Summer fun

Creative, Affordable, Durable, Sustainable, & Adorable ADUs in California

Posted on February 21, 2022. Filed under: Accessory Dwelling Units, ADUs, AirBnB, Building, Construction, First Time Buyer help, Homeownership, Informed Investor Alliance, Los Angeles property, Los Angeles Real Estate, Making Life Easier, Orange County Real Estate, Owning Despite Student Debt, Real Estate Stories, Renting, Summer fun | Tags: , , , , , , , , , |

Cal Earth inspirational workshops and hands-on classes offer a new way to build real estate

Today we took a field trip to the Cal Earth build & test site in Hesperia. This educational builder camp sits in Hesperia, CA because it has extreme heat, freezing cold temps, and is on a fault line. Additionally, Hesperia experiences flash flooding & washes, so it makes for a perfect test ground.

Superadobe buildings are Seismic & earthquake proof, fireproof, flood, & wind proof. They can handle snow loads and pressure. They don’t need rebar or concrete to build. They look super creative & flowy, but they are actually extremely structurally sound.

Many of the test structures at the Hesperia Cal Earth site are not maintained on purpose to see how they stand the test of time. This school has truly been built out by its students, and the first structure built in 1990’s is still standing today. It was such a fascinating experience!

Meet the Superadobe

If needed for refuge or quick builds, these structures can pop up camp in just a couple days. ‘Water village’, pictured here with Cal Earth volunteers Giovanni & Marco, is an on-site example of a cluster of single room homes, built to serve as a replica of what an actual refugee community might look like. Although designed to be temporary housing, this little village has been standing for the last 20 years.

Since superadobes are so durable, they can also stand the test of time for single family builds. Don’t feel like buying a ‘cookie cutter’ tract home? Cal Earth Institute offers preapproved plans – if you sign up for one of their workshops you’ll get a copy 😉 Of course, this is a part of the reason why we went. What’s a workshop without implementation?

We’d love to hear in the comments if you know anyone who has built a superadobe, or if you plan to build one yourself.

What Makes an Adobe Home a Superadobe?

Nader Khalili is the inventor & architect from Iran, who used to build skyscrapers for a living in Los Angeles, but he wasn’t fulfilled. He discovered Rumi, & changed his direction into sustainable building. 

Not long after, Nader invented the ‘superabdobe’; which is a permanent Adobe structure. Rather than a traditional Adobe that cannot withstand a natural disaster, Superadobes are much more durable. Nader has since moved on from this realm, but his vision lives on through Cal Earth Institute.

Khalili loved biomimicry, mimicking designs and structures from nature. His designs include the ‘Seashell dome’; ‘Reptile walls’; and the ‘Koala pouch’. Not everything was biomimicry, however. The dome-obsessed architect also incorporated roofless domes for high heat; apses, and pottery domes.  

Supply List to Build a Superadobe ADU

I loved how easy the supply list was. These were things that even I could carry, and didn’t need a huge truck to transport.

  • 4 pt double pronged galvanized barbed wire; 12-14 gague thickness.
  • 14 inch diameter bags to make 12 inch walls, just FYI you lose some width when you fill the bag with earth.
  • Need coffee cans, or gallon buckets, depending on width of bags.
  • Shovels,
  • Tamper,
  • Wheelbarrow,
  • Scissors or knife
  • A cement mixer or electric mixer makes things go way quicker.
  • Level
  • Wire cutters
  • Water source

Want the FULL supply list? That’s still super short? Just TEXT “Cal Earth Supply List” to Angie at 949-338-7408.

Another thing that’s really neat is you don’t have to build a shelter at all with the earthbags from Cal Earth. You can build benches, stairs, planters, pools, fountains, fences…an Amphitheater for your Hipcamp…or whatever flowy and functional structure your mind conjures up 🙂

Pictured right is Daniel & our new Cal Earth workshop friends practicing with with the tamper. I can just see his wheels turning about what the next Flower Den Superadobe Retreat will look like – stay tuned, LOL!

