A Skateboard, a Fanny Pack, and Cuba

This past summer I had the opportunity to live in Fort Myers, FL to intern with a non-profit organization known as Ride Nature. Ride Nature is an action sports ministry that uses skateboarding, surfing, and wakeboarding to share the good news of Jesus with a truly unreached group of people. If you are familiar with the skateboard community at all, you probably know many of the stereotypes that go along with skaters; outcasts of society, drug users, and dropouts with profane language. The skate culture is a very spiritually dark place, and Ride Nature seeks to change that by letting them know that there is a God who wants to know them and meet them as they are, and loves them so much that he sent his own son to die the death we all deserve for our sin.
This is not only the goal of Ride Nature on a local level in Florida but also on an international level throughout the world.

During the summer, I was able to go on two international trips, one to Panama and one to Cuba. Both trips were incredible, but the Cuba was quite the adventure for me, partially because I wanted to make my last trip with Ride Nature as memorable as possible. To help accomplish this goal, with the strong encouragement of the other guys, I packed for the trip using only a fanny pack. With my Bible in one hand, skateboard in the other, and a fanny pack around my waist, we set out for Cuba.

We flew into Havana with our group of about 8 people, bringing in a few dozen skateboards to donate, as well as some skim boards. Ride Nature always brings boards to donate on mission trips, but this was especially important to us while going to Cuba, as the government restrictions don’t allow skateboard to be imported to the country at all. Every skateboard in Cuba has been brought in from individuals after they visit another country. When a skater in Cuba breaks a board (which happens very often in skateboarding), it can be months before they are able to get a new one and start skating again.

Surprisingly, we made it through customs with all the boards with no hassle at all. On our previous trip to Panama, all our bags with donation boards were confiscated, and we had to go back to the airport multiple times and pay hundreds of dollars to get the bags back.

Each day of the trip in Cuba, we set out to a different skate spot to build relationships with the skaters there, hold skate contests, and share the gospel everywhere we went. We had a few different contacts in Cuba before going who were skaters, and they were able to let the community know where we would be and when. The community of skaters in Cuba is very large, but a tight knit group of guys that all seemed to know each other well.

 

Each day we went to a new spot the group of skaters got bigger and bigger as word got out that we were there, and that we had skateboards to give away. It was cool to see the same guys around each day, and it was almost as if we were able to disciple them throughout the week as we shared our testimonies and gospel messages with them each day. One of the days about halfway through the trip, I broke my board while trying a trick down a ledge, which was a real bummer. Not only was it unfortunate that I couldn’t skate the rest of the week, but I also couldn’t donate that board before we left (we usually donate our own boards before we leave). On the same day shortly after that, I realized that my fanny pack had been stolen from one of the cars we were using. Praise the Lord that my passport, Bible, and most of my clothes were still back at our apartment. Believe it or not, that day was my favorite day of the trip because of what happened next.

We had a very large group of skaters gathered that day, and my friend had just given his testimony to them, and our translator and trip leader was sharing the gospel and explaining how you become a follower of Christ if you want to make that decision. One of the skaters from the crowd started talking to our translator and to all the guys in the crowd in Spanish, which we eventually found out to be something along the lines of “Guys, why wouldn’t we all want this? Let’s all pray together right now!” Then we saw nearly every one of the several dozen skaters there bow down with their eyes closed, and ask the Lord into their hearts. That is one moment from my life that I will never forget. I may have lost half of my possessions I had in Cuba that day, but that is not even comparable to seeing others saved by Jesus.

Many of the churches in Cuba don’t allow people in if they have tattoos and piercings, and they preach to their congregations that they should stay away from people who are not Christians and stay strictly surrounded by a Christian bubble, with no concept of evangelism or fulfilling the great commission. Many of the skaters we talked to were hungry for the gospel and extremely receptive but were simply rejected by the churches for not looking and acting like your average church-going people.

God doesn’t require us to clean ourselves up before coming to him, and he wants to meet us wherever we are. No matter how we look, act, or whether we pretend like we “have it all together” or not, we are all sinners. We are all sinners who have been saved by nothing but the grace of God alone, and to pretend our sin is less than the sin of others does nothing but minimize the cross and put us in a place of self-righteousness. If we have accepted the free gift of eternal life through Jesus Christ, then we owe it to others to tell them how they can have it too.

 


Dave Hackett is from Maple Grove, Minnesota. He is a manufacturing engineering student at University of Wisconsin-Stout. Dave is passionate about action sports and videography. Follow David Hackett on Facebook and Instagram @davehack97

Read more

Caulk the toilet base? Yes!

Toilets are a divisive topic, but today I’ll be setting the record straight once and for all on three important toilet topics. First, the toilet paper roll: overhand or underhand? There’s only one right answer, of course, and it’s overhand. There’s no point in even discussing this one.

