Sunday, September 14, 2014

Ants! Ants!! Ants All Over The Place

Argentine Ants Are Everywhere This Year

This is the worst year for ants in the 10 years I've lived here. Everybody is suffering. They're in the sink in the kitchen, they're on the counter in the bathroom, they're on you if you sit on the couch.  They crawl up your arms when you're trying to sleep in bed.

Worst of all, you can't get rid of them. The ant stakes don't work, the ant baits don't work, even the sprays are only a temporary solution. I've read they're called "Argentine Ants." That means they'll eat anything, not just sweets or fats or proteins.


Photo thanks to Morguefile.com

Ant Horror Stories

The worst story I've heard is a family taking turns in shifts helping a family member in the hospital who just had an operation on her throat. The ants come into the hospital and get in the throat wound choking her. Someone has to be there 24 hours a day to remove the ants by hand.  The ants are tiny and not very visible from a distance until there are dozens of them. The nurses are taking care of too many people to devote themselves to just one patient, which is what it takes.

A minor ant mishap of my own was going into the kitchen at night to get a drink of water and filling a glass that looked clean (I live alone). I took a big gulp and felt a burning in my mouth and throat like I'd swallowed whiskey. I knew at once it was ants. I'd had 7-up earlier in the evening and had not rinsed out the glass.

A friend told me her ant story. She's been putting off going to the hair dresser because of the heat. It's been in the 90's for quite a while. So one day she styled her hair differently using a lot of gel to keep it in place. During the night she felt something in her hair. When she turned on the light she saw the whole headboard was black with ants. They'd come for the gel in her hair.

What the Ants are After

These ants want sugar for energy food, but protein for their queens. Argentine ants have several queens to a nest, according to what I read. Each queen can live up to twenty years!

How I Got Rid Of Argentine Ants

In a word, Borax. It's cheap and easy to find. My grocery store carries it with the laundry soaps.

Photo thanks to morgue file.com


Before resorting to Borax I tried everything Home Depot had. No joy. Across the street from my Home Depot is a Walgreens so I tried everything they had. Nada.

Then came the night I drank the glass full of ants and I looked in my own linen closet.  There were two boxes of Borax. I grabbed a box, tore open the lid and tried neatly placing a thin line of powder against the skirting of the house. That lasted for one box. My back got tired bending down for 60 feet of house.

The second box I just shook the stuff out, then swept it against the house afterward. Not tidy, but it worked. So I went to the store for two more boxes.




Hurrah! No More Ants.

Success wasn't instant, but later the same day I noticed a difference. The next day was even better. 

The day the ants were gone came without being noticed because it was so gradual. I could put down cat food without it being covered in ants minutes later. One day the ants were everywhere, then there wasn't a single one.  I could leave dirty dishes in the sink.

Something that Helped While Waiting for The Ants to Go Away

Because having bugs crawling all over you is disturbing, I needed something immediately to help while the Borax was doing its job. Chalk.

Regular chalkboard chalk works pretty well, but even better is insecticide chalk.



I don't know of any stores where it is sold.  I bought it at the flea market for 50 cents a pack. I shared it with my friend with the hair gel experience.

Chalk doesn't kill the ants, just deters them from crossing it.


I put it around the rungs of chairs. It let me eat in peace, but didn't keep the ants from crawling up my feet and legs if I put my feet down on the floor.

I noticed when I went to the bank they were trying a similar maneuver  with aluminum foil under furniture in the waiting area. I was too shy to ask if it worked.

You Can Win The Battle With The Ants

Trust me, Borax works when nothing else will.  

According to what I've read, the ants are seasonal. They infest homes from March to October. I hope they leave in October so I can sweep up all that white stuff around my house.

Best of luck to you in vanquishing your ant army.


Tuesday, September 9, 2014

WALL STREET JOURNAL RECOGNIZES MOBILE HOME LIVING

AUGUST 7, 2014 WALL STREET JOURNAL PUBLISHED A FEATURE STORY ON  MOBILE HOME OWNERS

Adam Bonislowski wrote a landmark article in the Wall Street Journal. 

