Monday, December 15, 2014

People, Prison & Property

Here's a riddle for you:

Question: What do you get when you cross a notorious motorcycle gang with guns, drugs and assault?

Answer: Another Bakerson house!

That's right. And, this one had some fascinating twists and turns.

What happened? Well, I received a lead on a short sale from a realtor. We made the offer and waited, and waited, and then we waited. The banks are never in much of a hurry. After a couple of months I asked the realtor if she knew what the hold up was. She said the seller was in prison and it was difficult getting information needed to complete the sale. Did you know when a person is in prison you can't just call them up or meet for coffee? It's quite a process. Even getting messages and questions to them is slow and laborious.

Great. Slow banks and a seller in prison. This could be interesting. Anyway, the realtor got the signatures needed and we progressed nicely to closing. Only took us 7 months to get to this point.

Per the agent, the house was occupied and the occupant wanted to buy the house. At this point I had no idea why the seller was in prison or who the occupant was. Naturally, I went to meet him and find out the details of the house and the occupant to work out a deal. When I arrived the house was cluttered with double sets of everything – one set in the house and one in the garage. He told me he was moving in and finding a place for the seller's stuff.

The man was gracious enough and walked me around the house. I then noticed on the back of his belt was the name of an infamous motorcycle gang. Paraphernalia from this same club were everywhere! I furrowed my brow in thought. He told me he owns a house free and clear in Sunburst Farms and was going to free up some capital in that house to buy this one. He didn't have a job. I was skeptical. We worked up a price. But, before he signed anything he wanted to make sure he could get the cash because it was being held up in some “stupid legal issues”. I furrowed my brow again. We shook hands and I left. When I walked back to the car I saw his motorcycle in the driveway. It had two big letters “H. A.” and the numbers “666” on the gas tank. Interesting. I furrowed my brow.

Back at the office I researched the house in Sunburst Farms and found out it was owned by “BD” (Biker Dude) and there was no loan on it. He owned it free and clear. So, maybe he could get the money.

Fast forward 2 years. I am sitting at coffee with a wholesale investor. He found a couple of deals and wanted to discuss building his network and finding more deals. Being curious, I asked him if he was full-time in real estate. Nope. Part-time. His full-time job was on the Glendale SWAT team. I paused. This time I didn't furrow my brow.

Me: Are you familiar with a house on Carol Ann Way that was occupied by a biker gang member?
Him: Yes
Me: Did you shatter the front window and blow out the front door?
Him: Yes
Me: That was my house
Him (bowing his head): Sorry about that.

We laughed at his funny response. That's right! The house was compromised by the Glendale PD. 

About a week after I had walked through the house with BD, the realtor related she received a call from a lady in the neighborhood. The police had blown out the front door and seized the house. Whoa! I immediately went to the house to see it for myself. Sure enough, the front door was boarded up with plywood as was the front window which goes into the living room. There was a notice posted by the Glendale Police Department. The property was seized. Anyone wishing to enter the house must get access through the PD. I called them. They told me they had what they needed and gave me the code for the lock to get inside. The lead detective said BD was arrested and going away for a very long time. Domestic assault, weapons violations, theft, drugs, you name it. Well, there went that buyer. What a bummer. He seemed like such a nice guy.

As I walked through the house I realized we had a dilemma and it involved a bunch of motorcycle club paraphernalia and valuables. We weren't going to simply throw them away. The realtor was called. She said, "Go see BD in jail and ask him." My brother Mike and I went. We talked to him through a video monitor system at the jail and asked what we should do with his stuff. He wasn't very helpful and said he just wanted to speak to the realtor. Well, that was fun. At least it was interesting!

