As I sit indoors, by my window, watching a freakishly out of season thunderstorm wreak untold havoc on our Los Angeles spring.... storm drains, unaccustomed to more than a sprinkling of precipitation...flooding of streets and crashing of vehicles driven by people who only understand how to drive in the sunshine here... Â I mourn the loss of my gorgeous 70 degree spring day of hiking at the LA Zoo. Â Â
As many Angelenos understand: Â Living in Los Angeles can be a love/hate relationship for certain. Â There are very few places in the US so culturally diverse, so invested in entertainment and industry that if you can't find something interesting to do here...well, you just aren't trying. Â The other side of the coin is a bit grittier, though. Â We have a lot of grime, a lot of crime... ridiculously crowded freeways where pompous drivers of high end luxury cars who tend to act as if they have some kind of "luxury immunity" to the same rules the rest of us follow, regularly collide with drivers from the other end of the spectrum, sporting low-riders, and old, jacked up cars with stolen hub-caps who cruise defiantly down the road passing a joint, and driving as one would expect... Â hmmm. Â Urban chaos, grime and crime amongst the glitter and galas of Hollywood. Â Who wouldn't love this place? Â
Alas, I have found my Mecca and Retreat: Â Griffith Park. Â I officially credit Griffith Park with the fact that I have any sanity left at all. Â As a real estate broker, even though, on the average, I would say that I put in 10-12 hours a day working on behalf of my clients, I do enjoy the "luxury" of deciding, for the most part, when those 10-12 hours will take place. Â There are many drawbacks to being in real estate: Â The long hours, the uncertainty of income, the bizarre and unexpected twists and turn of events in escrow... but being one's own boss of one's own time is a big bonus for me. Â Â
Many years ago, when I was a struggling junior agent, I learned that if one does not control one's own calendar, the calendar (and phone) control YOU. Â Exercise, fresh air (well, "sort of" fresh air..anyway), and being exposed to beauty is vitally important, in my opinion to one's success, health and sanity. Â So here's what I do:
Most mornings - anytime that I can manage it - I hike, either at one of the many trails at Griffith Park, or at the Zoo, with my camera for 1 1/2 hours. Â Almost 2 hours out of my work day - you say??? Â I can't do that! Â Oh, yes you can - you just have to insist upon it. Â Here's what I do: Â I have my cell phone, and sometimes, even, a netbook with me with my wi-fi hotspot on my telephone. Â As a small bonus, the additional weight in my back pack adds to my work out. Â Â If need be, and something terribly urgent arises, like unexpected issues with a short sale negotiator or ... Â escrow problems...etc., I can sit down, figure it out and get back to the office if need be, but usually, I can just get back to my hike. Â A small price to pay. Â And there is some kind of poetic justice about sitting amongst the beauty of nature while solving the world's problems. Â Usually, nothing happens during this 1 1/2 hours that simply cannot wait. Â So I allow myself that time.Â
During that time, I get out of myself...out of my stress, and into my creativity. Â Many, many solutions to problems come to me in this relaxed, heightened state. Â I sell more, solve more, and help more people than I could have done all clenched up, stressed out and tethered to my office. Â The zoo opens at 10:00 a.m. - so I like to be there when the gates open. Â There are very few people there... the animals are relaxed, awake and lively. Â It's an ideal time to indulge my photography hobby and get some great shots in. Â Some, by the way, I sell on the web for stock photography... not much, but a nice little stream of income for doing something that I'd be doing anyway! Â If you've never been to the LA ZOO, I'd encourage you to become a member and visit often. Â The terrain is hilly, and provides a good, solid hike. Â The foliage is dense, tropical and lovely, beyond words. Â GLAZA, the Greater Los Angeles Zoo Association has done a phenomenal job creating a wilderness wonderland with healthy, happy animals and extensive, docent-led educational programs. Â We're very fortunate, here in LA to have the Zoo. Â Â
By 11:45...I'm on my way out. Â Reluctantly. Â Back to the old grind...putting my cape back on...meeting my scheduled buyers...checking back in on my files, and saving the world for all those desperately needing real estate. Â Ah...but with a smile on my face - a song in my heart and a fervent hope to be able to return again... soon. Â Â
Just when you think that it's safe to go back in the water....
