Friday, October 7, 2005

Oct 2005 Okanogan Fishing Trip

Fish Lake

Having secured a trusted sitter in the form of my mother... Amy and I hit the road on Saturday morning for a 3 day fish-a-thon. Our first stop was to be All About The Fly but we got there too early so pushed on to Sultan where we feasted on e and b at the Dutch Cup. Full to the nipples, we got back in the truck and headed for Fish Lake outside Leavenworth. Day 1 - Fish Lake Fish Lake was, well, how do you say... a madhouse. There tents and campers everywhere and someone was blaring Lynard Skynerd all day. The two large steel pontoon boats were constantly in use, ferrying the participants to intoxication and back. At the general store, we asked for the fishing report. The proprietors showed us the Polaroids of the 7lb trout that was caught the day before and the 10lb trout that was caught the week before. Pictures like that are enough to make you gladly fork over your $5 and high tail your little 8ft boat into the water. We launched just before noon to a perfectly calm day, which is what you want at Fish Lake because it can get hella windy out there I hear. The water was bright green and filled with what looked like grass clippings! Amy decided she liked the look of a fly the remarkable Wetline tied for me – it was a bunny leech with a yellow beard. Me? I tied on a standard olive wooly bugger. We trolled around and experienced a strike frenzy. Between the two of us over that afternoon we experienced at least 60 strikes with about 25% conversion to the boat. There are so many freaking fish in Fish Lake its crazy. Amy was having a great time and she caught 7 and I caught 8. We kept 6 of them, including a 9” perch, for my mom who has a taste for the finned friends. We never caught the big one, but we had a blast until the wind picked up and the bite died down. Amy said that the experience had reawakened her “inner angler,” which I think had been asleep ever since Casey was born. Afterward, we stopped in Leavenworth for some beers at the Visconti brewery and we talked to this one other couple about our age. They were in town for Oktoberfest (does that explain the guy in the pope hat in the street?). That morning they had gone to check in to their bed and breakfast, which they had never set eyes on. Upon going in the front door they found no one. There were people sleeping in the bedrooms and the den had a rack of semi-automatic weapons! At some point they realized that they were not in the b & b! They’d taken a wrong turn and were wandering around in someone strangers house! We laughed about that and had a wonderful time just having drinks and talking to strangers out on the town. OMG Lake Day 2 - OMG Lake The next day we got an early start in the town of ____. We drove ___ hours to ____ lake (which I will call, for the remainder of this report OMG Lake). It was sunny but cold (35 degrees) when we arrived there. Two large cows shuffled sullenly around the “launch”. This seemed like the perfect desert lake and I was anxious to get out there and try our luck against some wily Lahontan Trout. We trolled our same flies around for an hour with no luck though we did sight some fish. In fact, Amy sighted a medium size Lahontan cruising behind us and it even followed my fly for a time before darting away. I changed flies to a Gil’s Monster, which is sort of like a cross between a Carey Special and dryer lint. A few minutes later I got a strike as we turned and bam, fish on! I fought a glorious 22” Lahontan trout to the net we got a picture and set him free. The weather was warm now and we were able to free up some clothes and enjoy the October sun on the water. A few other fly fishermen appeared at OMG lake and were talked to them for a while. They left a few hours later, skunked. We took a lunch break at a nearby resort run by Brian and Dale. We played cards while waiting for our burgers and Brian gave us a tour of the place. We’ve decided we should make reservations for next year (so we can fish OMG lake).

Back to OMG lake in the afternoon we started getting dialed in. Amy took this 5lb fish on my 4wt – the fly was a pheasant tail under an indicator. Yee-haw! I had no idea the fish were going to be this big!!! I released another six of the beasts and they all ranged from a relatively puny 17” male to a 24” female. One thing that threw me was about halfway through the day I realized that these fish were spawning. Several times we saw pairs of the highly colored fish cruising the shoreline together. This surprised me because 1) I didn’t realize they could spawn in still water and 2) I assumed they spawned in the spring like other Trout. We fished until we couldn’t see anymore. I hooked another three and lost them. The last fish of the day was a juvenile Lahontan about 12” long taken on a Carey Special. Even though this particular lake allows one fish to be taken we released them all. We couldn’t bear the thought of killing such beautiful fish. What a fantastic day fishing for Lahontans on an empty desert lake in the sunshine. Oh, we and we saw 10 turtles sunning themselves on rocks and logs. Very cool. That night we stopped in the town of _____ for some drinks and dinner. We were a little tight as we left and we drove over some mountain pass in the truck. Things got pretty freaky so I pulled off the road and we pretended we were teenagers for a while. Woo hoo!

