Credit Cards: Leveraging the Right Way

Debt is bad. But not always. In another blog post I discussed how I purchased a bargain property titled Bought a Bargain Property: Now What? using Investment Tip 1: Types of Bargain Properties. At first, I attempted to get a line of credit from my home to fund all my remodeling expenses for the new property. I got rejected. Not just once. Including the combined attempts by my wife and I, we got rejected a total of 7 times by different banks!!! We didn’t get rejected because we have bad credit. The reasons stemmed from income being too low or having too many loans on our properties. What saved the day? Credit cards.

If there is one thing I learned in life is that credit cards are not that bad even though yearly interest rates hover around 10%-25% for most cards. And there are beneficial methods to the madness of credit cards. But it has to be done the right way! I will go over the why and how below:

Cashback Credit Cards

Credit cards pay me just for using them. Yes, no kidding! With my two rewards credit cards, the credit card companies PAY ME a total of about $600 to $1500 per year! If I include my wife’s returns from her credit card it is even more! Below is what I have earned so far in the past 7 months or so:

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About $400 on one and $492 on the other. Total of $892 thus far….

How does this work? Is there a method to the madness? Yes and here we go! Step one is to first acquire a credit card that offers the cashback option which are typically called Cash Rewards Credit Cards. And there are plenty online and at your local bank. Most Cash Rewards Credit Cards reward you 1%-3% of the amounts used depending on the purchase and terms of service. Step two is to use those credit cards for ALL your expenses and purchases whenever possible. This includes groceries, bills, gas, and more! Last step is the most important because this is how you make your money. Pay your credit cards before the credit card companies charge you interest. There is usually a grace period of about 21 days. Which means that if you pay before then, you get charged nothing, zero, nada! But guess what? The credit card companies now pays you! If the credit card is from the same bank from your checking account sometimes they give you even MORE money–up to 50% of your rewards amount! However, you must redeem your amount via transfer to your checking account instead of getting a check or immediate cash. That means if I was to redeem my $892 rewards by way of transfer to my checking account, the bank/credit card company will give me $446 more on top of the $892 already earned! A total of $1338! Is this madness? If it is, I am liking it.

Why do credit cards do this? The credit card companies are betting that you don’t pay them back on time and keep a balance on the card. The typical charge rate (about 10%-25%) is way higher than the rewards rate of only about 1%-3%. So if you hold a debt throughout the year, even if they give you 3% in rewards, they still make money because the charge rate will be 7-10 times higher. Also, when you don’t consistently pay within the 21 day window they charge you interest and their chances to make money increases. But if you pay before the charge window every time and do it the right way, you are the winner!

Cash Advance and Credit Card Limits

Cash Advance is having the option of drawing out a portion of your credit limit in CASH. Most credit cards have a cash advance option which is a little different from your credit card limit. Your credit card limit is the maximum amount you can use. Then you have a Cash Advance limit which is usually lower than the overall limit or equal to it. The interest rates for both are also different. For example, your credit card limit could be at 5000 at 12% and have a Cash Advance option of $1000 at 20% on the same card. Cash Advance interest rates are usually higher.

Many people think that having a high credit card limit is bad. It is not. Having very high credit card limits are beneficial in two ways. One, your credit score will go up when your debt ratio is low compared to your limit. As an example, if you have a limit of 5000 and owe $5000 you have reached your limit. Your debt to limit ratio will be high at 1/1 or at 100% which will affect your credit score negatively. Now let’s say your limit is at 25,000 and still owe the same amount of $5000. Now you are using just 1/5th of your limit, or only 20% of your limit as opposed to 100%. Your ratio is now considered low boosting up your credit score! Same debt, yet different results for your credit score!

How do you get a higher credit limit? Below are the steps:

Step 1: Call the customer service number on the back of your credit card.

Step 2: Say “I would like to request a higher credit card limit.”

Step 3: They will then ask you for the amount you want. I recommend you request double whatever your current limit is. For example if you currently have a 5000 limit ask for 10,000.

Step 4: They will then ask you for your current income, rent/mortgage information, and other minor information. They don’t verify this information. It is all verbatim. They are expecting you to be truthful in your discourse.

Step 4: They will run this information through a computer. There is a waiting period of about 5 minutes in most cases. Sometimes you will get what you requested and sometimes they come back with a different amount, usually higher than your current limit but lower than what was requested. Either way, your credit card limit is higher than before!