Information was relayed to the realtor. She called a member of the club. (Wait! How did she just have some club bigwig's phone number? This was getting crazy!) The club members said they would just go pick it up. Upon calling the Glendale PD, we heard, “Not so fast! Anything that leaves the house must be supervised by the police.” The Glendale Police met the motorcycle gang there in unmarked cars and no uniforms (per gang request) and monitored them when they removed all of BD's stuff. In fact, the first time the gang showed up to clean it they turned around and left. Why? Because the cops were there with marked cars and in uniform. Makes me wonder, “Who makes the rules?”

We fixed the front door. We fixed the front window. We sold the house without further delay. It was fun.

And THAT is real estate in my corner of the globe.

Sunday, December 7, 2014

Business Lessons from Dad

Today, December 7, is a special day. Personally. It really is. I'm much too young to recall Pearl Harbor so THAT can't be it. So what is it? What could be special? Here is a clue, it happened on the first anniversary of the Pearl Harbor attack, in 1942. My father, Ben Wuollet was born. Today would be his 72nd birthday. I could take this time and think, “Why was he taken from our midst?” Being selfish and feeling sorry for myself would be so easy. I could ask, “What could have been?” I could lament I can no longer pick up the phone to call him. But, if I could, his advice would be clear. His instruction concise. He would say, “Don't look back. You aren't going that way.” So, look forward I must. Look forward I will.

My dad was a remarkable man. He loved his family. He loved his employees. He loved life. I learned a lot from him. Oftentimes when I run into a challenge I ask myself, “What would dad say?” Being in business myself there are many times I ponder what advice he would give. And, I already know what he would say. Really, I am clear to his instruction. Simply said, I would be seeking affirmation.

He was a really cool dad. I was fortunate to work with him. I was lucky to have him for a mentor. On this, his birthday, I am writing a special edition to my blog. Those who knew him will understand. Those who worked for him will relate. And those who grew up in his house? We were the luckiest of them all! What a joyful home it was. And, he lives on in our memories, our minds and our daily decisions.

Below is a poem I wrote today. I titled it “Business Lessons from Dad”. So, read, enjoy and thanks for letting me use the word “I”, a lot, in my musings above. Actually, you didn't really let me as this is my blog. The overuse of the word is intentional. The critical writers may want to correct me and say how it could have been written differently. Too bad. I am writing a heartfelt letter, it is personal and I am sharing it with you.

This blog will be a special one
Like none other I have done
Lessons dad has taught his son
Things I use in business every day.

Many things my dad had taught
Things I should do and ought not
And which battles should be fought
We'll look at these all in a different way

So today on his birthday
I could think no better way
Then to stand up tall and say
“Thanks for lessons in my work and play!”

Employees were everything
He'd hand out checks and even sing
“Thanks for everything you bring!”
And skip to find the next person to pay

Then he'd stop and stoop to clean
Something on the floor he'd seen
So what does this really mean?
There was no job that was below his pay

“Never be less than correct”
Do not be vague, be direct
Treat everyone with respect
You'll find out that this way is okay

“Life's about relationships”
Not about wages and tips
You will learn it will eclipse
The worth of what all worldly gold does weigh

“Be on time do not be late”
Tension you will not create
By having too much on your plate
If you do this until you are grey

And, “'Good enough' never is”
Not at home or in the biz
Do your best, golly gee whiz
Another phrase that he would often say

“Do it right or not at all”
If the job were big or small
It would keep us on the ball
And never quit when we were just halfway

To the future straight ahead
As on this way of life you tread
Smile big and say instead
“Don't look back 'cause you aren't going that way”

At the end of every day
He'd ask “How was your day of play?”
“Did you have fun at work today?”
Another thing that he would always say.

Thank you dad for all you've done
Not just for me, for everyone
From, you know, your eldest son
On this your 72nd birthday

Monday, December 1, 2014

Our Occupied Vacant Home

Do you know what’s funny? Well, not funny as in humorous. Rather, funny as in unusual…at least to me. I never saw myself as a "blogger". It just happened. I had been sending emails of experiences to various people in our circles within the business. And, one individual said I should do a blog. I said, “Me? Who would care what I write?” Well, I guess candidly sharing my experiences is interesting to people. I am amazed people even read them. Being we just came off the Thanksgiving weekend, I want to express a heartfelt “Thank You!” to those who read and support my little blog.

