property mogul Archive

OPEN HOUSE #4: Almost packing my bags…

February 16th, 2010

With some confidence I think I can announce that I’ve almost bought a condo!

It’s not final. But I think…. soon I will be the owner of a lovely 1600 square foot condo. Two bedrooms and a loft. Hardwood floors. A washer and dryer, dishwasher and even a rooftop terrace for gardening. All mine.

Yes, it all happened that fast. And I can’t even explain half of what I did or what happened, I’ve been in a daze of real estate terminology, home inspections, and handing over checks for insane amounts of money. I wake up every day wanting to vomit because this has been so overwhelming. The last two weeks has been a whirlwind of nausea. It really is stressful to think that every cent you’ve worked for still isn’t enough to get you in the neighborhoods you really want to be in. And it’s even more stressful to spend every cent you ever made all at ONCE.

But lord oh lord, is this finally the investment that I’ve been wanting to make all my life! I’m getting excited about trading in my IKEA furniture (which is already decomposing) and milk crate organizing system for real classy stuff!

I got priced out of Los Feliz, Silverlake, Echo Park. I did find some stuff within range in Chinatown and was kinda excited about the idea of brushing up on my Chinese as I move in with my people. Somehow I ended up finding this place in Koreatown which never dawned on me to move to, it’s near public transportation, somewhat affordable and very central to everything in the city. I think I may stay here for only a few years, and either rent it out or sell and buy another bigger home in a few years. Property mogul and artist! YEAH!

I had a whole flood of emotional experiences. From visiting a condo in Chinatown where the owner (a very sweet woman) was dying of cancer and I was trying not to cry in her face as she told me she was going to go to a hospice… to going to a quirky tri-level unit in Silverlake that would have absolutely broke the bank and my heart because I just couldn’t afford it… to looking at one super cheap unit across the street from the freeway and imagining the next few years of my life with the buzz of cars always in my conscious….

Home hunting been a very emotional ride. I had some moments where I thought maybe I should just give up. Rent forever. Wait for Armageddon and buy then. But that didn’t seem right either. This was it. The Armageddon to buy in is the one right now.

If these next few weeks go smoothly, if all the repairs are done, I’ll be headed towards my lovely new condo in Koreatown next month.

It’s not where I’d imagined living. But I think for what my needs are and what my budget is, it’s great starter property. I have one room I can rent out to a roommate. I have a loft for my office and craft activities, and a large bedroom with cathedral ceilings! I also can throw some nice dinner parties! If I have a roommate then my monthly payments are about the same as my rent now. Because it’s a condo (my HOA fees are relatively low at $220 a month), it’s easier to maintain and I can tour more without worrying too much about my home falling apart when I’m gone.

I appreciate all of you that have been so optimistic and encouraging. I also appreciate all the private emails people have sent with advice. It really is a whole other ballgame to be on this side of the fence. It’s not an easy process, but I definitely think in the long run, it’s the way to go.

Fingers crossed. This is one of my big life’s goals, and I’m finally making it a reality! I’ve worked so hard to get here, and I am proud and know I’ve earned it. I’m a grown ass woman now.

I’ve learned some things about real estate.

1. If it’s been on the market for a while and is priced cheap, something is wrong. It probably is a major fixer upper or located in an undesirable area. Good stuff in Los Angeles usually gets snatched fast! (My condo was on the market 4 days when I made the offer.)

2. Learn to write a “love letter” to woo the buyer. Luckily, I write grants all the time, so I whipped out the most convincing love letter of why I was most worthy to move in and the buyer chose me of all the offers! Go me!

3. Get a good, thorough and hungry realtor. It isn’t enough to have a friend with a real estate license. Someone with thick skin who can bully up with the rest of them. It’s a tough business and I never realized how hardcore these realtors can be when doing these negotiations. They have to move fast!!!! I have a great realtor named Ella who is younger than me and was so on it! She sometimes would be up at 1am prepping listings for us to check out. She was also super thorough and would know how to get tough.

4. Get a time machine and buy property in 2002 or 2003.

5. Short Sales are a slow and frustrating strategy to buy. Short Sales take months to go through and usually go for way more than what they are listed at because the low listing cost is to provoke bidding wars. I almost made a few offers on short sales but realized quickly I neither had the patience nor the actual money they would end up selling at.

