Saturday, April 21, 2012

Harley Girl May 8, 2008-April 19, 2012

 My Dearest Baby Girl,

As I sit here to write about you, I just realized that this is going to be my first blog post without you by my side or under my feet. All I can do is look around my place and see all of your favorite spots empty.  I knew that this day would eventually come, but I had no idea it would come so soon. Even when you were first diagnosed with Lymphoma I was reminded of your precious mortality but found comfort in your unbelievable courage and resolve.

You were such a big part of my life Baby Girl, everything I did revolved around you. My schedule, what kind of car I bought or the place I lived in was built around us not just me.  My only regret is that we didn’t find each other sooner. Our four-year anniversary was just a couple of weeks away but you had other places that you needed to go to. A place where you can find peace, free of pain, free of chemotherapy, free to run around in knee high grass that you can push your nose and face through. You always loved the way overgrown grass would brush up against your face.

We went through so much in such a short period of time. You were my first dog and you were so very patient with me as we got to know each other, I am so sorry for the times when I was mean to you, I simply did not know any better.  I always hear people say that dogs have short-term memories and don’t hold grudges. I disagree, I think dogs have perfect memories; they never forget they simply always forgive.

In all of the thousands of walks we must have been on, never, ever was it a chore for me. No matter how early or how late, walking with you was something I always looked forward to.  I am trying to keep myself busy, love… but it’s so hard. Just yesterday I finally got some curtains for our room so the lights from the parking garage wouldn’t shine so brightly through the windows at night…I installed them as soon as I got home and wished that I had taken longer. My mornings and nights are so empty without you.  Coming home and sliding my key in the front door without hearing you on the other side is a silence that crushes my spirit. Every move I make I await your reaction, every time I grab my car keys I wait for you to run to me, every time I go to the kitchen to get something to eat, when I turn around you are not there anymore and I miss you so very much.

All I can do is try to look back on how greatly you touched my life and how you have forever changed me. As of right now any laugh or smile that I can muster is anchored by the weight of losing you.  I have to let myself grieve and hope for the time when my days are no longer filled with your absence. Your paw prints are all over my heart and I will never forget you. Thank you for blessing me with our time together, however brief. I love you so much Harley Girl, until we walk together again.

I will love you always,


Monday, April 16, 2012

Great time to buy, bad time to qualify.

I am convinced that, 5 years from now I, along with a lot of other folks out there will look back at 2011 thru 2012 and want to give myself a swift kick in the (you know what) for not taking advantage of today’s still semi-distressed housing market.

Houses that ballooned to near 7 figure prices in very modest neighborhoods can now be purchased for less than half of what they commanded during the boom years. I’ve heard and read many times over of investment firms pooling together hundreds of millions of dollars in special funds designed to buy up residential properties by the hundreds, and why not? If you’ve got the cash you can purchase a “move –in” ready home and rent it out at a profit every month.

To give you an example: I recently came across a bank owned 1 bedroom townhome in a decent area in the northwest San Fernando Valley with a garage, balcony and in unit washer/dryer for sale for $69,000. Do the math with the minimum FHA requirement of 3.5% down along with a $199/mos in home owners association dues your mortgage would be in the $700 a month range with a cash outlay of only $3000. A place like that can easily garner between $900-$1100 a month giving you instant positive cash flow, while capturing appreciation in value and getting the mortgage interest tax deduction on your tax return.

Sounds easy, if you’re lucky enough to be sitting on piles of cash or if your credit score and history are pristine. Once upon a time all you needed was a pulse to qualify for a home loan, now it seems like the only thing banks haven’t done to measure your credit worthiness is to draw blood and urine samples. Getting a home loan approved nowadays takes not only having all of your ducks in a row; you need to have the right kind of ducks as well. Here are some important factors you need to know before you start looking for that 3-bedroom diamond in the rough.

•A FICO credit score of 764. Not only is this higher than the average score for approved loans as recently as November, it's far beyond the 620-640 FICOs that Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac once considered the minimum for a conventional prime mortgage. It's also well above the median FICO score nationwide, which is currently 711, according to the Fair Isaac Corp, developer of the score.

•A loan-to-value (LTV) ratio of 78%, signifying a down payment of 22%. This is higher than even the controversial minimum of 20% proposed last year by Obama administration financial regulatory officials who were seeking a standard for "safe" loans offering the lowest available rates and best terms.

•Debt-to-income ratios of 21% for housing expenses, 34% for total household monthly debt.

How about the profiles of people who applied for conventional loans to buy a house but were rejected or didn't get to closing? By historical standards, they were a fairly impressive group on average as well, with 732 FICO scores, 19% down payments and debt-to-income ratios of 24% (housing costs) and 41% (total debt).
Homeowners who refinanced existing conventional loans had the best profiles of all: average 770 FICOs, 65% LTVs indicating 35% equity stakes, and debt-to-income ratios of 22% housing and 32% total debt.