There's a new game in town.Â Mass Joinder lawsuits.Â Â According to the California Department of Justice, there have been 14 entities, including law firms and individual attorneys who have been accused of conspiring to defraud potentially millions of people nationwide with deceptive marketing surrounding their "mass joinder" lawsuits against major lenders.Â
When we read the stories that just get bigger and more disturbing daily about how major financial players - banks, who have abused the system and the trust of millions of borrowers, it's easy to get swept away in a sentiment..."We're Mad as Hell and We're Just Not Taking It Anymore!".... And that is precisely what these scumbag, bottom-feeding scam attorneys have been counting on.Â Â They bet the farm on the fact that homeowners facing foreclosure - many whom have been saving a thousand to several thousands for months, even years, per month, while neither paying rent nor paying their mortgages in default, would have a loose $2000 - $5,000 of upfront fees to throw their way, in exchange for being part of a lawsuit to, supposedly, "force the hands" of the lending institutions to offer them loan modifications.Â
It sounds logical...even admirable.Â And what borrower in todays market, when faced with foreclosure and ever-increasing imbalances of market values to loan amount ratios wouldn't want to be part of something that promises to, at last, make the bad guys pay and reduce their principal, and modify their loans to something reasonable? But that isn't what happened.Â Instead, huge upfront fees were taken, and many lost their homes anyway - all the while feeling that these "White Knight" attorneys would be in the position to overturn the foreclosures if it did happen.Â Â And that wasn't in the cards either.Â Â Of course not.Â Â The point was not really to help these homeowners.Â The point was to find yet a new and original way of extorting huge upfront fees while providing no real value.Â Â Hope for sale...Snake Oil...Call it what you wish.Â Â The end result is the same.Â www.makinghomeaffordable.gov
is a very informative site - (and not one of these "for profit" look-alike sites).Â Â I highly recommend that any homeowner who is looking for guidance, or perhaps a second opinion on a "save your home" scenario they have been presented with look here first, and run the scenario by a counselor on their hotline if they are unsure about proceeding. What this site, and the California Department of Justice, the National Association of Realtors, and, quite frankly, any of the legitimate watchdog agencies out there recommends is this:Â Â If an upfront fee is asked of you in any matter regarding loan modification or foreclosure prevention - THIS IS A RED FLAG.Â Â Scammers are notoriously good at making their products look "official", "government approved", "legitimate".Â Â It's hard to tell, even for the pros, when you are facing a scam.Â Â Please be careful out there.Â Â And don't hand over your savings to a criminal.Â Â That money is your lifeline and your chance to get back on your feet.Â Don't let a greedy, unscrupulous lawyer separate you from it.Â Â Â Kudos to the very honest, courageous and hardworking lawyers - many whom have been involved directly in bringing the bad guys to justice.Â Â But those unscrupulous attorneys who are profiteering off such a tragic, and personal financial crisis as homeowners losing their homes....I'll say it again, "Shame on You!".
For more information see:Â http://articles.latimes.com/2011/sep/25/business/la-fi-lew-20110925
Recently, I was interviewed by writer, Jason Hahn for an article on AOL's Housing Watch.Â The link to the article is found here: http://www.housingwatch.com/2010/09/29/place-named-awesometown-awesome-or-not/
It's a funny, tongue in cheek look at whether the new marketing scheme, unofficially re-naming Valencia as "Awesometown" is a good idea or not.Â Â I think it's cute - others think it's stupid.Â Each to their own.