Mr. Bonislowski focused on only one park, Paradise Cove in Malibu, California.
Paradise Cove has always been a spot for movie and TV folk.  A nearby park, Limerick Cove, has never had that distinction. The space rents are the same, the price of homes much less.

 The WSJ article said Mathew McConaghey lived there recently and sold his place for $2.55 million. This is not the experience most mobile home owners have when they go to sell their coaches. The built-in risk is that a mobile home will not sell, or will sell for much less than what is owed. Some of there reasons are:

 A) funding has dried up. 

A few years ago mobile homes could be financed at attractive rates so long as the price was over $80,000. The effect was that all mobile homes were selling for $80,000 or more.  When that ended and mobile homes could only be bought cash, prices dropped.

In the park I live in homes that were bought a few years ago for $200,000 are selling now for $70,000. The owners cannot afford to move.

B) Space rents dramatically increase.

In 1968 there was a Federal mobile home law that restricted owners of Mobile Home Parks to an annual rate increase of 1% or less. This was to protect the elderly who sold their real estate to buy mobile homes so they could live on their savings and social security income for the rest of their lives. This law was reversed with many of its protections in 1998.  The oldest seniors lost their homes because their savings were exhausted and their social security was so low.

When there is a glut of homes for sale, no financing for older units, and high space rents, prices of mobile homes drop to the bottom. People having to move in a hurry donate them to their church or give them away to anyone who will pay outstanding space rent.

C) Other Major Changes

When something major changes like water and garbage, or utilities are charged on top of rent when it was formerly included, will trigger a drop in home sales prices.

So what would make 30 year-old mobile homes suddenly be worth millions? Movie stars moving in next door. If this is likely where you live, then yes, the value of your mobile home purchase will increase.

A quote from the WSJ interview with Mr. Su, said that in the long term values of well-built manufactured properties tend to move in line with the broader real estate market.

This is not my experience or that of buyers in ordinary parks where the rent is only $1500 a month or less. For us the value of a well-built mobile home follows the market of used cars. They are, after all, licensed as vehicles, although by a division of HUD.  We used to get stickers to put on license plates attached to our houses, just like cars. Here's a photo I took of mine.




Now we only get a document to keep.



Which brings up an important point the WSJ failed to mention. Mobile home owners often don't pay property tax. On a $2 million or $3 million home this would be substantial. Mobile homes pay the license fee each year, like a car, and only the land owner has to pay property taxes. There are exceptions. New buyers can choose if they want to be listed as "real estate" and be taxed by property taxes or pay license fees. On a new mobile home the license fees might well be higher than property taxes.

As you can see from my registration document the fees for a year are $79.00, Mathew McConaghey would have paid something similar because the houses in Paradise Cove are about the same age.

If the Wall Street Journal is going to cover Mobile Homes they need to connect with typical, or even luxurious mobile home parks, not just a very special park overlooking the ocean in Malibu with homes owned by movie stars and use it as a standard. It's not.

Monday, September 1, 2014

Plan B - I Decide to Rent One of The Bedrooms

light bulb moment 

Renting a Room---The Concept

As a concept, it makes sense. This is a two bedroom house, I only use one bedroom. The other bedroom has a big walk-in closet, a private bathroom and a nearly private entrance. 

What could be easier? I took photos, posted them to Craigslist with the rental amount, conditions of renting (no smoking, drinking, drugs, etc.) and the location.

People Called

There was great response to the ad for a private room with its own bath for cheap rent.

I believed I could screen for the ideal tenant intuitively over the phone. Most people who called wouldn't have worked out, like the lady with two cats, multiple health problems and no job.

Neither would the lady whose son called saying he was looking for a room for his mom. I talked with her. She was from New York, wanted additional services, and seemed a little pushy. I told her why I didn't think it would work out for her. She was outraged and yelled at me.



People Came

There were people who wanted to see the room, so I offered to show it.

