Monday, April 19, 2010

Idiots and Landlords... but I repeat myself

Well, been busy looking for a new place to dock my iceberg... and came across some great looking places. Well, they could be great looking places, if the landlords would invest the minimal amount needed to make them look great. You know, paint, replacing worn-out plumbing fixtures, that sort of thing. We're talking about a couple thousand bucks max here, most expensive thing would be replacing a worn-out tiled-in cast-iron bathtub (something not for the faint-at-heart). At least, a couple thousand bucks max if you do it yourself, and if you're in the small-time landlord business you better damn well be doing it yourself, because otherwise there's no way to make owning a rental property pay, the maintenance expenses will kill your ass.

Yet they don't do it. And their properties look ugly. And people like me, who like to live in a nice looking place and will live there for years (I've been in my current place for almost six years), turn our noses up at these properties, leaving the Silicon Valley equivalent of trailer trash to move in and not pay the rent, trash the place, and have to be evicted. So what's the deal here? I mean, one of my friends was a small-time slum lord and he let his properties get pretty trashy, but his properties were in the *slum*. As in, if he'd put nice stuff in there, the meth-heads woulda broke in and stole it and sold it for meth. With my friend we're talking about the sort of properties that rented for $80 per week. Yeah, *those* kinda properties. (And he rented by-the-week so that if they didn't make their week's payment, he could start eviction proceedings right then and there without waiting for the end of the month). But none of these properties I've looked at have been in the ghetto. They've been in nice looking neighborhoods.

Is it that these landlords are simply idiots who don't know how to maintain their homes? I mean, I might have unrealistic expectations here based on the fact that my father was a hotel maintenance man who did kitchen and bathroom remodels on the side. I painted my first interior at age 15, and did my first bathroom remodel at age 16, including sweating in new copper pipes to relocate the water heater (the house was built in 1925 and had a gas water heater in the corner of the bathroom, alongside a claw-foot tub). I still remember being up under the corner of a house that was only 8 inches off the ground with a propane torch, sweating in the new pipes and wondering if that was a black widow spiderweb over in that floor joist... and if you're wondering how even a skinny 16 year old gets under a house that is only 8 inches off the ground: Shovel. Seriously. It was like being in a grave.

So I guess my point is: Does anybody know a good real estate agent in the San Jose, CA, who a) specializes in buyer's representation, and b) knows the west San Jose area (Burbank/Buena Vista) well?

-- Badtux the Near-homeless Penguin


  1. Sorry dude,we're looking for a new place too.

    Looking into a house but we can't pay the taxes on it. The mortgage would be fine but those freaken taxes are nuts.

  2. Property taxes are currently running about 1.5% here in the SV area. So on a 250K house, that would be around $3750 per year, or $313 per month. BUT: Remember, property taxes are 100% deductible on your federal income tax. If you're in the 28% tax bracket, that means you get $1050 of that back from the Feds at the end of the year. And your interest on the house is also going to be deductible and the first few years are almost nothing but interest, so that's another $3,300 or so you get back.

    So basically, the tax breaks you get offset the taxes. At least if you're in the 28% bracket. PMI is also deductible at least this year, so you can figure that in also...

    - Badtux the Financial Penguin

  3. I don't envy your move. Some of the places I've seen with that mentality of the owner.

    It's unclear how the purchase of this old modular (it's a trailer) will turn out. I save a bunch each month that is for sure. Inclined to think may lose a bit when it's over with the good life of trailer park living.

  4. Ah yes, property taxes...

    For Santa Clara County, look up your property in the Assessment Roll. You will find a tax district number, like 79-015. Then look up the tax district number in the Tax Rate Book, use Acrobat Reader and search for "79-015". You'll notice two things: First, the Prop 13 cap of 1.0% on property taxes is bullshit due to the special assessments for bonds. Secondly, the tax rate book does not include parcel taxes -- which screws shit up big-time. On the property that I'm looking at, the taxes add up to slightly under 1.2%, but that's before the parcel taxes. I have no idea what parcel taxes apply to this property... but a good rule of thumb for Santa Clara County is to figure property tax bills are going to be about 1.5%, and you'll be closer to right than wrong.

    - Badtux the Tax Penguin

  5. Here in lovely southeast MI, my property taxes have gone down two years in a row, due to sagging values.

    This is widespread, and is causing all sorts of difficulties for municipalities that rely on these taxes for funding.

    But I dirgess . . .

    JzB the tax-relieved but conflicted trombonist

  6. Ooops! DIGRESS.

    the fumble fingered trombonist


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