Step 5: Call every other month and do the same thing. Soon you will have limits that are very high. I have combined limits of about 70,000 spread out through my credit cards as an example.

How do you get a higher Cash Advance limit? Just follow the same steps except you request a higher Cash Advance limit. In fact, you could request higher limits for both at the same time. That is what I do for practicality.

Using the Cash Advance Option

The Cash Advance option is awesome to have! You will never know when you might need CASH. There are medical emergencies, death in the family, taxes due, property purchases, or in my case, for a remodeling project. But again, there is a method to getting the best deal on these advances.

Never accept the standard rate given for Cash Advances. Currently on one of my credit cards I have an interest rate of 18% if I draw out CASH. That is a lot of interest per year I will be paying, especially if I am drawing a large amount. What you do instead is call the number on the back of the credit card and ask for special promotions. They are usually way way better. The credit card companies equip the customer service representatives with these promotions to entice callers to draw out credit. Usually, people deny these requests because they don’t need or want it. What happens when you do want it? Well you call and find out what they can offer?

My Scenario with Cash Advance from a Credit Card

Again, I have an 18% rate if I draw out cash on that one credit card. I called the number on the back and asked for promotions for drawing out $20,000 in CASH. They put me on hold. The representative came back and offered me a draw out fee of 3% with no interest charged for an entire year! That means I am paying only 3%, which is the rate of inflation, on the money borrowed compared to the 18% if I didn’t call! Of course, after the year is up I will be paying the going rate of 18% but I have one whole year to pay it all back. I drew out a combined $60,000 CASH with the same 3% draw out fee from three credit cards for the remodel. I have one year to pay it all back before the high interest kicks in and that is the goal. The numbers have been run and it could be done.

To sum it all up, credit cards are not so bad. There is some method to the credit card madness.

 

 

Valentine and Marriage: A Survival Guide

Rodney: Me and my wife used to be really happy together?

Friend: Really…what happened?

Rodney: We got married.

 Joke by Rodney Dangerfield

All jokes aside, Valentines Day is coming up and many people are expecting some type of recognition including my significant other. It is a day to celebrate love. I am not talking about sexual love. I am talking about caring love. As social creatures we all need caring love. We can’t survive without it. It is as basic as water. It is one of the pillars for human survival. We all need water, food, shelter, and love. And that caring love is what I receive from my wife and I return it in a mutual symbiosis.

How I met my wife?

I was in the college library running towards the elevator. The doors were closing. I put my foot in the door, entered, and saw the most beautiful thing ever, an empty elevator because I hate uncomfortable elevator silences with other people in it. Once inside I look out and see a pretty girl sitting at the end of the library. She had dark curly hair, a button nose, rosy cheeks, and full lips. She suddenly looks up and we lock eyes as the elevator doors closed. I wanted to leave the elevator and go to her but I just continued to stare at her eyes as the doors closed shut. Is she the one? Is this love? The moment passes and I think to myself …Wow, wow, wow!….now I have this elevator all to myself.

The next day I go to the library at the same time in the hopes of seeing her again. There she was, immersed in her studies. My mind was spinning. How should I approach? Should I do a direct approach and “grab her by the …um…ok…how do I say it in…um…hand.”

No, that won’t work. I should say something better. Say something witty.

I played with different pick up lines in my head that I could use:

Are you trying to trip me? Because I am falling for you.

Your name must be cholesterol because my blood pressure is rising.

I like empty elevators.

Crap! No….none of that will work. Think, think fast…

“Umm…is anybody sitting here?” I asked in a matter-of-fact manner. Smooth right. Yeah, I thought so at the time. She said,”No, go ahead.” I sat down. I pretended to study thinking of something else to say.

I have to say something really cool now. Something that will make her smile. Something that will make her feel like there was some magical, cosmic connection between us.

I blurted out “What are you studying?”

She smiled and says “A book for my history class.” Yes! She smiled. I am so good at this.

I need to close this thing before I say something even more brilliant and then she will think I am too good for her.

“Would you like to go out sometime,” I say with a smile. I would just like to add that there wasn’t an an ounce of desperation in my voice. Trust me. OK, maybe just a little.