One that stands out is the woman who couldn't find the park. She called from her cell phone every few minutes giving her location on the street in front of the park.  I would respond that she was too far north, or too far south.

The buildings along the street are numbered. If the numbers are too high, go the other direction, if they are too low, turn around so they go up. If the number is just right, you're there.

After an hour of going up and down she finally found the park. She took one look at all the little houses that resemble each other,  the short tangle of streets and called saying she was giving up. She sounded nice. I'm sorry I didn't get to meet her.

Then a man came to see the room with a friend. He said he never drank, smoked or used illegal drugs. He said he had a steady income. His friend peeled off several hundred dollar bills, dropped them on the table, and I said, "I'll write you a receipt."


Wrong Answer

What I should have said is: "Here are the rules of the Park. Here is the background questionnaire for you to fill out. I'll call you within the next 3 days after I check your references to let you know if the room is yours." But I didn't.

He moved in the next day. In no time the man who told me he never drank was coming home drunk in a taxi, banging on the door to be let in because he could not find the keyhole with his key.

Plan B Declared a Failure

The failure was not merely the wrong tenant, it was wrong architecture. What I didn't know until someone was living in that room is that the second bathroom shares a very thin wall with that room. For some reason bathroom sounds seemed amplified as though broadcast through a sound system into the adjacent room, every trickle, flush or fart barely muted by 24 hour TV.   While this is embarrassing enough during the day, it was deeply disturbing in the middle of the night.

We agreed that the arrangement was not working out. He moved, and I refunded the rent paid but not used.

Protecting the People who Live in the Park

Park living is complicated. The Park Owner and Management are responsible for the safety and well-being of everyone living there. This is impossible if people move in management doesn't know about, or if not all occupants meet the guidelines in the Park Rental Agreement.

The Park itself must conform to many laws. This is an impossible task if they aren't informed of everyone living there. Since ignorance is no excuse before the law, Park Owners must use constant vigilance so they don't violate the laws protecting residents of mobile home parks.

So I failed as a resident by not screening my renter or informing the park in advance of his moving in. I don't plan to do this again.





Wednesday, April 30, 2014

Selling the House IS No Solution

What you can buy with the proceeds of a sale is so much less than what you are leaving.


My strongest reaction facing infinite 11% or higher rent increases every year was to sell the house and buy something else, something on land that I own. I looked at a map, did some Googling, called a few realtors and started looking at houses.  Besides stick-built houses there are mobile homes for sale sitting on their own land. In fact less than 50 miles from where I live there are several mobile home parks where the residents own the land.

Seven Hills Members Club in Hemet is one such. A Youtube walk through of one of their houses
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=6ugfcC1vn1Y from 2011, no price given.


So I checked recent ads (April 2014). These houses sell for $140,000 to $250,000. Too rich for me, alas.

However, in the area there were mobile homes on land I could afford. I will not name the park, but the house I walked through had security bars on all the windows, the steel security front door had been jimmied and hung ajar. I didn't want to live there.

Some of the other "owner owned" mobile homes in resident-ownership parks had been bought up by a few individuals and were being rented out. Attempts to discourage or stop the practice had resulted in lawsuits with legal fees driving up the association dues to the middle 3 figures. The large numbers of tenant occupied mobile homes had resulted in increased crime in the area, a decline in property maintenance, and in general a lowering of the desirability of living in such a place.

Moving to the country


Another option was moving away from a city into rural areas where putting a mobile home on land is commonplace.

I viewed this house in Lake Isabella, 4 hours away from where I live now.


There was serious blight in the area as a whole, no shopping nearby. Were there hospitals or doctors? I didn't see any. People warned me away from the downtown area due to crime and drugs.

Meanwhile, people viewing my  home were not eager buyers. I was going to have to find a Plan B.
















Monday, November 25, 2013

When Space Rent Goes Up A Lot


RENT NOTICE HYSTERIA

We all agree mobile him park owners have a right to income on their investment.  Mobile home buyers also have a right to enjoyment of their investment, living in their own home.

