Sunday, January 25, 2015

I Wish To Live Closer To Work But I Can't

downtown Los Angeles

Everyday, the freeway to downtown Los Angeles is extremely jammed with traffic.  When I was parking my car on the freeway with a million others, I was wondering why on earth we have to travel so far just to work?  Why can't all these people and I live near downtown Los Angeles?  Why is it so expensive to live in downtown unless we find an apartment in the skid row or near the skid row.  Why is there even a skid row wasting valuable real estate?  The skid row will not be allowed or even be tolerated in Hong Kong.  The government in Hong Kong will tear everything down and relocate everybody there if only there is a skid row because that's what we did with Kowloon Walled City, (The ghetto in Hong Kong and my family and I had never set foot there when it still existed.)

I can see my office from inside the plane, but I could never see  my home from inside the plane, not even the area where my home is located.  This just shows me how far away I live from where I work.  All that big huge plot of land near my work is totally wasted. It look worse than the worst third world country in the world.  Why can't the government clean up this huge area of land surrounding downtown, develop nice housing and good school for the people who work in downtown and then relocate the people who are just doing crime or sleeping around there to somewhere else, like my suburb that is farther away? Give them food or housing or whatever medical care they want in the suburb and I don't care.  The money and time I save from living closing to work is worth the more taxes spent to house the homeless and unemployed in a suburb. They don't have to work anyway so they don't have to worry about the commute. Just let the people who work and pay taxes live closer to work already.  Productivity is important to  the tax revenue of a society.

Monday, January 12, 2015

Back To Hell Fire, I Mean Corporate Ladder

After playing desperate housewife for more than one year, I'm soon going back to the previous hell fire that burnt me out.  I will soon be crawling on the LA freeway again.  My mom questioned my return to my old corporate life that I used to hate.  She said, "Are you crazy, you are like marrying the same moron all over again! You should do something that you are passionate about, that you enjoy!"  Well, I enjoy watching Korean Dramas at home but unfortunately that doesn't bring in the money. Many  people sell their souls for money and I am one of them now.  I thought I would find my new life's calling during the last year.  I thought I would  have a baby, or write the greatest Chinese Novel, or start my own consulting firm!  But it didn't happen. Those were noble goals but to actually achieve them is another matter.  My husband used to blame our infertility on the stress of my job.  Now I've sat my ass at home and watched Netflix all day long and I'm still not pregnant.  I've finally caught up with  "Downtown Abbey", and "The Vampire's Diary" though.  

I need money and I miss the freedom to be able to get whatever apartment I want, to take vacations with my siblings and to just pay the problems to go away, like this plumbing crap I'm experiencing. I just realize that life is a lot more rocky without money, and that sitting at home as a desperate housewife, is another kind of stress. I just don't like to ask my husband to pay for stuff all the time anymore. I'm done being the controller of my household who has to present monthly financial reports to my husband to get things paid.  I'm tired of being scrutinized on every penny I spent. I still don't like to cook and I miss my favorite restaurants. So I  quit.  

Unfortunately, the only way for me to make money is to use the only skills and education that my parents gave me, which is to go back into the grueling machine of  management consulting...  Oh well....I'm too young to retire..and it doesn't look good anymore for me to continue to sit at home, not without an anchor baby.  I had refused the invite to return to my profession several times in the last year... My husband said I didn't need the job.  Now I just can't refuse the offer anymore, not that I'm offered more money, hell no!  Just I need to have that paycheck again because I've been feeling trapped without it.  May be my stress from my slab leak and my leaky roof had triggered a knee jerk reaction on me... 

Sunday, January 11, 2015

The Slab Leak Repair Option That Freaks Me Out !!!!

After talking to the HOA, my landlord finally realizes that the HOA isn't going to pay for the slab leak repairs underneath my home because the hot water line is the dedicated line to my unit and it's my landlord's responsibility to maintain it.  I told him so but he kept saying that since it was under the slab, it should be the HOA's responsibility.  Anyway, he now tells  me that he will send a plumber to come and dig into the slab to fix the leak.  Even my landlord is going to pay for the repair and I should care less about how it's repaired, but this method of repair looks so invasive and messy!!!  The process will be just too traumatizing for me.  