Her cheeks turn deep red and shyly said,”OK.”

And the rest is history. We exchange phone numbers. I get up and head to the elevator. It was empty again. My life is good.

How we stayed together for 13 years?

Now I could answer this question with something cliche and mushy like saying “love” has kept us together all this time. But that is a cop out to what marriage really is and that is “work.” A marriage needs to be “worked on” and “love” by itself is not enough to keep a marriage together. I am leaving “love” out of the equation to get to the more practical side of a long lasting marriage. It is time to get SERIOUS.

Warning: There were several puns and jokes thus far but from this point onwards–not so much.

Know your Roles

Marriages usually fall apart when partners do not have defined roles. For example, my duties at home is to pay the bills, take out the garbage, clean the gutters, I will stop here because I don’t want to take too many gigabytes but you get the point. My wife has her role duties as well. I usually don’t interfere with her duties and she doesn’t interfere with mine. We each have our domains and respect each other’s contributions.

Respect Pact: Don’t call me stupid.

When we first got married we made a pact. The pact stated that we would not call each other demeaning names, especially names insulting the intelligence of either. This includes names such as stupid, idiot, dumb, moron, etc. Have we called each other demeaning names since the pact? I am definitely guilty here and so is she. We are not perfect. But we have NEVER called each other names that insult our intelligence. I have never called my wife stupid or anything similar and she hasn’t in return.

Communicate with the “I” method

All couples argue and get into fights sometimes. How is it handled after? Knowing the correct way of communicating an issue is of most importance. I was fortunate to learn this early on and shared it with my wife. In order to solve the problem it is best to use the “I” method instead of the “you” method. By the way, this method is also good to use in a workplace setting as well.

Examples of “I” method:                                      

I feel like you are ignoring me.

I am disappointed about how you said that.

Examples of “you” method:

You go out all the time.

You always say such things!

Notice that if you start your sentence with “you” it will sound more accusatory and it will automatically escalate conflict. However, if you start with “I feel” or “I think” it starts with the person saying it and it leaves an element of continued dialogue rather than a fight about “you did this” and “you did that.”

Logical arguments for not leaving your spouse.

For those logical fanatics. Below are two rational arguments for keeping a marriage together. Love is not included in these arguments but they are valid still.

The Novelty in Perpetual Error Argument

All marriages have what is known as the “honeymoon” period when everything is exciting and new. Then it wears off. Then one partner begins to seek that novelty and begin a relationship with another partner. There is excitement in this new relationship and leaves the other partner for this new relationship. Then the excitement wears off and they seek somebody new again. It becomes a perpetual cycle of cheating for seeking that “excited” feeling. The argument follows, why cheat at all or seek a new partner at all if ends up being the same, perpetually the same. It wouldn’t matter what partner the person ends up with, the “honeymoon” period will always end. And it will not matter how handsome, beautiful, if they are a movie star (look at the divorce rate for famous actors), rich, or famous the other person is. If there is one thing for sure, the “honeymoon” period will always end so there is no sense of leaving your partner only to experience the same scenario. You are better off staying.

The Wealth Argument

When you separate with your spouse, in most cases, you are losing half of your wealth. Not just money wealth, intellectual wealth is also lost as well. Remember all the role duties your spouse did, now you have to do them. Just imagine half of what you have suddenly vanishing. In closing, unless there is a prenup, expect to lose half your wealth and start doing all of your former spouse’ duties, therefore it is in everybody’s best interest wealth-wise to stay together. If there is a person outside your marriage with more wealth and you are interested in that person romantically, STOP. Before you act, apply the Novelty in Perpetual Error Argument and return to your spouse and be happy.

I know what your thinking. How dare you talk about wealth in relationships when love should be the focus? I know…..I know..kinda of douche-like and cold….so  I will end it by saying one thing.

I love my wife.

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I Have a Goal: Is That It? Can I be a Multimillionaire Now?

I have a goal to be a multimillionaire. Is that it? Can I be a Multimillionaire now? Let me go to the bank and draw out my millions. Or maybe it will magically appear under my bed. I know where I’ll find it. In my cereal box, wads of cash in there. I have a goal. Isn’t that enough for the millions to appear on my doorstep when I step out in a few minutes? Hold up, let me check. Nope. Not there. Nothing for me there. OK….OK…I think you get the point.

