So many great things to do in Seattle!

[Editor’s note: I’m super excited to announce Sarah Payson as RCG’s newest contributor. She runs The Payson Group with her husband John Payson, who together are the first “M Agents” in Seattle. I recently had the chance to spend a day with them and was blown away by how two people could be both super-motivated and super-wonderful!   One of the things that they will undoubtably bring to RCG is an active involvement in the local community… and an excellent example of that is their active Facebook Page: 365 Things To Do In Seattle that’s grown to over 7,700 fans in about a month.  Seeing the success they’re having with this page, I asked Sarah if she’d start her RCG contributions with a post about that project.   -Dustin]

365 things to doAre you new to Seattle WA?  Have you been here a while but are tired of the same old routine?

We want to get you connected with your neighborhoods around Seattle and the Eastside, that’s why we started “365 Things to do in Seattle WA

Mortgage Lender Associations Announce Whining Moratorium on New GFE

Several Mortgage Lender Associations nationwide have announced a 6 month moratorium on the incessant whining regarding the new Good Faith Estimate.  Attention will be immediately shifted to proposed rules by the Federal Reserve Board which may eliminate compensation based on placing a consumer into a higher rate loan or a less favorable loan product.

“Flat fee compensation is bad for consumers because only an idiot would originate a loan without the ability to potentially make thousands more by selling the consumer a higher rate loan than they think they could get” said Billie Joe, a loan originator from Tukwila. “This will mean reduced competition for consumers as all the good salespeople will go back to working at the used car lots.”  Tre, who goes by his LO gang name, “Tre Cool,” agrees. “At the top of the bubble, I could make a 1 percent loan origination fee, another 1 percent mortgage broker fee, if the customer were stupid enough not to know what a discount point was, I could make another couple of points in discount, toss in $500 for an admin fee, another $500 processing fee and then make upwards of 4 to 5 points on the back end, as long as I sold a Pay Option ARM loan and as long as the dupe THOUGHT they were getting a lower monthly payment, nobody questioned my fee income! That party’s no longer real, man. Today I’m lucky if I can make 1 point.” Originator Mike D has a different perspective. “Dude, like when you think about it, I only spend about 4 hours on a file. My average loan amount is $400,000 so even though I’m makin’ $4,000 on that one transaction, I’m, like still earning $1,000 per hour. That impresses the ladies and pays all my bills so I’m not gonna rock the boat on this new proposed rule. Get back with me when that sh*t becomes real, man.”

Until then, the industry is still working very hard at containing the radical mortgage militia cells who continue to work day and night on repealing the unpleasant Home Valuation Code of Conduct( HVCC,) pledging to change this rule “or die trying.” According to one source, who asked to remain anonymous,

“Mortgage lenders have an enormous capacity for joining together and making our voices heard collectively.  When we brought boxes of signed petitions to the New York Attorney General’s office to force an immediate ban on the grave hardship HVCC has caused our industry, and uh, consumers, not one change was made.  But if and when anyone actually does listen to our collective voices we’ll all be the first to celebrate a victory that will once again include our ability to influence appraisers and we are already planning the celebration in which we’ll all get extremely drunk and eat free appetizers. A title insurance company has already stepped forward to pay for the food and refreshments. Not one dime of this celebration will be paid for out of taxpayer dollars.”

Rhonda Porter Receives the Jim Fitzgerald Service Award from WAMP

Today, during the Washington Association of Mortgage Professional’s State “Connect” Convention, Raincityguide author Rhonda Porter was presented with the Jim Fitzgerald Distinguished Service Award for her outstanding contribution to the mortgage broker and lender community.  Presenting the award was Rhonda’s brother-in-law John Porter who received the same award from his father, Bob Porter, who ALSO received the award.  Yes, mortgage lending does have a way of running in the family.

Jim Fitzgerald passed away in April of 1999 at the young age of 48.  He was President of the Washington Association of Mortgage Brokers in 1994 and an active member of WAMB,* working tirelessly on behalf of the membership. “Jim worked hard to bring the Association up to a new level.”  John Porter said, “People knew Jim all over the country even before social networking started. This is the most honorable award I ever received and I am so proud to present this to my sister-in-law.”

