My neighbor Sally, the one who lives directly across the alley behind me, has resurfaced. I thought she’d moved out, as she hasn’t been home at least a month. She put her house on the market — the “For Sale” sign has been up for two or three weeks.
But finally this weekend she reappeared. As develops, her 98-year-old mother died last week, after having fallen in the bathtub. The old gal didn’t break any bones, but apparently she hurt herself on the inside. After several weeks of suffering, she died in hospice. Sally has been at her side the entire time.
Sally had already decided to put her house on the market and move to a smaller place before this happened — her agent had listed the house literally hours before the event. But, she said, she’s now so exhausted she can’t face the upheaval of having to empty out a lifetime of possessions and move across the city.
So — hallelujah! — she’s taking the house off the market!
It’s much in my interest for Sally to stay put. She’s quiet — no barking dogs, no screaming children, no loud rock or salsa music — and she keeps the place up pretty well. Plus she’s a pleasant enough neighbor to have around.
But: it was a very close call, indeed.
She told me that Mr. B*** — the guy who vandalized my pool by throwing about three gallons of used motor oil over the wall into the water — made a bid on the house.
Mr. B***, also known in these parts as The Perp and as The Romanian Landlord, made a business of turning our three-block by two-block neighborhood into his private rental empire. He bought the house next door to SDXB’s, when SDXB’s neighbor was scared off by the local burglars. Seemed like a nice enough fellow at the time.
But then he started buying houses from the elderly neighbors. This tract was built in the early 70s, and, because it’s a decent area (once a very nice area), many of the original owners still ove here. And they’re getting on in years.
He would spot someone who looked like they were old enough to be tired of working on a place or whose spouse had recently died; then he would go to the door and offer to buy the house for a song, saying he would pay in cash. Many of these elderly people, especially women, had no idea how much their houses were really worth. They would jump at his offer, apparently without even bothering to consult a real estate agent. And so, in at least a couple of cases we know of, he was practically stealing houses, picking them up for tens of thousands under market value.
He would finance them by telling mortgage companies that he was going to move into them or put relatives in them — this, it develops, appeared in the public records, easily available online.
Then he would promptly turn them into rentals. From there they would devolve into wrecks.
Apparently he was getting advice and possibly financial backing from someone knowledgeable about real estate and the rental business, because he personally is not a very sophisticated soul. Hard-working, yes — but wise in the ways of the world, not so much. At one point he had his clutches on a half-dozen houses here, all of which he was allowing to go to pot and all of which were, of course, driving down property values as compared to adjacent tracts that had few or no rentals.
At the very peak of the real estate bubble, Mr. B*** abruptly sold all but one of these rental houses. So, no doubt thanks to whoever was advising him, he maximized his profit in a big way.
He then bought a house on a huge lot in the pricier neighborhood just to the south of us — where values are higher because there are no rentals wearing out the properties. The house isn’t much, but it’s a prime piece of real estate; the land itself is worth more than the structures. He kept the house next door to SDXB’s former dwelling and turned it into a rental. (After the pool fiasco and resulting court appearances, SDXB fled to Sun City, selling his house to Manny, who bought it with money the city gave him when it condemned his neighborhood to build an airport runway and who has let it run down).
In the wake of the real estate collapse, it looked like B*** was going to stay out of the rental business, or maybe that he just had enough sense to stop soiling his own nest and pissing off the neighbors — maybe he’d go trash someone else’s neighborhood. However…
As soon as he saw the For Sale sign in Sally’s front yard, he called the realtor, who’s one of Sally’s cousins. She wanted $225,000. He offered $180,000.
When Sally heard that that B*** had made a bid on the house, she told her cousin that she wouldn’t sell to him. The cousin informed her that she could not refuse to sell the house to a legitimate bidder.
He told her she needed to make a counteroffer. So she said, “OK, tell him my counteroffer is $224,999.”
As far as we know, that’s the end of it. But I think legally the only way we can be sure of that is for the house to go off the market right now and that sign to come down. She said she’d told her cousin that she’s decided not to move, under the circumstances.
At two and a quarter, the house is offered at or slightly below market, and prices are appreciating fast here. In our zip code, home prices rose 20% in 2012, and they’re expected to go up about 10 percent this year. So, if as I suspect, Mr. B*** wants to get Sally’s house just to spite me — and to put the worst sh!theads he can find in there — he’s entirely capable of coming back with a full-price offer.
If that happens before the house is officially withdrawn from sale, or if she dies (she’s 78) and he gets his hands on the place, I will be out of here in an instant.