There is an alternative thought process out there. One could always try to qualify for the previously mentioned FHA (Federal Housing Administration government sponsored loan) which lowers its standards in an effort to make “The American Dream” more equitable. And, remember these are just averages, if you are in the ballpark of some of these impressive figures and standards you still have a good chance of qualifying since each bank or lending institution has their own standards to adhere to as well.

Sunday, April 8, 2012

3 really cool cars for under 20 grand

For years now myself along with a couple of fellow gear heads have been exchanging, mostly via text-message... random “Which would you rather have?” car questions in an attempt to pass time during the day or when prompted by seeing a car on the road that catches our eye. The comparisons would run the gamut from the more obvious exotics like "What would you rather have a Porsche 911 Turbo or an Audi R8 V10?" to "A Ford Focus SVT or a Honda Civic SI?

With every comparison the same 3 standards would typically apply:

1.Cool Factor- how the car looks, the originality of the styling and how well it ages. There are certain models that come out every now and again that have the rare ability to capture both present day design along with combining pedigree and classic sensibility that can make the look of a particular car timeless.

2.Performance- it’s not just a number. Too much horsepower is rarely something to complain about, but there’s a lot more to the overall performance of a car than just raw power. How a car harnesses that power is just as important, if not more so.

3.Emotion- forgive me if this comes off as overly dramatic, but for the true “car guys” out there who can identify a make and model of a car at night by only looking at how the headlights are configured knows that having an emotional attachment to a car is no exaggeration. Drive a particular car for a long enough time, especially in L.A. and it becomes a part of your identity. You develop an attachment to it, how you feel when you are in it, and how you feel when you are seen in it are emotions that don’t apply to other things we use everyday. A car, in some instances can be our first impression. Here are 3 used, but very cool cars that cover all 3 standards in spades and are obtainable without having to be part of America’s top 1%.

2006 Audi S4 Sedan or Avant Station Wagon 4.2L V8 340 BHP All-wheel drive, available 6-speed manual gearbox: price range $18,834-$21,000(depending on mileage) – I have always been a big fan of Audi’s and especially the S-line models. 2006 being one of the first years when the new re-designed single A-frame grill was introduced. Audi’s famed Quattro technology that dominated the Rally circuit back in the day makes the Audi S4 the perfect car for the Junior Executive seeking performance and style, but doesn’t want to join the herd of the 3 Series Bimmer sect. It feels at home pulling up to the valet at the latest tapas bar, or for the weekend warrior driving pass cars on the side of the highway putting on chains on snow covered terrain. I personally would opt for the Avant model, which gives you more room for Rover, because what’s the point of a weekend adventure if you can’t take your dog with you?

PROS: Great performance and luxury both inside and out. Audi’s interior is second to none when it comes to luxury cars, and it shows, even on lower end models. A more subtle and grown-up feel to its BMW M3 counterpart.
CONS: V8 performance comes at a cost at the pump. Maintenance can be on the pricey side.

2002-2004 BMW M5 Sedan 4.9L V8 394 BHP rear wheel drive 6 speed manual gearbox: price range $14,700-$20,900 (depending on mileage). This car was the standard of full-sized sports sedans when it came out and still commands the same kind of respect to this day. This car was not designed for soccer moms or boy racers. It’s as serious of a sports sedan as they come, so serious in fact that it was only available in manual transmission between 2002 and 2004 and unless your last name was Schumacher you were implored by the dealership to never ever disable the traction control out of fear of hurting yourself or others.

PROS: Very roomy, sits 4 adults comfortably and has a relatively pleasant ride at normal speeds. Being seen in one gives the driver a sense of pride without the Duchebag factor that came in subsequent models.
CONS: Can be hard to find and the Interior is a little dated. Opting for the polished aluminum rather than the wood trim helps.

2005 Subaru Impreza WRX-STi-sedan 2.5L 300 BHP 4 cylinder turbo all-wheel drive 6-speed manual gearbox: price range $14,299-$16,500 (depending on mileage). This car is by far and away the most practical choice of the 3. Its signature Boxer engine does more with less and is legendarily reliable. All models come with all-wheel drive making it the perfect sports-utility vehicle without being a gas guzzling SUV. Subaru was Eco-conscience before it was trendy and the WRX is like a bull in a China Shop that cleans up after itself.

PROS: Very affordable and reliable. Good gas mileage with A LOT of bang for the buck.
CONS: Boy racer looks reminds you that you’re way too old to be wearing skinny jeans and Chuck Taylors.

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