Art of Proprietation

Sunday, August 20, 2006

Are you sure this is safe?

I have a hot topic on my brain, "where are all the good tenants at"? Given that I accept short term tenants, I probably have more than my share of turn over which in turn means I do more than my share of searching for tenants. Never an enviable position.

When I first started this venture, I tried advertising in our local paper. I put notices on the bulletin board of local colleges. And I found a local classified paper to advertise in. The newspaper cost more than three months of advertising in the classified paper for the same 35 word text add. Over time, I realized that I didn't want college students (under grad, any way). Luckily, they didn't seem to want to live this far from campus, also. But the classified paper has worked well for me. I have been pleased with market penetration I am getting and I definitely get a better return there than the local newspaper classifieds.

In the last five years, another other obvious advertising outlet has immerged, the internet. I have tried numerous websites over the years, some free, some with a fee. I have found one in my area that is effective and one national site that gets a lot of traffic. The regional website,, had some issues with spam mining initially, but with a little work they seem to have gotten that under control. The National one,, seems to have a lot of traffic, but much of it seems to be the wrong kind of traffic. I get daily preposals from british supermodels currently on assignment in Africa who want to live in my state for their next assignment. They must be confused about where my state is, though, as they often list areas of interest thousands of miles away in their profiles.

And I guess that brings me to today's topic, maintaining internet privacy while advertising on the internet. The steps I use are relatively simple, but I had to learn a few lessons to figure out what I know.

Number One. Let's try that again, NUMBER ONE, as this deserves some emphasis. Never but never give out personal information to someone you meet on the internet until you have some confirmation they are who they say they are. One of the most common internet cons involves repeated contacts that ellicit personal information from you with the goal of learning enough to trick you into parting with large sums of money. I protect myself in a couple of ways.
--I use a disposable email address from one of the biggies to put in my posts as my initial contact.
--I never post my phone number or other personally identifying information. In fact, even for fee websites that say they won't reveal it, I won't enter it. Once information is given out over the internet, it is irretrievable. You can never truly erase it, so don't put it out there in the first place.
--When I receive an internet contact, I get a phone number from the other party and call them rather than give out my number. To be even cagier, if I have any doubts about a phone number (ie, I can't get a hit in a reverse number directory and confirm the owner) I will use a calling card to call them to mask my number. That gives me a way to evaluate the prospect without exposing myself. That may seem extreme and paraniod, but I have had at least one internet contact who was using a local cell phone provider to convince his victims he was local. He turned out to be in Mexico.

The reason for all this subterfuge is there are a variety of cons designed to extract money from people posting articles for sale on the internet. The most common one I see is some variation of the nigerian check scam. The elements are the buyer contacts you to purchase your item sight unseen through an email or website contact. They will want to pay through an intermediary with either a cashiers check or similar. The scam is, they will send you more than the price and ask you to cash the check and wire them the difference. They might site expediancy or currency restrictions for sending a payment intended for them through you. They may offer you a percentage for your services. What will happen is you will have cashed the check and wired them the money when you find out the check was bogus. Since they convinced you to wire the money to them, you have no recourse to recover the funds. An unfortunate position to find yourself in. Through repeated seemingly unrelated contacts, these con artists may collect details about you and use them to set you at ease when they go in for the strike.

In my opinion, there are just too many dishonest people working the internet to leave things to chance. I follow a policy of never posting personally identifiable information on the internet (phone number, physical address, etc). I get contact information from my prospects before I tell them how to find me. And I do background checks to check out the varicity of statements people make.

I think the internet is a great advertising tool, but you must use it wisely, Luke.

Wednesday, August 16, 2006

Out in the Garden


This summer, one of the projects I have wanted to work on is adding a couple of raised beds in our vegetable garden. We have a vegatable garden surrounded in chicken wire. The chicken wire helps keep out the wood chuck, who likes all the leafy vegatables and young shoots. But it is really there for the the chickens in the winter. We let them free range in the summer and they live in our unheated greenhouse during the winter.

Last year was the first year of the greenhouse, and I found that I miscalulated the winter sun and we want a different orientation. Luckily, the greenhouse is a simple temporary structure and we planned to move it every year anyway. That's the greenhouse on the left. It's a neat structure built on a welded wire frame, but I'll talk about that some other time. We want turn the greenhouse 90 degrees for this season so it has more eastern exposure. With the sun taking a lower path in the sky and the hill to the west, we get better sun from the east during the winter.

To make that happen, I am building another raised bed perpandicular to the existing greenhouse. That will allow me to put the new greenhouse on two end raised beds for the winter. That's the area to the right in this picture. That area is currently full of weeds, the end bed was fallow this year.

My philosophy on the rasied beds is by moving the soil from the path to the planting bed, I can raise the bed enough to make it much easier to work. I generally dig the paths 8 to 10 inches below grade and support them with hemlock planks. I get the hemlock from a local farmer who has a rough cut sawmill operation on the side. Since the paths are about half the garden, the beds are raised 8 to 10 inches above grade. This height differential between the paths and the bed allows me to tend the garden without getting on my hands and knees. It's a real back saver all season. It also improves drainage, not like I had a problem with drainage, but well drained is better than swampy.

The other significant part of any gardening here is we are living in the streambed of a prehistoric river. We have a little topsoil, but it is full of gravel, about one third. And below the six inches of topsoil is sand and gravel. Hence the sifter in the first picture. I pass all the soil for the rasied bed through the sifter to get the loamy soil I like for the garden. It's a lot of work, but the soil is much easier to work, it removes all the weed roots and I always have projects around the foundation that need gravel.

So, you're wondering, how does this fit into the whole rental market theme of my blog??? Well, I admit, it's a bit of a tangent. But in a real sense, part of what I am marketing here is rural living. We have chickens in the yard that provide fresh eggs for the common kitchen. We have blustery winter nights that make us thankful for the sound country farmhouse we live in. And, in the summer, we have gardens that provide aesthetica appeal even if my tennants aren't interested in participating more materially. Part of my marketing philosophy is that we are providing an entire lifestyle here. A comfortable living arrangement where my tennants can feel they are living in the landscape as muc as suits them.