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Chapter 2:
Really, how bad is that neighborhood


Being a mobile person not tied down by lots of stuff I don't want, I have the luxury of moving quickly when a new opportunity presents itself. I tell my friends that I can move in the trunk of a taxi. (Actually, two pickup truckloads does it.)

You may be imagining that I live the life of a wandering gypsy or the monk without worldly possessions. I don't. But I do try to build stability in my life without sacrificing flexibility.

Not having lots of stuff now comes from the opposite: having had too much stuff before. After I sold my too-big house in Honolulu in 1991 -- 3 bedrooms, 2 baths, 2 living rooms, poool, and big yard -- I realized something. The overhead of that house had been killing me (mortgage, electricity, water, insurance, property taxes, and maintenance of the house, yard, and pool). Do you have any idea how much electricity and chlorine it takes to keep a pool clean? Enough to power and sanitize a third-world nation. Do you know that weeds in the front yard grow bigger, faster, and uglier if you own the house rather than if you rent it? While I owned that house, I kept on thinking how much better my life would be if I had a smaller home or even a condo, and if I had bought an investment condo (my area of expertise, since I was a condominium broker) where I could get some income to reduce my home expenses. When I sold that money black hole after four years of delighting in the American Dream of home ownership, finding a replacement home wasn't a priority. I'd rather be eaten alive by hungry grizzlies than by another house.

So I rented.

I quickly discovered I had lots of negative prejudices about some neighborhoods, mainly because they showed up on the local evening news as poor or crime-ridden areas, and positive prejudices about other neighborhoods, based mainly on the snob factor.

On the negative list was Honolulu's Palolo Valley (Puh-low-low). The local news, featuring the valley's fights and shootings, was my unbiased source of information. House prices and rental rates were understandably low. Yet I ended up sharing a beautiful home in a rainforest in the back of the valley, enjoying evenings with Hawaiian owls, bats, birds, and other endangered native species on the 11-acre property. To date, it has been the most beautiful home environment I've experienced.

Second on the negative list was the rural town of Waimanalo, on the wet and green Windward side of the Island of Oahu. Located between the mountains and beautiful white, powdery sand beaches, and only being discovered by tourists, it gets its share of police report news. Many of its residents are economically poor and there is a crime and drug problem. House prices and rents are low there, too. But the people radiate tremendous love, as do most Hawaiians in general. I shared a house in a rainforest near the mountains and only experienced the positive.

You get the point. Had I followed my previous perceptions of reality (neighborhoods featured negatively on the local news are war zones and have no nice environments), I would have missed out on the two most beautiful environments I've lived in to date.

But what about those positive neighborhoods? In San Francisco where I now live, Nob Hill is generally perceived positively; it's one of those "good areas." Near the business and shopping districts and peppered with fine hotels, some call it Snob Hill. Its rental prices are higher as a result of that positive perception. It's in one of its apartment buildings that my close friend rented a studio from local owners she quickly discovered were slumlords. Slumlords in the good part of the town? She always paid her rent on time and was polite in requesting repairs to the unit. Turns out almost everything broke down, but the landlord boldly refused a number of times to repair anything until my friend took them to court.

I also lived on Nob Hill, but fortunately had a wonderful experience, having found the apartment through my network: a friend who was the resident manager.

Our perceptions guide our decisions: where we live, how we spend our money, and who we associate with. In the pages ahead, I'll help you stretch your perception of reality so you can free up cash that already flows through your hands.

continue to Chapter 3:

No way! The possibility of other possibilities


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