This year Rhonda volunteered to be the WAMP Social Media Chairman. She created a facebook page for the Association and helped organize two Social Media RE Bar camps during these last few months and has volunteered her time to help mortgage professionals here in Washington State and in other states learn how to effectively and professionally participate in social media.

Rhonda, we are all proud to know you.

*WAMB is now WAMP
Wash Assoc of Mortgage Brokers changed their name in 2008 to the Wash Association of Mortgage Professionals

Below, WAMP President Jason Bloom with Rhonda Porter.


My daughter’s shoot for Smashbox Makeup

I’ll be heading down to see my three girls and two grandaughters in L.A. on Tuesday. I thought you might like to see Andrea’s recent pics from her photoshoot.  Maybe this time I will actually get over to see her doing tattoo art over in Venice Beach. She moved over to the Boardwalk store, so it should be a fun place to hang out in.

Hey Dustin! Weren’t we supposed to get matching tattoos?

andrea pinup

andrea makeup

andrea ink

Hard to tag this post…I chose the category “diversions” 🙂

Bellevue College Real Estate (College Credit Division) Winding Down

Bellevue College (formerly Bellevue Community College) use to be the go-to place for real estate courses that also counted towards college credit.  I must have referred hundreds of people to BCC during the last decade. The slowdown in the real estate industry has hit this program hard.  But it’s not because real estate agent students aren’t taking classes. Instead, the majority of students I met during the classes I taught during the bubble run up were students who had entered the state workforce retraining program.  These folks were laid-off workers from Boeing or technology who were training for a career in a growing industry which at that time was real estate and mortgage lending.  The students I met had plans to become loan processors, loan originators, escrow closers, or appraisers. “Real estate sales? Yikes! That’s 100% commission,” they said.  Instead most  were looking for stable monthly income with a regular paycheck. All were extremely excited to be learning about the real estate and mortgage industries.  The classes were also sprinkled with people who were already in one side of the industry but were wanting to learn more.  For example, a title insurance employee who wanted to move into her company’s escrow department or a loan processor who wanted to become a loan originator.

Teaching community college students is radically different than teaching Realtors and loan originators in other venues.  First of all, community college students actually WANT to be there.  They are generally very motivated to learn and they are also very tired having just worked a full day before the evening class.  In order to make evening classes work, you need keep the students energized and interested, which makes for a totally fun, adrenaline filled classroom once the pace is set.

I’ll be teaching the last four real estate courses for Bellevue College this summer that are offered as “college credit” classes:  Land Titles, Beginning Escrow, Advanced Escrow, and Real Estate Investments.  Note that Bellevue College will still offer continuing ed real estate classes.  After the college credit program winds down, I hope that Kristen and Margaret save all the syllabuses and learning objectives from all the other classes (because for the next instructor coming in, this is really helpful.) It’s only a matter of time before the program starts up again. Our industry is and always will be cyclical.  There will eventually be another big demand for real estate and mortgage related education at the college level. The curriculum might not look the same as it did in the past, but the demand will come.  Maybe we will see the program shift into their continuing education division.  Then the big question will be how to market to existing real estate licensees.  Most of the Realtors I know don’t immediately think of Bellevue College when thinking of options for their clock hour classes.  It’s typically a last minute decision.   Maybe we’ll see some interest from real estate agents who need to take evening continuing ed classes due to another full time job.  But the question is, how will BCC reach these potential students?

I remember a job I held back in the mid 1990s with Pacific NW Title up in Everett.  Our County Manager Chris Schulz had a requirement that every single new hire take the beginning Land Title Institute course before our first performance review.  We were not able to receive a raise unless we finished the course.   I can remember reading and doing the take-home quizzes on an airplane, and on the weekends, but I finished in time.  Even though I complained about having to spend the time doing the work, I gained a tremendous amount of knowledge about land titles.

I taught a class onboard the Point Ruston floating sales office last Wednesday and we talked about real estate being one of the least trusted professions. I had the group brainstorm about why they thought this was true.  Most every group had one answer in common:  Too low of a barrier to entry.  I wonder if the upcoming changes in the real estate licensing laws are enough. 

In the future, I’d love to see more Washington State institutions of higher learning offer four year undergraduate degrees in real estate and mortgage lending finance.  The UW and WSU both offer undergrad degrees in finance. I wonder how those programs are doing.  Perhaps a demand for real estate and lending education at the higher ed level would only come if it were required. I’d like to think that it will be someday.

