The Silence Grows

Just a week ago, I attended the memorial service for longtime Seattle news guy, Jim Kampmann.  He was honored well, with a huge turnout at Holy Family Church in Auburn.  Jim spent 17 years in rock radio as the edgy voice of authority, while I got to know him during the next 17 years of his life that he spent as a Green River Community College Radio teacher and nice guy news presence on KIXI & KLSY.  “Kampy” as he was known, became more thoughtful, caring and reflective as the years rolled by.  Sadly, it’s been probably a decade since I last saw him.  A lot of people commented they hadn’t seen him in a while, but it says volumes when you leave that kind of imprint on people’s lives.  There are some wonderful photos of him on his Facebook Memorial Page and, because it doesn’t hurt to give it a plug, they’ve established a GoFundMe page for the Kampmann kids to cover college.  Any little bit helps.

I was blessed to have met Jim, to have gotten to know him and follow his life adventures and misadventures.  To those who didn’t have the pleasure of meeting him, I offer a couple of clips.  Here’s a commentary he did during his tenure at Sandusky radio. And there’s this wonderful collection that John Maynard and friends put together.

However, brace yourself before watching this.  It’s a behind the scenes look at Jim and really gives you a glimpse at the tremendous human being we lost.  That was Kampy.

Just this morning, I found out about the loss of another Seattle radio voice.  Former Smooth Jazz-kateer Cedric James lost his fast and ferocious battle against lung cancer.  Cedric & I worked in the same building over there in Factoria, but most of our encounters were a quick “Hey!” while passing in the halls of Sandusky. He was a Smooth Jazz guy, I was a goofball over at KLSY.  After we both ‘retired’, we connected on Facebook and stayed in touch over the years.

On March 6th, he shared the news that he had been diagnosed with Stage 4 lung cancer.  All too reminiscent of my late broadcast buddy, Larry Nelson.  He announced the diagnosis on Facebook and kept his friends and followers updated on his condition.  Just this past Tuesday, he made his last post:

“I have reached the end of the crossroads and it’s time to make the decision. I am headed for hospice. It is time to die peacefully. My oxygen intake is facing slowly and the doctors are chasing the answer. As a result, I am pulling the plug and preparing for the end. Some time in the next week. I bid you all peace and love. May the Devine white light of mother and father God shine on your heart as it has shined on me. Amen.”

A few hours ago, his son, Cedric Jr., posted this message:

“I am sorry to inform you all of this not so great news. My father did not make the night. He passed away and he went in his sleep.”

I look back on my 30+ years in radio and have lots of fond and not-so-fond memories.  But I have to say, some of the people I met along the way were nothing less than amazing. Unique. Characters.

And now, there are two less characters in my story.  Gentlemen, I look forward to seeing you both again some day. God’s peace to both of you.

Tim Hunter

Not As Crazy As I Seem

A police artist's sketch of the suspects

A police artist’s sketch of the suspects

There have been times I’ve wondered, “When you go crazy, do you know it?  Are there warning signs or do you just wake up one morning and proclaim yourself King of the Butterflies?”

I ask this, because of an incident that innocently began back in January.

I saw this Groupon for personalized M&Ms.  With not only the anniversary of the day we met coming up, plus Valentine’s Day, I figured that would be a nice gift for one of those days, depending on whether they arrived in the mail.

So, I bought the Groupon, went to the M&Ms website, uploaded a picture of us and placed the order.  I gotta say, by the time everything was done, even with the Groupon these bags of chocolates decorated with our picture cost about as much as a dozen roses flown in fresh from Brazil by a guy named Juan on a Lear jet….on Valentine’s Day!

But I thought it would be fun.  Different.  So, I sat back and waited for them to arrive.

I remembered buying the M&Ms the week prior to the anniversary of the day we met.  They had not yet arrived. Valentine’s Day approached, so I made dinner reservations and bought a card.  I was sure they’d show up by then.  They didn’t.

So I wrote to M&Ms and asked, “What happened?”   I didn’t hear back.  Then I remembered the confirmation email saying I could track my order.  They said those special M&Ms with our picture on it had been delivered.

Now, I’m second-guessing myself.  Did they arrive and I hid them until one of the big days?  I emptied out t-shirt drawers, sock drawers, checked inside shoes….all the places I would stash something for later, to maintain the surprise.  Nothing.