Nobody in my family has ever experienced having a huge trench inside their homes.  Not even my grandparents who had experienced the Japanese invasion in China.  They told me they had fled their homes before their homes were blown up so they never lived in a place with broken concrete and trenches.  How lucky I'm to have the opportunity to live in a home with a trench and a big hole in the flooring.  I will have to put away stuff and clear a way for the repair crew to work, I will have to be there when they drill and dig. It's because I can't possibly leave my home full of stuff and just take off and stay in a hotel like the people in the  home makeover shows on TV!!!  

I am trying to talk my Landlord into doing a re-routing of the pipe because from what I see in the video, I don't see how cutting up portion of a 50+ year old pipe and solder in a new portion is going to ensure that there won't be new leak in other old section of the pipe and that the two newly soldered connections to the new pipe portion will not fail and then create another leak.  The idea of having a pipe that is soldered here and there instead of a continuous pipe just doesn't appeal to me in terms of leak protection.  Besides, who is going to make sure that they mix the cement and concrete properly when they refill the hole that the floor won't be collapsing due to the incorrect proportion of the mixing ingredients or just the quality of the concrete mix itself?  I feel that any repair that requires an extra round of quality control over the repair of an additional significant structural element, (in this case the mixing of the concrete and the patching of the trenches) is just too much a hassle.  

Hopefully I can convince my landlord to consider re-routing....

Thursday, January 8, 2015

My Home Has A Slab Leak, Now What?

hot water slab leak is one of the very common but expensive nightmares for home owners and it's very common for homes that are over 15 years old

After spending $295 for a water leak detection.  I was told that my home had a slab leak in the hot water line.  No wonder I have been feeling the hallway outside my guest bathroom, and also part of my kitchen floor so warm and comforting.  I thought may be the condo unit had a heated floor somewhere that even my landlord wasn't aware of.  

After notifying my landlord about this, he said he needed to consult with the HOA. I can't believe that he is more ignorant about condo living than me.  I don't think this is an HOA issue because each unit in this complex has its own meter and its own water heater!!!    I think my landlord has to fix this himself.  Yet he is going to waste time to discuss with the HOA. Meanwhile, the thought of the hot water running into the slab under my floor is making me very anxious because I'm afraid it's going to burst and damage all my stuff. I don't care if I have renter's insurance that will help pay... Money can't replace my personal items.  I also am freaking out about the floor sinking into a hole that's caused by the water underground.  I am suffering from paranoia because I don't do well with "waiting".  I'm raised in a culture where  people walk fast and act fast.  I can't believe I'm now waiting for my landlord to let me know what will happen next. God knows how much water is accumulating under the slab now.  Who will be responsible for the water damage when it becomes serious enough that affects neighboring units? Will it be me for not discovering soon enough when I first felt the warm patch of floor? Or my landlord who is clueless about plumbing and who is now wasting time to discuss with the HOA over something that is not the HOA's responsibility?  Besides, I am also worried about what if the water leak underground damages the gas line or something, or what if the gas water heater in my unit explodes due to the imbalance in water pressure from the leak?   I had forgotten to ask the plumber today if I should turn off the gas water heater to temporarily stop the slab leak.  Or will it even help?  I had tried to look up on the internet as to what to do when a hot water slab leak is detected but  repair is pending...But I found no answer as to whether I should turn off my gas water heater or not.  Well, I will call my plumber tomorrow morning and find out.  I want to call him now but it's past midnight.  I can't believe I'm  actually losing my sleep over this....

Tuesday, January 6, 2015

Technology Just Can't Replace Good Plumbers!!!

I still haven't found the leak in my condo yet because the leak detection service that I booked stood me up and gave me a no-show... Now I am getting into this paranoia that I am hearing dripping noises that I can't see!  Am I going crazy and hallucinating now?