Seattle International Film Festival Review: Deadgirl

June is a busy month for families.  Graduations, end-of-the-school year parties, summer camp registration, the end of spring sports and tryouts for fall sports, Father’s Day, yet I try hard to make time for….The Seattle International Film Festival.  I’ve seen 5 movies so far and last night’s screening of Deadgirl is my favorite.  I attended the movie with my nephew Josh and my daughter Miranda.  All of us like the horror genre and the Deadgirl storyline sounded creepy: 

Rickie and JT are high school outsiders, bullied by jocks and despised by the in-crowd. Though both would rather drop out than bear this never-ending misery, Rickie chooses to stay, if only to catch fleeting glimpses of JoAnn, his childhood crush and the current girlfriend to the captain of the football team. Then one afternoon, while cutting class, the pair makes a bizarre discovery in the darkest depths of an abandoned hospital—a beautiful young woman, neither living nor dead. 

It would be easy to dismiss this film as exploitative but there’s way more going on beneath the surface. On the one hand, it might seem as though Rickie and JT are holding opposing moral positions and the directors use this as dynamic tension to move the film forward. But  the way I see it, Rickie and JT actually want the same thing. The movie reminds me of another dark teen film, “Heathers.” Miranda says “Christian Slater’s character DOES everything Winona Ryder’s character wants to do.”

Director/Producers Gadi Harel and Marcel Sarmiento were there for the screening and took questions and answers afterwards.  One of the movies that inspired Gadi and Marcel was “Stand by Me” based on the short story “The Body” by Stephen King.  The Body was required reading during one of my psych grad school classes because it helped students understand the importance of developmental milestones.  Rickie and JT are older than the kids from The Body and their curiosity about life and death goes down a more gruesome path.

Miranda asked about the significance of a certain shot containing a small flower that surely was meant to convey symbolism.  Marcel was glad someone finally asked about that scene but refused to give away the meaning to the audience. Instead, he took her aside after the Q&A and whispered the meaning to her, and extracted a vow of secrecy. The rest of us will have to wait until the DVD release! 

One of the questions was, “How did you obtain financing for such a creepy story?”  Gadi and Marcel said that during the real estate bubble-run up, there was money available from people who had made plenty in real estate and those folks were the seed investors.  Interesting.  Times are different today. 

Deadgirl will play again tonight at midnight at the Egyptian and again on June 5th, 9:30PM at the Kirkland Performing Arts Center.

Seattle International Film Festival!

This past Christmas, I bought my nephew Josh a 20-pack gift certificate to the Seattle International Film Festival and we’ve been surfing the SIFF movie sorter finding all kinds of films that are on both of our “must see” lists.  Last night we saw a Midnight Adrenaline showing of “I Sell the Dead.” Yes, more zombie movies are on my list to see with Josh including “Zombies of Mass Destruction” (filmed in Port Gamble, WA) and Dead Snow. 

This afternoon, I took a four-pack of teenagers to see “Spring Breakdown” and star Rachel Dratch (from Saturday Night Live) was there for a meet and greet. It was hilarious!  Josh had a chance to meet Rachel and get her autograph and I must say he practically levitated for the rest of the day.   After Spring Breakdown, we raced to the Uptown on Queen Anne to get in line for “Paper Heart” starring Charlyne Li and Michael Cera.  It’s a documentary/comedy/romance about Charlyne’s real life quest to find out why she doesn’t believe in love. The film was wonderful and everyone with my group gave it a 5 on the 1-5 rating scale for the audience choice award.  Tomorrow both my nephews and I will be heading down to the U District again to see Kevin Spacey in “Shrink.”