Then I wondered if they had been stolen. You always hear about someone’s package arriving, and right behind the FedEx or UPS guy, a robber walks up to the porch and steals your goods.  They must have been after me M&Ms!!!! (yes, I meant to say ‘me’. I was having a Lucky Charms moment)

It’s now been over a month since I had hoped to surprise Victoria with these custom candies.  Not a day goes by that I don’t second-check a cabinet or a desk drawer.

This morning, the phone rang at 7am.  It was a toll-free number.  Gee, the telemarketers are starting early today.  However, for some reason, I decided to go ahead and answer it.  It was the M&M people.  First, they confirmed all my information.  Then they informed me that my order had slipped through the cracks and was never filled.  They apologized profusely (just shy of any kind of refund) and promised they would put a rush on this order and have it out to me tomorrow.  Yep, one day service.

I have to admit, I was talking myself into taking the blame for this one.  Their website said the candies were delivered.  I imagined that I had probably opened the order and quickly hidden them away.  I even pictured what the package probably looked like and that, in time, I would stumble across a moldy pile of rock-hard chocolates in one of the best present hiding spots ever.

So many times, things like this happen and you never learn the story.  I can’t be mad. In fact, I’m somewhere between relieved and happy.  I’m taking great comfort, knowing that I’m not losing my mind and going crazy. At least not yet.

I’d love to continue, but apparently my subjects are awaiting a speech from me out in the Butterfly Garden.

Tim Hunter

GIVING APPRAISAL WHERE APPRAISAL IS DESERVED

I made it. I crossed the finish line. The long personal nightmare is over.

I sold my home in Bothell.

It was a great home, a rambler, backed up against a greenbelt in the highly-desired Northshore School District. I don’t know if you’ve been keeping up with all that’s going on in Bothell, but that city is being transformed. I found out at a Bothell Chamber board meeting this week that the new McMenamin’s complex opens up October 15th of this year. With all that’s going on, property values in Bothell are sure to go up.

When I bought my home there, the year was 2006. House prices were escalating and I figured if I didn’t buy now, it wouldn’t be long until I couldn’t afford to live there. So, I locked in the house at $367,000 and settled in.

Without going into details (because you know them all too well), the housing market crashed. When my new wife and I decided we needed a larger house, I tried to sell the Bothell home. However, prices were falling faster than Howie Mandel’s hair.

So, I turned it into a rental. But from the time I started renting it until the last tenant moved out, I was anywhere from $300-$500 under what the mortgage payments were. Each year I hung on, it cost me up to $6,000 to keep it. I rented it for 8 years. Don’t do the math, it’s depressing.

That isn’t to say I didn’t seriously considering doing a short sale—letting the banks take the hit, not me. Sure, my credit would be dismal for a few years, but that would certainly be better than losing all that money.

However, it just wasn’t the right thing to do. I’m no saint, but if there’s a right way to do things, I usually try my best to make it happen. So, I continued to take the beatings, year after year, hoping that someday the market would turn around.

When my last renter gave notice they were leaving at the end of the year, that was the kick in the butt to make a run at selling it. I poured another $6,000 into new carpeting, painting, repairs, etc. Paid to have it landscaped, paid to have it staged…

My efforts paid off!   The hot market combined with all the nice touches inspired 30 couples to pass through during that first open house and by the end of the day, I had three offers, two over the asking price. The top bid–$380,000!

This usually is where the theme music builds, the credits start rolling and we all savor a happy ending.

But enter the appraiser from hell, Allan Mankis with Everbank.

If you get an appraisal of the asking price, it’s smooth sailing through the financing seas. If not, there’s trouble.   Allan’s appraisal of the house came in at $3,000 less than asking.

The way it works these days (post-housing crash) is that you don’t have any say in who gets selected for the appraisal. Apparently, there were a lot of generous appraisers boosting values of homes that helped fuel the housing price increases.

OK, I get it. We all learned.

But now, there are a few cowboys who feel it’s their job to wrangle prices in. We’ve returned to a seller’s market, where bidding wars occur and values are heading up again.