I love everything high tech but unfortunately high tech can't replace a competent, diligent and honest plumber.  I thought I found a winner when I came across the above website that offers leak detection service for $199.  I read about this start-up from a business journal a while back.  I was so excited about it just like I went all excited when I first visited the freezer section of an American grocery store and found all the boxes of delicious "looking" TV dinners and Lean cuisines....So naturally, I feel as disappointed as I felt 10 years ago when I opened those boxes of  TV dinners.

Booking a service with the above website was very easy and they quickly sent you confirmations and updates of job status, almost immediately.  But of course, my job status only has the time of my appointment.  They kept me updated by sending me emails to remind me of the appointment, even 5 minutes before the scheduled time.  Just they also sent me a re-schedule request notice right  at the appointment time.  They told me that I should re-schedule because they couldn't find a plumber who could come to my home.  But excuse me, I booked the service days in advance and yet they told me in the very very last minute they couldn't find a plumber.  All the fancy clicking I did days in advance was to just schedule a time for my i-phone to receive a notice saying they couldn't find a plumber to do my job?  Wow, I'm really impressed by how technology can change the way of doing things!!

The website advertises instant appointment, and 24/7 service hours but it certainly isn't possible for the service I need. The website says  today we still buy home services the same way our grandparents did while we can almost buy anything else online, and it's going to change that.  (Hmm. I don't know at all how my grandparents bought home services because I never paid attention to that, or even thought about it.)  But may be it's still the way it was because it's still the only way it can work??

The company has a great business concept but a business concept remains just a business concept when it's impossible to actualize, at least in my case.  Why is it impossible to actualize?  Without visiting their office to do a walk-thru of their operation, I have a feeling that the company is actually operating as an "agency" service, and not the actual "service provider".  I feel that the company is just the middleman between me and the vendors.  A company simply can't actualize a business concept of another business that it's not engaging in, it's just simple as that.

They asked me to re-schedule but there is really no certainty that I won't be stood up again.  So I went back to the American grandfather way of scheduling an appointment with the only plumber I am familiar with, even though he can't do it at $199. At least I can be sure that someone will actually come to do the service.  My father's life long motto in Hong Kong, "If money can solve the problem, don't hesitate to spend it!!!"

Friday, January 2, 2015

How Do You Celebrate The New Year? How About A Water Leak Hunt?

Since we moved to our current lease-to-purchase condo, we have been paying for the water bill ourselves and I found out about a week ago, our water bill was shot up several times more in just one month. So I called the water company and within a few days,  they sent someone over to check the meter when I wasn't home and then they just left a note saying, "The water meter reads correct, leak detector on dial is spinning, please check property for leaks."   I had no idea where the water meter was, or what a leak detector on dial was when I received that note left at my door!!! My landlord is not a professional landlord, he is the controller of my former client.  Our condo is the only property he owns in addition to his own condo where he lives. This is why he leased it to me in a deal where I will have the option to buy at the end of our lease term.  He is hoping to sell it to me because he also feels that being a landlord isn't as "prosperous" or "fun" as the myth portraits it to be.  Anyway, he has been out  of town for the holidays and the responsibility of searching for the leak then rested on me, since my husband is also out of town.

I searched and searched inside my home and I found no visible leakage.  I then searched the internet to try to find out how I can detect a leak.  I read somewhere that I needed to turn off the valve of the water main and check the meter.  But where is the valve??? Where is the meter that the water company came and checked already?   I'm from Hong Kong, I had never dealt with  things like this!!! I had never heard of water leak, or high water bill! My father paid all the bills! So I called my dad in Hong Kong... My dad said that he had never experienced a sudden water bill hike either!!!  He said he never experienced  a  water leak and he wouldn't know where a water valve would be located in a typical American wooden condo.  He told me to call the professionals.  My father is of no help because now I remember my family and I  never lived in the same condo in Hong Kong  for more than 6 years.  Every condo we ever lived in was newly built in steel and cement with brand new plumbing. We never lived in any second-hand home.   My father is a flipper.  My husband is of no help also because he has been an apartment renter all his life during which he never even had to change the light bulb.  Besides, I can't trouble him now that he is taking care of his very sick grandmother.