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Category: Open House, property mogul

The Wong Sans Wheels Chronicles #21: Diane Meyer’s “Without a Car in the World”

October 25th, 2009


Diane Meyer’s “Without a Car in the World”

It has come to my attention on this Sunday afternoon that I am in page E4 of the paper! Specifically, an extremely flattering photo of me and Oliver, but unflattering picture of my old office is featured as part of Diane Meyer’s “Without a Car in the World”– her photo exhibit of 100 Angelinos who don’t own cars. The exhibit is up at the 18th Street Arts Center until December.

Had I known she was going to photo me in my office, not with my bike outside, I would have cleaned up my slop. But here it is, my crap immortalized for all of Los Angeles!

On December 2, I’m doing a performance at the exhibit about carlessness. I believe the show is free and I hope you will come see my work-in-progress. What I’ve shown so far has gone over so well!

I took this picture about two or three months into my carlessness.

Anyway, I am in San Francisco now. I came up for my cousin’s fancy wedding. I realize as a person who puts on shows all the time, how mundane weddings can be despite the glitz. Give me a drive thru Vegas wedding and a public BBQ any day. Weddings are like Neil Simon productions– safe, scripted, formulaic, hyped.

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Category: property mogul, The Wong Sans Wheels Chronicles

Carless in LA, The Wong Sans Wheels Chronicles #12: Cash for Clunkers?

July 28th, 2009

Watch out world! I’m throwing down 62 clams in the month of August to buy my first LA Metro bus pass. I’m thinking I’ll wear it around my neck in a plastic laminated necklace like the abuelitas do and push my granny cart filled with groceries up and down Sunset Blvd. I actually don’t know that I ride the bus enough to warrant owning a bus pass. I have to ride the bus 49 times next month to make the “bus ride buffet” ticket worthwhile but I’m home for a full month (for once) so I thought I’d live it up.

Things are getting super busy here very fast. Summers tend to be “downtime” for me. I’m seeing crazy things happen in my line of work. I was in talks with New World Theater at UMass Amherst to bring Wong Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest in 2010. Then just a month later, New World Theater had their funding completely cut off by the university! This is pretty ugly as this institution has been around for 30+ years.

I did get a very huge break a few months ago with a MAPFUND grant to develop my new “CAT LADY” show but I haven’t been able to secure a premiere venue or NPN co-commissioner. It’s not that the interest isn’t there, it’s just that every theater on earth is watching their budget. There’s a definite and palpable slowdown in the arts.

So I’ve decided that rather than wail and flail in panic, I’m going to use the money that I had set aside for a car to invest in a new computer and a video camera. And I’m thinking of turning part of the living room in my new Silverlake House into a set that I can shoot different shows in. I’m long overdue for a tech upgrade, I’ve been using the same laptop for five years! And it’s really hot and slow. So look out world, not only will this lady be rocking a bus pass but also a video blog!

I will admit that I’ve been looking at ads for cars. It’s really tempting to buy one. To be able to get to West LA in one hour as opposed to two. These ads are misleading though… this “Cash for Clunkers” thing is so dumb. How is it a 5 year old car can qualify as a clunker but my Mercedes that caught on fire on the 405 couldn’t? Bleh, forget it.

Quite a few of my creative friends are complaining about going broke this summer and I’ve mentioned several times in my blogs how it’s hard to not get sucked into poverty mentality when the news and all your friends are dragging the sky down around you. I find myself having days where I’m like, “Oh god! It’s over! I give up!”

I’m losing sympathy for my friends going who complain of being broke. Their standards of broke are “first world broke.” I have a friend who is a sex worker and says she’s having “survival sex” for money and yet owns a laptop, cell phone, and car. I have another friend who owes me $500 and he’s had months to pay me back, and he calls me from his cell phone to tell me he has run off to New York City (for a vacation).

If you are broke, suck it up, grow up, and deal with it. Because nobody with an IPhone is a victim of anything.

People keep asking me for help with getting money to do their art. The requests were at first flattering because it really felt as if they regard me as successful. But now theses requests have become kind of irritating, like I’m some kind of magic fairy that can say three things to make things happen. If you go way back into my very first blogs, you’ll know, I’ve been at this game for YEARS and only started to make a full time living at it in the last four years. And if you know me well enough, you know it was REALLY REALLY UGLY when I was first at this.

I see people I haven’t seen in a while and the first thing they say is, “Hi Kristina! Can you help me get grant money?”

(“Yeah. Nice to see you too.”)

Is there a sign on my head that says: “My name is Kristina Wong and I can show you how easy it is to get money because I have nothing better to do?” I mean I try to be supportive of people but I feel like that generosity gets taken advantage of.