It would be easy to dismiss my views as being personal and “my opinion.” But here are just some of the facts that Mr. Mankis conveniently ignored:

  • Home values and prices were escalating everywhere, not just in my neighborhood.
  • Watch the evening news every once and a while and you’ll hear there’s a low inventory out there.
  • ‘Comps’ are supposed to be comparisons of similar homes AND recent sales prices.
  • The $330K home that was used as a comp was sold LAST AUGUST. Hmmm….do you think house prices have gone up since then?
  • A  smaller 1248 square foot rambler that sold in the neighborhood last October for $372,000 was mysteriously left out of the appraisal as a comparable. Isn’t that convenient?
  • Included in the comparison: a tri-level. So now, tri-levels and ramblers are pretty much equal when making appraisals? Good to know.
  • He made comments in the report about the updated windows not adding any value compared with homes who still have their original aluminum windows from the 80’s. Really? New triple-pane windows add no value over the aluminum windows of three decades ago? I must notify the utilities and window manufacturers immediately.
  • He also ignored that I had forced-air gas heat, which apparently had no added value over electric baseboard heat. His removal from reality rivals “The Matrix.”
  • He included pictures of “Toilet in the hall” and “Bathroom to be repaired”. Ya think? When the inspector noticed some minor water damage (caused by water that splashed out of the shower and NOT a leaky toilet) I went the extra distance and had it over-repaired by a licensed and bonded handyman. Ripped out the old linoleum, installed new, reseated the toilet and $1100 later, the bathroom was like new. It was a two day project and when does the appraiser come? A half hour before the handyman came to make the final repairs on day 2.
  • He pointed out a broken board in the deck. It must have happened during one of the open houses. Funny, but the inspector didn’t even mention it when he looked at the house. It was a broken board that someone had punched through. I replaced it, (and had done several hundred dollars’ worth of repairs on that deck as well prior to his visit) but Mr. “I’m going to make this house look as bad as possible” showcased it.
  • Comments I heard from several real estate people when I was telling them of this nightmare: “They like to play God.” “He had clear stats that could have easily brought the value to the agreed-on sales price.”

In spite of his negative comments and off-base personal opinions expressed in the appraisal, the buyers and their agent were fine. They knew better. Everyone knew better, which is what drove the price up so high. It is a seller’s market.

Apparently, this appraiser goes to the gas station each week to fill up his vehicle and refuses to accept that the prices have gone up.

His appraisal came in $3,000 less than the $369,000 asking price, which affected the financing and otherwise smooth transaction. This forced me into choosing between lowering the price or putting it back on the market. Mr. Mankis, your under-valued appraisal of that house cost me $3,000.

I am confused why, on your Linkedin profile, you’re listed as a Commercial Review Appraiser. Heaven help any commercial real estate owner who is lucky enough to have you assess their value.

The past 9 years have taken quite an economic toll on me, but I played the game the way it was supposed to be played. Congratulations, Mr. Mankis, you were able to sneak in one last sucker punch before I left the ring.

But remember this—karma always wins.

Tim Hunter

Secrets

secrets

I love secrets.  I know quite a few. We all have a couple tucked away in our memory bank.

Maybe it’s about a family member, a co-worker, a friend who turned to you and trusted you enough to share.  Then, we have to decide–are we keepers or ones who like to share?

Some things start out as secrets, but in time, we all find out.  Putting years between us and the uglier truths seem to make it OK to share.

I recently was privy to the story behind the Christa compound.  Now a religious broadcast facility, senior housing and the home of King’s Schools in Shoreline, Washington,  it once was a tuberculosis hospital.  What’s even better is that there are a series of tunnels underneath which were used to remove the bodies of people who died from the disease.  It sounds like a great urban myth, but actually true.

However, I was not prepared for a story I heard recently and because of its nature and the fact that the person involved is still living, I have to be a bit vague.

The woman who shared this powerful truth swears it’s true.  Now, I should point out that she is a life-long Democrat. Say the “R” word and she’ll get a stern look. Her daughter will be among the first to tell you that her 90+ year mom loves to pass along her stories.  But this one is a real shocker.

As I sat at the table next to her, she began by asking, “You know how President Roosevelt died, don’t you?”   Wanting to show off my knowledge of her generation, I matched her matter-of-fact manner and said, “Sure.  He was sitting at his desk, uttered the words, ‘I have a terrific headache’, had a stroke and died.”

“That’s not what really happened,” she replied.

FDR

According to her, she was working that day at the “Georgia White House.”  It was where FDR got away and relaxed, along with his girlfriend.  Our storyteller said she had been brought in as a staff member and that she was no more than 3-feet away from the president when he ended his life.

The president’s health was not good and he was confined to bed.  That day, a secret service agent removed his gun, and put it down by a bedside table.  Why?  Unknown. But she said she watched as the president quickly reached over for it and before anyone could stop him, shot himself in the side of the head.

Everyone was in shock.  The head of staff told those present to pack up their bags and prepare to leave and ordered that no one was to tell anyone what had taken place.