To become a multimillionaire it is NOT ENOUGH to just think about your goals but it is the BEST way to start. Throughout your life you are told by teachers, parents, TV, your boss to have goals. Every year people lay down their new year’s resolutions. We all know that goals are good for you. We all know goals are helpful in life. I am not here to convince you of that. You already know goals help and are useful. But there is more to it than just having goals bouncing around in your head.

After you have a goal in your head you MUST do the following to make it REAL:

ONE: WRITING YOUR GOALS DOWN ON PAPER, PHONE, OR COMPUTER

There is a big difference between writing your goal down and just thinking about it. When you write your goal down you are projecting what was inside your head and making the words concrete and real. Before it was in a fuzzy state in your mind. Now it has become part of your external reality. You made the words real. Now you can take your goals a step further and take the written goals from just concrete words to ACTUALIZATION. 

TWO: REREAD YOUR GOALS CONSTANTLY

Like I said before, many people already know goals are good for them. In fact, many people already write their goals down. But do they look at them constantly or do they bury them among other papers and forget about them? Did they write them in a note app then never looked at it again? Just writing your goals is still NOT ENOUGH. You must look at them close to a daily basis. It will help you maintain constant focus on your objective. Twice a day is better. Three times a day is best. More times than that and you are on your way to ACUALIZATION!

THREE: TEll SOMEBODY ABOUT YOUR GOALS

Tell people about your goals. The more people you tell the better. You want to do this to keep yourself ACCOUNTABLE. The people that are aware of your goal will frequently ask you “How is that thing going?” or “Is that project going well?” and you will need to have an answer. You will constantly need to update those people and we all want to see an improvement in your answer. It will keep you motivated.

FOUR: ACT FOR ACTUALIZATION

Last one is take action, move, do something that involves getting closer to your goal. This could mean research, writing, thinking, planning, any action that would lead you to your destination. Many people have the most trouble with this one. So let me help you. GET UP FROM YOUR SEAT AND MOVE!

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I Am a Substitute Teacher Millionaire

Why not be a substitute? I like it enough!

I am a substitute teacher millionaire and my earned income has been at about $17,000 for the past 8 years. Yup, you read that correctly. And those 8 years have gone by fast…so so fast. I choose to be a substitute, therefore, I am choosing to earn that pay. I could easily make more money doing something else but I like my job enough to not leave it. There are several reason why I enjoy being a substitute teacher. It offers flexibilty, novelty, and more importantly to positively impact the youth of today.

Hitting the Millionaire Milestone!

I hit the millionaire mark back when I was 33 years old. I did not win the lottery, marry somebody rich, inherit anything, win a game show, or rob a bank. If you read my About Page, I was raised poor. There were 7-8 people living in our 2 bedroom apartment in the middle of South Central Los Angeles. My father and mother started out working in the fields picking lemons and strawberries. My father then moved on to working the night shift at a slaughterhouse to support the family. I hardly saw my father when I was young. When I woke up he was asleep and when I was home he was at work. However, they set good examples by working hard all their lives.

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My Childhood Apartment

Living in a dangerous low income neighborhood

Look at that picture. Iron bars everywhere, dogs roaming, drug addicts, drug dealers, gangs, violence, all were part of my experience growing up. The negativity around me was chipping away at me when I was younger. I was headed on the wrong path. I could have easily ended up killing myself, addicted to drugs, an alcoholic, or just another victim of the streets but I changed. I talked about that change HERE. Once I decided to change, the next step was formulating a life that I wanted. I wrote all my dreams and goals in a notebook. Then I decided to go out and get them. One of the goals I wrote down was to achieve a net worth of one million by the age of 40. It was accomplished 6 years earlier in the year 2011. I am 39 right now and today my net worth is getting close to 2 million. And it isn’t because I have been high income earner. Most of the accumulation has been through real estate strategies and the right mind set.

Not just goals

Of course there is much more to it than writing goals. There is a lot of learning, actions, several mistakes made, and strategies used. I can’t go through all of those in one blog post. But I can share them post by post, word by word. Eventually you will find out how I became a Substitute Teacher millionaire and hopefully follow my journey towards my next goals.