People asking me to lead them to “magic grant money” irritates me one three levels:

First, I spend 20 hours (if not more) a week doing work related to generating income for my art (that is not my actual art) and most people aren’t willing to put up the BS of arts admin. Even when I’ve taken the time to explain to people how it all works, they either don’t apply for the grant that I just walked them through or ask me to repeat the information to them as if the explanation will become somehow easier. My biggest pet peeve is when they ask me to send copies of my grants so they can play mad libs with them, as if we weren’t doing completely different projects.

Second, I probably make the same amount as many of my artist friends “who are always broke”– the difference is that I manage my finances differently. A lot of my broke friends would not be broke if they just learned to not spend money on stuff they don’t need or buy so much stuff on credit. So it’s not that I have more money than other people, I just allocate my money differently when I get it.

And third, there is no “magic grant money.” Like any other thing that’s earned in this world. Money for your art is also earned, not thrown around to random people like a sweepstakes prize.

So my artist friends going broke but texting away on your iphone… do you need a bail out? Here it is!

NINE Cash for Clunkers Tips for Creatives going Broke who keep asking me to help them with money:

1. Run Away
If you can’t get a job and your career is not going anywhere, sublet your place, give up your apartment, sell your things, and run off to an artist’s retreat where you can live for free. Unfortunately, most of them don’t pay you to be there or accommodate kids. If you can’t get into an artist’s retreat, move in with your parents and be their “loser” 30-something kid who writes screenplays in the basement. Nobody will judge you if they can’t see you! Yay! You just freed up $400-1000 a month in rent!

2. Get someone to burn you a bootleg copy of The Secret and watch it over and over again until you sound possessed.
I am critical of The Secret (ie “The Unofficial Orientation Video for New Angelinos”) because it does place much too much emphasis on material wealth. But hey, it’s Metaphysics for Dummies! There is a critical third step to the process of the Secret that people often forget– ACTION. So stop complaining that nobody sent you $100 after you watched The Secret and start taking action. (And taking action does asking me to lead you through the short cut to money. Because I only know the long route.)

3. Sell your car and get a bus pass.
If you really need money that badly, get over your “I need my car” bullshit and get rid of your car. Cancel your insurance. Cancel your AAA membership. Cancel your gym membership (because the city streets just turned into your gym). Yay! You just freed up $500 a month plus whatever you got for your car.

4. Find something less expensive to replace your drug habit.
Get money. Get stoned. Can’t remember where your money went. Get money. Get stoned. Can’t remember where your money went. Why do broke people still have money for pot? Here’s a suggestion of how to get high instead. Put on a Bob Marley cd, then run around really fast backwards in the hot sun without water, then try to recite poetry, then get a friend to say “whoa, that’s brilliant” at every line. Yay! You just freed up $50-300 a month.

5. Don’t be a bottom feeder.
If you ever done movie background work, you’ve probably met “background lifers.” The people who only talk about doing extra work and getting more extra work, and yet, still think this will lead to something bigger. If you get too obsessed with the stones lining the walkway, you’ll never get to see the inside of the house. Sometimes the “hunting and gathering” way of the artist life prevents us from thinking about the big picture. So think from the top down. Think beyond survival.

6. Drop your $$$ scene study class and take creative classes at TeAda Camp instead. I’m teaching and am a student in at TeAda’s summer camp for adults that’s super affordable for creative people who want to expand their skillset on a budget. You can take classes in movement, voice, acting, improv, yoga and writing for as low as $10 a class. They are drop-in classes so you don’t have to commit to months and months of training. The classes are cheap as hell and a good alternative to that overpriced overhyped stuff offered all over LA. Yay! You just freed up $200-400 a month (depending on what pyramid scheme acting school you were previously enrolled in.)

7. Kick the deadbeat to the curb. (Several times in the head if necessary.)
Are you in a shitty relationship and giving the guy/girl money/ free rent/ food on top of it? Say good- bye! This one is especially for my creative lady friends who are with men who can’t take care of themselves and freeload off your generosity. You deserve a partner who can take care of him or herself and therefore, can support you when you need it. You are not a rescuer. You are not a social worker. You will find better. I’ve kicked a few deadbeats to the curb myself and never looked back. Yay! You’ve just freed up 200 lbs of dead weight!

8. Manage your money between several different checking accounts.
If you are an artist working for yourself, the worst financial thing you can do is pile up all your income into one checking account. You should not pay your rent and your director out of the same account. You should not deposit your big grant check in the same account that you pay for food. I recommend two accounts– a business account and personal account. And have two separate credit cards for business and personal expenses.

