Coffee heat rising

Real Estate Window-Shopping

Tony the Romanian Landlord, my bosom enemy, has bought the house catty-corner across the street that recently went on the market when the long-time owners decided to retire to the high country.

Tony, after a hostile encounter some years ago, hates me with all his flinty heart. And he’s a nasty fellow. Some of the neighbors around him think he is Romanian Mafia. I don’t…I think he’s just a guy who’s trying to get ahead and is doing so by the rough customs of his native land. But that notwithstanding, during our last encounter he threatened a judge and scared my lawyers so badly they urged me not even to go home, but to rent someplace far, far away, spend the night there, and sell my house right now.

I declined.

He himself has never tried anything, but his mentally ill ex-son-in-law did, presumably to get in good with Dear Old Dad. After my German shepherd took out after him, he ended up sitting in the middle of his driveway weeping. Poor li’l guy.

That the old man has got his hands on a house this close to the Funny Farm is a concern. When my neighbor right behind me sold so she could move into an old-folkerie, she told her realtor (who happened to be her cousin) NOT to sell to Tony. Well….the instant the For Sale sign went up, he showed up at the door. And he was, she reported, absolutely enraged when the realtor refused to do business with him.

But he did get his hands on this latest sale, across the street. I don’t know what he intends to put in there — he cranks his money with a chain of nursing homes, all installed in formerly private homes in residential neighborhoods. But you can be sure it ain’t good.

The previous owners took excellent care of the house, and when they put it on the market, it was gorgeous. Freshly painted. Beautiful flooring. Nice yard. Nice pool.

Tony’s boys have been in there for weeks pulling the house apart. They’ve deconstructed the interior and have been inside building stuff: presumably dormitory-style cells to accommodate whatever fine folk Tony intends to put in there.

So the question arises: Should I sell now and get out of here while I can? If he does what I think he will — install some highly undesirable institution in there — because Arizona law requires sellers to disclose any potentially negative issues, I won’t be able to sell this place for what it’s worth: about five and a half hundred thousand. Much less than that, and I won’t be able to buy a comparable house in a reasonably safe neighborhood…real estate values have run amok here. And of course, the way to frost his cookies would be to move just as he’s finishing up his repurposing construction and before he can move in a crew of clients.

This question has been nagging at the back of my mind for some time. Lately I’ve explored several neighborhoods in what is called the “North Central” district, searching for a place comparable to mine. By and large, these are scarce: North Central is a tony area occupied largely by affluent business executives, lawyers, and doctors. I live on the fringe of North Central, just below a violent and alarming slum called Sunnyslope. A canal and a main drag known to FaM readers as “Gangbanger’s Way” delineates my middle-class neighborhood from that more wild and woolly part of town. But…the wildness and the wooliness depress the property values in our tract. Get deeper into North Central, and I can’t begin to afford to buy.

While I was over on the far northwest side of town yesterday, arranging to ship the ailing MacBook off to the Apple factory, I had to drive through a part of the Valley called Arrowhead Ranch. This is a large Southern-California style tract development, most of it on the high end. I would call it upper-middle class, by and large; however, a few years ago the Republic reported that the Arrowhead area has the largest number of millionaires per-capita in the Valley.

Apparently most of these are owners of service businesses — carpet-cleaning, air-conditioning, pool building and repair, & the like — who live over there because it’s relatively close to their establishments. It’s the only upper-middle-class area between the I-17 and Waddell…which is a LONG way west.

When Arrowhead was first built out, I wasn’t impressed. But as I drove home over surface streets that took me through the increasingly dire slum just to the north of the ’Hood, I thought that place looks better by the day….

The houses are stick & styrofoam, which to my mind is the hallmark of cheap construction (literally: a strong man can put his fist through an exterior wall…that’s how the burglars got into a friend’s home out there). But if you can get past that…some of these places are pretty nice. This one, for example, is comparable in size to my house, only in the late 20th-century plaster-&-styrofoam style. Personally, I hate those glass-top stoves…and they’re apparently in most of the houses out there. I saw ONE gas stove during 45 minutes or an hour of browsing this morning. I’d about concluded that they just don’t have gas service in Arrowhead….but there one was. Presumably a younger crowd of homeowners means a preponderance of people who don’t cook at home, or who think cooking has to do with microwaving.

It is a LONG way from the church — a good 40 minutes or more, depending on traffic. So that activity would go away. More to the point, it’s just as far from my son’s house…meaning I would see him even more rarely than I do now.