Day 3 - Big Twin and the Methow After a killer breakfast of e & b at the Antler’s Tavern in Twisp, we dropped our boat into Big Twin lake. The lake was down several feet from the last time I was there (last summer). There were fish rising unevenly through the lake. We trolled streamers, tried chironomids and hares ears for a few hours but got only one 16” fish. It was a nice fish but I think we were tired of being cooped up on the small boat. We loaded up and fished the Methow the rest of the day. There were steelhead moving through quickly. At the public fishing area downstream of Carlton we fished a pool that probably saw 20 steelies go through in two hours. Of course they avoided us like we were fish plague. It was so frustrating I was actually a little glad when we took off for home. At some point in the day, fishing an indicator setup, I foulhooked the poor creature shown in the funny photo. It was either a carp or a sucker fish – I’m no expert on soft-mouthed creatures. Amy was a real sport for unhooking the beast for me and he was returned to the river unharmed and ugly as ever. We enjoyed fishing the different types of lake environments – lots and lots of small (10-12”) fish at the mountain-encircled Fish Lake, and then a few large (20+”) fish at OMG lake in the desert. It was great to be away just the two of us for three days and two nights. Of course we missed our little guy and we happy to see him when we got back.

Monday, August 1, 2005

Selling Your House Without An Agent

I recently went through the process of selling my house without an agent. Several people asked me to let them know how it went. So here's my report.

The housing market in Seattle is insanely hot this spring of 2005. I had heard many, many stories about houses selling for $20K over their asking price and the new rage, in Seattle at least, is for buyers to overbid and then waive the inspection. Clearly, there is a problem with supply and demand. A friend of mine had recently moved out of my neighborhood in Renton and bought a house up north. He sold his house himself and saved $9000, which was quite compelling.

Before I had made up my mind to try to sell our house ourselves, I interviewed a real estate agent who was a friend of a friend of ours. She came over, looked through the house and came back with a presentation. The presentation consisted of 1/2 Windemere propaganda and 1/2 comps. She suggested we sell our house for $310K. After thinking it over, my wife and I decided to try to sell our house ourselves and here's how we made that decision.

  • We weren't in a hurry to sell our house.
  • If selling our house didn't work, we could always hire Windermere.
  • Given the amount of money the real estate agent would make, we didn't think there was any way they could actually earn that money.


We rented a 10x20' storage place for $200 a month and began the process of boxing up personal items. This took far longer than we initially thought it would. I'd say it took about 4 weeks. Taking all our neo- collegiate furniture to goodwill and the dump was the easy part. Note: Goodwill is now very selective about furniture they will accept. It has to be perfect: they turned away a beautiful couch whose only flaw was a small stain that probably would have come out with some Resolve or something.

We had our carpetting replaced -- you can do this cheap at Home Depot by selecting from a small set of carpet they have on hand to do quick installations. 500 square feet was about $1400 installed. That plus new coats of paint in the rooms that needed it made the house feel much newer and cleaner.

I really think that these three preparations, emptying the house of nearly everything, replacing old carpet and painting, did wonders to make the house look ready-to-move-in to.

Choosing a Price

I did my own "comps" by watching houses on Windermere's web site and getting a list from "" I matched number of rooms, sqft and date built and finally chose something that was a little higher than the average of all. Our final choice was $330K, significantly higher than the agent's recommendation -- but a nearly identical house just down the street had recently sold for more than that.

Update: the appraiser recently confirmed that the price I had selected was just right for the neighborhood.


To list or not to list? If you live in a neighborhood where houses are going extremely fast,you probably don't need to list if you don't want to.

BUT... I was thinking that if I listed I might be able to trigger a bidding war because more people would see the house. So I decided to spend a little time and money and do a flat-fee listing. Listing on the MLS turned out to be easier than I thought it would be. I called a small local real-estate company and asked if they did flat fee MLS listings: of course they tried to tell me that was a crazy idea but finally they recommended I talk to Joe Fausto at By Owner International in Renton. Joe tried to sell me a %1-commission kind of deal but I was firm: I wanted just a listing and lockbox. He said fine, $500 will get both.

A note about the lockbox: today's lockboxes record the ID of all agents who unlock it. This prevents the rampant theft that was occurring before these were in use. Demand that your flatfee place provide you with this service as part of the $500.


Most real estate firms use professional photographers and stagers to photo your place. I figured that since our house was almost totally empty, we could do without the stager and just take digital photos ourselves. We did so and I brought Joe a CD with 9 pictures on it (that's the limit right now). Obviously take pictures of the front of your house for the "main" picture and then be sure you get the best parts of the house. I can't verify that our photos were "great" or "bad" or anything but they looked good to me.


In order to maximise the number of possible buyers and thus trigger a bidding war, I decided to offer the standard 3% buyers agent commission.