I don’t spend all my time with teen-friendly films and neither should you.  For gratuitous sex and violence, I’ll be catching “Dowloading Nancy” with my gratuitous-sex-and-violence-film-festival-buddy Ron.  Our pact is to ONLY see movies with gratuitous sex and violence each year.  I try to see the opening and closing night galas with my friend Kyoko who always entertains me with stories about what it was like when she was a UW student in the early 70s when the film festival was first getting started

Another favorite genre is horror.  Josh and I will be catching “Deadgirl” which created a buzz at the Toronto Film Festival and “The Hills Run Red.”  I wish I had time to see more psychological thrillers but alas, business calls.  If only I could take three weeks off work every year.  You can search the SIFF film sorter by website by genre, program, director, country or venue.   The calendar will give you a quick look at what films are playing where and when every day.  SIFF even has an iPhone app for the festival. I recommend buying tickets online and printing your ticket vouchers in advance. That way if the movie you want to see is sold out by the time you arrive, you’re rewarded for planning ahead by exchanging your vouchers for tickets at will call and get in the ticket holder line!  All the SIFF volunteers have been amazing at helping me with various questions.  My only complaint is having to constantly pay for parking at every venue which really adds up. 

Come say “Hi” if you see me at Four Boxes, West of Pluto, Burning Plain, Worlds Greatest Dad (filmed in Seattle), Cold Souls, or The Clone Returns Home and I hope everyone is enjoying our awesome weather this weekend!

Look No Further Than Seattle Neighborhoods For Penny Pinching Summer Fun This Year!

Some people don’t know this, but….

Gorgeous globe light at Hiram M. Chittenden locks in Ballard

Gorgeous globe light at Hiram M. Chittenden locks in Ballard

I was a single mother for years until I met and fell in love with my next door neighbor in the Sunset Hill neighborhood of Ballard. Single parents develop a real knack for making every dollar stretch, and I am thankful that things have been easier (most of the time) with a husband! As we all look for ways to save money and make sure that our families are provided for, I find myself revisiting some of those older ideas.

Seattle is really a phenomenal place to live for great free entertainment, but out of town visitors will love these, too! Make sure and check out the Seattle Parks Foundation website if you have a minute, too. They have wonderful resources for all the latest and greatest in parks! This is only the first ten of these because I really don’t want to hog the whole page. Happy Seattle summer 2009!

1. Go visit the Hiram M. Chittenden locks (aka Ballard Locks) in the Ballard neighborhood of Seattle. OK, I will be honest. I am starting with my one of my very favorite places.dsc_0299 This was built in 1911 and serves as a passageway between the Puget Sound and the Ship Canal so that boats can travel to and from Lake Washington and Lake Union despite the huge difference in water levels. Visitors can watch as the water is raised and lowered to let boats come in and out on either side. But that is not all! The grounds are beautiful and feature extensive mature gardens and plantings. There is also a cool fish ladder on site as well as a museum/learning center. Even after any trips here, we always have fun going again!  Need more free here? In 2009 from June 6th to September 7th (Labor Day) there will over 30 FREE and open to the public concerts at the Ballard Locks!

Just one section of this amazing place! 

2. Museum of Flight This is one of the Seattle museums that offers first Thursdays free (after 5PM only) and is a great place to see some of the world’s amazing historic planes including one of the Air Force One planes that Kennedy flew in! This is another of my favorite places in Seattle. This museum is located in one of the early Boeing facilities and the history is just rich. There is something for everyone here and it is kid friendly. I would suggest visiting item #6 (Hat n Boots) after wards because of the close proximity. There is a good restaurant on site at the museum, but a picnic at the park is much more fun!

Beautiful entry at the Conservatory in Volunteer Park3. Conservatory at Volunteer Park on Capitol Hill is so much fun! The park itself is also amazing and has great paths and spaces, but I am in awe of the Conservatory building itself – 6200 square feet of plantings and displays by people that obviously know what they are doing. There are 3426 glass panes on the building. It was assembled in 1912 and has two plants in it that are over 75 years old – one of which is a giant Jade Tree. This is not your ordinary Jade plant! The Conservatory is completely FREE, though I do encourage you to throw a few dollars in their donation bin.

4.Carkeek ParkOver six miles of trails and an Education Center, large open spaces for playing, picnic facilities, a stage, wonderful dsc_0450playgrounds including a fish slide where children can slide through a salmon, plus the beach!!!! Carkeek Park overlooks the Puget Sound and is one of my favorite parks in Seattle! Carkeek Park is just North of the Blue Ridge neighborhood in Seattle and well worth the trip from anywhere in the Puget Sound.

5.Pike Place Market – You do not need a dime to go have fun here, but support these locals if you can. I love it here and could spend all day watching the hustle and bustle!

