Tuesday, June 27, 2006

House 3: Squatters Begone!

I stopped by the house this morning and, as I was unlocking the front door, I noticed there were sheets hanging over a window to the right of the door. Hmmm.. I didn't put those there. I opened the door and saw several things:

  • The window on the other side of the room to the backyard was open.
  • There was a red car in the backyard.
  • Through a doorway to the right, I could see a bicycle leaning against the wall and a bunch of clothes on the floor.
I closed the door, got back in my car, drove to the end of the street and called the police. Two officers showed up 50 minutes later and I met them outside the house. I told them what I saw and that the house should be empty. They went inside and were in there for about 10 minutes. They came back out with a woman and sent her on her way. They ran a check on the car in the backyard and discovered it was stolen, so they called a tow truck to come haul it away. While waiting for the tow truck to show up, the policeman suggested I run out and get some gloves to clean up the stuff inside. He also said the house looked familiar and did a worker have something stolen from here recently? I said yes, that was this house..

I ran down to a corner drug store and bought some gloves and when I got back, I took my first look inside. The squatters had set up house in the add-on room that has the window air conditioning unit. The floor was covered with clothes, about 7 backpacks, 10-15 porno magazines, and other assorted debris. The windows all had sheets hung over them, which I took down and used to bundle up the garbage.

The rest of the house was ok. It looks like they got in through the open window I saw, which was a window that doesn't really lock properly. They had some soap and shirts hanging in the bathroom and some soap in the kitchen, along with an open box of crackers and a bag with spices and various food mixes. There were a surprisingly large number of tools - wrenches, pliers, etc. I spent about 15 minutes throwing everything out. Since I was just out at the property last Tuesday, I know the squatters couldn't have been staying there very long.

The tow truck finally showed up and, since the car didn't have any wheels on it, they told me they would have to drag it off the back patio and that it might leave marks in the concrete, which I said was ok. A short while later, the owner of the car, a 2004 red Mustang, showed up. Needless to say, he was pretty dispondent over the state of the car. Turns out it was stolen 5 days prior. It took about 2 hours for the guys to haul the car away.

Before I left, I double-checked all the windows, doors, and locks. There was no vandalism at least, although there was a grease spot on the new carpet near the kitchen. I also put a padlock on the gate in the backyard. The neighbor across the street was mowing his lawn, so I went over and spoke with him. He didn't speak english very well, but I think I was able to convey that the house was supposed to be empty and if he saw anyone in it, I would appreciate it if he called me, day or night. He agreed and I gave him my business card.

Having taken care of the house, I then called my Realtor and told her the story. She thought it was pretty funny :-) Anyway, I told her to put the words "motivated seller" in the MLS listing and to drop the price $3,000. She actually reminded me of a selling tactic I learned in the past, but forgot about with all the commotion today: We upped the buyer's agent's commission from 3% to 4% and only dropped the price by $1,000. It's still a net $3,000 deduction to me, but hopefully the extra agent incentive will get some more potentials buyer through there. As Freakonomics so smartly points out, selling real estate is all about motivating the buyer's agent.


mitchell said...

Man that sucks!!! Why do theives and squatters all target this house? Is it in a particularly bad part of town? Have you considered maybe having a friend or relative stay there until it is sold (unless that is too dangerous, of course)? Or maybe even stay there yourself!

savvy saver said...

wow, you are having some bad luck with this property... but it makes for great blog posts!

monarchcrest said...

Shaun, depending on how long you think you may have this house you man want to bite the bullet and get phone service and ADT or some other security company set up.

A couple of my friends had their appliances, windows, cabinets, etc... stolen from their high end remodels. We're talking about Viking stoves, Sub-zero fridges, etc... It happens in all hoods when people know a house is empty.

Anonymous said...

Gee, I'd love to spend $190K for the privlege of living in this 'hood.....

Good grief.

Nick said...

I'm telling you right now. This housing market is coming down hard. Arizona and condos in San Diego and Florida are ground zero. Do yourself a favor and get out even if you only break even. It's no worse than ending up owing $160k on a $100k after the drop.

Viridian said...

I have to agree with savvy saver -- you're having unbelievably bad luck with this house, but it's making for great blog material. Keep us posted and good luck with your new sales tactics!

Shaun said...

Mitchell - It's not in a horrible part of town, but it's not the best either. Vacant houses are just a target..

Monarchcrest - Good idea! I hadn't thought of that!

Anon - The first thing you need to learn in real estate investing is that investment properties do not need to be a place *you* would like to live in in order to be a deal.

Nick - I know. I'm looking at close to break even right now.

Savvy and Viridian - Yes, I purposely picked this location just so I could have some great blog posts :-) Actually, you have to roll with the punches in this business and learn not to let too much bother you. You quickly learn what to get really concerned about and what to just let go.

One problem with getting rid of this property quickly is now the city has started repaving all the streets in the area, so some streets are closed off and others are all torn up. *sigh* If it's not one thing, it's another. I stopped by this morning, just to make sure the squatters didn't come back and take revenge on me for throwing their stuff out. The place looks ok still.

Trisha#1 said...

Hey, Shaun, I can tell you, based on a friend's experiences, installing a security system does nothing to deter theives. It'll keep away the squatters, though. Your best bet is to put mini blinds on every window, keep them closed, and leave on a couple lights around the house. Every few days or so, go back and change which lights are on. The thieves and squatters will see the lights and think someone lives there. There's no way they'll know differently. And, it's a cheap solution for you! You could even go out and buy a cheap radio to leave on in one room. There's no way anyone will break in--they'll think someone with a gun could live there.

Shaun said...

Thanks Trisha. I've got blinds on most of the windows, but not all. I should look into that. I wonder if those temporary paper blinds would work too.. They're cheaper and easier to install. I have two lamps in the place, both on timers, one of which has a random setting. I also made sure the lamps are in rooms with blinds so people can't see it's just a lamp in an empty room. I have thought about a radio.

I also got a notice in the mail about the construction in the area. Turns out they aren't just repaving the streets - they are replacing a water line. That means it's probably going to be a while until the constrution is finished.

Steve said...

That does suck. Maybe get a friend's Rhotweiller(sp?) or pit bull and put "Beware of (Vicious) Dog" signs in several windows? Of course, then you'll have to worry about cleaning up a different kind of mess. :-/

Anonymous said...

good luck selling. I would consider offering seller paid closing costs. This will help...


sergeson said...

I thought this stuff only happened in the movies!

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