This summer I got stuck in Atlanta.
When I went home in April I thought I would see my family and sign new leases with my tenants like I’ve done each spring since moving to the UK. The folks who were in the house had assured me a few months earlier that they loved living there and wanted to stay another year. What I did not know was that some of them could not stand each other.
Some of you may remember my house pictures and post from April. While I was beginning to feel a bit anxious about the rental situation then nothing could have prepared me for the drama that followed when last-minute decisions were made by some not to stay. Earlier in the year I had turned away several groups wishing to rent the house and was shocked by decision of some of my tenants not to renew only thirteen days before the lease expired.
With so many people are struggling to survive a housing market that has flatlined, renters have their pick in my old neighborhood. My house is right downtown only two blocks from a large university so students have long been a feature of what is still largely a collection of 1920s and 30s bungalows.
Too many of these houses have been modified to cram as many students in as possible and those less desirable homes have lost rental opportunities to the cheaper condos a short drive away leaving many vacant houses priced at rock bottom prices.
My house has never had any trouble renting and price has never been an issue. As one of the nicest (everyone’s words, not just mine) homes in the neighborhood and only two blocks from campus it has never been empty as it was this summer. Students needing summer housing lock in well before May and if you miss that window the next opportunity is August just before fall session begins at the university.
By the time I posted this one post and later another, my tenants had given me their short notice and I was resigned to being stuck there for an indefinite time. I had not planned on this and with an already too tight budget, I quickly went into a bit of a panic about what to do next. Knowing that I would not likely find renters for several months, I decided to list it for sale.
You don’t need to live in the US to know what has happened to the housing market, but I was not prepared for just how bad it really was until I was sleeping in an empty house hoping a potential buyer might fall in love with it as I once had.
Thankfully, I had never used my house as an ATM for quick loans so I was not upside down on my mortgage, but I did pay quite a bit for it eleven years ago even though I bought it before prices escalated to the inflated values we saw before the market collapsed. Once I decided to sell in May, I listened to my realtor and priced it at what we thought appropriate based on the comparable home sales in the area.
The problem with comps is that it’s hard to find good ones in a market gone mad for foreclosures and in the end the only way I could have sold my home would have been to drop the price below what I still owed despite having owned it for eleven years. Add to that the cost of improvements during those years and the 20 % I put down on it when I bought it and you can see some of the reasons why I went into such a downward emotional spiral in May.
The idea of selling at a loss was not the only reason for my misery. As with any house that has been your home, there are all kinds of memories attached that need more time to process than a quick decision to sell allows and it felt like an unexpected death in a way. I know that sounds a bit dramatic, but that house was more than just a place to live when I bought it and held a lot of dreams for my future within its walls at one time.
I went with a realtor who offers what he calls Budget Broker services which is perfect in today’s economy. Even though we could not get it sold in the two months we had it listed, I got a feel for the market and will be happy to work with Kraig again when the market shifts.
For now my former home will need to be a rental and I feel fortunate that it is in a location where renting it is still an easy process.
I’ve had good luck generally with renters. Most honor their commitments without any issue and the biggest problems have been those involving my rigid no pet policy.
So you might imagine my surprise when one tenant had a screaming fit in the front yard complete with f-bombs and name calling along with threats to disrupt my attempts to show the house to potential buyers. Given her unhinged state I was not surprised to receive a series of emails where I was called all manner of things including a ” psychotic old woman.” I may have the order confused as I think “stupid, stupid, woman ” came first.
Given this sudden descent into the land of crazy, you can see why I thought I was better off not renting anymore. There’s a longer story attached to this past tenant and there were several early signs that I ignored. That won’t happen again.
I have a good bit more to share about my long summer of ” lost and found,” but I’ll leave it here for now with the much quoted words of Maya Angelou.
“The first time someone shows you who they are, believe them.”