Last Minute Preparation

It was intensely stressful the week prior to the day-of-listing. We knew the house had to be as perfect as it was going to be so we worked on the house until 2 in the morning every night.

Or tried to. I'm sure that this would not be different if we'd have had an agent but it was tempting to call Joe and delay the listing for another week.


I provided Joe with all the information he needed for the listing and told him to "list" the house on a Wednesday. I'd heard that agents often preview a house (drive by) before taking a client there so I wanted to give the agents a few days to do the drive-bys during the weekdays so they could bring their clients by on the weekend. I think this is actually what happened, because only a few people came by during the week, but I think up to 10 buyers came by on each of the weekend days.

I listed my own cell # as the contact number in the listing -- we decided we would always be "out" when people came by to look at the house and we were.

One of the last things I did before the listing went "live" was to buy a silly "For Sale By Owner" sign for $23 for my yard. I put my cell # on it. I bought it more to let the agents know at a glance which house it was rather than to get an actual sale.

I created a little one-page brochure with some of the better house pictures and a marketting-type list of the best features of the house and printed them out on glossy photo paper and left them in a pile on the counter. I then gauged the success of the day by how few were left.

So did it sell?

Sadly, in spite of my hopes, there was no bidding war. I talked to a few of the agents who had shown the house and they said it was priced just right. There's a lot of interest in the neighborhood but it is Renton after all, not a lot of bidding wars happening like in Seattle. Here's the funny part: it was the little $23 "For Sale" sign that sold the house. A young couple (Annie and Joel) from Seattle was driving around in the neighborhood and saw the sign. They called me and came by the next day while I was out fishing. They talked to Amy and told her they loved the house and were prepared to offer full price. This was 5 days after the house was listed and the little sign put up.

The fact that they had no agent threw me for a loop because I was counting on the buyer's agent to do all the work for us. On the other hand, no buyer's agent meant I'd save another $9000K. So I ended up doing all the coordination myself, but it wasn't that bad at all. Certainly not $9000-worth of work. Here's what I had to do.

The Paperwork

The Purchase Agreement

The first thing you need once you have a verbal agreement is get a signed Purchase Agreement. This is the document that everyone works off of. I called my bank and asked their mortgage guy to recommend a real-estate lawyer, which he did: Allen Sakai in Bellevue. So I called him up and asked him for to draw me up a "neutral" agreement (one that favored neither the buyer nor the seller). This document is sometimes referred to as "Document 21" by the MLS. All the agents have copies of the document in their cars so they can draw up instant purchase agreements. Sakai asked who I wanted to do the escrow. I said "pick someone good -- I'll go with whomever."

Anyway, the Purchase Agreement asks for a bunch of information such as the legal description of the property. Make it easy on yourself and just find the Purchase Agreement that you signed when you bought the house and give that to the lawyer. I agreed to leave all the appliances and throw in a little closing money for the buyers. All of that stuff is covered by the Purchase Agreement. I told Annie, the buyer, to find herself a real-estate lawyer to review the purchase agreement so she'd be satisfied with it. She did and she was.

We had Annie and her boyfriend over to the house and we sat there the four of us with no lawyers present and initialed and signed every page (our agreement was 5 pages I think).

The Disclosure Form

There were two other "action items" that had to be completed. On my part, I had to provide a legal disclosure form to the buyer within a certain amount of time. I had my lawyer give me the form and I filled it out. This form is called the infamous "Form 17" -- the buyer can back out for any reason up to 3 days after receiving this form, unless they sign immediately that they waive their right to do so. So I had Annie sign it and gave her a copy. I thought the question about whether the house had ever been used as a meth lab was funny.

The Inspection

The other action was that she had a certain amount of time to have the house inspected. She had someone there the next day. He found three small things and we agreed to fix them.

Paperwork Conclusion

Annie sent a copy of the purchase agreement to the escrow people and they began working off that document. I sent them the earnest money check that Annie had given me.

So that was pretty much that. 1. Purchase Agreement. 2. Disclosure form. 3. Inspection. That's about all there was to the paperwork. Its pretty easy because once you take care of those things, the escrow/title company and the banks handle everything else (such as the appraisal, etc).

