Tuesday, June 27, 2006

House 3: Squatters Begone!

I stopped by the house this morning and, as I was unlocking the front door, I noticed there were sheets hanging over a window to the right of the door. Hmmm.. I didn't put those there. I opened the door and saw several things:
  • The window on the other side of the room to the backyard was open.
  • There was a red car in the backyard.
  • Through a doorway to the right, I could see a bicycle leaning against the wall and a bunch of clothes on the floor.
I closed the door, got back in my car, drove to the end of the street and called the police. Two officers showed up 50 minutes later and I met them outside the house. I told them what I saw and that the house should be empty. They went inside and were in there for about 10 minutes. They came back out with a woman and sent her on her way. They ran a check on the car in the backyard and discovered it was stolen, so they called a tow truck to come haul it away. While waiting for the tow truck to show up, the policeman suggested I run out and get some gloves to clean up the stuff inside. He also said the house looked familiar and did a worker have something stolen from here recently? I said yes, that was this house..

I ran down to a corner drug store and bought some gloves and when I got back, I took my first look inside. The squatters had set up house in the add-on room that has the window air conditioning unit. The floor was covered with clothes, about 7 backpacks, 10-15 porno magazines, and other assorted debris. The windows all had sheets hung over them, which I took down and used to bundle up the garbage.

The rest of the house was ok. It looks like they got in through the open window I saw, which was a window that doesn't really lock properly. They had some soap and shirts hanging in the bathroom and some soap in the kitchen, along with an open box of crackers and a bag with spices and various food mixes. There were a surprisingly large number of tools - wrenches, pliers, etc. I spent about 15 minutes throwing everything out. Since I was just out at the property last Tuesday, I know the squatters couldn't have been staying there very long.

The tow truck finally showed up and, since the car didn't have any wheels on it, they told me they would have to drag it off the back patio and that it might leave marks in the concrete, which I said was ok. A short while later, the owner of the car, a 2004 red Mustang, showed up. Needless to say, he was pretty dispondent over the state of the car. Turns out it was stolen 5 days prior. It took about 2 hours for the guys to haul the car away.

Before I left, I double-checked all the windows, doors, and locks. There was no vandalism at least, although there was a grease spot on the new carpet near the kitchen. I also put a padlock on the gate in the backyard. The neighbor across the street was mowing his lawn, so I went over and spoke with him. He didn't speak english very well, but I think I was able to convey that the house was supposed to be empty and if he saw anyone in it, I would appreciate it if he called me, day or night. He agreed and I gave him my business card.

Having taken care of the house, I then called my Realtor and told her the story. She thought it was pretty funny :-) Anyway, I told her to put the words "motivated seller" in the MLS listing and to drop the price $3,000. She actually reminded me of a selling tactic I learned in the past, but forgot about with all the commotion today: We upped the buyer's agent's commission from 3% to 4% and only dropped the price by $1,000. It's still a net $3,000 deduction to me, but hopefully the extra agent incentive will get some more potentials buyer through there. As Freakonomics so smartly points out, selling real estate is all about motivating the buyer's agent.

Wednesday, June 21, 2006

Prosper Loan Late

One of my four loans on Prosper is late on the payment. Right now, it's at a less than 15 days late status. Payment was due on the 16th. Interestingly, this was the loan where an early payment was made before the first month was even up, lending some credence to her claim that she intended to pay the loan off in 1 year instead of the normal 3. The borrower is rated HR, meaning High Risk and total loan amount was for $3,500 at 20.75%. My exposure here is $200. Actually, $185 if you count the principle already paid.

House 3: Checkup

I stopped by the property yesterday morning just to check on it. Everything looked OK. There were no broken windows, the window AC unit was still there. The outside porch light was on, but I left it on, figuring it may be playing a role in keeping vandals at bay. My two desk lamps were still there and the timers they are connected to were still working and set to the right time. The laundry room door was unlocked, so some potential buyers must have been through looking at the place and forgot to lock it after checking the back yard.

I also picked up some trash and newspapers in the front yard. I hate those free newspapers that get delivered each week! If you don't pick them up, you might as well stick a big VACANT sign on the lawn. In an attempt to avoid another weed incident, I also sprayed weed killer on some weeds in the front and back. The heat is killing most of them, but there were some that looked surprisingly healthy. I have no idea where they are finding water to grow.

