bora bora

Travel Tips: Don’t Use Citicards

I look out on that travel horizon, and I see a long road between now and August for this Sacramento real estate agent. That means I will most likely have a lot of work to finish before the end of summer. August will be my next vacation. I do not look forward to the end of summer because summer is my favorite season, even though I live in Sacramento, one of the hottest cities in America. As one of my clients once said, if Sacramento’s spring weather carried through into summer, it would be just like living in Carmel and our homes would cost a million bucks or more. Well, not quite because it’s a 100 miles to the ocean, not 100 yards.

For my clients, though, the fact that I have no vacations planned for a long, long time is good news for them. Although, with WiFi available almost everywhere, yes, even on a remote atoll in the middle of French Polynesia like Rangiroa, it’s not always evident if I am in town or if I am gone; I still pay attention to my real estate business and my clients. Unless I tell them I am out of town, my clients believe I am always in Sacramento.

You know who does know when I am gone? My credit card companies. I have learned, for example, to call Citicards and tell them when I am going and where I am going. To give them advance notice of my whereabouts. VISA and MasterCard especially (I don’t know about American Express or Discover) are cracking down on credit card fraud. They track individual accounts, so if they spot unusual activity they might not authorize the transaction without speaking to the customer.

A tip for travel: Always call your credit card company before you go out of town if you plan to use your credit card elsewhere. Tell them when you are leaving and when you will return.

Yet, that doesn’t always work, and I am living proof. Even though I called Citicards and told them where I was going on vacation, when I checked out of the St. Regis Resort in Bora Bora, the credit card company flagged my account and froze it. Sometimes, it’s not a good idea to have Big Brother watching you. It’s kind of creepy. Especially after you’ve put them on notice.

This is the second time Citicards has done this to me, which means I will no longer use their card for major purchases. The line has to be drawn somewhere. They say they are protecting you but both you and I know whose butt they are protecting.

Photo: by Elizabeth Weintraub, cruise ship in Papeete

Should You Change Agents?

Mt. Otemanu-300x200A seller, obviously frustrated with her Sacramento real estate agent, emailed yesterday to ask if I would be interested in representing her. She didn’t say why she was dissatisfied with her agent, but I intend to probe. Because sometimes there is nothing wrong with her agent at all. Sometimes, when the results do not meet a client’s perhaps unrealistic expectations, a client becomes disillusioned and wants to change real estate agents. It’s not that I don’t want new clients, but I do try to encourage people to stick it out with their present agent, to give that agent at least one more chance, and to talk through any perceived difficulties.

Besides, an upgrade might be the same thing they’ve already got. You never know. People who don’t understand the market in Sacramento and how real estate agents work, the rules we are governed by nor the things that are out of our control might believe we are capable of parting the Red Sea when we are not.

When we checked into our room at the resort in Bora Bora, it came with an upgrade, space permitting. Well, there was no space available at Christmas-time so we did not receive the upgrade. But after New Year’s, when many guests have gone home, we checked again and an upgrade was available. It meant packing our bags, which the butler offered to do, and moving across the way, so we took it.

The new house is identical to our old house. Except it’s not as new. Older flat panel TVs. Prints instead of oil paints. Weathered woodwork. Same layout, though. What’s different is the view. I suspect the resort built the front row of overwater bungalows much earlier than the second row. The second row overlooks the lagoon and the beach. The front row looks at Mt. Otemanu and toward The Four Seasons. Except when it’s foggy and rainy, you can’t see Mt. Otemanu at all; it vanishes.

There are times a new agent could be just what you need. Not all agents are the same, and some are very much different from other Sacramento real estate agents — maybe better suited to your personality. But agents have a lot more in common with each other than you might think. Sometimes, it might make more sense to stick with the guy who brought you to the dance.

Photo: Mt. Otemanu at dusk from St. Regis Resort at Bora Bora, by Elizabeth Weintraub

Happy New Year From Bora Bora

St. Regis Bora Bora View to Beach

Our beach view welcomes a Happy New Year from Bora Bora.

This is the day to begin learning where the lucky 1 and 3 keys are located on the keyboard and how to write 2013 on my checks. That still leaves the other two components of the date to mess up, though: the day and the month. I often get all 3 wrong. I have no concept of time. Probably because I have no children, no little benchmarks to tell me how old I am getting and how much time has already elapsed. Not to mention, being a Sacramento real estate agent means every day is fun, exciting, challenging and new. So why make a New Year’s resolution?

Why not resolve every day to do your best? To make the changes daily in your life that bring you the most rewards and happiness because if you’re not happy, what is the point of wallowing in unhappiness? What purpose does misery serve? Who needs adversity? If you’re not happy where you live, then make plans to move. Call a real estate agent.

How would you like to be Michael Schoonewagen, the general manager of the St. Regis at Bora Bora? We enjoyed cocktails with Mr. Schoonewagen last night, alongside 100 other guests at the St. Regis as we kicked off New Year’s Eve celebrations. Mr. Schoonewagen says he gets to move to a different country every few years. We approached him after his introductions and speech to hand him a card. On the card, we commended our butler, Kostantin, and our room service fellow, Sebastian, both of whom has provided exemplary service during our visit.

My husband started to say that he felt it was important to share a different kind of voice, apart from those who complain, but I’m not sure it came across the way it was intended because Mr. Schoonewagen responded as though my husband was saying the St. Regis must receive a lot of complaints. Mr. Schoonewagen began to defend that allegation. See, this is the problem when one person speaks two languages against a person who cannot. But what was interesting was the happiness ratio. Mr. Schoonewagen said 97% of the guests at the St. Regis are very happy. All of the time.