Tips For Building a Superadobe Structure

A fun fact about superadobes is the heat transfer from outside is only at about one inch per hour. It won’t get too hot or too cold over the 12 hour daylight or nighttime hours. Not only do adobe’s prevent heat, they absorbs it, so that warmth slowly transfers inside to keep you comfortable at night. 

Our first tips are about measuring and prepping properly for your fill:

  1. When laying barbed wire, measure from the center of your bag, and add 2 extra feet.
  2. When measuring for bag, walk the perimeter of the circle, and add 3 feet before cutting.
  3. Fold long bags in half & mark the middle. ‘Cuff’ the ends so plastic doesn’t fly all over.
  4. Partially flip bags inside out from each side, this makes them easier to fill. Be mindful to ONLY fill one side at a time.
Superadobe’s can be open air or include windows. Here’s a sample of a Superadobe kitchen, built in 2007. This model uses standard windows, but you can also get creative with upcycled glass bottle or ceramic windows.

More Pointers for a Proper Adobe Build

Since your main ingredient is earth from the land you’re standing on, you’ll want to ensure you’ve got the right mix. As you’ll be investing a lot of sweat equity, make sure to do a soil test before building to know how far you’ll need to go down in the earth to get past the living matter. It was stressed multiple times, make sure no living matter or roots are in your mix. Rocks bigger than your palm need to go too. If you can close your hand around it, then it’s fine, but larger than that should be tossed from the mix. Don’t worry though, it’s very forgiving to make the mix – there are adobe and superadobe structures across the world, & in all different types of terrain.

The tips kept flying fast at our one day workshop; I caught as many as possible. Figure they are best served here as bullet points:

  • Keep everything dry & well ventilated if you are building in a wet area.
  • Thickness of the wall depends on diameter of the build.
  • Stabilize to resist erosion in flood zones, plan French drains & diversion. Your french drains can even be designed to water the landscape 😉
  • Plan where the furniture will go before you start to build because a lot of it is built in; remember most furniture is square.. and there will be limited to zero squared angles in an adobe build.
  • In case you’re only reading the bullets here, reminder to never use the top 1 ft of soil. Dig deeper to get to the inert materials like the sand, gravel, clay & silt.
  • Orient windows south. Create & plan ‘Wind scoops’ facing the main direction of breeze in summer.
  • PVC pipes, ceramic tubes, or even recycled bottles can be used for windows. Check out the custom ceramic windows pictured here. 
  • If doing radiant heat in floors, insulate under first!
  • Utilize rocket stoves for simple heat sources.
  • By the time you build up, its already compacted.
  • Plaster right away, but don’t lay it in too thick, or else it may crack.
  • Mesh or chicken wire is recommended to prevent cracking.
  • Waterproof paint in wet areas.
  • Note that limewash interior is anti fungal.
  • If the bag needs to move, lift & pull. Don’t push.

Super Adobe Construction Made Simple

In essence, 4 main ingredients can build a pretty badass house. Sandbags, barbed wire, earth, & stabilizer. So easy. Sandbags can be made from polypropylene, hemp, or jute fiber. You can use long bags designed for adobes, or, just normal sandbags might work best if you’re doing the build with only a couple people. Stabilizer is added in the bag, like lime or plaster. From there, you’ll just cover the bags from UV rays and the elements while you build with a tarp, and you’ll be good. Note that jute might mold or rot, so it’s not recommended to build with it in winter. Supposedly jute is better for short term structures. The barbed wire acts as a velcro or glue between layers of bag and prevents the building from laterally sliding.