Figure out what your personal budget is each month to live. This amount should be your salary and every month write yourself a check from the business account to the personal account in this amount. Even if this means you have several checking accounts with a $0 balance, you will at least get into the habit of managing your money and treating the work you do as a professional.

Ideally, you should have several accounts. (This is something I am still trying to organize in my own life.) You should have a business account, a personal account, an education account (for paying for things to further your learning and growth), a splurge account, an investments fund. There are other methods for breaking these accounts up. When you get money, get in the habit of dividing money in each of these accounts. Yay! You are saving towards retirement!

9. Stop buying shit.
Use the library, wear things twice, make new things out of old things. Make presents for your friends. Our economy is a mess and we’re told to save money by not buying things, but the only way the economy will move is if we buy things. What gives? Run away from the need to buy stuff that can be borrowed, bartered or made! I was going to buy a VHS to DVD converter to convert my analog archives to 0′s and 1′s but found out there was one I could use at the SAG Foundation for free. Yay! I just saved $150!


Presents I made for my friends’ kids.

There! Now stop asking me to help you get money. Or at least have a real conversation with me before you ask. I just helped you get lots of money. If you need more help, I’ll be at the bus stop waiting for you to give me a ride to the next big thing!

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Category: artist life., kristina is so bitchy this week, losing my mind in los angeles, property mogul, the secret, The Wong Sans Wheels Chronicles, veggie oil car, vision

Hello it’s 4:55am, can someone explain retirement funds to me?

October 22nd, 2008

Yet again, the economy has interrupted any semblance of normal sleep patterns to bring me….

THOUGHTS ABOUT HOW I SHALL RETIRE! AND MAKE MONEY IN THE AILING STOCK/ HOUSING MARKET!

How is it I am becoming my parents? I never thought I’d be obsessed with things like retirement and the stock market. I always figured if I got old and had no savings that I’d do background work in movies because old people doing extra work seems to be in really high demand– at least now it does. That, or I’d do the equivalent of what the 70+ year old Thai Elvis does at Palms Thai Restaurant in Hollywood– dress up as “Chinese Barbara Streisand” and sing standards at a Chinese restaurant in my olden years. I guess by the time I am old, movie studios will figure out how to CGI background actors into scenes so we will be totally unnecessary. For this Brave New World– I must be prepared!

Somehow, as of late, I’ve turned the corner and there it was ahead of me… the great beyond of living up your artsy 20s comes the realities of getting older. And the scary realities of what this economy is doing to the market for artists. I have a few engagements coming up, but nothing like what it used to be. Playgirl has folded. My friends can’t even budget enough to go out for a beer, let alone live theater. More dates are going dutch on this classy broad than I think necessary.

So rather than drown, I choose flight. Who is coming with me?

I’ll always be an artist, AND I will always be a financially savvy one. I have long since rejected labels like “starving artist,” “struggling artist” or “poor artist.” Because the more you let people call you that (and the more you call yourself that), the more you become it.

At the same time, “living rich” doesn’t mean you should blow your savings at the bar, or outspend your means because you “deserve it.” I see this happen so much. I have friends who are drowning in debt, or worse, filing for bankruptcy in their 20s and 30s.

For a half second, when I was tired of writing grants, I contemplated marrying into wealth by going on Bravo’s “The Millionaire Matchmaker”– but there ain’t no free lunch sisters. That show is so sad. All these millionaires dating out of work actresses with no sense of identity. All these women desperately clawing towards these douches.

Listen to me! I am married to myself! Women need to learn to take care of themselves without the help of men. Yes, and we must learn to take care of the family with only a little, if any, of their help. We must have our own backs. It sucks, but we must do it!

The scary thing is in my last few relationships, I’ve been the “rich” one… WTF?!

I’m reading all sorts of wikihow articles on how the stock market works, how to be rich, and how to invest.
Here are some interesting things from the how to be rich article.

Well, I got the give up your car thing! Now I must work on the other four.

See you at the country club! I’ll be arriving by bus!

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Category: artist life., hollywood wong, i'm kristina wong, marriage grown up crap, oh my god, outsourcing american jobs, property mogul

Hello it’s 3am, can you teach me about the stock market?

