Life In The Village
Hot Springs Village, Arkansas
Using the map
Use the plus/minus keys on the left to zoom in/out. Click and drag to pan around.
Click on blue markers for points of interest, though it is better to click on View
Larger Map below to view these, plus a list of all the markers, plus directions to
any of these points from anywhere in the world. The far left marker is the West gate
and the far right marker, the East gate. After clicking on View Larger Map, click
on View In Google Earth and on the left, click the Play button for an aerial tour of
HSV, Hot Springs, Benton, and Little Rock. (If you do not already have Google Earth,
you should be prompted to download it; it is well worth the little time and effort.)
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|Take a virtual stroll down our driveway and around our yard to see what plants we have used. Also included are links to information on the Web about the plants and data on the care of the plants.|
Pictures of the construction of a house I had built overlooking
Lake Travis in the early 1970s with some related history about
Click here to see pictures of wildflowers from on
or about the Ouachita and Ozark Highlands Trails.
|Click the caption above to see a full lunar eclipse take place. The pictures were taken with a digital camera from our deck at Hot Springs Village, then assembled into an animated GIF file.|
Click here to see about what to expect.
Medical insurance prior to age 65 has been our biggest expense, averaging about $10,000 per year, and that's with large deductibles. Nelson has just hit 65 and switched to Medicare, but Kay is still paying over $500/month and Nelson is paying for supplemental insurance, so it still costs a lot.
Groceries and non-food items (lumped together because we shop at WalMart) cost about $7000/year. We rarely eat at restaurants (by choice - Kay is a great cook). If you plan on eating out a lot, bump that number.
Gas and car maintenance average about $4000/year, but we rarely take trips. The amount includes all regularly scheduled maintenance on our cars at the dealer.
Electric, water, sewer, etc., cost about $3700/year, but our house is somewhat hard to heat and cool and we have a large lot which uses a good bit of sprinkler water. You might save $1000 or two with a smaller house and/or yard.
Property tax on our house is about $2100/year for a 3100 square foot house on a .8 acre lot.
Insurance on house and autos is about $2000/year with large deductibles.
The above items come to around $28,000/year, which is not too bad. Then discretionary spending kicks in.
We spend about $4000/year on Dish, Netflix, concerts and shows, a little travel, the HSV fitness center, etc.
Another $3000, on average, goes for clothing, computers, TV, and other relatively minor items.
Telephone, cell phone, and internet costs us about $1800/year.
That brings us to about $36,000/year, which is what we have averaged for the above items for the last 13 years, before house note, car notes, income taxes, gifts and charities and whatever lesser expenses are left, all of which depend on your situation.
Your discretionary spending will vary. Green fees, carts, and equipment for frequent golfers can run $2000 to $3000 per year. Add for cruises and/or cross-country trips if you are so inclined. There are ways to cut down on that $36,000/year. If you and your spouse are already on Medicare, you'll save thousands on insurance. A more economical car can save a lot, as can a smaller and/or more energy efficient house and less water used in the yard. But hopefully, this has given you some feel for what to expect.
Should you or shouldn't you?
Click here for information.
Extended warranties are like insurance. Insurance/warranty companies get rich because they don't have to pay out nearly as much as they take in. Simply put, this means that the average insurance customer is not going to get back anywhere near as much as he puts in.
Insurance is needed not because it is likely to pay for itself, which it is not, but to protect you from a possible catastrophic loss which, no matter how un-likely, could wipe you out financially.
That's simply not a possibility with car breakdowns/repairs, especially considering that some mechanical parts already have a longer warranty on them.
The worst that might happen is a repair bill of $3k or so. That is statistically very unlikely to happen on a typical new car within the extended warranty period and even if it does, it's not going to wipe you out. In fact, a $3k repair would only cost you about $1k more than the warranty itself is costing you when you include interest:
You are paying $1750 at 5%/year interest for something which has no value for the first three years, which is $87.50/year or $262 for 3 years, meaning the extension really costs $2012 before it can possibly have any value to you.
You are also betting that the car will not get wrecked, stolen, destroyed, etc., before the three years are up, because if it is, you are simply out the $1750-$2012.
The very fact that companies put so much pressure on customers to buy extended warranties is proof that they do not pay for themselves. They would not be selling them so hard if they were not making a lot of money off them, and the way they make so much money is that the cost of the warranties is much higher than the expected payout.