6. Hat 'N' Boots in GerogetownThe Hat N Boots in Georgetown – I love these!  How cool is it to visit some old giant boots that used to be his and hers restrooms at a gas station. According to one source when the hat and boots gas station was up and running in its previous location even Elvis stopped in once ( I am sure there are lots of Elvis sighting stories – true and untrue, but I love the idea that Elvis may have peed in that boy boot!).  The good people of Seattle’s Georgetown neighborhood played a huge part in getting the Hat n Boots moved to their current location at Oxbow Park (6400 S Corson Ave.). The boots are newly refurbished, but the hat is looking sad while waiting for funds. There is a great neighborhood p-patch there with some of the most amazing plantings I have had the privilege of seeing and the playground keeps my kids entertained for quite some time, but don’t expect to be able to use the boots as a restroom today – they are for display only.

7. Green Lake – Go explore Green Lake Park – This park has it all – a 3+ mile path around the lake itselfdsc_0036 which is perfect for biking, hiking, running, skating, and more, play space, ball fields, pool, tennis courts, and my favorite: the wading pool on the North side of the lake which is filled when it is warm. There are docks for kayak launching or you can fish off the side of the banks of the lake. There is golf here and basketball, plus bathrooms. Swimming is allowed and there is a life guarded swimming beach. Green Lake is a great neighborhood to live in anyway, but really gets busy when the nice weather hits. Green Lake is a great place to take the dog for a walk, too.

8. Fremont Troll. This is a giant troll made of concrete holding an actual VW in its hand! It is located in Fremont under the Aurora Bridge and WORTH THE STOP! The Fremont Troll is also a great photo opportunity! While you are in Fremont, take a stroll along the ship canal waterfront and visit all the great little vintage shops. There is almost always something fun going on in Fremont.

9. Alki Beach Park While I was a single mother, the tradition was to go every Sunday morning and find beach glass at Alki Beach in West Seattle and then drive up into the hills and look at the dreamy houses. Alki has some of the best views of the Downtown area of Seattle anyway and the beach glass is abundant! There is also a rough boat launch for hand carried kayaks, etc. and restrooms. Alki Beach is a 2.5 mile strip of beach and one of the closest to a California Beach atmosphere I can think of right here in Seattle complete with rollerblading and jogging patrons.

10. Take a bike ride on the Burke Gilman TrailGo basically from Ballard all the way up to Kenmore2008-1661 along some of the prettiest trails and areas in Seattle. The Burke Gilman is virtually uninterrupted for the most part from Fremont to Kenmore and skirts the Western side of Lake Washington plus there are restrooms along the way.

Okay, well that is it for now with my penny pinching ideas for fun around Seattle! Even if you aren’t in the market for saving money, go and explore your city! Seattle is a great place to live and play.

National Association of Realtors Announces New Community Service Plan

The National Association of Realtors has announced a new community service outreach plan  “Operation Home Rescue.” Realtor members will be opening their homes to families who have been displaced by foreclosure.  Each NAR member will offer their basement, family room, third bedroom, and in the case of an already full house, their garage to families who may otherwise be homeless due to their own foreclosure. “We have a duty to help those less fortunate and in this case, some of these folks will likely be our past clients” said an NAR Spokesman.  “We won’t be going out of our way to make their stay to terribly comfortable,” he said, “because these are our future homebuyers!”  When asked about how a recent foreclosure effects a person’s ability to obtain a mortgage again, he said, “pretty soon, the lenders won’t have anyone else to lend money to, so they’ll have to take these homebuyers back again.”  NAR representatives were not sure how the plan would work when the foreclosing homeowners are Realtors.  “Frankly, I’d rather volunteer to take in their abandoned dogs or cats instead of taking in one of my competitors” said Sean Q., a real estate agent.   Homeowners in foreclosure should contact the Realtor who sold them the home for more details. 

In addition, a Realtor spokesman explained that a motion was made at the previous convention to add an article to the Realtor Code of Ethics which would have made it a Realtor’s ethical duty to make sure the homebuyer could actually afford the mortgage payments but the motion was defeated.  “NAR is on record as being against banks getting in to the real estate business so we figured it was a good idea if we stay out of the banking business.”

NAR’s Operation Home Rescue outreach program provides a dual benefit of rescuing foreclosed families and then selling them another home which will help to clear out the inventory of homes for sale.