Final Comments

My conclusions about this process: If you live in a desirable neighborhood, selling right now is easy. So easy in fact that I would recommend skipping the seller's agent. My total cost to sell my house myself was $500 for the listing, $360 for the lawyer and $23 for the sign = $883. Compare that to $19,800 if I had paid 6% to real estage agents. We saved $19,000. You might even skip listing on the MLS unless you too are trying to trigger a bidding war. Another reason to skip the MLS listing is that you save another 3% if you find your own buyer, as I did. Of course, you could do the MLS listing and not offer any agent commission but don't be surprised if no one shows your house. I have friends that tried this and had to eventually offer 1.5% to get an agent to show the house, and even then the agent was bitter about it (whatever!). If the buyer is cooperative and really wants the house, etc, the process of doing the paperwork is a piece of cake. I suppose that if my buyers had been trying to angle me or rip me off well then it would be nice to have an agent to spot those kinds of things. You decide. If you don't live in a hot neighborhood (houses in your neighboorhood take a long time to sell) then I'd consider getting the agent. BTW, I'd always use a buyers agent when buying a house (unless you have a certain house in mind, such as a friend's house). There's no reason not to. They see houses on the MLS first, they have a good feel for neighborhoods and they have better search tools. Plus, they can submit bids in the form of purchase agreements so you can lock the property quickly. We ended up using our friend of a friend agent to help us find an awesome house. We bought the first house she took us to, which just goes to show you how good she is.

Thursday, March 31, 2005

Thrift Store Art Sale

Wife Says Everything Must Go!!!

Years of scouring the Renton/Kent area's grimmest thrift stores have resulted in what is widely-acknowledged as the boldest collection of thrift store art south of the Cedar River, north of the Green river and east of 140th street.

Jealous of the glory that these pieces bring me, my wife has demanded that they no longer grace the walls of my home office. Thus, I need to recoup the significant financial resources that I've spent on them. Any serious offers will be accepted, but these prices are what my gallery agent recommends for pieces of this caliber.

"Blue Indian" : $199

This intriguing piece was rescued from the East Hill Value Village in 2000. The aggressive use of blue, green and orange thrill the senses. My interpretation of this piece goes like this: Chief Exema is charging up the hill in the middle of the night against a backdrop of a green meteor-shower. Suddenly, a line of bullet holes appear across Chief Exema's chest and he grimaces. My son recently asked me "Why is that Indian blue daddy?" "Because he has no skin, son." I answered.

"Hand Shame" : $399

This is the centerpiece of my collection. The sagging shirt, bulging upper thigh and misshapen head serve to draw your attention away from the fact that the artist cannot draw hands and has hid them by cleverly smearing the lower band of the painting. What is this poor girl thinking about? What am I sitting on? or perhaps "Am I sinking into quicksand?" or maybe even "Why is my right sleeve so much longer than my left?" Sorry, a frame is not available for this original painting.

"Cashed Clown" : $99

Surely this ancient painting has frightened many a child as they lay awake staring at the wide eyes, flattened skull and the grotesque, rotting nose on this carnivorous clown. The glassy eyes suggest that perhaps our clown is happy because he's been partaking a little of the gentleman's leaf.

As in "Hand Shame", basic human anatomy is wilfully disregarded: Hobo Jim's eyes aren't halfway up the head, they're at the top. "I thought all clowns were frowny. Why is that clown smiling, dad?" "Because he's just finished feasting on innocent human flesh, son."

"Paul, Enjoy your Retirement" : $199

Well, it looks like Paul Anderson's retirement will be a rip-roaring success, if by success you mean homicidal spree. We can only assume that Paul is leaving his job as a postal inspector and retiring to the country life in, say, Cheney, Washington. Imagine Paul's magnificent physique and smoldering visage adorning the walls of your living room for only $199.

"Old Lazy Eye" : $199

The Lazy-Eyed Owl of the American Northwest exists in the same mythos as the Hare-Lipped Sasquatch of the Appalachians. This artist's precise rendering makes no apology for the cruelty of nature. Nay, he celebrates it!

Though the origins of this original Northwest masterwork have been lost to obscurity there is no disputing the quality of its craftmanship.

"Flipper Assualt" : $49

Far in the future Mankind has polluted the seas to the point that the dolphinkind have declared war on humanity. This hellish vision of a kamikaze dolphin is the last thing many-a-soldier will see before they are viciously fluked into a bloody, salty pulp.

The use of oblong circles around the terrible beast suggest the squinting of an eye. All that is missing is the rifle scope sight.

This magnficient piece can be yours for a whistle.

"Shine on you crazy Jesus" : $29

This bonus piece was purchased from a chinese street vendor here in Seattle's very own Chinatown. I haggled the poor vendor down to almost nothing. It was mean, but Jesus told me to. If you like to take hallucinogenic drugs and look at religious art, this piece is for you. Also, it has the best frame of any of these pieces. "Why is Jesus pulling back his cloak, daddy?" asked my son. "Well its because he's a superhero, son."

"Angry Teddy" : $29

This diminutive bonus piece comes in an attractive brown frame. The bear is clearly angry about something; perhaps it is about to eat the photographer. But that's a good thing; too much art is "happy" -- there's not enough expression of the negative emotions in today's frame-filler art.

Note: This entire collection was sold to famous re-Artist Eddie Breen. Not kidding.