(Ending 2008 and starting 2009 on a more personal note)
Boy, 2008 was a rough year. Not just on the real estate side. That actually didn't start off too bad... though the end of the year didn't do too well.
Nope, this year has been tough on just about every level... especially for my family, and my wife in particular.
This year started off OK. Our 2 coin laundries were not doing too bad. In Snohomish, we lost our 1 competitor, which we expected. (Sorry folks, poor equipment, a dirty interior, and poor customer service are a sure way to go out of business.) A few misteps by the competitors, like not having their equipment working for a few days, meant that habit-driven customers came to our store and received a great experience, and stayed. The business was starting to work out as planned.
So much for good news.
Early in the year, we found out my wife's father was diagnosed with a brain tumor. They operated and he went through chemotherapy. But, by later summer he was doing poorly and in the end, passed away. I am glad my wife and her brother and sister were able to go see him.
A couple of weeks after she got back, our cat... a member of our little family for almost 14 years, got sick and passed away a week or so later.
Around the same time, our smaller laundromat got a competitor in the next small town down the road. We took an immediate hit to sales. When you are getting customers from an almost 10 mile radius, it just makes sense that a store 5-6 miles closer is going to get some business. Its taken most of the year to build our business back up. Fortunately, our business models are different... we are an attended store with high customer service... they are an unattended store, and so there really isn't customer service. they do have a very nice facility, though.
And, after 5 years of owning rental property, we had to do our first 'real' eviction, complete with bringing out the sheriff. They left the house a mess, of course and the months of work fixing, cleaning, and painting sure seem wasted. Not completely, though... but it did take some time to get things back in order. That put us, and our partners, in a pickle... no rental income while the tenants didn't pay, no income while we cleaned up, and then it took a few weeks to get new rents. Lesson learned? Follow our own rules... screen tenants and stick to your criteria, if they don't pass the screen they don't get in... I don't care what their story is.
In between, the real estate market in the local area slowed down even more than I expected. I'm fairly convinced our slowdown (in King and Snohomish counties) is based as much on fear and financing as anything else. Other than the slowdown in real estate, our job market is still strong and we have more folks moving in state than are moving out. But, that doesn't sell houses or commercial properties in the short run and the result is no income and lots of outgo on the real estate side. I've been amazed at the number of folks leaving the business. But, I have a variety of business ventures... real estate being only one (though I admit its the one I like the best), so I guess as bad as it has been... its been better for me than others. Folks who depend on real estate sales for a living, especially those who never really learned out to drum up business except by chance, are really hurting.
(Somehow, I almost forgot this one.) In early December our triplex in Monroe caught fire, thanks to someone setting a travel-trailer parked next to it on fire. Happily, no one was injured and our former tenants have all found new homes. But, now its January and we are still waiting to see what we will get from the insurance company. an unpleasant surprise was to realize that this older building has "cash value" insurance which is not the same as "replacement value" insurance so we may have to fight them on it.
The year ended on another sad note. On Christmas Eve we found out that my wife's brother died of carbon monoxide poisoning in Wyoming. She and her sister have headed out to take care of things for their mom. The days between XMas and New Years were spent handling arrangements, figuring out flights and all that fun stuff.
Mixed in were a variety of frustrations and hassles, ranging from record snow-storms to lost business keys. All-in-all, my wife and I are quite glad this year ended. We are looking forward to a different experience in 2009.
I'm busy looking for positive signs and have so far found at least a few.
- We found the lost keys (a bigger deal than you might thing).
- A lost Christmas order, that was supposed to arrive in November, magically appeared in our mail on New Years eve.
- The snow has melted and the roads are clear.
- I've gotten several new leads and am scheduled to show a commercial property to a client coming up from California on Monday.
Go 2009! Good riddance 2008!
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Jason Hershey, Designated Broker
Tellus Real Estate Solutions, LLC
PO Box 1113
Duvall, WA 98019
Office: (877) 413-7325
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