Friday, August 14, 2009

How Hard Can It Be?

I don't post much about being a landlord, because really, all we do is cash the checks each month and then get back to our champagne lifestyle.


We own four three-bed two-bath apartments in a liminal area of town. One block up, million dollar condos, two blocks down Chicano gangland. When we bought the place, two weeks before I had Anna *won't be doing that again*, our intention was to go through the immense City process to get the apartment building converted in to condos. One run-down apartment building would become four beautiful, separately saleable condos. The sum of the parts is greater than the whole.

Well, that was the plan. The glacial City process was completed, but took us from May 2005 to May 2008. At which point, it became clear that the final hurdle, a construction loan with which to activate all our lovely new permits, was nowhere to be found. We were months ahead of the game with the global economic meltdown. In a way it was a relief to discover all those loan rejections weren't purely personal.

So, we're left with a run-down, but fully rented apartment block, and we live in one of the apartments. We had not planned on the need to have rents cover our mortgage for years on end, so things are a tad *tight* now that that is how we must survive. As such, when one of our tenants said they were moving out mid-month, coinciding almost cosmically with the day we left for England I literally fell to my knees and tried to remember how to breathe.

I am a rock in times of crisis.

After a very large martini and a stern pep talk from my husband I decided to think positive. We would rent the place before we left on vacation - before the existing tenants had even moved out! They probably knew people, desperate to move in! Who wanted to pay more rent! I had myself thinking 'I'm sure the place just needs a spritz of Febreze and a quick vacuum and we'll have an Open House! This weekend!'

I got slightly anxious when I went to post the ad on Craigslist and saw just. how. many. apartments are available to rent right now in Santa Barbara. For a lot less than in previous years.


Historically, you could only find a rental in this town through word of mouth. Now people were advertising first month free! Pets OK! All utilities paid!

The playing field had clearly shifted in favour of the tenant.

Then - after having rather too trustingly advertised the Open House on Craigslist (for increased rent - oh how I laugh now....) I popped upstairs to take a quick look at the place. Our best apartment. Our best tenants were leaving this:

To be continued............


Almost American said...

They will of course lose their security deposit, yes?

Eden Kennedy Onassis said...

Seriously. Also, do you want to borrow our carpet cleaner? We have one of those Hoover things, it's really easy (hell, I'll do it for you) and it will only cost you one martini.

Anonymous said...

I have to say that, actually, I DO think you are a rock in times of crisis. S x

Julia said...

Oh dear.

Bottoms up!

(Please tell me those aren't, you know, PET stains? Because I would be tempted to track down your formers and... well.)

Daffodilly said...

Oh my god!

Our tenants leave next week & we are looking for new ones too. I have been researching the market over here & we are going to have to reduce the price too....damned annoying as our loans/mortgages are not lower! I have decided to allow pets....your photo's are making me think twice!

Good Luck!

Little Britainer said...

Crikey. I agree with AA, I hope you didn't give the full deposit back... What on earth were they doing in there?

Sadly, reading your post almost makes me want to move to Santa Barbara - still no sign of things becoming a renter's market here in NY, although the press keep bleating on about it.

Hyphen Mama said...

Oh no! I am so sorry this has happened. What do people DO when they live in a place? I have always ALWAYS left apartments cleaner than I found them and have had landlords tell me so.

I wish I lived closer, because I am really good with drywall AND a steam cleaner!

Really... can you rally some friends and a little beer, promise of grilled hamburgers for a day of help?

My husband wanted to buy the house down the street and fix & flip it. I was SO HAPPY the day the for sale sign was pulled down, because once inside, the new owners have spent tens of thousands of dollars just to fix what the previous renters destroyed.

Good luck!

Jane said...

Had a bad experience with renting when we lived in the UK. Renter stopped paying so we had to evict him. Council tax people tried to take all OUR furniture in lieu of back taxes, thinking it was his!
Never again!