Tuesday, May 17, 2005

The Tower Is For Sale; Bids Now Accepted

Well, kiddies, the end may just be near. Last- what?- summer the empty lot across the street from my humble (and I do mean humble) abode suddenly became a swarm of activity as the new buyers (or the old owners) began construction on a two-story fourplex. In the end they did a pretty good job of making it blend into the natural architectural style of the Tower District. Each balcony and porch was made up in the Craftsman style, the roof was done in a faux Spanish style (not in tile, but the asphalt shingles in the same color), the front stairs to the upper floor were hidden, the lawns are gorgeous, the offstreet parking isn't pukey at all. It really does look nice as these things go.
My landlord, who is an insurance agent and multiple property owner, researched and found out that the owner was going to ask for $750,000 for the whole shebang. 5 years ago, we would have hooted and asked if we could have the name of his dealer, 'cuz the shit must be primo. Not any more. We gaped at the asking price, but we never once thought it was not going to be met. We knew someone would jump at the bait. Probably a Bay area person. My landlord, also, informed us that the current owner was planning on calling the units "3 bedroom". That's when I began to gag. My studio apartment on Vassar Ave was as big. Granted, these units were very likely better made and laid out, but it didn't dismiss the fact that they were all about 700-800 square feet at best. And the owner was planning asking for over $1000 in rent.
Well, the 'for sale' sign went up last Saturday. The realty agent came out, took a mess of pictures of the exterior, interior, shots of the views and houses across the streets (though I think she skipped my place because of the delapidated fence situation) and left. So, that was Saturday. Saturday was the first official day of saleability. Today is Tuesday. Today there is a 'sold' sign on the realty sign. That's 4 days at most. The place sold in four days. Four freaking days. It ain't even renting yet. Four days. 3/4 of a million bucks. Snap. Gone. Gobbled. Didn't even see the shark's fin.
Now, the burning question is: local buyer or Bay area buyer? Evidently, the rule of thumb for rental building buyers is that the sum of monthly rent must be at least 1% of the sale price. 1% of $750,000 is $7500. $7500 divided by four equals $1875. Following this code, each '3 bedroom' unit needs to rent for $1875. That comes to (in my estimate) somewhere in the $2.50 per square foot range. A Bay area buyer would not think twice about charging what he or she considers fair market value based on the Bay area. That's how I was forced out of my last apartment. A Santa Cruz realtor bought the place and immediately kicked everyone for renovations with the notice that rent would increase by 50%. The locals who bought it before her and renovated the outside and landscaped it raised the rent by $50 (15%). Anyway, it will be interesting to see if the new owners will keep the same description or make it more sensible and what they will charge for rent.
Until then, I will continue to enjoy watching people stop and look in as I try and assess their probability of being able to afford living there. So far, the stats are running in the negative in terms of viable renters.


Bryan Zera said...

I've recently been thinking about this very same item. Prices are going up so much that by the time we're ready to buy, we won't be able to afford anything but a 2-bedroom apartment in a megaplex off the new 180 extension. What can we as a community do to keep housing affordable in our neighborhood?

airplanejayne said...

yes, I'm bummed. I always thought when/if my little "ranchette" grew to be too much for me I could move to a quaint/cute/charming little bungalow in the Tower....According to your calculations, all I'll be able to afford is the patio.

scarysquirrelman said...

you will always be able to "afford" something in the tower. but you will have to know people. my deal is really good only because the owner is a towerite and isn't too concerned about making a big profit. he owns enough other places that he can afford to help a Rogue creator stay in the neighborhood. but i am seeing so amny apartments staying on the market for longer now than i ever have and i know it's because the owners are trying to up the price just because the out of towners (who are buying up properties) are asking Bay area rent. Plus, the owners are trying to play off the "the tower is the only place to live" bullshit.
what can we as a community do? i don't know. buy up property and refuse to let it go? i know i can't. petition the owners and play on their sentimentality? won't work. graffiti up the area and make it look like it did in the 70's and 80's? stage guerrilla drive-bys and throw rocks through windows with notes attached that read "rich coastie go home"? chance of jail time.
it's funny. i've lived in the tower for a large chunk of my adult life. and it seems like no matter what might happen here, no matter what the national or state housing situation might look like, the prices hold in the tower and then go up.
i live on the corner of white trash row and i'm only two blocks from livingstone's. my neighborhood is east of van ness and north of olive. the area is very diverse ethnically and affluently. i enjoy it, but most of the tower (read: affluent homeowners)don't. but they come in and swoop up any lot and home that's on the market. fix it up and put it back on the market. and tout the ethnic diversity of the neighborhood. the tower has become very hypocritical and very money-conscious. a house on van ness near brown is selling for $609,000. beautiful houses there, but how much?! we live in fresno for crying out loud. we have the worst air pollution in the nation. we are a homicide capital. my block just had a small child taken from his front yard tonight and the cops are everywhere. this is a city with a severe identity crisis, almost no awareness of its cultural richness and an inability to acknowledge the fact that it's repressed in every way imaginable.
why would anyone want to spend unimaginable amount of money to not even live here? you have to love fresno and the tower. and, to be honest, it's really only natives and converts that see us for what we truly are.

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