October 16th, 2008

I rarely stay up past midnight, but I was lying in bed as I have been the last few nights looking around at this same darn West LA apartment that I’ve been living in for the last seven years with it’s dingy carpets and cottage cheese ceilings, and post-college furnishings, and yes… rent control (though steadily increasing at 3% a year)…. and I’m thinking….

“I need to get out of here. I really need a space of my own.”

I’ve tried making the move many times to buy property. Like begging my parents to help me. Like motivating myself by drawing a little thermometer set at an insane amounts of money, taping it above my desk, and barely filling it in as I made each tiny deposit. Like looking into being a slumlord in Indiana and owning my own little piece of Section 8 property for $5k.

I’ve read books about buying property. Done all that visualization crap from “The Secret” like lied to poor realtors at Open Houses that “I was in the market for something under $500K” (yeah, WAAAAAAY under!)– this was my way to get into “the mindset” of being a home buyer.

Cuckoo. Cuckoo.

And as much as I’ve saved (and it’s quite a lot for someone who works as a performance artist, mind you), it still isn’t enough for a down payment on much of anything… in Los Angeles especially. And if I ever do move, I’ll definitely have to buy a car because any of the neighborhoods I could possibly afford are FAAAAAAR from civilization.

I’ve contemplated hitting up amateur night at the Spearmint Rhino to score some cash…. having the world’s most lucrative yard sale…. getting married (yuck!)… and yes, even selling my eggs (GASP!)

(Little Kristinas running about the country so that large Kristina can have her own compost bin in her own lawn, next to her own little house? Yes! It almost came to that.)

I did think about getting a real job for a second… but come on… no need to get irrational here.

And then it dawned on me!

“What a great time to buy stocks!”

Yes, it’s a shitty time for the economy, but this $700 Jazillion Government welfare check should help somehow right? And even if its shit now, it will inevitably go up right??!

RIGHT?!

I have a mutual fund that I bought after 9/11 that is currently tanking (but I have faith it will climb back up, at least, when I’m 65). I’m not even sure what’s in that fund– was it metal? poultry? Hell if I know. I just knew that I wanted a nest egg. And I heard mutual funds were the way to go.

But time to get aggressive! Time to be a day trader! Or… whatever they are called. I’m going to invest in the stock market! Woo hoo!

I’ve tried many times to try to understand the stock market, and I just don’t get it. It also gets discouraging to see people I know who invest in stocks and whose emotional Ricter scales mirror the rise and fall stock market.

Suze Orman talks a good game but I am still confused on how you even go buy stocks. And will a stock broker even work with me if I all I have is $150? Or $50? Or $10. I think they purposely turn company names into weird symbols to shun writerly folks like me who like reading words and sentences.

But I think it’s time for me to play the game. I am up reading about etrade.com and scottrade.com. And there are some cheap books for dummies (that would be me) on how to use these sites. Some are a penny and I’ve already wishlisted them. I have no idea how these sites work, but if I can read a knitting pattern, I sure as hell can learn to do this. And I can move myself out of this apartment all by myself!

The thing is that in my profession, I sometimes feel so disconnected from the real world of dumb American consumption. When I’m in malls I feel like I’ve been sucked into an otherworldly hell. If I was on the Price is Right, I would totally guess the cost of things all wrong.

“Yes, Drew! I think that Ford Fiesta costs $50,o00!”

(After all, I am the one who spent $6k on a junky 1981 Mercedez Benz with 180k miles on it. Only to have it catch on fire.)

I have no idea what the kids are buying because I’m too busy pulling crap out of my fake theatrical vagina in small black box theaters as I comment ironically on my own identity.

How did the price of gold go up? What cars are people driving? My own buying habits are a very poor gauge for how the rest of America consumes. So how will I know what to invest in? This is what I must learn in order to make money on stocks in this shit economy.

If I could be sure that the rest of America spent their money the way I do, then here are Kristina’s stock tips….

Hot Stocks to Invest in, if everyone in American shopped like Kristina Wong

  • Tidy Cats cat litter
  • Michael’s Craft Store (or other stores where you can acquire the materials to make fake vaginas)
  • Metro and Santa Monica Blue Bus
  • US Post Office
  • Long Island Iced teas
  • Merkato (Kristina’s favorite restaurant)
  • Alternative Live Theater spaces
  • Zipcar.com

Kristina’s Junk Bond Tips

  • Laundry Machine downstairs
  • Mexican Produce truck two blocks over that sweeps neighborhood
  • Thai Massage place up the block
  • Jdate.com

Now go! Invest! See you in the little Section 8 property in the sky!

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Category: property mogul, the secret

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