Wednesday, June 14, 2006

House 3: Back On The Market

My agent heard from the buyer's mortgage broker today. Apparently, the reason for the delay in the loan docs was the buyer had a late payment on his credit report. He said it was the bank's fault and initially, the bank agreed. However, after further investigation, the bank changed its mind and decided it was the buyer's fault after all. That dropped his credit score and he no longer qualified for the loan. The mortgage broker says they can get it cleared up in 15 to 30 days, but I'm not going to wait that long. The house went back on the market today. If the buyer gets his loan situation straightened out before it sells to someone else, he can buy it. Otherwise, it's first come, first served.

Tuesday, June 13, 2006

House 3: Escrow Update

We were supposed to close escrow today. Actually, the original close date was last Tuesday, but we extended it a week. My agent has called the buyer's agent and has not gotten a response. She also called the buyer's mortgage broker and asked what was going on. She got the usual mortgage broker answer - "Oh, there were some problems that weren't the buyer's fault but they are all cleared up now," etc., etc. My agent then asked if we were going to close tomorrow. He said no, it would probably be next Monday. This is not acceptable. I do not want to hold this property over another weekend and I've already extended the closing date a week.

My agent is putting the property back on the market and is sending the buyer's agent a cure notice to give them three days to close or lose their earnest money.

I am so sick of lenders and/or mortgage brokers waiting until the last minute. They've had 5 weeks to get this loan ready and they haven't done anything.

Monday, June 12, 2006

House 3: Still No Buyer's Docs

We're supposed to close escrow tomorrow. As of 1:45 PM today, the escrow agent still does not have docs from the buyer's lender and no one there is returning his phone calls. This does not make me happy. I asked my agent to contact the buyer's agent and have them start pestering their lender for loan docs as well.

I did stop by the property this morning and it's still in good shape. The window AC unit has been installed. No more vandalism has been seen.

Wednesday, June 7, 2006

House 3: Sale Documents Signed

I went to the title company this afternoon to sign all the documents. There were several errors on the HUD - as expected. First, they had my agent's commission as 3% when it should be 1%. They also left out the $350 I am kicking back to the buyer for a stove to replace the one that was stolen. Then, they charged me $525 for a termite treatment. This was never mentioned to me and it is not in our contract. The escrow company charged me because the paperwork from the termite company said to bill the homeowner. They apparently meant the new home owner, since I did not authorize this and have never heard of the company. They also incorrectly charged me $325 for a home warranty. My counter-offer, which was accepted, says the buyer is to pay that. So altogether, there was $4,750 in errors in the HUD. It pays to go over these things closely.

The only other surprise was that the close of escrow date is the 13th. I thought it was the 8th. My concern there is that I have to hold on to the property over one more weekend. I may be a bit paranoid, but three break - ins over two months will do that to you. The new window AC unit is being installed today, so there is the potential for more theft. Hopefully, though, it will be ok.

Actually, I do have one more concern - the title agent said he had not yet received the loan docs for the buyer. They were supposed to arrive on Monday. I'm a bit uneasy about that.

Unfortunately, it looks like I will not be making much on this property. That's not great, but I do want to get rid of it and at least it looks like I won't be losing money. I'll post a detailed post mortem of the project after everything settles.

On an unrelated note, I saw Bruce Springsteen in concert twice last weekend - here in Phoenix on Saturday and in Los Angeles on Monday. Great shows!! And in L.A., we went to Mimi's Cafe for dinner before the show and on the way out, bumped into Steve Perry of Journey coming in. Meal in the sky keeps on turning...

Thursday, June 1, 2006

House 3: Closing Delayed - But That's Good

When I spoke with my Realtor last night, I got some good news. The appraisal on the house came back at $195,000, not $193,000 as we were expecting. And the buyer's mortgage broker says the lender is okay with that, so I don't have to drop the price as much as I thought. My agent is getting the paperwork to me so I can sign off on the new sales price.

The title company says buyer's loan docs are supposed to be in on Monday, but to be safe, we are pushing the closing date back three days to Thursday. In light of this, I'm rescheduling the appointment I had today to next Wednesday.

I forgot to mention that when I drove by the property two days ago, I noticed that it looks like the house next door is being renovated. This is good news for me - I'm hoping any vandals will be attracted to that place instead of mine.
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