Camarillo Property Management

August 17, 2012

For an excellent Camarillo property management experience, we highly recommend Esquire Property Management.  We are proud to refer all of our Ventura County clients to Esquire. Every client we have referred has nothing but rave reviews for this company.  If you are looking for the best property manager in Camarillo, Oxnard, Thousand Oaks, or anywhere else in Ventura County, look no further than Esquire Property Management.  Their full-service property management team has always exceeded every referral’s expectations of them.  We are fortunate to have such a great referral for property management in Camarillo and the surrounding areas within Ventura County.

Their extensive rental list offers tenants “one-stop shopping” for high-quality rental homes.  If you are a tenant looking for the top property management company in Camarillo, Esquire Property Management is it.  Esquire was rated Ventura County’s favorite property management company by the Ventura County Star!

Check out their website at: and tell them we sent you!




DIY Kids Seesaw on the Cheap!

August 8, 2012

The seesaw is the dinosaur of the playground: extinct, yet still held in awe by kids the world over. No longer available to the public in its original form (due to a whole host of safety and liability issues), the original seesaw is the perfect DIY project.  My older daughter had been asking for one for a couple of years, and after finding the plans on Ana White’s website I was able to build one cheaply for about $50 in wood and screws.  This was the perfect weekend project, and I was able to use up some leftover paint and fabric to create this nice addition to our yard.

Before we get started on the details, here is my disclaimer: this seesaw is not tested for safety. Get the right two kids on this and there will be bums and brains jarred from the impact created by the ups and downs. Other injuries can occur. Be cautious with fingers in the lever area. Adult supervision is necessary at all times.  I do not have a full materials and cuts list on this post.  For that list, you will need to visit Ana White’s website here.  I modified Ana White’s plans so that all lumber used was 2×6 (no 2x4s were used) to increase durability. I also modified the upright piece height to 3′ (rather than 2′ in the plans) so that the seesaw can accommodate adults (!).

Here we go:
I started with 4 2x6x8 pieces of Douglas Fir lumber and cut them down to the sizes indicated on the plans.

Next, I screwed and glued the uprights to the horizontal pieces.

Fast forward…  I added the remaining horizontal supports to the base, drilled a hole in the uprights, and sandwiched the handlebar supports between the two longest 2x6s to create the seesaw body.  The seesaw body was attached to the uprights using a 10″ bolt with a nut and washers.  I used a piece of copper pipe as a bushing in this hole to minimize stress on the wood of the seesaw body.

Here it all is, taken apart and painted with primer:

We have been enjoying our seesaw every day since we made it!

Sore Throat Remedy

June 29, 2012

I found this recipe on and just had to share it.  So far, it has worked very well for two sore throats that I had, and there are testimonials from other people on the Earth Clinic website that say the same. You may have to do this twice to knock out a tough sore throat, but be sure to space it out (once in the morning and once at night). It burns going down, but don’t worry…  The heat dissipates and all you’re left with is a relieved sore throat after about 30 minutes!

1/2 tablespoon cayenne pepper
1 tablespoon maple syrup (see note)
1 tablespoon unfiltered apple cider vinegar (with the “mother” intact, see note below)
2 tablespoons water

Mix well and sip until gone.  Please do NOT down this like a shot, as that could burn immensely.  Sipping is key!

Regarding the maple syrup: Be sure to get real maple syrup, not Aunt Jemimah.

Regarding the apple cider vinegar (ACV): Not all ACV is created equal.  Most of the standard grocery store brands are filtered and pasteurized, resulting in a transparent liquid.  Stay away from those, as their nutritional benefits have been completely stripped.  You can get unfiltered, unpasteurized ACV with the “mother” (a cloudy substance) still intact at Trader Joe’s, Sprouts, Whole Foods, Vitacost, and most other natural foods stores. You will know that you have the right ACV when you shake it and you see cloudy residue.  The resulting liquid (after shaking) is opaque.

This remedy works very well, and most likely due to the capsaicin content of the cayenne pepper.  Therefore, if you have mouth sores, throat sores, or stomach ulcers, this remedy is not recommended for you.  It could cause burning.  As always, check with your doctor before partaking in any home remedies. This remedy does NOT cure strep throat or any other bacterial or viral infection.  If you have strep throat, the only way to cure it is with antibiotics.  The remedy presented here is simply a way to relieve the pain of a store throat. It will not kill a bacterial infection.