It seemed like the toughest part of the day was ‘completing the circle’ – which was the act of finishing each circular level on the stem wall. (That’s the straight vertical wall) It wasn’t difficult so to speak, just a process of folding both ends away from you, after propping the bag up with your feet (known laughingly as ‘bag wrangling’). Once the ends are properly sealed, you meet them up while keeping a tamp as a buttress at the seam. Then tamp the edge a bit so water goes out not in, with a slight angle to the outside. You can literally hear when the earthbags are tamped to correct compaction, the sound is louder and almost echos.

Additional important building techniques include a spring line for keeping the dome structure and trajectory of the dome even, and a compass to guide with proper perimeter and height. All these things were hand created with various tools and scraps we had on site!

Some Challenges Surrounding Superadobe Plans & Builds

No good thing comes without hurdles. In our current days of ‘buying a template ADU off Amazon’, the custom adobe build can face opposition.

Because the design elements with Superadobes are endless, it causes city officials to scratch their heads a bit. Designing these structures to easily follow the contour in the land and mold to the topography makes each one super cool, and super unique.

Let’s be honest….building officials are used to templates and squared angles. They don’t always understand domes, arches, and curves; and they aren’t extensively educated about them in the field. Confusion and inspectors don’t mix, so this means they can tend to deny the plans for your dream adobe without the proper education.

There was a point in time when Cal Earth had pre-permitted build plans, but alas, codes are everchanging… and they need to update permits. Feel free to donate time or funds to help Cal Earth get to the point of offering preapproved plans again.

Our Action Items to Support Superadobes

Locally here in CA, I’m going to see if we can get the City of Santa Ana to approve something. As Orange County’s epicenter, Santa Ana already has a ton of ADUs. Plus, many of the lots are flat with ample space for an additional small structure. And… my partner in life, Daniel, plans to talk to the building department in Sedona, AZ. We know Taos, NM is friendly to superadobes and green buildings; and would love it if you comment other adobe friendly build areas for the fellow nomads reading this blog 😉

In the meantime, one potential workaround with your city or HOA, depending on which one you’re in, is the umbrella of California’s statewide ADU law passed in 2020, SB 13.

How to Spread the Word about Superadobes and Get Involved 

Of course, social media awareness always helps! You can follow & support Cal-Earth’s initiatives on Insta or Facebook. It also helps if you sign up for one of their affordable and educational hands on adobe building workshops.

If you’re inspired or thinking of building an ADU in Orange County, reach out, I’d love to come do a video tour whether you’re in progress, or have the finished adobe complete. Thought we could wrap this post up with one of Cal Earth’s favorite quotes from, you guessed, it, Rumi:

“The Earth turns to gold, in the hands of the wise.” – Rumi
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Women finding freedom through the sharing economy of AirBnB

Posted on May 31, 2021. Filed under: Accessory Dwelling Units, AirBnB, FHA loans, First Time Buyer help, Homeownership, Informed Investor Alliance, Making Life Easier, OC Property Management, Orange County Real Estate, Property Mangement, Real Estate Stories, Summer fun | Tags: , , , , , |

Let’s be honest, a lot of females are juggling household schedules, making beds on the daily, and working full time jobs in customer service or hospitality type industries. A lot of these same females are also searching for a way to spend more time with loved ones, and to find a better work-life balance. 

This brings the question: How can we live richer, more fuller lives while making a difference in the world? Keep close connections with our families & still sprinkle what we were meant to do into the ethosphere?

For those who have a passion to roam and to create, enter the opportunity of vacation rental management, AirBnB experiences, and niche property rental platforms.  

If you have a unique property or space, big or small, this is an opportunity for you. People love to rent not only stick & brick type properties, but also RV’s, boats, cars, treehouses, yurts, water towers, and land. 

We now live in a world where you can tow a trailer, link up to solar, put out a cell booster, charge devices, and work / connect from almost anywhere. As the clouds from Covid continue to lift, people are ready to explore this new world. Are you ready to connect with them? 

I recently had the opportunity to interview some of these women who have opened their spaces in the home-sharing economy. Each has a unique story to tell, weaved in with their life passions and experiences. 