Nobody cares that much; Do it for yourself

When I reached my goal of one million there weren’t any balloons falling down or confetti, and my dog barely licked my hand. But I will admit, there was an inner satisfaction. It was a goal, a dream, an imagined figment and now it was concrete and real. I would imagine that is how Leonardo Da Vinci felt when he got that smile just right on his Mona Lisa painting. Pulling something difficult out of the imagination and making it real. That satisfaction comes from any goal from writing a blog, to becoming a better father, improving in your workplace, any goal. I see wealth as strictly a survival tool for myself and my future generations. The more extensive the wealth, the better survival tool one would have. Now I want to pull something else out of my imagination with my next goal.

$10 million is maybe possible; I think I can

My current goal is to become an 8-digit multimillionaire, reach $10,000,000, within 10 years while maintaining my occupation as a substitute teacher. I will be revealing my personal struggles, income information, net worth updates, and more on my Multimillionaire Journey. I will also be giving advice on the mindset I developed to reach my past goals and the my present goals on the Multimillionaire Mind tag on my blog sidebar. This journey is to be continued…….

 

Investment Tip 1: Types of Bargain Properties

Either as a home buyer or investor, there are many residential properties that could be had at a bargain. Your real estate agent can find many of these types of properties in the Multiple Listing Service or MLS (a website where all the real estate agent’s pool their listed properties for sale). Today we will go over the different types of properties that usually can be had at below market value there. I will also include all the drawbacks so you could get the good, the bad, and the ugly.

Probate Sale

These are properties that are administered by the state to be sold when a person who passed away didn’t leave a will/testament. Since there is no will, therefore no direction as to who will possess the property, the state will sell the property and distribute it among heirs. The price that the probate lawyer places are usually below market value.

Drawbacks:

  1. You will be required to place a 10% initial deposit in escrow.
  2. Even if they accept your offer you must go to Court to defend yourself. Somebody can actually show up to to outbid you in court (it happened to me once, bummer). The scenario begins to play out like an auction. If there is another bid and it’s higher than you are willing to pay, it might be better to walk. At least you tried, right!
  3. If you pay for an inspection and get outbid you will lose the cost of inspection.

Foreclosures or REO’s

A foreclosure happens when a bank gains possession of a property that the owner has defaulted on. They can also be called REO’s or Real Estate Owned. All foreclosures have a case file administrator that represents the bank in the transaction. Their job is to unload the property as quickly and efficiently as possible. That usually means below market prices!

Drawbacks

  1. There will be no disclosures about the condition of the property.
  2. You must buy the property “as-is” with no repairs, no credits for repairs, and enter an agreement saying so in the purchase contract. However, if by remote chance, there is some type of vandalism from the time of the purchase agreement, they may compensate to cover damages in a form of a credit if you request it.

Short Sales

This type of sale can happen when the owner has missed some mortgage payments and the home is underwater, meaning that the property’s is worth less than what is owed. Both the owner and the bank work together to unload/sell the property. These are usually great deals!

Drawbacks

  1. If the owner accepts your offer the bank administrator will still have to approve the price. They may approve or they may not.
  2. Sometimes the time frames will be longer primarily due to bank administrator red tape and bureaucracy.

100 Day Property

This is an often forgotten bargain property and there are many of them out there. These are properties that have been out on the market for more than 100 days. Many agents and buyers think that something must be majorly wrong if they haven’t sold by that time and tend to ignore them. Sometimes it is something major, however, sometimes it might be as simple as bad choice of colors, dirty carpet, or they just overpriced it from the start. Most of these homes are not priced below market although some are. You get the bargain price by submitting a low ball offer. Since the property has been languishing for months the owner will be more likely to consider it, if not, at least, entertain your low ball offer.

Drawbacks

  1. You may have to submit several offers to get the right deal.
  2. You will have to have your agent comb through the  better priced listings.

Now that you know the many bargain properties in the Multiple Listing Service. Call your real estate agent today to show you some. You might find your next bargain property! Wait…there is one more…..almost forgot….

EXTRA: Good Neighbor Next Door Program

Have you ever wanted to get a property at a 50% discount? Well if you are a firefighter, police officer, teacher, or EMT you can! Unfortunately these properties are NOT in the MLS but are found in the HUD Home Store website. Getting a property at half price is the bargain of a lifetime! However, there are drawbacks.