This place is a thousand square feet larger than mine, almost.  Kinda cute. But it’s north of the Loop 101 freeway, which is…kinda weird. The dust-catching “plant shelves” (trans.: we are too cheap to build the walls all the way up to the ridiculously elevated ceiling) are a turn-off, as are the factory-made kitchen cabinets that don’t go up to the ceiling, either.

And this one:  Hmmm…. Same bland, cheap architecture…right on an artificial lake (read: mosquito-breeding pond). And no wall between you and the scenic view. Meaning no privacy in your backyard. No skinny-dipping: you’d have to lash yourself up in an elastic strait-jacket every time you wanted to go swimming.

This is not a bad little shack, in the price range. Once again, only a hot plate for a stove. Backyard scenically opens onto the golf course.

Know what happens when your house sits next to a golf course? I looked at one of these fabulous golf-course abodes at Arrowhead some years ago, before I bought my present house. People whack golf balls off-target and they fly into your house’s walls. That plaster can’t withstand the pounding, so it’s soon pitted with golf-ball sized divots. Notice the screens on the windows in back…no doubt there as much to keep the glass intact as to provide “shade.” Backyard is dreary…looks like it’s never been landscaped — notice the neighbor’s yard is pretty lush. Suggests the place was used as a rental for a goodly period, or that the outgoing owner let everything die. Hmmm…


Then there’s this. Another fine golf ball target. What on earth do you suppose IS the appeal of all those plant shelves? Just imagine having to keep it clean! And that bathroom, where they ran amok with the Mexican tile: eeeeeek!

The demented high ceilings: you, too, can pay APS to air-condition the stratosphere!

These places make our early 1970s houses look good by comparison. Our design is more intelligent. No stupid plant shelves. No stratosphere-high ceilings. Gas service, so you can have a real stove if you want one. Only drawback is the proximity to the slums on the west side of Conduit of Blight and to the north of Gangbanger’s Way, and consequently the crime level and the ever-present stoned-out transients. But that can be dealt with by a good, loud dog.

Mr. WonderAccountant is about to retire. Their son and his young wife took up residence in the West Valley, and they’ve been urging the WA’s to move out there: just now they live right across the street from the Funny Farm. WonderAccountant herself does NOT want to go. She likes it here. But…if they do one day move, you can be sure Tony will glom that place, too. About the only way I could keep him out of it would be to buy it myself and rent it, or sell it to someone of my choice. I actually could… Even without selling my own house, I could probably buy that place with cash.

But I’d sure druther not….

Don’t know what the jerk is doing to the place across the street, but after weeks of daily banging around, his crew are STILL deconstructing and reconstructing over there. Presumably they will make it a drug rehab half-way house or an institution for raving lunatics. If I’m going to move away from whatever gem he’s installing over there, I do need to get on the stick…get sold and moved before he puts a public nuisance in there that will make it impossible to sell this place for the going rate….which of course I would need to clear in order to get into someplace comparable somewhere else.

Hadn’t considered Arrowhead before…but now it’s definitely on the radar. Encanto — where DXH and I first lived, in an absolutely gorgeous 1929 house — has the same issues as the ’Hood does: crime and bums. But look at this little cutie.  That is right around the corner from where we lived, literally: we were at 326 on the next street south of Encanto. The Encanto area and its adjacent, ritzier Palmcroft district are just flat overrun with derelicts, burglars, and wannabe rapists. Hence the bars on all the doors in this little house. Probably all the windows are alarmed — or not: actually, those old-fashioned crank windows with the steel frames are hard to break into.

Eight and a quarter for THIS????? What ARE they smoking?

Whoa!!! Lookit this! Dayum! Right on the fringe of Darkest North Central! It’s a little too close to Glendale, a large and noisy thoroughfare. But it’s in a pretty tony area….the price is a little alarmingly low for that part of town. Wonder what’s wrong with it? All you can tell from these images is that it needs to have the backyard landscaped. I could easily do without my swimming pool…and look at all the space for one’s German shepherd to run around back there. Hm.

I’m afraid the racket from Glendale would be unacceptable, though.

Another one down in that area. It’s a cute little house. Pretty much in the middle of the neighborhood — relatively quiet, one presumes. Floors need to be redone: that could be an expensive proposition. The bamboo patio is a little weird — presumably the jungle is for privacy, since the thing is in the front. And personally, I really don’t like electrical lines spanning the pool. They may not be legal: today the code says you can’t build a pool beneath electric lines.

Uh oh! Just remembered I need to go to the store….and eeek! It’s almost noon. Thank the heavens for Instacart!

Whaddaya think, dear readers? Hold the fort? Or take the path of least resistance and move, before Tony installs whatever malign disaster he’s working on?