Toilet seat: up or down? Wrong question! It’s not about the seat. It’s about the lid. The lid is there for a reason. Put it down. Ladies, you’re guilty of this too. I’ve been in countless female-only homes where I found the lid up at every toilet. I document every one of them in my toilet lid journal.

And now, onto the most divisive topic. Unlike the first two, this one is real, and it actually gets a fair amount of discussion. Should toilets be caulked at the floor? The answer is yes.

Toilets should be caulked at the floor

As standard procedure for every home inspection that I perform, I check the toilets to make sure they’re properly anchored to the floor. Almost every time I find a toilet that’s loose, I also find missing caulk at the base of the toilet. The two go hand-in-hand.

When I find a loose toilet, I tell my client to properly secure the toilet to the floor and to caulk around the base of the toilet, but I frequently get clients that tell me they’ve heard otherwise.

The thought process behind not caulking a toilet to the floor is that if the toilet leaks at the floor, you’ll quickly find out about the leak as long as the toilet isn’t caulked. If it is caulked, the thinking is that if the toilet flange leaks, you’ll end up trapping water between the toilet base and the floor in an area that you can’t access.

In reality, toilets rarely leak onto the floor. More often, they leak through the floor around the flange. I’ve found plenty of toilets that leak down into the basement, but very few that leak onto the bathroom floor.

Why caulked?

There are two great reasons to caulk a toilet to the floor:

  • Caulk prevents a fouling area. If mop water, bathtub water, or a less pleasant “bathroom liquid” gets underneath the toilet, there is no way to clean it up. Caulking around the base of the toilet will prevent this from happening.
  • Caulk helps to keep the toilet secured to the floor. The bolts are really supposed to keep the toilet secure, but caulk helps. As I mentioned before, toilets that are caulked at the floor are rarely loose. Caulk does such a good job of keeping toilets secured to the floor that you could probably rely on caulk alone to keep a toilet secured… not that I would try this.

Besides these two great reasons, it’s also a code requirement. The Minnesota State Plumbing Code says, under section 402.2, “Where a fixture comes in contact with the wall or floor, the joint between the fixture and the wall or floor shall be made watertight.” For areas of the country where the IRC has been adopted, you’ll find nearly identical language under section P2705.1.3: “Where fixtures come in contact with walls and floors, the contact area shall be watertight.”

Some people prefer to caulk all around the toilet and leave about a one-inch gap in the caulk at the back of the toilet to allow water to escape out in the event of a leak.  It’s already tough enough to caulk behind a toilet, so if this is what you want to do, God bless. Just don’t go crazy with the caulk.


Reuben Saltzman is a second generation home inspector with a passion for his work. He grew up remodeling homes and learning about carpentry since he was old enough to hold a hammer. Reuben has worked for Structure Tech Home Inspections since 1997, and is now co-owner and President of the company. Reuben lives in Maple Grove, Minnesota with his wife and two children. Follow Reuben on Facebook. Click here to Subscribe to Reuben’s Home Inspection Blog.

City Spotlight: Maple Grove

Maple Grove is a flourishing community in the Twin Cities metro area that over 61,000 residents proudly call home. Just twenty minutes from Minneapolis and forty-five minutes from the Minneapolis/St. Paul International Airport, citizens receive every amenity of a large city and the peace and charm of a small town.

Set within the heart of Hennepin County, Maple Grove’s vibrant history dates back to the mid 1800s when the Winnebago Indians were settled in the area. Today, over 1,000 businesses operate in this progressive city which offers people quality healthcare, year-round recreational activities, and an excellent standard of living.

Rated high by citizens as a great place to raise children, Maple Grove offers plenty of opportunities for residents to live life to the fullest. Looking for something to do with the family? Look no further than the Maple Grove Community Center which has indoor/outdoor playgrounds, ice skating, indoor/outdoor pools, and picnic area. It is also the site of the Maple Grove Farmers Market where fresh food and fun are in abundance. Check out the many community concerts and family activities at the Town Green. Don’t miss the annual Maple Grove Days festivities in July and numerous community events sponsored by local businesses and community organizations.

Maple Grove is also a great place for commerce and has a solid business community in which a number of highly regarded businesses continue to thrive.

Maple Grove has a wide range of housing options available; from rental to charming single family homes to townhouses with scenic views to exciting senior living communities and everything in between. Most of the developments come complete with play areas which are perfect for those with families or looking to start a family. Subdivisions are also within close proximity to multiple shopping and dining options so convenience is something that’s around every corner.

Retail developments combine large national retailers along with unique stores that offer a one-of-kind shopping experience. There are also a number of centrally-located areas that offer a wide array of everyday conveniences and shopping options.

