on time.  Make sure you’re ready to get busy once the bank agrees to your offer to purchase.  You should already be pre-qualified for a loan before you start.  It’s better to be pre-approved.
  • The less complicated your contract is, the better chance you have of getting the property.  Adding a bunch of contingencies or conditions only makes the next contract more attractive, and banks will gladly accept a pile of contracts before they make a decision.  Keep it simple.  Some things are unavoidable like a final loan approval, but you can skip some contingencies.  Talk to your Cornerstone agent.

Don’t give up on foreclosures because they’re more work.  A foreclosure might be the buy of a lifetime.  It takes patience and understanding, and when you’re ready to buy a Winchester VA foreclosure, give your Cornerstone agent a call.