But one recurring message that seems clear:Â Valencia has become a very popular location with those families being transferred to the Los Angeles area from other locations where the housing costs are much more affordable than LA.Â Â In the past year alone, I have worked with half a dozen relocation clients moving from locales such as Georgia, North Carolina, Arizona...Florida to name a few, and their initial reaction to both the prices and the quality of life in the neighborhoods throughout Los Angeles has been identical:Â Sticker Shock...fear...and trembling!Â Â
And who can blame them?Â Southern California experienced a near-flight to the South and Midwest during the height of the real estate market, where many families said, "enough is enough", and opted to abandon our endless sunshine and temperate climate for large, sprawling new construction homes on luxurious green rolling hills, low crime rates, good schools and minimal price tags.Â Â A recent relo-buyer I worked with left their 3200 sq. ft custom home on a landscaped acre, complete with swimming pool, tennis court and riding stables, that they sold for $289,000 and had near heart failure to learn that $289,000 would buy them a condo in LA.Â Â Â But all was not lost - fortunately with the job transfer came a cost of living adjusted salary, so they had more like $400,000 to work with.Â Â We closed on a very lovely home in Valencia.Â Yes the commute is a good 45 minutes to an hour (more in heavy traffic), but we were able to find them a neighborhood that was more like home, with green ways, lovely shopping districts, safe streets, and good schools.Â Â
So all in all...life is good in Awesometown - the perfect little hamlet commutable to LA.
We live in a country - right now - where we have economic opportunities to succeed, if we are only willing to work hard.Â Â Yes - there's a recession, but because of the service of our Armed Forces and their sacrifices over the years, the level of freedoms and opportunityÂ that have been won here are virtually unparalleled in other nations.Â Â We face constant threats to that freedom - both foreign and domestic - daily, and none of us can afford to become complacent.Â Â As our soldiers have sacrificed to bring us these freedoms, we, as citizens owe them the duty of protecting those freedoms by cherishing and insisting upon adherence to the founding principles that has made this nation strong - and free.Â
As a mother, whose son is shortly scheduled to be off to basic training in Fort Benning, I have recently been exposed - and reminded, of the core guiding principles that are the backbone of our Army, and are desperately trying to be the backbone of our Country.Â Â Sadly, with so few exposed to these daily guiding principles in our ever-liberalizing educational system, I fear that we, as a nation may soon forget why our forefathers came here to begin with.Â
The Army teaches the "Command Philosophy":Â Â
"Take care of those whom you are responsible for, lead by example and have fun"
The Seven Army Values are:
Leaders who demonstrate loyalty:
- Bear true faith and allegiance in the correct order to the Constitution, the Army, and the organization.
- Observe higher headquartersâ€™ priorities.
- Work within the system without manipulating it for personal gain.
Leaders who demonstrate devotion to duty:
- Fulfill obligationsâ€”professional, legal, and moral.
- Carry out mission requirements.
- Meet professional standards.
- Set the example.
- Comply with policies and directives.
- Continually pursue excellence.
Leaders who demonstrate respect:
- Treat people as they should be treated.
- Create a climate of fairness and equal opportunity.
- Are discreet and tactful when correcting or questioning others.
- Show concern for and make an effort to check on the safety and well-being of others.
- Are courteous.
- Donâ€™t take advantage of positions of authority.
Leaders who demonstrate selfless service:
- Put the welfare of the nation, the Army, and subordinates before their own.
- Sustain team morale.
- Share subordinatesâ€™ hardships.
- Give credit for success to others and accept responsibility for failure themselves.
Leaders who demonstrate honor:
- Live up to Army values.
- Donâ€™t lie, cheat, steal, or tolerate those actions by others.
Leaders who demonstrate integrity:
- Do what is right legally and morally.
- Possess high personal moral standards.
- Are honest in word and deed.
- Show consistently good moral judgment and behavior.
- Put being right ahead of being popular.
Leaders who demonstrate personal courage:
- Show physical and moral bravery.
- Take responsibility for decisions and actions.
- Accept responsibility for mistakes and shortcomings.
Whatever your philosophy, beliefs or perspective - I would find it difficult to understand why anyone would find fault with any of these values.Â Â Very difficult indeed.Â Â I'm proud of our Armed Forces, and it is the desire of my heart that more young people should be taught these core values, so that we might return, as a nation to the foundations of our forefathers before we find ourselves hopelessly lost.Â Â Perhaps if we remember these values, and whenever we are divided, as a people, we examine the possible solutions - and our elected officials characters -Â against these core values - perhaps we will find a common middle ground after all.Â Â
God Bless America -