11 thoughts on “Real Estate Window-Shopping”

  1. I would get out ASAP. There is a house out there that will serve your needs that you won’t hate. Just keep looking. Have you looked in the Arcadia neighborhood?

  2. I think you need to make a move now. Sell, rent somewhere, put things in storage. And then look around for somewhere to buy. I think that might change your perspective on where and what to buy.

    • Given that I’ve had my fill of apartment living and given the outrageous inflation in real estate prices here, I doubt that I can afford to buy in a safe neighborhood, at least not one that’s within driving distance of my life.

      Besides….am I going to allow Tony the Romanian Landlord to stampede me out of my home? Seriously?

      To that I say, “Make my day, little man!”

  3. Consider perspective. Regarding a move, are you running away from a hazard or going toward a new beginning?

    Do you stay because you prefer to annoy the bully?

    Do you have to stay in the Phoenix area?

    Can you put things in storage and stay elsewhere while waiting out the insane real estate market and make interest on the money gained via the sale of your house?

    Just a few things to consider.

    • All of those are excellent viewpoints. Come to think of it…

      1. Regarding a move: definitely running away…but to what extent a real hazard exists is unclear. We may be looking at a cloud of hot air, where Tony is concerned.
      2. No. I stay because I am not going to be pushed around. I don’t care whether he’s annoyed.
      3. No. But I stay in Phoenix because this is where my son lives, this is where all my friends are, and this is where my social life (such as it is) exists.
      4. At my age, probably waiting things out is an exercise in futility. 😀 There’s a good likelihood that I don’t have enough time to do much waiting.

      Let me add to those points that if I were to move, the reason I’d want to move is not that I’m especially scared of Tony (I’m armed to the teeth, and he would have a time getting around that factoid), but because of the noise, traffic, potential disruption, and possible crime associated with, say, a half-way house for drug addicts. The reason I’d want to get out of here ASAP is because of the effect on the property value of this house. Housing prices are in the stratosphere now. If I got $500,000 to $550,000 for this place (truly: an astronomical amount! Over twice what I paid for it), with the net proceeds I would be lucky if I could score something comparable in another middle-class neighborhood. A halfway house or other social service facility will push down property values for neighboring houses…which is the real reason most of the neighbors object to Tony’s nursing home empire.

  4. Your safety is probably paramount as is your health and do you really want to spend the rest of your life thinking about Tony the Romanian gangster landlord? You either have to live with it, try to change it, or leave it; these are the three options for dealing with any situation. I moved to abscond from a pretty bad neighborhood and I’m much better off in my new environs. Another tip: you will be purchasing at a higher price but also selling at a similar high price point So what seems to be a detraction is actually a positive.

    • That seems like the reasonable thing to do. O’course, I do have a dark side: the one that says “ARE YOU KIDDING? ARE YOU GONNA LET THAT CLOWN PUSH YOU AROUND???” Sometimes I have to tell her to shut up. 😀

      Spent the afternoon looking at real estate online. The prices just take your breath away!!!!! Houses comparable to the Funny Farm are going for around $525,000. Of course, if I sold now I wouldn’t net $525 grand, meaning either I’d have to borrow to buy the new place or downscale considerably. Neither of those are attractive options.

      Half a million bucks for a little tract house. Can you imagine? That’s downright flabbergasting.

    • No… I haven’t discussed this with him. He tends to little-woman his muther, to tell the truth. Too, the house will end up being his in just a few years, after I shuffle off this mortal coil.

      Which is another consideration: given that the house will represent a large portion of his inheritance (assuming I croak over before I’m condemned to an old-folkerie), whether I stay or leave, the shack needs to hold its value. The more stable the real estate value, the better his inheritance will be. It would be ideal if he could elect to sell or rent one of the two houses (he and the credit union own the one he’s in just now) and live mortgage-free in the other.

  5. I really hate to hear this! I’ve been reading your blog for years now! I do think you need to move . It would prevent you from losing value if he is indeed putting some sort of institution in your neighborhood! I hate that your zoning allows that! I think the first house you linked is lovely! It reminds me of your place now. Do you really think you would be happy without your pool? Time time is of the essence but won’t he disappointed when your realtor says “no” he’ll yaaaas! Make sure they capture that special moment on video for you! I’ll be saying some special prayers that it works out exactly the way that it is supposed to. I just turned 60 this weekend. I’ve learned so much from you as I get closer to my retirement age. I just don’t think I’ll be able to do it as gracefully or a spectacularly as you have! But I’m damn sure going to try! Thank you! Cathy from Florida

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