Drawbacks:

  1. The inventory for the program are very low.
  2. The property will be in a designated “revitalized zone”usually in a low income or an up and coming area.
  3.  You must occupy the property for a minimum of 3 years.
  4.  These properties are exclusive to firefighters, police officers, teachers, and EMT’s.
  5. The properties are won through lottery (usually there aren’t not that many bidders so your chances are pretty good despite this drawback).

 

There you have it! Good look shopping!

 

 

Case File 2: You Can’t Park There

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Above is an HOA (Homeowner’s Association) ordinance. Checkout the underlined statement. It says “no automobiles or other vehicles may be parked overnight on any roadway within the property.” The tenants refused to abide by the ordinance for a few months. What happens? You get a big fat bill for the violations accrued and you have to pay it. Ultimately, you as the owner are responsible for your tenants actions within an HOA. This issues can be costly. In this scenario it was hovering at around $350. It could have been worse. A lot worse.

Many subdivisions and condos have some type of HOA arrangement nowadays. The arrangement pretty much is as follows. You are paying them to maintain common areas and to also police you and your neighbors to preserve property values and provide quiet enjoyment. It is quite a trade off. Whether HOA’s are good or bad is a debate on its own and we are not going there in this article. My only concern was the issue at hand, that $350 in violations that could easily become $1000 in violations. I hate fines. I hate fines that are close to $350 even more. When they reach $1000…my hate for fines reaches its monetary limit.

I worked out a deal with the tenants. I asked them to move out in 60 days with the promise that I would be fair with their deposit and not blankly keep it all due to the issues that were transpiring . Then I emailed the HOA inspector at the end of October 2016, asking him to give me a two month grace period to solve the problem. He agreed! About 2 weeks from the time they moved out in January 2017 I sent an email to the HOA manager stating that their will be no more cars parked on the street overnight. Problem solved. They had moved out. I also requested for all the violation fees to be waived. Did they waive them off? Here is there response:

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All the violations were waived! Communication was key. I communicated with the HOA inspector about giving me a grace period. I communicated with the tenants, explaining that it would be better off if they moved due to the amount of violations that they were receiving. I then communicated with the manager and asked for the violations to be waived. More importantly, I also did not pay any of the violations until I solved the problem. Then, at least, you can negotiate the fines down or in my case, waived! Hope this helps anybody who has had an issue with an HOA!

Case File 1: Lime Made Me Sick

I am a little paranoid sometimes. Are those people talking about me? Are parasites controlling my brain? Are there aliens among us humans? Are my tenants sabotaging my properties? Am I going too far? Most of the time I shove those thoughts to the side and say “nah, it can’t be possible.” What happens when the paranoid thought becomes true? My mind blows up, that’s what happens. Of course not literally, but maybe it will. Remember, I am a little paranoid.

Last year I had an engineer as a tenant. I became suspicious of him. There are reasons why of course! He would call almost every week about an issue on the property. About half the time the issue was a non-issue and the other half the issues were minor. There were a few calls that were legitimate.But then I would begin to wonder. Did he sabotage? Did he cause them? Of course, with my dominant rational side, I shoved those negative thoughts to the side…until that one dreadful day.

It was about 1o pm, in my bed, when I get an email stating that water was not passing through in the kitchen sink. I follow up the next evening, turn on the faucet and sure enough water is not going down. There is a clog. I open up the piping below the sink and what do I find? This:

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ACTUAL PICTURE

Limes. A bunch of cut limes stuck in the pipe. What the heck? How could large pieces of lime get through the garbage disposal? I check to see if there is a hole in the garbage disposal and there isn’t. The limes couldn’t have passed through there unless they were grounded into tiny bits but these are whole pieces if lime! I feel sick. The only other way those limes could have ended up in the pipe was through here:

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ACTUAL PICTURE

You see those tiny holes. The limes had to be squeezed through there! I was sabotaged. My paranoid thought became a reality. My tenant was sabotaging my property! Now what do I do? Do I get angry? Call him up and say I caught you! Nope. I simply sent the picture of the limes stating that that was cause of the problem. I never blamed them. I never asked why they did it. I simply texted them the evidence. They knew that I knew. Surprisingly and not surprisingly I never got a call, email, or text since then, only when they gave 30 days notice to leave a few months later. Phew!

Now to tackle the veracity of my next paranoid thought. Are there parasites in my brain?