On a related note, extended warranty companies show how slimy they are by sending out mail which looks like an official notice from your car company. For example, we have an Acura MDX and just received one. It is the kind of envelope where you tear off the sides to open it, like official mail from banks, the government, etc.
At the top in big black letters it says "2ND ATTEMPT". Working down from there, it next says "ACURA MDX". Since this is in the area where a return address would go, it might lead one to believe that it is from Acura.
Now just offhand, this seems like a lot of overkill for an advertisement, right? When you open it, there's more of the same: an official looking "Code", "IMPORTANT", "2ND ATTEMPT" again, "*** EXTREMELY URGENT AND TIME SENSITIVE ***", "IMPORTANT NOTICE", etc.
One would have to believe that this is all designed to intimidate the customer so that by the time they get to the bottom which says in big letters: CALL TODAY: 1-800... the customer will hurry to the phone to call.
The only possible indication that this is not from your car manufacturer is "NAVISS" in the top corner -- a very non-descriptive "name" (which you might not even recognize as a name at all) and no address anywhere in the letter - only a phone number. There is no indication of who provides any "warranty" service nor where. Actually, NAVISS could be part of or affiliated with your car company -- they had to have gotten your information somehow, but if so, then all this scaminess just affixes itself to your car company.
The letter does say in the smallest print at the bottom of the letter at the end of a couple of lines of blah-blah that "this is an advertisement to extend your warranty". Not much of a disclosure given the overall tone of the letter.
Painters - McNanna Corp.
After 8 years, we had the entire inside of our house repainted -- walls, ceilings and the insides and outsides of cabinets, drawers, and closets. They even repainted the railing on our deck and cleaned the stucco on the house.
At one time, I was thinking: "I painted our houses in my younger days, I could do this." I could NOT have. It took two conscientious painters a couple of months to do the job.
McNanna (located in Hot Springs) gave us a very good quote on the job and it is hard to imagine that anyone could have done any better work than they did.
In 2011, we had the outside (the stucco portion) of our house and garage repainted by a company with the name Rhino Shield. This is a national company and we dealt with their local franchisee. The Rhino Shield job is supposed to be guaranteed for life because of the special sealing coat that they start with.
We were happy enough with the paint job, even given how much more expensive it was than a normal paint job, but within a year, the local guy had gone out of business. The finish still looks good though, so we hope that his disappearing was due to the current tight financial climate and not the quality of the product. He had a pretty good resume of customers, including business and government clients.
2016 Update: After 5 years, the Rhino Shield still looks good.
Roofers and Electricians
When our house was being built, after the roof went on, the builder discovered two leaks, one by the front door and one near the back door. Over a period of more than 8 years, at least a half-dozen different roofing companies came out to "fix" the leaks. Things would seem okay for a while, then the next torrential downpour would bring back the leaks.
We met the Castle Services guys when we won their door prize at a home show at the Coronado center. They were the first ones who actually seemed to know what they were doing. They actually fixed the leaks. We've had several torrential downpours since, and nary a drop.
They are also licensed electricians and have done some electrical work for us with which we were equally pleased. We highly recommend them. They do a great job at a fair price, they show up when they say they will, and they are nice guys as well.
UPDATE: Unfortunately, the Castle guys split up and are apparently doing different things now.
Meanwhile, we discovered FINAL TOUCH ROOFERS who we got to check our roof for hail damage. They said we had hail damage and our insurance agent sent an adjuster who verified it and said they would cover the replacement cost. Final Touch said that they will absorb the deductible, so the roof costs us nothing out of pocket.
But that's not all.
Our old roof had a couple of wind turbines for ventilation, but because of the shape of our roof, the ventilation was inadequate and had led to mildew in our attic at one point. Final Touch said they would replace the wind turbines with ridge vents which cover the entire attic. This involves their cutting holes in the roof decking to allow for venting. So they are doing a lot of extra work at no additional cost to us.
And they also sent a gutter expert out to check out our gutters. He will be in charge of making sure that nothing happens to the gutters and, in fact, Final Touch will be paying to have the screens on the top of our gutters replaced. We are taking advantage of this opportunity to pay the guy to fix a couple of other gutter-related problems we have had.
On the negative side, it took much longer to get to our roof then they originally told us, but once they got on it, they finished in a few days.
After 6 months of almost no rain in 2012, the rain finally started and we discovered a leak. We had to call more than once to get someone from Final Touch to look at it, then he said they would fix it and we had to call several times to get someone out to fix it. Finally, we were told "first thing Monday morning" which turned into around noon.