In addition, enjoy a variety of eating establishments to choose from: family diners, outdoor casual eateries, upscale dining options — many nationally-known favorites as well as local flavors.

The beauty of seven different lakes can be found within Maple Grove as well as over 1,000 acres and 36 miles of meticulously maintained parks and trails and 48 playgrounds. With the attraction of the Maple Grove Arboretum and two regional park reserves, the outdoor amenities fit every age and interest.

The City of Maple Grove is dedicated to providing high-quality service to its residents, businesses and visitors to make our community one in which we can all enjoy living, working and playing!

Maple Grove…Serving Today, Shaping Tomorrow.

maplegrovemn.gov

2017 Edina Fall into the Arts Festival

September 9th & 10th
Centennial Lakes Park

Edina Fall into the Arts Festival is a benefit for the Edina Crime Prevention Fund, which keeps the residents of Edina safe. Centennial Lakes Park is a prime location for an art fair, and said to be one of the most beautiful locations in the country.

More than 250 artists & exhibitors, food vendors and sponsors will be showing and selling their work. The festival has an assortment of exciting new artists, as well as returning favorites representing diverse media such as photography, jewelry, pottery, sculpture, wearable arts, glass, fiber arts, wood, and painting. Something for everyone!

Learn more here: edinafallintothearts.com

Check out a report from last year’s festival below.

.

 

The Top 4 Deals Killers For Homebuyers

Falling in love is exhilarating. It can also be a bit scary, especially when a home has captured your heart. What if something goes wrong and you end up not spending the rest of your life with this stack of brick and mortar you’re lusting after?

No matter how careful you are, some deal killers are unavoidable. Others, however, are preventable, so pay heed if you hope to keep your deal alive.

  • Don’t Mess with Your Mortgage Preapproval

A common reason for a real estate deal to fall apart is that many homebuyers don’t fully understand the mortgage process. Sure, you may get a loan preapproval, but don’t think for one minute that this guarantees you will get the loan. It doesn’t.

Here’s what happens after you receive your pre approval letter and decide to move forward with the purchase. The lender will start your file, give you a list of paperwork required, order an appraisal and credit reports, verify your employment and income, and more.

The file is then sent to the processor who will review all of your information as well as the appraisal. He or she will then put together a package of all pertinent information to be sent to the underwriter.

The underwriter is the person who ultimately determines whether or not you are an acceptable credit risk. He or she will assess your ability to repay the loan, your credit, and the collateral used to secure the mortgage – in this case the collateral is the home. Then, just before funding the loan, the underwriter will perform what is known as a “soft pull” of your credit information to see if anything has changed.

This is the point where many borrowers run afoul. If you hope to keep your purchase alive, don’t do anything – from application to closing – that might change your financial picture and sabotage your final approval. This means no shopping on credit for appliances, furniture or anything else. Don’t switch jobs, fall behind on your bills, co-sign a loan for anyone, or in any way reduce the income stated on your application.

  • Read Homeowner’s Association Documents Carefully

When you purchase a home in a managed community governed by a homeowners association (HOA), you’ll be given a mountain of paperwork to read and approve. Because there may be deal killers included in the fine print, it’s important to get to this task immediately upon receipt of the documents.

Look for any information about liens against the property; current litigation against the HOA, the builder, or the developer; and any red flags in the HOA budget. Since these documents aren’t easy to read and understand, it is worth the money you’ll spend to have your attorney look them over and advise you of any potential deal killers lurking within.

While the aforementioned HOA problems could potentially derail the deal, it’s better to have it happen upfront rather than when you’re further along in the process.

  • Home Inspection Problems

All homes – even newly constructed ones – may have problems. Going into the process not fully understanding this can set you up for a failed real estate deal. Sure, you ideally want to find a home that was owned by Mr. or Mrs. Clean who conscientiously took care of it during their entire ownership, but those are few and far between, and seeking them out is unrealistic.

Set your sites on finding a home that has small, easy-to-fix problems, and don’t freak out if some are worse than others. In other words, when considering making an offer, laugh at the loose doorknob but negotiate when it comes to water damage or worse.

The nitpicky homebuyer, who plans on nickel and diming the homeowner into replacing missing switch plates and dripping faucets, is the picture of a deal-breaker-in-the-making. Sure, in a buyer’s market you may get away with minor demands. In a seller’s market, however, there is always a cleaner offer right behind yours.

  • Budgeting Blunders

The real estate industry does a bang-up job of reminding homebuyers that they’ll need a down payment – typically from 3 percent to 20 percent of the total loan amount – when they purchase a home. What they often fail to inform real estate consumers about are the loan’s closing costs – the money you will be required to pay before the house is yours. This is most likely because closing costs are a little harder to pin down. They vary wildly and depend on the type of loan, the amount of the down payment, and a host of other factors.