Take for example entrepreneur Heather Carter, running Eureka Springs Coffee House with 2 AirBnB units above. Guests enjoy the main strip of historical Eureka, Arkansas; and also have discount offerings at the coffee shop below. Travelers include vacationers and business professionals alike. In a recent video interview with Heather, she said “We used to live above the coffee house ourselves, but we soon discovered we had a unique opportunity for rentals here”. Indeed she did!

Heather advised she prefers the niche with commercially zoned properties, so she can avoid any roadblocks with residential vacation rental limitations. If you aren’t sure about STR rules in your community or city, be sure to research accordingly to avoid pitfalls.

Another go-getter making the most of her skills is April Snow-Kass, a Realtor in LA specializing in harmonious homes for musicians. April recently branched out to nearby Joshua Tree as a vacation rental host. Now, not only can April sell property in a new area, she can speak to personal experience on the equity gains and the rental income her ‘Retro Ranch‘ in the JT desert is recently experiencing. 

Let’s not forget supermom and High School Counselor Carolynn Cribley. Her and financé Matthew Herman in Grandville, Michigan, are putting an extra room in their home, coined ‘The Barnhouse,’ to STR use. They stated in a recent interview that it’s brought such great results, they not only bought another property, but looped parents in on the opportunity. They inspired and guided Matthew’s parents to a short term rental purchase as well. Not only has Carolynn & Matthew created additional monthly cash flow (partly used to build a fun new pool!), they’ve hopped the family on the path to generational wealth.

According to the NAWRB’s website and WHER report:

“…research found women seek homeownership for these primary reasons:

As a “Sanctuary”
A sanctuary is defined as a place of refuge, an oasis or a retreat. Women value creating a unique space from which to retreat from the outside world—one in which they control the climate, the decor, the layout. One’s home is a psychology of space…”

https://www.nawrb.com/one-tough-mother-how-single-mothers-are-defining-the-homebuying-process/#more-18821

Vacation rentals are a method to live this ‘sanctuary’ lifestyle, and create income. Win-win.

Another example is Corporate Executive ‘girlboss’ Vanessa Montanez, who explained to Homeownership Day attendees in January easy steps to enter into investing. Vanessa discovered the benefits of renting her Temecula wine country home on AirBnB recently, and as a lender herself, was kind enough to share strategies with other would-be investors at Homeownership Day. 

Admittedly, all of these hosts know STR life is not as ‘passive’ as long term rentals; but it can be more profitable, plus it allows the ability to vacation in your own property, afford *more* units, & / or meet new friends. Yes, you may still be making beds, running multiple schedules, and rocking your 9-5. But it’s a way to squeeze the most out of almost any property. 

Best of all, homeownership is open to many, regardless of education level or background. With low interest rate loans and programs like FHA allowing as little as 3.5% down, many females are opting into a property purchase. Additionally, SBA loans for Women Owned Businesses have opened even more doors to run a viable business from home. There are many options to sell creations of any kind from home, be it via online avenues or to guests traveling through your space.

Speaking of online avenues, the fast-track growth of property rental apps makes the marketing side become much easier. You don’t have to do your own Search Engine Optimization anymore – these apps are paying to get the word out on your behalf. Platforms to easily start your sharing economy hosting on are AirBnB, VRBO, Hipcamps, Harvest Hosts, Furnished Finder, Outdoorsy, Turo, and more. 

For additional information or a guide into the vacation rental lifestyle, reach out to NAWRB Delegate Spokeswoman Angie Weeks, or watch her video interviews at http://www.YouTube.com/HomebuyingRegistry/ 

This article was written for Women in the Housing and Real Estate Ecosystem; NAWRB. If you would like an article for your publication simply comment below or reach out to Angie at 949-338-7408.