Somebody is also supposed to come to inspect for mold in the attic and to fix and repaint damage to the sheetrock in the house, but nobody has come yet.
Update: Nobody ever came back to inspect the attic and repair and repaint the sheetrock. Then in 2014, more torrential rain fell and the rain stains on the sheetrock got bigger.
We called Final Touch again and this time got a better response. Someone came out right away and repaired the leak, then sprayed the mold in the attic, then repainted the sheetrock. We were happy with the result and later downpours did not result in any leaks.
Even with the previous lack of response, we would recommend Final Touch to others.
Roy Richardson... Unfortunately, Roy, a great handyman, retired.
Hairless Handyman advertises in the Voice. He seems to be reliable and reasonably priced. He spent several days tackling odd jobs which had piled up here. However, he said he needed to take care of another client who had been calling him and we never heard back from him about finishing up the list. We didn't bother to call him again because this was 2012 when we had a major renovation of our house done which took care of most (if not all) of the things on our list.
Around 2008, we called several decorators and they either did not show up or after a visit, did not call back. A lady in Hot Springs finally showed up and did some work for us, but the experience was not very good. She was hard to reach, rarely did what she said she would and virtually never when she said, and charged ridiculous prices, including charging us for supposed consultations at our house on days when we were out of town.
An article at the This Old House web site says: "You'll usually pay from $30 to $75 per hour depending on the level of service." -- I wish. Ours charged $125 per hour, plus took cuts from ordering furniture and from what we paid workers.
What's worse, our decorator did not come out to check on things when she had workers come out, leading to endless problems. We had a simple piece of furniture built and she let the builder drag the project out for four months, then told him the wrong paint color. The overpriced office furniture did not match our specs and she never fixed the problems. And she never even got back to us on half the things we wanted done.
In 2012, our 13-year-old carpet needed replacing and we decided to replace it with tile rather than more carpet which we would have to replace again in another 10 or so years. Since we didn't want mismatching tile in the house, this was going to be a whole-house tiling job.
While we were at it, we decided to replace some other things at the same time. One was our kitchen counters, changing from Corian to quartz, and the cultured marble shower and tub surround in the master bath. Our jetted tub's motor died years ago, so we picked out a larger "air" tub rather than a jetted one because it is more sanitary since no water stays in the pipes as in a jetted tub.
The decorator we used this time was Sandy Sutton. So far she has been very attentive, and she found the floor tiles and quartz for the kitchen and bathroom counters which we really like.
Instead of charging an hourly rate, she charged a flat rate (paid up front) to cover design work and material selections for all the things we discussed, which also included recovering a large sectional sofa and a chair, reworking the chimney, redoing our bedroom furniture, and redesigning the shower and tub surround and vanity tops in the master bath.
We are pleased with the way things turned out even though there were several problems throughout, including the job running much longer than planned. The job also cost a lot more than we originally expected, but that was probably because the quality of the materials and workers was very high. Click here for pictures and more info.
Pest and Varmit Control
We started getting a lot of black flies in the house which would congregate at the top of one our windows next to the fireplace. This was in addition to wasps which enter the house a half-dozen or so at a time and die in a day or so. The wasps have been doing this for many years, but were never enough of a nuisance to do anything about.
After a few days, I spotted our Terminex guy in the neighborhood and asked him what he thought. He came by the house for a look and said that those were the kind of flies that hang around dead animals. He recommended calling one of the companies that gets rid of varmints.
We had heard of a couple, but could not find the name of either in any phone book. We finally got the number of one from someone who had used him the prior year. He came out, looked around, and quoted us about $2500 to seal everything around the house so that nothing could get into the attic or crawl space.
While mulling over that offer, someone from Advanced Pest Control, who we had seen at a home trade show in Hot Springs, came by to look things over. One of the two guys crawled up in a 2' attic crawl space above the vaulted ceiling of our den and discovered a huge nest of wasps.
The second guy circled the house and somehow found an area where something like chipmunks had dug a burrow up against the house by the base of the fireplace, behind the deck steps and some bushes.
For a couple of hundred bucks, they proposed to fill in the burrow, set poison all around the house outside, spray the wasps in the attic, and, because of signs of flying squirrels in the attic, set some traps there. We went with them.
They came back twice more to check/change the traps, respray the wasps, and put out more poison.
We were so impressed that we signed up for quarterly spraying for insects around the baseboards of the house. We have always had to deal with a lot of bugs and spiders in the house and since the spraying, almost none.
