30 November 2009

The House Next Door

This is a picture of the house next door. It seems pretty benign from this far away. But it is drab and grey. And you might some things that seem a bit awry. For example, the giant pile of garbage by the back door. At the left edge of the picture you'll note the sawhorses with the pile of windows, doors, and lumber that the landlord is too damn lazy to remove.

Here is the awful garage. Note the old fridge peeking out from behind my tree, on the right. The old galvanized washtub sitting beside the garage is a nice touch. I'm waiting to confirm the location of our property lines on this, because we think our property line might actually be right along the wall of that garage. And that's kind of a nice galvanized tub there. It hasn't rusted through yet. In the back you can see the moldy old doghouse and way behind the old blue tarp that's just mouldering away and collecting rainwater and mosquito larvae. I can't blame the neighbor for this since it's the landlord's crap.

While trying to sneak pictures out the windows, Batgirl, one our four thousand barn cats, leapt up on the sill to admonish me for prying. Batgirl is unimpressed by our vendetta against the neighbor, because she enjoys picking through the garbage pile for snacks.

The Neighbor, Part I

I've decided to start blogging about my neighbor. Since I have no regular readers any more this should be an amusing restart to the blog. Reviewing the laundry list of books I've read since I ceased regular updates was just daunting. This will be more fun.

Today I'll tell you about the house next door absent the neighbor. I should definitely take some pictures.
In this area of the country, property is cheap (it's part of why we moved here). Rental property prices would make Florida readers' eyes bug out: you often see two-bedroom houses for under $500/mo with most utilities included. These are often on large lots in relatively rural areas; right now on craigslist there's a 3/2 for rent on 3/4 of an acre with a garage and central heat and air for $450. Seriously.

So the house next door is a rental property, too. It rents at $450 as well. It has a garage, one half of which is behind a locked door that the residents don't have a key to, and the other half of which is so chock-a-block with old junk that you can't even open the front door, so putting a car in there is a bad joke. It has one tiny little bathroom, and one bedroom. It has a kitchen with appliances, which is nice, but no central heat or air. In fact so far as I know there's no a/c of any kind unless there's a window unit in one of the two front rooms that's hidden behind the porch rail. The fireplace is almost certainly not rated for use so I assume we're talking kerosene for winter heat. Always nice to have a major fire risk next door.

It has a total of five rooms if you count the bathroom or the trashy laundry room. If not, there's a small kitchen, a small bedroom, and two front rooms. There are no doors in the house, apart from at the bathroom--no door between the bedroom and kitchen, or between any of the other rooms. This is weird to me.

The back door doesn't seal. The steps up to the front door are cracked. Cats live under the house and use it as their disposal area. In the back yard, next to the garage, is an old dog pen with bent fencing and a rotting doghouse, and generations of dogs have dug holes out from the pen so that it wouldn't contain anything smaller than a bull mastiff--and the chain link wouldn't hold that kind of dog in for long. Immediately behind the house, there are sawhorses set up with some assorted old windows and doors and other trash lumber. In front of the dog pen, some old tires are slowly decomposing into the soil surrounded by broken windows and assorted metal trash. In front of the garage there's an old refrigerator, just sitting there in the driveway. Behind the garage, old rotten lumber, a broken-down doghouse, and parts to a former chicken coop gradually dissolve into the weeds. One side of the garage is covered in poison ivy. The landlord comes by once every three months to mow.

This is what the place looks like when there's not anyone living in it.
And this rents for $450 a month. You'd think the assorted trash lying in the yard and the junked-up garage might be due to the current awful tenant, but you'd be wrong. All this trash is just lying in the yard while the landlord is trying to rent the place.

The house was occupied when we moved in last September, but the residents shortly moved out and purchased a home. They'd been living in there with three kids--five people in a four-room house with one bathroom. Much of the junk in the garage is evidently theirs. When they moved out, they stole the refrigerator out of the house and left part of the garage packed floor to ceiling with bags of kitchen trash. Really. The landlord had purchased parts to build a carport (evidently admitting that the garage is not intended for use as, you know, a garage), which they also stole. He recovered the refrigerator from them but couldn't prove that they had the carport pieces (which I assume they fenced). When they moved out they left the house a complete wreck. The landlord assured me he was going to refinish all the floors and the cabinets and clean the place top to bottom.

It sat vacant until early September. Given the shape the property is in, the size of the house, and the amenities it offers, Smittywife and I think a fair rental price for the place would be $250. You could maybe squeeze $300 out of it, if you bothered to clean up the yard. That would be fair. The market would support that. Instead the house sat vacant for ten months. As irritating as it can be to live next to a vacant dump of a house, I look back on those months now with fondness.

Smittywife and I would love to buy this property. We would fix it up--actually, now that we know more about the house, we'd burn it down--and rent it for a while, and perhaps in the future just combine our two properties and build a house farther back on the lot. We'd love to do this. We asked the current landlord what he'd consider selling it for.
Bear in mind this house is half the size of ours and in much worse shape. It's also on half as much property and the garage is in much worse shape than ours.
He wants for this dump more than twice what we paid for our house.
So the landlord, you understand, is insane.