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Buying Property in South America: Ecuador, Columbia, & Argentina

Posted on April 15, 2021. Filed under: Buying in South America, Informed Investor Alliance, International Properties, Summer fun | Tags: , , , |

Thanks to our Global Committee for bringing together speakers from National Association of Realtors and South America today for some online networking. It was really neat to interact with people across the country and across the world through our Zoom webinar. The Internet continues to bring us together so we can collaborate about buying and selling across the country. As a Certified International Property Specialist (CIPS), I’m excited to bring you this great info 🙂 You can certainly click around this blog as well as our YouTube channel to learn about buying property in other areas including Jamaica, Spain, Iceland, and Costa Rica.

First of all, if you’re considering moving to the US, and wondering which US states have the most foreign purchases, here’s a map to help you:

California is only 2nd in line behind Florida, with 15%. This makes CA a great place to call home for both investment, and immigrant opportunity angles. But we’re here to talk about South America…not Cali.

Buying property in Ecuador

Adrian Rodriguez welcomes us to Ecuador – discussing the tropical climate and beautiful beaches, as well as the fact the economy is strong in Ecuador. You can purchase using US dollar, which always tends to make things a little more comfortable – especially if this would be your first foreign purchase.

Ecuador offers fun festivals such as Corpus Christi, where you’ll find native foods, fireworks, and fun. Carnaval is another yearly celebration that brings tourism and fun.

Infastructure for health and medical is strong, which adds to the booming economy. Business opportunities are aplenty as well. Cost of living is also affordable, which makes it a popular spot for vacation homes as well.

Tourism activities include:

  • Beaches
  • Surfing
  • Music festivals, including Opera
  • Art festivals
  • Machu Picchu

What is the cost of living in Ecuador?

Wow, pretty affordable! Adrian said a monthly food budget of $100, and a monthly vehicle budget of $100 will have you eating and riding like royalty. A couple things that foreign buyers should know about purchasing property in Ecuador: Foreign owners must own 5 years before cashing out, and there is a 5% tax upon selling.

If you’d like more info about buying property in Ecuador, comment or contact us – we can connect you with Adrian for a Zoom meeting to answer all your questions 🙂 Now, let’s move on to Columbia…

Buying Real Estate in Columbia, South America

Andres Fernando Correa shared some great info about owning property in Columbia with us today. Columbia has SO much nature from birds, to fruits, to frogs…. you’ll find a plethora of bright and beautiful varieties here! The country is basically split into regions, here’s a graphic of them all:

In order to buy property in Columbia, you can use your US Passport, but if you’d like to STAY there longer than 180 days.. you’ll need to purchase at a certain price. Mompox, Santa Marta, Cartagena are some of the Caribbean region popular cities. Here’s a little more about all of them:

We know, you are wondering what region of Columbia is the coffee region… where all the famous coffee is produced???! It’s Andina! Andina is mountainous, hilly, and has mild and cold weather due to the high altitude. It’s great for ‘the coffee belt’. Andina is also well known for cycling, and has a popular pastime of biking with award winning teams. Tourists also enjoy horseback tours, birdwatching, rafting, and other outdoor fun.

Have you ever wanted to explore the Amazon? The jungle of Columbia has wildlife, plantlife, water features, and history to explore.

But let’s talk about Columbia real estate, not just all the fun things to do and see. One important thing to know is that a real estate broker in Columbia is NOT required to have any licenses or education, so buyer beware. You’ll likely want to work with a company you are already familiar with. One of the most popular ways investors are buying property in Columbia is through Social Housing projects. With a lot of developments currently under construction, you can buy a portion of a development in Columbia for as little as $20K. Here are some of the most popular Social Housing projects to explore:

Other popular housing opportunities and developments in Columbia are senior living, shopping malls, strip malls, and tourism clusters. No matter what type of property is your ‘sweet spot’, Columbia has something for you. Remember, just reach out if you’d like a consultation about what type of investment in Columbia may be the best fit for you 🙂

Now, let’s travel to the south of South America for some information on Argentina.