We have already paid for Terminex for termite inspections for 2012, but after this, we are switching that over to Advanced as well. The advantage that Advanced gives is that unlike Terminex, they also are equipped to deal with critters.
Update: It turns out that (according to Advanced) to switch termite companies in Arkansas, you have to pay a good sized fee to have an initial inspection done in addition to the cost of the regular inspections, so we stayed with Terminex for inspections but we have Advanced do the quarterly spraying for insects because of their ability to handle other pests/critters.
Advanced's phone number is 501-623-5888
Deck Power Washing & Sealing or Replacement
We called several companies to get estimates on power washing our deck. One guy out of a half-dozen or so showed up, gave us a bid over $1000. We thought that was high, but that we had no choice, but then he never showed up to do the work. (Fortunately, no money had changed hands.) When we finally got him on the phone, he said that he was not doing "small" jobs any more.
He did recommend someone else who did the job for about the same price, but we were not that happy with the work.
After years of paying $1000+ to get the deck washed and sealed, we decided to replace our wood deck with synthetic decking which is supposed to be maintenance free, which is supposed to make up for synthetic decking being more expensive than pressure treated wood.
There are several different types of synthetic decking. One well known brand is Trex, which is a composite of wood and plastic. We opted for a different brand with a 100% plastic product which is not supposed to expand/shrink or warp as composite decking might do. We have found that it gets dirty just from having leaves fall on it and the dirt does not come out.
We hired the The Deck Man to install it; he was recommended by the hardware store out the west gate where we bought the decking. The first problem is that we wanted the decking screwed down from the sides so the screws wouldn't show, but he pretty much refused to do it. Instead he put one screw on each end in the center of each plank. We were worried this would allow the planks to bow or cup, but he claimed that the plastic planks would not do this. We hope this is true, but we are still left with the screws showing on top of the planks.
The second problem is that after installing the boards, he cut off the ends to fit, but he did not snap a chalk line to go by when cutting, so when you looking down the line at the ends of the boards, you see a wave.
Another problem is that the synthetic decking is thinner than the wood decking it replaced, so it did not fill the gap the wood used where it butted up against the house. His fix was to cut strips of decking to cover the deck. He left gaps where the strips butted up against each other -- very sloppy looking:
Fourth problem is that when attaching decking to the deck stair risers, he screwed them down without drilling pilot holes and badly split the ends of all of the risers which we (and our guests) have to look at every time we go up the stairs.
Finally, we have a weather station mounted on one of our deck posts. He managed to break off one of the arms which is used to measure wind speed for calculating chill factor.
We hired a landscaper to do some fixing up for us and got mixed results. This landscaper does a lot of work in HSV and is probably one of those that you would call for a bid. We are not going to invite trouble by naming the company; instead, here's a list of things to consider when dealing with ANY landscaper:
Vague bid specifications: The bid given to us listed some materials - two "loads" of gravel, a "load" of city pit, etc., but no indication of the work to actually be done. If you are getting a lot landscaped for the first time, you should also ask for a drawing.
When I questioned that, the owner said not to worry, that if they ran out of materials, they would provide as much as was needed to get the job done at no extra cost. I pointed out that nothing indicated what the "job" was, so how would we know if the job were done? I asked for a contract listing the things to be done.
In the end, it turned out that even the list of materials to be used was irrelevant. His bid showed 2-1/2 "loads" of gravel (for a whopping $1100) when all we needed was enough to top off a path of no more than about 150 square feet. At most, they may have used a half-load -- and only that much because they used gravel in place of large rip-rap stones, contrary to our specs. They hauled off the rest, but we were still charged the $1100. The owner justified this by saying that the labor cost more than he had budgeted, which may be, but it just highlights that the only things he originally detailed in his bid -- the materials and labor -- were meaningless anyway, so what was the point in listing them? He essentially was bidding a fixed amount for unspecified work (until we got him to specify the work to be done).
Vague specifications, II: I've put "load" in quotes a few times because it is not a standard landscaping term. A load could be a wheelbarrow full or a large dump truck with 30 yards of materials, which is what we have always gotten as a load from Rock Bottom on Hwy. 5. It turns out that this landscaper uses a smaller truck and his load is probably less than half of what we were expecting. For this job, it apparently did not matter since the final cost did not vary with the amount of materials used compared to the amount specified in the bid, but if it had mattered, I should have asked for him to specify number of yards, not loads.