DIY Deodorant

June 17, 2012

I am one of those people who can get pretty smelly within a couple of hours if I forget to use deodorant.  This means that I need something strong and effective.  For most of my post-pubescent life, this meant using chemical-laden antiperspirants such as Degree or Secret.  The problem with these products is that they literally glue your pores shut to keep you from sweating.  Scary.  Plus, they are loaded with aluminum, artificial fragrances, and all sorts of other odd chemicals that we shouldn’t be applying under our pits.  Let’s all turn away from the conventional antiperspirant isle, shall we?

Here is a very effective recipe made from 4 ingredients that are readily available at your natural foods store.  I promise it works much better than any of the natural deodorants out there.  My husband and I have been using it for about 5 years now, with no problems.

Whisk the corn starch, baking soda, and tea tree oil together until well-blended.

Fold in enough coconut oil so that you have a good solid consistency.  After working it around a bit, mixing and smushing, it should look something like this:

Stuff it into an old deodorant container (I like the push-up style).  Refrigerate.  Use it straight from the fridge.  Yeah, it’s weird to put your deodorant on while standing at the fridge.  But I promise you’ll get used to it.

The corn starch and baking soda help to absorb moisture, while the coconut oil and tea tree oil both have antibacterial qualities that combat stench.  Granted, you will still sweat… but it’s good for you!  Your pits are supposed to sweat!  It is the bacteria under your arm pits that cause the smell, not the sweat.  I have grown to like the feeling of sweating under my arm pits.  It feels cleansing, in an odd way.  I love this recipe for another reason: the tea tree scent is appropriate for men and women alike.  So you can buy just those four ingredients and have enough deodorant for literally YEARS of homemade deodorant, especially if you buy them in vats like I do (I love you, Vitacost).  An added bonus with this deodorant, at least for me, is that I don’t get an underarm rash anymore.  The ingredients are all pretty mild (compared to the chemical arsenal that is Secret) and the coconut oil is ultra-moisturizing. Win!

Variations, if tea tree oil ain’t your thing:

  • Clean and fruity:  15 drops lavender essential oil + 20 drops grapefruit essential oil.
  • Herby: 15 drops lavender essential oil + 10 drops rosemary essential oil.
  • Flowery: 15 drops lavender essential oil + 5 drops geranium essential oil + 2 drops ylang ylang essential oil.
  • Woodsy, masculine: 15 drops cedar essential oil + 5 drops rosemary essential oil + 5 drops lemongrass essential oil.

Do you have any scent combinations that you like?  Leave me a comment below!

Homemade Popsicles

June 16, 2012

A great way to save money and eat healthier snacks is by making popsicles at home.  Most of the store-bought popsicles are loaded with HFCS, artificial flavorings, and food colorings.  Plus, store-bought popsicles are expensive and wasteful (think of all of the wrappers).  Those natural/organic yogurt popsicles from places like Trader Joe’s and Whole Foods are even more expensive.  I usually see them for $1+ each.

I have been making homemade popsicles for my kids for a couple of years now.  All you need is a mixer, your ingredients, and popsicle molds.  These popsicles molds have been great for us.  I love that I can tone down the sweetness by not adding any extra sweeteners.  If we need a bit of sweetness, we add some agave nectar, dates, or stevia.  We almost always throw some yogurt in for the calcium and active cultures.  And when the girls aren’t looking, I add in some spinach as well.

Here is a favorite recipe of ours:

  • 1/2 cup crushed ice
  • 1/2 cup plain yogurt
  • 5-6 medium organic strawberries
  • 1 medium banana
  • a splash of orange juice or organic apple juice
  • a few spinach leaves (optional)
  • natural sweetener of your choice, to taste (optional)

Blend until smooth.  If there are lumps, it’s okay.  They will freeze and become part of the solid popsicle.  Pour the mixture into your popsicle molds, freeze for 8-12 hours.  Run under hot water to loosen the mold from the popsicle.

Another super-easy recipe:

  • Fill your mold about halfway with your favorite juice (be sure to use 100% juice).  We like Trader Joe’s peach or mango.
  • Fill it the rest of the way with water.

Freeze 8-12 hours.  Run under hot water to loosen the mold from the popsicle.

ENJOY!  Have one yourself… you deserve it!

About This Blog

June 6, 2012

I decided to include a blog among these business-filled property management pages for various reasons.  I found that many of my friends and family were frequently writing to me asking for a certain recipe or how-to, so I figured having it all in one place would be helpful.  Also, a blog adds some personality to a business website and allows readers to connect with a company in a more personal way.  The main reason, though, is because I love writing and snapping photos!  Most of the pages on the blog are dedicated to toxin-free living and creating healthy home environments.  Sometimes, I will throw in a real estate-related goody or two.