Since I don't think the leak is inside my unit, I tried to contact the HOA's management company because they may have a plumber that can help to detect the water leakage.  But all I got from that management company is "Out of the office for the holidays" response.  The thought of having water leaking like crazy that I will be paying for in the next month got me so anxious that I decided to find a plumber myself to come to detect the leak and stop it.  Then I found out that the inspection alone was very pricey, $275!! Yike!  Is this the normnal market price for such service? And the earliest they can come is Monday. But in the meantime, am I just going to let the water run?  I said it was an emergency and still I needed to schedule an appointment just to have the pro to come over to find the leak, not to fix it!  

Then I wonder may be I can find the leak myself and speed up the leak stopping process.  I found the above video on the internet and I walked around the condo complex and hunted for the valve.  I think I had found it because I saw a patch of water on the ground around the pipe and the valve... Now I feel even worse because I see all the water (my money) coming out and I know it's the reason why my water bill is running high, and yet, I am helpless. I can't stop the water.  Turning off the valve like the video suggested didn't stop the water from coming out either.  So great!!! Now what?

Leaky roof that hasn't yet been fixed  because the HOA's roofer doesn't seem to be competent enough and yet neither my landlord nor I can freely bring in roofers of our choice due to the reimbursement protocols...Now there is this disagreement on doing so between my landlord and the HOA. Meanwhile, my leaky roof is still leaky...  Adding to it now is the mysterious water leak, which the HOA and my Landlord are going to play ping pong regarding whose going to  be responsible for the bill.  Now my water bill is running like crazy and I don't know for how long it will continue before I can put a stop to it!

From this experience, I have learnt that if I ever become a landlord, I will also make my tenant pay for the water bill because that will put the tenant on water leak alert.  When I was renting my last condo and I didn't pay for my water bill, my landlord was like an ant jumping on fire when he kept sending plumbers into our unit to try to locate a leak and back then I could care less even though it  was a hassle still to have the plumbers come inside my apartment all the time. Their dirty shoes just bugged me so much.  I was totally oblivious to my toilet's water tank leaks or my drippy faucet.  But now that I'm paying for the water bill, I finally understand why my previous landlord was so agitated.  The water bill can be very very expensive. It can go up to hundreds of dollars and even over a thousand dollars, if the leak isn't stopped promptly.  Yet the leak detection service is also expensive.

I'm also realizing that all the condos here in Los Angeles are over priced, since most of them are over 40 years old.  I personally don't think  any condo or town homes that are over 30 years old in Los Angeles are such good investment, particularly when they are way over $300K.  Unlike home prices in  Japan, depreciation of the property and replacement cost of the structures aren't counted into the pricing formula here in Los Angeles but it should be; since all structures are just compressed wood boards that are easily eaten by termites or destroyed by molds.   All the opportunity cost of the down payments,  property taxes and interest payment, HOA fees & repairs and maintenance eat into the profits for any landlord who buys into these highly expensive and needy condos. Then there are all the legal matters that may involve due to liabilities and tenant disputes or  eviction. There is also the earthquake risk here in California. Of course, tenants will have to pay higher rent too, but then tenants can always move away, move out of the state or move out of the country.  But the owners of the properties are stuck until they can unload the condo to the next unsuspecting buyer.  Unless the condo is real cheap, I don't think I will ever want to buy a condo now I see what they are made of.  I don't think I will choose to buy into this one I'm living when my option to buy becomes available at the end of my lease term.  Unless by then, the housing price really flies a lot higher than this option purchase price I agreed upon.

Thursday, January 1, 2015

What I Want For 2015

It felt like yesterday when I just celebrated 2014 New Year. I can't believe it's 2015 already.  I hope that my family and myself will have a prosperous, healthy and injury free 2015.  Have a great and safe 2015, everybody!!!