Now, I’ll be honest–I had never heard this theory before.  But she told it to me like it was God’s truth.  Remember, this is a dyed-in-the-wood Democrat, so why would she want to tarnish the memory of one of the great D-presidents of all time?  Now, hop on Google and you’ll see lots of other similar stories that are circulating about this rumored suicide.  Noting the times and the fact that FDR was not allowed to be photographed in his wheelchair, it wouldn’t surprise me that a presidential suicide would be swept under the rug.

So, that’s the secret.  I’m hoping to interview her soon, so that some day I can share with you the passion and detail with which she told her story.  Otherwise, you’ll probably have to wait another generation or two before finding out what actually happened that day.

Until then, now you know the secret.

Are you a keeper or one who likes to share?

Tim Hunter

One of Life’s Little Lessons

lessons-in-life

So, as I begin to detach myself from the Bothell home I’m in the process of selling, I noticed that the garage door opener had a pretty loose button.  It worked, but it was obvious that it wasn’t long for this world.

On page 284 of the “Nice Guy” manual, it says that I should probably get a replacement for it.  I went to Smile.Amazon.com (the charity arm of their website–they offer the same stuff, but if you order there, a portion of your purchase goes to the charity of your choice!  See, you’ll actually learn two things in this blog) and saw that a couple of replacements would set me back $20.  Done deal.

When they arrived, I popped them open to set the code to the same one as the worn-out remote.  That’s when I made the discovery–during the entire 9 years I owned the home, the garage door opener code was the same as the default code from the factory.  The two new ones were already set to “up-down-up-down….etc.”

The lesson here:  if you inherited your garage door openers from a previous owner or just used them the way they came, any burglar could drive along your street holding a button down and open your garage door.

I should have known better.  I’ve often told the story of my old Bothell neighborhood, where we had an ongoing problem with a garage door that just opened randomly.  I’d come home from work and it was open.  I’d be out washing the car and it would close on it’s own.

Then one day, I happened to be at the right angle.  As our door began to close by itself, I looked up and saw our neighbor pulling into his driveway as his garage door was opening up.  I grabbed my remote, walked down to his house and hit the button.  Sure enough, his door started closing.  It seems we had BOTH left it on the default code.

So, now I’ve given your brain another wrinkle and provided some wisdom when it comes to garage door openers.  I also may have inspired would-be burglars, but that’s the risk you take in a free society.

Don’t do it.

Tim Hunter

Anybody Seen My Old Friend Jon

I only hung out with Jon Lemler for three or four years.

Actually, I’ve known Jon a total of 40+ years. But the time we spent together at Torrance High School amounted to no more than a max of three years. Back in those days, you went to elementary school, then high school. Grades 1-8 and then off to grades 9-12. I had heard the terms “middle school” and “junior high”, but they didn’t apply to my world.

With that big of a jolt, 9th grade for me was mostly spent getting used to this whole new existence. After all, I had only been in public schools two years, after attending a Lutheran school my first six grades. Being a new kid means getting picked on, laughed at and even the occasional threat of being beaten up. Ironically, it was my sense of humor that saved me several times and eventually, the bullies came to like me. I discovered that comedy was a great way to win people over.

With something like 5 elementary schools all contributing to Torrance High School, there were a lot of new faces and personalities. Somewhere along the way I met this white kid wearing an Afro-style haircut named Jon Lemler. If I remember it right, I became good friends with a couple of guys who attended the same elementary school as Jon, so  eventually we all started hanging out together.

I don’t think Jon was a jock or played music. He may have been in choir or the chess club, I just don’t know. All I remember is him being a little quirky, sorta funny and that he had mastered a talent of which I was highly envious—he could play music with his hands.

Now that we’re over 40 years removed from those high school days, actual memories are pretty limited. But one that almost everyone who knew Jon will likely remember is that evening at “Senior Talent Night.” Being a class president, I thought it would be fun to have a talent show and so, Jon took the stage and tore the house down with his version of “Pop Goes the Weasel” on his hands.

That skill came up every five or ten years when we managed to gather again for a class reunion. I have to say that Jon and I probably became better friends after high school than during.

Eventually, Jon took those magic hands and wandered into Chiropractic care and naturopathic medicine. Every reunion, while the rest of us continued our outward expansion, Jon continued looking pretty good. Down right healthy.

So, when another classmate started an email this week with the words, “I have some sad news to pass along”, Jon’s name was the last one I expected to see.   It seems he was attending a convention in Las Vegas earlier this month, when he suddenly dropped dead of a heart attack, at age 60.