Even though, as he pointed out, there is no cinema, no theatre, no entertainment on the level to which we are accustomed in the states. I grabbed Mr. Schoonewagen’s arm and asked him to please shush up and stop filling my husband’s head with those thoughts. But it was too late. My husband had already figured it out. He’s a smart guy. It’s no secret that there is no city life here in French Polynesia on Bora Bora. So, it just means one needs to have two homes, that’s all. If you have to live in a city. As Mr. Schoonewagen pointed out, Bora Bora is only 5 hours by air from Hawaii. This time next year, you could be saying Happy New Year from Bora Bora

A Trip from St. Regis to Bora Bora

elizabeth map of bora bora-300x200The passenger boat from the St. Regis to Bora Bora leaves for the mainland base on Bora Bora twice in the morning. We read this in the literature left in our room. They also provided us with an entire schedule that showed us the time of the stops at Matira Beach and Vaitape for our return trip. We trusted this information, especially since the passenger boat left the dock from the St. Regis at the time scheduled. Little did it dawn on us to verify the return time. Because we had the schedule. The official schedule.

Because of our limited French, it is sometimes difficult for us to carry on a conversation with a person who can speak two or more languages while we can speak only one language, and we probably don’t do a very good job at that in their eyes. You know what the French think. Our taste in music sucks, we have no fashion sense, and we wouldn’t know a good truffle if we ran into it sideways.

The other night at dinner our waitress was explaining the rolls. We have seeded, raisin and nut, and white, she said. What? She repeated the choices. I questioned, “Raisin and nut?” Plop. She put the raisin and nut bread on my plate. I did not want raisin and nut. She obviously did not want to discuss what raisin and nut bread was doing filling up a spot in our bread basket that could have been occupied by sourdough or wheat. But what do I know? I am an American, and from California, no less.

There is not a lot to do in Matira Beach except eat, swim and watch pregnant dogs drop massive amounts of steaming poop on the beach. In Vaitape, you try to stay out of the street and avoid getting runover. Vaitape has a lovely grocery store, Chin Lee, which is owned by a woman. She plays very loud music right by the lottery tickets. I don’t know how that loud loud music helps to sell lottery tickets but I suspect it does. It makes people dance down the aisle, even people searching desperately for dried prunes.

matira beach300x200Bloody Mary’s, that popular tourist spot, is closed for renovation. We bought a few postcards, walked around Vaitape for a while and then grabbed a taxi for Matira. Matira Beach is billed as one of the most stunningly beautiful beaches in the world. It’s a public beach. The view is spectacular.

We sat at the spot designated in our literature at the Intercontinental Hotel, which at one time was probably the Matira Hotel from the sign out on the road. No bus came. The appointed time came and went. The staff at the Intercontinental called the St. Regis for us and then assured us the bus would come. Where have I heard this type of empty promise before? My mind was clicking through my memory banks. Oh, yes, I know why this sounds familiar. This is like when a short sale bank negotiator says the file will be approved after we submit one more HUD with one tiny little change. Yeah, right.

I’ve got a bus schedule I’d like to give you from the St. Regis to Bora Bora.

The bus did not come. When we were 5 minutes from the boat departure back to the island, we called our butler, Konstantin. He came to the rescue. I will send you a cab, he says. The vehicle that arrived appeared to be driven by somebody’s aunt, but we did not care at that point. When we got back to our hotel room, Konstantin had had delivered a bottle of champagne on ice. Next time, he says, before you venture away, check with me. Yes, Konstantin. We will. It would be awful to have to spend the night at the Intercontinental. They have horrible beach chairs and no tips on their pool cues!

Another Bank of America FHA Short Sale

View from Balcony-300x199You can tell me the buyer is canceling the short sale, and when I’m looking out on this view, I’m only half as annoyed as I normally would be. This is the view from my balcony at the St. Regis in Bora Bora. They put up the orange cones to keep the drunken jet ski drivers from running over naked swimmers. Not that it does any good. When jet skiers get disoriented, there is no telling where they might end up. Just like buyers of short sales. Hard to say. They start out saying they want to buy a short sale but then when approval arrives, lots of them tend to freak out.

As though it’s all fun and games while they are waiting for short sale approval. They can run around and boast to friends: “Look at me, I am buying a short sale. Hey, I have a lampshade on my head.” But when it comes time to put pedal to the metal, some of them just can’t do it. Is it because they’ve had too long to think about it? In a regular escrow, they would be closed within 30 to 45 days, not sitting in limbo waiting for short sale approval. Is it because they forgot they were in escrow? It’s not like there is constant activity that they can see, unless they follow updates on my website.

In one escrow, the dreaded Bank of America FHA short sale escrow, we’ve been working on the file since April. That’s not unusual for a Bank of America FHA short sale. It’s par for the course. Other lenders can process FHA short sales in a normal time period, but that has not been the case with Bank of America. We closed 2 or 3 other B of A FHA short sales recently, and each was almost a year-long process. Because getting the approval from HUD is difficult for B of A. And by the time the bank analyzes the offer, another 4 months have passed and the ATP has expired. So, they start over. Those falling over “for sale” signs in people’s yards are due more to the lengthy process for a Bank of America FHA short sale than from buyers canceling.

Fortunately, Bank of America is moving its FHA short sales to Equator shortly. We hope this happens by its target date of February. It will be a joyful day to celebrate when that happens.

But in this particular Bank of America FHA short sale that we’ve been working on since April and just received approval on 5 days ago — well, the buyer up and canceled yesterday. The agent says it was due to the “whole house inspection” as though we need some kind of excuse. We don’t need no stinkin’ excuse. Just send the cancellation and muddle on with your life. We will sell this home again, and this time to a serious buyer. Or, so this Sacramento short sale agent continues to hope.

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