Last month's blog was on Jumpy and his purchase of one of our houses. You know, where he began remodeling before he actually owned it. But, hey! this stuff happens. And, it all worked out and everyone was happy. Well, not so sure about the listing agent as we haven't heard from him since.

As you may have noticed, this blog is “Our Occupied Vacant Home”. So, how can it be occupied if it was vacant? We were wondering the same thing. One day one of our employees, “Scout”, was out with a youth group for a gathering. And, on his way home he drove by our house at 33rd Street and Sweetwater. It's right there in view of the 51.

For those of you from outside of Arizona you should know it is required to put “The” in front of numbered highways, “The 51”, “The 1 oh 1”, “The 2 oh 2”, “The 3 oh 3”, etc. For the record, those are state highway names, 51, 101, 202, 303, etc. Or, officially marked as SR51, SR101, SR202, SR303, etc. The “SR stands for State Route”. Since it is a “highway”, and the ones I mentioned are actually “freeways”, I wonder why the state still uses “state route”. Seriously, I do. Oh, as a family member always says, “The one-zero-one”, “The two-zero-two”, etc. to be different. I have since adopted this. Funny.

Ok, back to the house in view of the 51. As Scout drove by the house he saw an RV trailer in the front with a pickup truck. So, naturally knowing it was ours and it was vacant, he stopped. He walked up to the house and there was a couple with children unloading their stuff into the house. He said hello and asked them what they were doing. They said they rented it and were moving in. Scout called me and asked me if we rented the house. I told him no. He confirmed with them it was NOT for rent. They said they signed a lease. When Scout asked them to produce the document they said, “Oh. The guy renting it to us said he couldn't make a copy and would deliver it here to the house.” No paperwork. No proof. They were acting really strange. Something smelled fishy.

Scout called me back and relayed the above information to me. I told him I was on the way. Scout called the police. I showed up and the police were yet to arrive. I politely told them the house was not for rent. In fact, the house was for sale. They were refusing to leave. He then pulled out a printout of a Craigslist ad showing OUR house with OUR pictures and for rent at $450 with a $1,000 deposit and someone else's phone number. We told him he was scammed. Plus, rent for this house would have been $950, not $450. $450 would get you a small apartment, not a 3 bedroom 2 bath home. Then they got a little angry. 

The cops showed up. And, instead of admitting they had been scammed, they began to argue. The police asked me for proof of ownership and I pulled out the file I had fetched from my desk. In it was proof with the deed, my company name, my name and more. I produced my driver's license and the cops believed I was the owner. They asked me the obligatory questions: Is this your house? Have you ever met these people? Do you recognize this Craigslist ad? Do you recognize the phone number in the ad? Is this house for rent? My answers were: Yes. No. No. No. No.

He then turned to the “occupants” and asked if they had ever met us. They said no. He asked if they had a copy of the lease they signed. They said no. He told them they had to pack up their belongings and move as they were trespassing. Now, things got weird. The man stood up from the chair in which he was sitting and grabbed his cane. He hobbled a little and said, “I am a Vietnam vet! You cannot kick me into the streets! I signed a lease, paid the amounts and am allowed to move in!”

The friendly cops became not so friendly and said, “You have 2 choices, pack up your stuff and go or I will have you arrested. It's quite simple.” This seemed to get the fellow's attention. Finally, the woman with him said, “Let's just go. We've been scammed. I believe these guys. No more fighting.” He said, “But, where will we go? How will we get our money back?” The police politely reminded them of a very nice 5th wheel trailer in the front. And, the police will open an investigation.

They left. I got to sleep at 3:am.

And that's real estate in my corner of the globe.