Learn About Argentina Vacation Homes & Property

Argentina isn’t just about the sports and football teams. Santiago Arnoldi presented for us today, and shared all about Argentina. Argentina is located at the bottom of South America, and they have a smaller population. Argentina is a diverse country with residents who have immigrated there from all over the world – including Spain, Australia, and France.

Health and education are both strong in Argentina. Argentina is also rich in tradition and smiles. The culture and community enjoy coffee, matte, and regular BBQ’s – they are a social bunch! Top that off with all of Argentina’s famous wine & olive oil, and you have a perfect place to retire or vacation.

What cities in Argentina are popular for vacation homes?

Buenos Aires is one of the most popular cities in Argentina, with 2.9 million people. You can find a detached 3 bedroom home with a private pool in the metropolitan areas of Buenos Aires for around 300K, and you can get condos or flats in the city for around 400-550K USD. Here’s an example:

Another popular city in Argentina is Rosario, where you can get beautiful homes for the 150-300K range.

Other cities that are growing and great to buy property are Cordoba, Mendoza, and Patagonia.

One thing you need to know about buying in Argentina is they aren’t big on loans. Banks don’t really offer them. Most properties are bought with cash, or private loans, so you’ll want to plan for your financing well in advance. If you’d like to be introduced to some ways to buy property in Argentina, don’t forget to comment or contact us so we can put you in touch with Santiago to show you the ropes.

Please think of us if you’re a US citizen looking for an introduction to buy a foreign investment property anywhere in the world. The CIPS designation allows us to connect you with the best of the best, and you’ll want the highest level of service when you’re making such a large investment in a different country. Happy world traveling!!!

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Summer Living at Lake Mission Viejo

Posted on July 20, 2018. Filed under: Homeownership, Lake Mission Viejo, Making Life Easier, Summer fun | Tags: , , , , |

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We just activated our lake pass for the summer at Lake Mission Viejo! We wanted to share our excitement about this beautiful spot and encourage locals to activate yours and join us this summer. Any homes that were built in 1978 or after within the boundaries of Lake Mission Viejo automatically come with membership! You can also contact the membership association and see if your home can be added to the association.

Bring guests to enjoy the lake with you!

It’s only $3 a day for each guest that you want to bring along with you to enjoy the fun in the sun! If you’re bringing kiddos under the age of 8 to play at the lake then they are free of charge, but they count towards the total number of guests you can bring for that day. Each family can bring up to 15 guests every day besides for summer weekends when 10 guests are allowed per family. You can also let your guest come along for fishing trips for just $12 a day. On Concert Days there is a $15 fee per guest, with guests limited to 4 per member household at the North Beach. Regular guest policies apply to the East Beach. Members submit a LMVA guest list and can either pre-pay or pay during check in. Guests have to check in with their member and the member has to accompany them all day, but why wouldn’t you want to spend the day with your friends at the lake?
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Events you won’t want to miss

Two concerts a month for the rest of the summer are put on by LMVA! LeAnn Rimes us performed on the 7th and Gladys Knight is coming up soon, you can checkout the rest of the summer schedule here. Concerts, family fun days, movie nights and special events go on all year long at the lake! This summers calendar is packed and you’re not going to want to miss out on the fun.

More fun in the sun!

Another thing we want you to know about is the contest the LMVA puts on every year called “Paint The Lake.” If you’ve got some built up artistic talent that you’ve been waiting to unleash now is the time. The winner of this takes him $500! Paint the Lake is judged by any attendees of the last concert of the year. You’re allowed to submit multiple, all you have to do is bring a blank canvas or two to get stamped by Lake Mission Viejo. One of our favorite things to do on the lake is rent a boat to spend the day on! Members can rent all kinds of water fun activities from paddle boards to pontoon boats for really amazing prices. If this doesn’t make you go get your lake membership activated today, I don’t know what will!
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    Orange County, CA Real Estate for hip first-time buyers and investors. Plus, fun things to know and do in OC.

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