Future plans include giveaways and reader-contributed material.  Stay tuned!
-Susan Srour, Broker/Owner of Peak Property Management & Realty

Disclaimer regarding home remedies: I am a strong advocate for home remedies for common ailments.  I like to share my recipes here.  That being said, you must check with your doctor or health care provider before partaking in any home remedy described in these pages.  This is especially important if you take any pharmaceutical drugs, as there could be interactions.


Homemade Popcorn Recipe

May 2, 2012

Do you make popcorn from those store-bought Orville Reden-whoever bags?  Once you see how easy it is to make homemade popcorn, you’ll never want to buy those bags again!  They are lined inside with chemicals (specifically, perfluorinated carboxylic acids or PFCAs) that should not be heated up.  Heated PFCAs enter the bloodstream and their effects are largely unknown, as is the case with so many of the chemicals used in food products these days.  These are the same chemicals that are used in junk food wrappers and non-stick pans, among other things.  Also, the chemicals they use to flavor the popcorn are all artificial.  Making popcorn from scratch takes about two minutes longer than the bagged stuff, and it is significantly cheaper and much more environmentally friendly.  It’s worth it!

Just three ingredients:

  • a handful of popcorn kernels
  • 3 tablespoons oil that can handle heat (I use grapeseed)
  • 1/2 teaspoon table salt

Heat the oil in a large stock pot on medium heat.  Add the salt and stir it around some.  Add the kernels and stir to coat them all with the oil/salt mix:

There are some kernels in the photo that have already started popping!

Put the lid on the pot but leave it slightly open so steam can escape:

The kernels will begin popping rapidly after a few minutes of heat.  Once 2-3 seconds pass without any popping sounds, remove the pot from the heat and transfer the popcorn to a bowl.  Salt to taste.

Enjoy your chemical-free popcorn!  Variations – after popping:

  • Drizzle melted butter for a movie theater popcorn experience
  • Drizzle honey or agave nectar for a sweet ‘n salty popcorn similar to kettle corn
  • Sprinkle garlic powder and crushed seaweed for a gourmet treat
  • Sprinkle garlic powder and Italian herbs for a fresh, herby popcorn

Ornamental Gardening: Beauty From the Inside Out

May 2, 2012

When I see an ornamental garden that many people would consider beautiful, I pause to think of the inputs required to achieve that exterior beauty.  The more inputs required to achieve and maintain its appearance, the less beautiful the garden becomes to me.  As I tour through someone’s garden, I ask myself these questions:

  • Does this garden, for the most part, sustain itself in the environment?
  • In a year of drought, how would this garden fare?
  • Do these plants need fertilizer?  If so, how often?
  • Does this garden need a weekly (or monthly) “mow & blow”?
  • Could this garden be maintained solely by its owner, or does it demand a crew of workers?
  • That grass right there: could I walk on it with bare feet, or is it so doused in chemicals that I’d get itchy?
  • How far off are these plants from their ideal environment?
  • During a rainstorm, how much toxic run-off would this landscape produce?

Excessive maintenance and inputs detract from a landscape’s inner beauty.  This is why I choose plants that are native to my area, or as close to it as possible.  Native plants require nothing more than what is given to them by the sun, rain, and soil already present in my landscape.  In my area of California, there are various plants from other parts of the world which will also thrive.  Australian, Mexican, Mediterranean, and South African natives do extremely well with just a touch of added care.  This diversity in choices gives me the opportunity to produce a landscape that is beautiful from the inside out.

I know that my landscape is not as well-manicured and orderly as some…  But I feel so good about the way my plants contribute to my land.  A landscape that fits its environment provides food and habitat for native birds, bugs, and critters.  And it provides food for soul as well.  Happy ornamental gardening!

Introduction to Buying Real Estate in San Diego

April 19, 2012

If you are new to buying real estate in Southern California, this post will be very helpful to you. I also recommend checking out NOLO’s real estate section for lots of detailed information about the purchase of real estate in California.

Finding a Broker, Agent, or Realtor

The first thing you should do is find a real estate broker, real estate agent, or Realtor who you trust.  The difference between the three classifications is as follows: a broker is someone who runs their own real estate firm (also called a “brokerage”).  They usually have many years of experience in the field of real estate, and subsequently decided to form their own company.  Many times real estate brokers are individuals working for themselves only, without any real estate agents working under their broker’s license.  In fact, about 80% of brokerages in California are  run by individual brokers working for themselves only.  A real estate agent is someone who works within a real estate brokerage.  They usually work for national, regional, or local chains.  An example of a national chain would be Century 21 or Prudential.  A Realtor can be either a real estate broker or a real estate agent.  The Realtor classification means that the person joined the National Association of Realtors and has agreed to abide by the Realtor Code of Ethics.  It is always a good idea to work with a broker or agent who is also a Realtor.