Vague specifications, III: Because of the difficulty in getting to our back yard, we specified longer-lasting bark mulch, but I made the mistake of saying "at least twice as thick as normal". I should have figured out how deep I wanted it in inches and specified that since what is "normal" is arguable. The mulch seems to be deep enough, but if it were not, I probably could not have won any arguments about it since I used an inexact specification.
Specs not met: One of things we wanted was to get the path around the back of our house and one side of our long driveway built up with city pit, covered with Visqueen (plastic) and topped with gravel and shored up with rip-rap on the sides. Rip-rap is normally 6"-12" rock. This is what you see if you drive around and look at steep slopes which have been covered with rocks, and it is what we have on parts of our driveway which were orginally rip-rapped.
When I saw on the bid that no rip-rap was listed, the owner said he would reduce the amount of gravel from 3 loads to 2.5 and get a half load of rip-rap. But all they did for the path behind the house was pour gravel over the side. Since small gravel would not have stuck to plastic, they didn't put down the specified plastic and we can look forward to weeds along there.
When we saw that, we complained but decided to let it go since fixing it would have been a major headache, but we said we wanted actual rip-rap on the driveway to match the areas already rip-rapped and we were assured we would get it. Later, I saw a load of slightly larger gravel they were going to use. The owner said that to get 6"-12" rip-rap, he would have to order it from some long way off and the cost of gas to get it down here would be high and the time delay would be great and blah, blah, blah, so we let it go. Side note: We were told the larger gravel was 3"-5" rock. Very few pieces were 5", and it looked like at least half of the pile was less than 3".
Later when we wanted to build a new retaining wall, we were able to go over to Rock Bottom on Highway 5 and get 3 yards of actual rip-rap (6"-12" and larger) delivered.
Part of what we had specified in the original pre-bid walk-through was that the dirt along the driveway would be built back up even with the top of the driveway. Because of other problems, I didn't notice until they were gone that they had not raised the level, so Kay and I spent several hours shovelling up dirt they had pushed off the side of the cul-de-sac and wheelbarrowing it down our driveway to fill it in. Hours of sweat to do something they could have done with the Bobcat in 10 minutes at most.
I also said at least a dozen times that I wanted ALL the mulch that was in the cul-de-sac moved into the back yard since we might never get back there again. I guess they were in a hurry to leave since a good bit was pushed off the side of the street. We picked up about a dozen wheelbarrow loads and used it to top the dirt on the sides of the driveway.
Permits and permissions: A landscaper is required to get a permit from the POA for the job and post it out front. He is also required to get permission before crossing onto common property or golf course property, which our landscaper did not do and got in trouble for. Most landscapers call out someone to mark where utility lines run underground; ours did not and cut our telephone line.
Work not started on time: Because the landscaper required half paid in advance, I asked for the starting date to be put on the contract. I didn't want them to be able to drag out the start of the job indefinitely while holding my money. When the end of the specified week came, I called and he argued with me about when the job was to have started, even though it was on the contract. He told me that they would start the first of the next week, but didn't meet that date either.
Paying a contractor half in advance is risky. A couple of years after we used this landscaper, he filed for bankruptcy, and this was a company which had been around a long time and whose work on major projects around Hot Springs was featured in the Village Voice more than once. On the other hand, it is risky for contractors to order a lot of materials for a job and then not be able to get money from the home owner. There ought to be some way to escrow the money instead of just hoping that the contractor will not just keep the money and do nothing, which has been known to happen in HSV.
Not returning phone calls: With this landscaper, returning phone calls was the exception, not the rule, and he rarely answered his cell phone when I called. The day that loads of materials were (finally) delivered, I called and left an urgent message saying that we needed to know when they would start so that we could adjust our schedule. He never called back. Sadly, this is not uncommon for service companies in HSV. One reason we chose the landscaper we did was that a second company never returned our call asking for a bid and a third company took a couple of weeks to send someone out, then gave us even less information about the bid than the company we chose.
Ironically, many months after the job had been "completed", the owner called to ask if I was satisfied with the job. I told him the problems, among which was he never returned our calls trying to get things fixed. He claimed that he never got any of our messages and that we must have had the wrong number, which we did not, and which is the oldest contractor excuse in the book. He promised to send someone out right away to fix things. He never did and when we called about it, all we could ever get was HIS answering box and he never returned the calls.
The bottom line: Following are recommendations based on the above:
When Kay's sister moved to the Village in 2008, she got a company by the name of Country Garden to do her landscaping. They were prompt, reasonably priced, and did a very good job. They have a nursery in Hot Springs where you can pick out plants that you want. Give them a call.
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