I know Jon meant a lot to so many people—his family, his patients, his classmates. But he also played a big part in the life of my wife, Victoria, who felt compelled to write down her thoughts earlier today:

To The Friends & Family of Dr. Jonathan Lemler:

I met Dr. Lemler at a Torrance High School reunion as he was a classmate of my husband, Tim Hunter.  I believe this was the summer of 2008.  We began talking about our lives and the subject of me having been diagnosed with a kidney disease came up in our conversation. On one hand he was not very optimistic for me, but the more he thought about it, and he thought about it after the reunion as well, he emailed my husband and suggested a treatment for my liver, mushroom in origin, that would help my liver so it could support my kidneys. Up until this time my stats were not moving much in the positive direction. Once I started this treatment the numbers began to improve.  With a combination of this treatment, my naturopath and nephrologist, my kidneys slowly edged toward remission.  By 2011, my numbers were normal again. I will never forgot how much he cared, how hard he worked to help save my life because in fact, that is what he did.

He will be missed and I am extremely grateful to have known him.

Victoria Hunter

Seattle, WA

What more can I say other than I wish to God I could have had one more chance to say thanks for all you did, for Victoria and myself. God’s peace.

And for those who didn’t see it earlier on Facebook, here’s a clip of Jon from our 20-year reunion.

Too soon, man. Too soon.

Tim Hunter

Yes, It’s Hot in February

Here we go!

Here we go!

I’ll be honest. When I heard the news stories talking about this being “a seller’s market”, I was thinking when it came to my involvement that would mean a “Peter Sellers market.”

After all, when I bought my Bothell home back in 2006, I was watching house prices escalate at a phenomenal rate. Part of my inspiration to buy was the feeling that if I didn’t buy now, it wouldn’t be long until I wouldn’t be able to afford a house in Seattle.

So, when my real estate dude Bruce Fulton found this little 3-bedroom home backed up against a greenbelt in Bothell, I made a run at it. And, to make sure we got it, I gave them an offer $3,000 over the asking price of $367,000.

It was right after the ink dried on that contract that the signal was given for the economy to crash and the housing industry to bust unlike it had done in the last 100 years.

But, no worries. I was in this for the long haul.  Eventually house values would come back up.  I would just sit on the back deck, listen to the birds chirping, watch the rabbits dash through the yard and just take it easy.

Then I met a girl, fell in love, and we decided that little home wasn’t big enough for my new family configuration, so we bought the closer-to-Seattle home where we now live. I turned the Bothell residence into a rental. I only enjoyed living there for a year.

Luck was on my side, as I managed to get two great renters over the past 8 years. When the latest renter informed me she was no longer interested in buying the home and was moving south, it was time to make a run at selling it.

As poorly timed as the purchase was, the selling apparently was the complete opposite. Bruce said we should have no problem getting $369,000 for it. That was much welcomed news, especially since Zillow had two “values” posted for the home, the highest only $323,000. (just this week, there was an online news story about Zillow and their unreasonably lower values)

To make sure that it sold as soon as possible, I pulled out all the stops. Tweaked the inside to perfection with new carpeting and touched-up the painting. Put in a gravel path on the side yard, re-stained the deck on the two dry days in January. I had already put on a new roof this past year, repaired the garage door, replaced the front porch. Around $4,000 of freshening up later and the house was ready.

Oh wait—the smart money suggested “staging” the house. You’d think that wide-open rooms would look big, but having the right furniture in them makes all the difference and helps buyers with limited imaginations see how the house could look.

Now THAT'S staged!

Now THAT’S staged!

 

Another $1,700. (estimates were as high as $2500)  OK, now we’re ready.

Day 1:  On Thursday, the home’s first day on the market, one of the first people in the house made an offer–at full price, but they wanted me to cover the $5K in closing costs. With an open house scheduled for Sunday, we decided to wait and see what happened.

Smart move.

Day 4:  30 couples came through Sunday afternoon, between 1-4pm. At the end of the day, there were 3 offers on the table, two above asking price. We looked at each of the buyers and when all was said and done, I was signing documents Sunday night at 8 for a $378,000 real estate deal. Yep–$9,000 over asking price.

It’s been a long road and I still won’t recover what I put in, but the journey is almost over. There’s a couple that is going to get a great house they’ll enjoy for years to come and that part of my life is now about to close.

As much as I enjoyed Peter Sellers, I’m glad it has become a good old-fashioned seller’s market. If you’ve even thought about selling in the near future, current market conditions and the low interest rates pretty much say, “Do it now!”

Tim Hunter