Unfortunately, this lack of information frequently causes real estate deals to disintegrate. To avoid this particular problem, pay attention to all communications from your lender.

First, you will receive a form called a Loan Estimate. Look this over carefully to ensure that everything your lender agreed to is included. Pay close attention to the “Calculating Cash to Close” section, which concludes with an estimated cost to close the loan. Remember, this is an estimate and the amount may go higher or lower in the end. Speak with the lender if you find any problems here, especially if it will be impossible for you to come up with this money.

Just before closing you will receive the “Closing Disclosure,” which is quite similar to the estimate, but these figures are final. Again, review the “Cash to Close” figure.

By and large, real estate deals conclude successfully. Typically, it all comes down to the experience of your agent. Choose wisely and you’ll avoid the common pitfalls that can derail transactions. For a smooth, low-stress real estate transaction, slow down, keep your expectations realistic and heed the advice of your real estate agent or attorney.

***************************************************************

Jon Speich is a licensed real estate professional with JP Willman Realty Twin Cities specializing in buying and selling residential real estate. He is married with three daughters and lives in Champlin, Minnesota. Follow him on Facebook, LinkedIn, and on Twitter @jonspeich.

 

www.jonspeich.com

Why You Should Be Excited About the Housing Market

What an amazing year 2016 was for home sellers, and 2017 is promising to be even better. By December of 2015, with 5.26 million sales, we had seen a more robust housing market than we’ve seen since 2006. In fact, as of early 2016, America’s housing market had spent 43 consecutive months as a seller’s market. Lawrence Yun, the National Association of REALTORS (NAR) chief economist chalks up the heavy sales volume to “the prospect of higher mortgage rates in coming months and warm November and December weather.”

Get Very Excited if You Plan to Sell Your Home This Year

The combination of high demand for homes and shrinking inventories produces a seller’s market and typically signals rising home prices. While many forecasters expect home prices to continue rising this year, they caution that they won’t climb as quickly or as much as they did last year. “The NAR is calling for a 4.4 percent increase in existing home prices this year and 3.4 percent in 2017; other economists and strategists also put 2016 price growth in the 4 percent to 5 percent range,” claims NAR’s Adam DeSanctis.

In addition, inventories of available homes rose slightly last month. Whether or not this signals a trend toward a more balanced housing market remains to be seen. So, yes – although it sounds trite – the best time to sell your home is right now, while inventory is still low. If you will be selling a home priced in the low-to-middle price tier for your market, expect it to go quickly and for top dollar. You will have little competition and the demand in this price range is strong, according to Shu Chen of CoreLogic.

While this type of market makes it easy for home sellers to become complacent, if you expect to get top dollar for your home and want it to sell quickly, do the work required to ensure that it’s in move-in condition.

Buying a Home This Year?

While it may seem like there isn’t a whole lot for homebuyers to get excited about this year, there is one bonus for you: low interest rates. In fact, according to Freddie Mac’s Primary Mortgage Market Survey, 30-year mortgage rates fell in April 2016 to an average of 3.59 percent across the country, down from 3.65 percent the same time last year.

Combine the low rates with more relaxed lending guidelines and there is definitely good news for the 2016 homebuyer. Lower mortgage rates mean a lower monthly payment, which means you have more purchasing power, and that additional power can “mean the difference between buying a 2-bedroom home versus a 3-bedroom one; between buying a home with large closets versus small closets; and, between buying an upgraded home versus a dated one,” according to Dan Green at The Mortgage Reports.

Another reason to get excited: It appears that those deep-pocketed investors who pay all cash for homes have left the market. Last year, 33.9 percent of all home sales were to cash buyers, the lowest rate since 2008, according to Molly Boesel with CoreLogic. While there is still plenty of competition out there from other homebuyers for homes in good locations and in decent condition, the playing field is a bit more level.

Yes, there is still a lot of competition from other homebuyers. This makes it more important than ever to have all your ducks in a row before making an offer on a property. Ensure you know exactly how much you can spend and that you’ve obtained a preapproval letter from your lender. Make your offer stand out from the others by keeping it lean and mean, with the shortest time periods for contingencies as possible. While we’re still in a seller’s market, come in with your highest and best offer. The market moves too quickly right now to assume the seller will negotiate over price.

Finally, if you’ve been sitting on the fence waiting for prices to come down, jump off. Home prices are currently rising twice as quickly as incomes, and it doesn’t appear the situation will change in the near future.

***************************************************************

Jon Speich is a licensed real estate professional with JP Willman Realty Twin Cities specializing in buying and selling residential real estate. He is married with three daughters and lives in Champlin, Minnesota. Follow him on Facebook, LinkedIn, and on Twitter @jonspeich.

 

www.jonspeich.com