Keep Your Fingers Crossed

My real estate agent showed my old house last Wednesday night, and now that it’s nearing spring she’s starting to advertise more. Hopefully, it will finally sell! It’s been on the market over a year and only two or three people have looked at it in that time. The housing market in the city is in the toilet, and some neighborhoods are worse than others. Mine is one of those.

The house is a nice little place but the neighborhood has changed alot in that time. I lived there for 9 years, a little longer than I’d planned when I bought the house in 1990. Close proximity to the university’s city campus made it a popular neighborhood for students once upon a time. During the time I was there, the last of the non-medical programs were moved to the newer, suburban campus. It became harder to attract students as tenants. They all want to live close to where their classes are held, not three miles away. Since most of the houses in the area were rentals and the landlords couldn’t find tenants, they put their properties on the market. All of a sudden there’s a glut of houses and no one is buying. The houses are trashed too, either from having been poorly maintained student rentals or the subsequent neglect of being vacant. Prices plummeted.

This has been going on for about six years now. At one point, the university had committed to helping maintain the neighborhood and promote off-campus housing by buying a certain number of properties to restore and rent. I have no idea why that project went nowhere. Nothing has happened and one look around the suburban campus makes it obvious that nothing ever will happen. The last time I was out there, and saw the amount of housing that had been built in the last three years, it shocked me. The campus is completely ringed with student housing – dorms, apartments, townhouses – where none existed before. Yep, the university has completely abandoned my old neighborhood. Way to go, my alma mater.

Now the area is in full turnover mode – the demographic is changing, and neglect and crime are on the rise. This has only caused additional exodus, elderly whites and many others have bailed, putting their houses on the market. There are probably three or four ‘For Sale’ signs per block on every street in a 1.5 mile radius. My 67 year old next-door neighbor moved to the suburbs at the insistence of her adult children. She’d lived there more than 30 years. At least she managed to sell her house… for $8K. Last year a friend who owns a house down the street gave up trying to sell or rent. She moved in with her lover, then quit making payments. Her plan is to let the bank foreclose even though she knows it will wreck her credit.

Had I waited to sell before moving, I’d still be there, and I wouldn’t have found the great place I’m in now. I never intended to own two doubles at the same time. I sure don’t care for the responsibility of having another place on the other side of town. And it’s rough to find decent tenants now. Most of them don’t even show up for the appointments they make to see the place. I’ve instituted a policy of not leaving my house until someone calls me to say they’re on their way or already there. Some that have shown up have demanded to know why I don’t accept a particular public assistance housing program. One person was pretty belligerent about it. How about: Why should I overcharge the government for rent so that you can sit on your lazy ass in my property 24/7, exponentially increasing wear and tear or downright trashing the place because you have no vested interest and don’t work to contribute to the rent? The problem with that program is that once you’re in, you’re in. After that, you pretty much take whoever they tell you to take and forget about trying to get them out if you need to. Plus, any additional money you might make just goes to maintenance.

Ironically, the place looks better now than it ever did when I lived there. In my efforts to sell, I’ve had to fix every little thing and really freshen the place up. I’ve probably spent $4K on it since I moved out two years ago and have only had it half rented the whole time, so that’s been money out of my pocket every month too. It’s pretty much drained me. It looks so nice that I’m half tempted to move back there and rent my new place out. I’d be assured of getting a quality tenant in this “desirable” city neighborhood where I now live. The old place would be much cheaper living and my girlfriend loves that house.

The worst part? I’ll never get even close to what I paid for it. I’ll be lucky to cover the outstanding mortgage and selling costs. Keep your fingers crossed for me.


  1. heck. too bad i’m not in the area. it looks perfect to me..just my style! but with the neighbourhood getting worse it’s not surprising it’s hard to sell. sure hope you don’t have to hold onto it much longer.

  2. I had the same problem two years ago with a rental, but it needed some major refurbishing and the tenants were getting increasingly crappy. <br>So I threw them out, threw in some new carpeting, whitewashed it and hired an aggressive NY dyke to sell it for me. Two hours later, she did.<br>Change Realtors, Bird, this one sounds like a lazy one.

  3. I would, but she’s a longtime friend and has cut me a break on the commission. Still, when the listing expires, I may elect not to renew it… and get someone else after a while.

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