By Chris Lohnes
What’s an Oklahoma Lobster?
I was fortunate to have had the opportunity to live in Oklahoma City for a while. As a Canadian, the climate was certainly something to get adjusted to the heat, the tornadoes, and the heat again.
When one of my friends was also transferred to Oklahoma by his company, I escorted him and his family around to see a variety of rental properties. At one of particular property, his young son and daughter were rambunctious, going room to room in front of us, behind us, and just generally getting lost in the noise.
When we were ready to go, my friend asked his daughter where her brother was. She replied, quite matter-of-factly, “He’s poking the lobster with a stick.” As you might imagine, we asked for that answer again. “He’s poking the lobster with a stick through the vent.” The same answer twice, so we went to investigate.
Upon entering the room we were led to, sure enough, there the boy was, lying on the floor poking a stick through the cold-air return. His dad, brave man that he was, bent down to see what this Oklahoma lobster could be. I’ve never seen anyone jump back quite so fast! As it turns out, “lobster” is the Canadian-kid word for “scorpion.”
Yes, indeed—the heat, the tornadoes, and now scorpions, make for quite an adventure.
Investor Lesson #81: No matter how silly the complaint may seem, you should always investigate.
Best-Laid Plans (story contributed by a friend)
A tenant called one day and reported a bat in the house. Since this was a self-managed property, I assembled the elite pest-removal team (me, my wife, a broom, and a towel) and set off to save the day.
“Have you ever gotten a bat out of a property?” the tenant asked me when we arrived.
“No, but it’s just a little mouse with wings,” I replied. “How hard could it be?” Famous last words.
We asked the tenant to step outside while we intrepid heroes saved the day. Our plan was simple: I would hold the towel while my wife batted (pun intended) the mammal (of the order Chiroptera) onto the floor. I would then take the towel, cover the bat, and escort it out of the house. Perfect plan!
After two failed swings at the bat, my wife’s patience wore thin. She resolved to crack that bat on the third try, and she hit it solidly. Solidly, right into the centre of my chest. At that close range it looked to me to be the size of a wild turkey, so I threw my hands and the towel in the air and yelped in the manliest of tones.
“Get it! Get it!” she yelled.
I quickly spotted the bat and lunged at it with my bare hands. It fought back. The struggle was for life and death. He bit my hand and I threw him out the window. Victory!
Then we headed to the emergency room. After all, I had just been bitten by a bat. Nine shots, two rounds of injections, and four weeks later, the threat of rabies was removed from my charts.
Investor Lesson #46: There are companies that specialize in pest removal. Use them.
Note: In military terms, the “front” is the geographic location along which you engage the enemy with your friendly forces. This is the type of battle I am describing below.
I recently purchased a townhouse in Ottawa. I could see the great potential of this townhouse, as it had already been suited “unofficially” as a vertical split.
Waterfront 1: Two weeks before closing, the hot water heater let loose across the basement. No problem, the seller’s insurance would cover it and stock up the renovation fund nicely.
Waterfront 2: Did you know that home inspectors don’t test appliances? Shortly after possession, I was checking the dishwasher while painting 10 feet away. What’s that calming sound I hear? I remember thinking to myself. And then: Oh no! More water.
After pulling out the dishwasher, I found that there was a dime-sized hole in the supply connection. This made for a nice but undesirable water fountain in the kitchen. Luckily, I was close by and able to soak up the water before any damage could occur.
Waterfront 3: I had a grand plan to move a toilet upstairs from the basement because it was high efficiency. Two other toilets in the house would be replaced with new ones. My recollection of the day seems to be along the lines of toilet off, toilet on, toilet up, toilets out, break toilet tank, buy new toilet, install and test all toilets.
Flash forward five days, including a weekend, and my wife asks me, “Did you notice the puddle by the upstairs toilet?” I rush to the scene to find a small puddle that’s maybe a foot in diameter. It seems that I didn’t tighten one of the tank bolts, and clean water had been slowly dripping for those five days. “You’d think there would have been more water,” I said to myself and then went back downstairs to finish my final paint inspection, when strangely, I noticed a blister in the paint by the kitchen. That’s weird, I thought and poked the apple-sized blister. Water gushed out. Oh no. I had discovered where five days of dripping water had gone. I grabbed my drywall saw and began cutting along the trail. Water rushed out of the kitchen ceiling and provided a lovely curtain of dripping water for a good 15 minutes. Thankfully, I have a reliable drywaller who was on scene within an hour.
What do you do once your ceiling is cut out? Well, you install LED pot lights, of course. The upper suite was ready and rented one week later, covering all costs, and I am now working with the city on the legal basement suite. Wish me luck and a dry winter season.
Investor Lesson #23—Waterfront properties can pose unique challenges but can be quite good investments.
Investor Lesson #34—During a signed agreement for sale before closing, a claim on the seller’s home insurance may possibly be paid out to the buyer at 100%.
Investor Lesson #45—Triple-check new plumbing connections no matter who does the work.