My recommendation for finding a quality broker, agent or Realtor is to ask your friends and family for recommendations.  Then conduct an interview with the recommended person to see if your personalities mesh.  You will provide a lot of personal/financial information to this person, so it is important that you get along well.  You will also be working under stressful conditions at times, so it is good to work with someone who understands your personality and who can handle stressful situations with ease.

Information To Give Your Realtor

Your Realtor will want some basic information about your needs before she can start a search for your perfect property.  Some of the information she will want to know is:

  • The area where you would like to buy.  Your Realtor will have access to a database called the Multiple Listing Service (MLS), which lists all of the properties that are active, under contract, and sold in your desired search area.  The vast majority of properties that are sold today go through the MLS.  Your Realtor can narrow down your search to a tiny area on a map, if you so like, or you can have her search a large metropolitan area with very specific property requirements.
  • The minimum (or maximum) number of bedrooms and bathrooms you want.
  • The minimum (or maximum) square footage you would like your house to be.
  • The minimum (or maximum) lot size you need. Some measurements to keep  in mind: 1/4 acre is roughly 10,000 square feet, 1/2 acre is roughly 20,000 square feet, and a full acre is roughly 40,000 square feet.
  • The price range you are interested in.  It is a good idea to go a little higher than your maximum in your search, because many properties do not sell for their full list price.  You may be missing something that could potentially be within your desired price range.  For instance, a home listed at $325,000 could end up selling for $295,000.  If your upper price limit were $300,000 in your search, you would have missed seeing this property.
  • There are many other search options you can request.  You can ask to only see properties with a pool or a view, for instance.  Talk further with your Realtor if you have more specific requirements.

Getting Pre-Approved For a Loan

Your Realtor should be able to direct you to a lender or a loan officer, or you can go with a referral from a friend or family member who has worked with one in the past. A lender is someone who gives loans directly (a bank, for instance).  A loan officer (or loan broker) is someone who searches through a lender database to find the right loan for you.  Before you can purchase a property, you need to be pre-approved for a loan.  Your loan officer will need lots of information from you to get the loan process started.  You need to have the following items ready to give to your loan officer:

  • Three years’ tax returns (personal and business)
  • Two most recent pay stubs
  • Three months’ bank statements
  • Your ID

Your loan officer will run a credit check to see if your credit score is high enough to get you approved for a loan.  In general, they look for FICO scores averaging at least 700.  The higher your score, the less you will pay for your loan.  Generally, you will need to be able to provide 20% of the purchase price of a property as a down payment for a loan.  There are loans that require as little as 3% down (FHA loans), but they have strict requirements and slightly higher interest rates.  Check with your loan officer for more information on this.

Once you are pre-approved for a loan, you will begin your search for a property in earnest.  Most Realtors want their buyers to be pre-approved for a loan before going out to look at properties.  The reason for this is that buyers may think they can afford more than they actually can.

Writing an Offer on a Property

You may end up looking at dozens of properties before finding the right one.  This is fine and normal, and no cause for frustration.  Sometimes it takes awhile to find that perfect property!  Once you find the right property that is in your price range, you are ready to write an offer to purchase the property.  This is when the paperwork begins.  The standard contract used by Realtors in California is the Residential Purchase Agreement.  This agreement will spell out the finer details of your offer to purchase.  It is designed to protect you and the seller legally.  I highly recommend reading through the entire contract on your own when you have time, so that you really understand it.

In your purchase agreement, you will be asked to put a deposit toward the purchase, as security in case the contract fails.  In San Diego, deposit amounts are generally 1% of the purchase price.  So for a $300,000 property, your deposit will be around $3,000.  This amount goes directly toward your down payment once the purchase goes through.  In most cases, deposits are returned when a purchase contract does not go through, because the contract sets forth contingency periods.  Contingency periods allow the buyer to do their due diligence on the property. This means the buyer has a certain number of days to perform all inspections and appraisals on the property to ensure that it meets the buyer’s criteria.  The contingency period is also the time when the buyer solidifies the loan on the property.  If the property does not appraise for the purchase price, or it does not pass the buyer’s inspection, or the loan cannot be made, then the buyer can rescind the offer and receive the full deposit back as long as this occurs before the buyer removes the respective contingencies.

