Coffee heat rising


Poor old Dave, proprietor of Dave’s Used Car Lot, Marina, and Weed Arboretum, is finally moved out, having spent a week and used the services of three male friends equipped with pickups, a flatbed, and SUVs to haul off his collected junk. He’s posted a do-it-yourself “For Sale” sign in the front yard (“Drastically reduced!”) and ridden off into the sunset, leaving his weed garden behind.

This afternoon some kinda seedy-looking guys climbed over the weed haystack in the driveway to ogle the peeling batten around the eaves. Evidently they were calculating what it would take to revive the decrepit house to its former glory…or at least to rentability. Early in the evening, a father came by in the wake of his toddler’s tricycle. Dad and son broke into the back yard through the side gate and disappeared into the weed jungle. The kid’s trike is gone now, so either they came out and went on their way or the cockroaches carried the hardware off.

Old Dave, as we learned, was foreclosed. My neighbor and I found that out when the notice was mistakenly slapped on her front door instead of Dave’s. He borrowed $320,000 against the place. Zillow values it at around $307,000. Even though it has a pool (soon to be a mosquito pond, no?) and a good-sized corner lot, there’s no chance it’ll fetch that much. Another foreclosure in similar condition around the corner sold for $268,000.

In a way, I’m sorry to see Dave go, despite the mess he lived in. The trashed condition of his property and his habit of parking a used-car-lotful of rolling stock on the front lawn affected the property value of houses all around him, and that was irritating. But at least Dave was quiet. I dread what’s going to end up in that dump next.

O.K. There’s a remote chance someone will buy the house for a song, fix it up, and live in it. More likely, though, some speculator will grab it out of foreclosure, throw a cheap coat of paint on the outside and some apartment-house carpets on the floors, and rent it out. This will add to the already thick population of rentals in the neighborhood. It will join the place that houses Biker Boob, a Hell’s Angel who roars up and down our residential street on his unmuffled Harley and who uses the garage to conduct a shade-tree mechanic’s operation, complete with LOUD heavy-duty shop equipment that he starts up at 7 a.m. every weekend and operates until after 11 at night, and the shack whose out-of-state owner rents to SEVEN unrelated adult men, all of whom park their cars on the front yard and none of whom is interested in hacking back the knee-high weeds on the property.

The other possibility is that the new owner will be yet another of those folks who buys on the cheap, thinking he’s found a bargain, without having a clue to what’s involved in maintaining a forty-year-old tract house. Once they get moved in and discover how much it costs and how much work is involved in taking care of one of these places, they just let it go to pot.

Either way, the result is the same: a run-down house on a run-down lot, dragging down property values in the our little six-square-block development. Add to this recurring phenomenon the City’s kind decision to rip out a whole row of houses to make way for the train tracks, and you can see if you want to move up but stay in town, you’re flat out of luck. There’s no way you can afford a comparable (or even a lesser) house in a better-maintained neighborhood that’s located in the central part of the city. The only way to get back into the middle class is to move way, way out into the sprawl on the outer fringes of the metropolitan area.

You, too, can drive two hours each way to work. You’ll love it. It’s the American way!