In parks for seniors 55+ most of the residents live on fixed incomes, particularly those over 90. It isn't unusual for those closing in on the century mark to have outlived their savings and have social security $700 or less a month. If their space rent goes up to $500 a month or more, you see the problem there.

Additionally, elder mobile home owners may have occupied their home for 30 or 40 years with modest rent increases of 1% a year or less in keeping with the 1968 act providing for senior mobile home parks. This was changed in 1998 allowing mobile home park owners to raise rents with a 90 day notice.

An example would be the mobile home park where I live where rents were seldom increased until 2012 when a new manager took over. Since then rents on my space have been raised $100 a month in two $50 increases.

For the seniors living here 30 years it will be hard for them to move. Their choices are limited to paying, moving, having the coach moved out.

WHAT TO DO

Check your state laws regarding tenant law. There is a national law pamphlet, "Mobile Home Residency Law" for each year. There may be help there.  Also check for City Ordinances regarding rents. A list of California cities with mobile home rent restrictions is here. They have saved some people. In Calistoga California and other places City Ordinances have protected mobile home owners from ruinous rent increases.

If you have received notices of unfair rent increases a good place to start is The Fair Housing Council in your area.

Good luck to you.





Wednesday, October 9, 2013

Mobile Home Style Landscaping

THE MANY STYLES OF MOBILE HOME LANDSCAPING

The way people express themselves decorating the exterior of their homes is distinctly different in mobile home parks compared with the yards of tract homes.  Crushed rock is a favorite mobile home yard feature replacing the lawn present in a tract house yard.
However even here there is a wide range of popular styles.

THE TROLL GARDEN CLASSIC


This is the classic mobile home park landscape design.  It is seen from north to south, east to west in every park.  You might almost say it sets the mobile home park apart from any other property style.

THE GEOMETRIC DESIGN

Replacing the Troll Garden as a favorite mobile  home landscape style is the geometric design displaying evenly spaced plants and statuary.  This is the most popular design in the park where I live.


THE BAROQUE

What keeps wandering the lanes of a mobile home park interesting is a row of predictable geometric design homefronts followed by a totally surprising, breathtakingly beautiful baroque landscape.



 
 
MINIMALIST STYLE
 

 
 
This is actually a deliberate style as mobile homes come with landscaping of some sort.  To achieve this zen-like emptiness requires vegetatation be removed and crushed rock added.
 
MORE STYLES
 
This does not exhaust the many styles of landscaping in mobile home parks.  The ingenuity of residents is inexhaustible.   A popular design elsewhere, but not in this park is the "country" style featuring old wheelbarrows, milk cans, and other items of byegone farm days.  There is no "Western" style here either with the wagon wheel a standard feature of that style.
 
Please feel free to comment in the comments section on your favorite style, or style where you live not mentioned here.  We are one.



Monday, October 7, 2013

HOW CAN YOU TELL IF IT IS A MOBILEHOME?


Can you tell a Mobile Home on land from a house built on the property?  This  double wide Mobile Home featured in http://hookedonhouses.net is an excellent example of hard-to-tell.

Not the Only One
The home in Kentucky is not the only showpiece mobile home.   

Many of the new manufactured homes are as large in square footage and with more amenities  than tract homes.  Mixed in a neighborhood it would be very hard to tell one from the other.

This home, displayed on http://inhabitat.com/green-guide-to-prefab-the-history-of-the-mobile-home-and-its-influence-on-the-modern-prefab/    is part of a series on how mobile homes have influenced modern prefab houses.  It would look right at home in any neighborhood.


Which brings up the subject of Pre Fab homes.

Modular Houses and Pre Fab
The line between mobile homes, modular homes and pre fab has been blurred forever. The sales brochure of a high-end Pre Fab home at http://Bluhomes.com extolls the steel construction saying:

"Steel provides the strength and durability required for high
performance in extreme weather conditions, including hurricane-level wind zones, heavy snow loads, high seismic zones and challenging soil and marine moisture environments."

Sound like a mobile home? This is what it looks like


So How Do You Tell If It's A Mobile Home?

You can't.