You Realtor will also give you other forms, addenda, and advisories.  All of these are designed to inform you of your duties and rights as a buyer, as well as allocation of certain costs associated with the purchase of the property.  If your offer is good, and the seller agrees to all of the terms in the purchase agreement, he/she will accept your offer.  If the seller wants to make changes to the purchase agreement, he/she will write a counter-offer, which you in turn must either accept or write your own counter-offer to.  This usually does not go on much further than 2 exchanges, but is certainly not limited to that!

Once your offer to purchase is accepted, you will open escrow.

Opening Escrow and the Escrow Process

An escrow company is a neutral third party that has no interest in the real estate transaction.  Escrow acts as a financial intermediary between the buyer and seller, and handles all monies exchanged in the transaction. As soon as your offer to purchase is accepted by the seller, all parties will open a transaction with an escrow company (this company is decided upon in the purchase agreement, and is usually the seller’s choice).  Your deposit will go into the escrow account, where it will be held throughout the transaction.  During the escrow period, you will:

  • Get an appraisal on your property. Your loan officer will assign an appraiser who is on his/her approved list.
  • Get a home inspector to do a thorough inspection of the property.  He/she will give you a report with any issues found during the inspection.  You, as a buyer, can negotiate for money for repair of these issues.
  • If the home inspector recommends it, you will need to get further inspections done (such as soil, engineering, plumbing, electrical, etc).
  • Read through and sign all of the disclosures given to you from the seller and from both agents in the transaction.  Many of these disclosures are standard environmental disclosures given to all buyers in the area.  Some are specific to the property.
  • Put together a loan package, which includes signing loan documents towards the end of the escrow period.

The escrow process usually takes 30-45 days when a loan is involved.  When there is no loan, it can take as little as 5 days.

Close of Escrow

After all inspections, appraisals, and loan documents are completed, the escrow process will reach an end. Toward the end of the escrow process, you will meet with a notary public to sign your loan documents.  You should spend a good amount of time reading through these documents, to make sure that everything in them is what you had initially agreed to with your loan officer.  Bring your checkbook, because you will have to pay for notary fees as well as closing fees.  Closing fees will include such costs as pro-rated property taxes, pro-rated mortgage payment, title insurance costs, escrow costs, and recording fees.  Once you complete your loan documents and all other closing documents, the escrow company will record the transaction with the county.  Once the transaction is recorded with the county, you are officially the owner of the property and you can obtain the keys from the seller’s agent to begin moving into your property.  Over the course of the next few days, you will receive papers related to the closing of your transaction.  I advise keeping a folder with all of the transaction details in a safe place.  All electronic files of the transaction should be backed up.

Lavender-Infused Herbal Oil

April 6, 2012

Aaaahhh, lavender….

Lavender is in full-bloom right now in San Diego, so it is a great time to pick the flowers and make an oil infusion.  This post will give you step-by-step instructions on how to make your own homemade lavender-infused almond oil (you can also use olive oil, grapeseed oil, or soybean oil.  Just be sure they are cold-pressed).

  1. Harvest your lavender in the morning before the sun has had a chance to hit it.  The plant will be more lush and vibrant in the morning.
  2. Give it a light rinse, if you feel it is necessary.
  3. Spread the plant material out for two days on a towel to allow it to dry some.  You don’t want it to be crusty-dry.  Ideally, it will be free of any water droplets or excess moisture that could cause mold growth later in the oil.
  4. Fill a glass jar nearly to the top with your lavender.
  5. Pour the almond oil in to completely cover the lavender.
  6. Cap it and let it sit near a window that does not get too much sunlight.
  7. Shake the jar vigorously every day or two.
  8. After 2-3 weeks, pour the contents of the jar through a fine-mesh strainer.  Squeeze out any oils left in the lavender.
  9. Enjoy your new lavender-infused almond oil!  You can use it as a body and facial oil or as a base in lip balm, body balm, and body lotion recipes!

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Property management and leasing agent in San Diego, La Mesa, Mt. Helix, El Cajon, Lakeside, Rolando, Mission Valley, Clairemont Mesa, Allied Gardens, Lemon Grove, North Park, South Park, Pacific Beach, Mission Beach, Ocean Beach

Peak Property Management
8407 La Mesa Blvd.
La Mesa, CA 91942

We specialize in rentals and leasing of single family homes, condos, townhouses, duplexes, and small apartment complexes. Browse our Rental List for available rentals throughout metro San Diego and East County.