I met up with Realtor Steve Ostrom the other day while at Real Estate Bar Camp Sacramento (a great event). Steve interviewed me and we talked about home owners getting an appraisal before listing a home, finding comps and other issues. Check it out and let me know what you think.
Did you know California has a 57.9% rate of home ownership according to the US Census Bureau? It sounds wonderful that nearly 60% of homes are owner-occupied, but this also means roughly 40% of homes are rentals. Does it shock you to think 4 out of 10 houses are occupied by tenants in California?
So far during “Blight Week” we’ve talked about the definition of blight, fences and mowing lawns, but let’s shift gears to talk about investment properties. Since real estate investors own a very significant chunk of the housing stock, it’s essential to have them on board for maintaining their properties so neighborhoods can grow in the right direction. Imagine how 40% of a neighborhood could influence a given area – for better or for worse. There are many investors out there who really get this, but there are also those who do little to nothing to adequately maintain their investments, which only brings down the neighborhood. Sacramento Real Estate Broker Joel Wright gives some insight and practical advice to investors:
I would just caution investors to realize if they are not going to work with the property and manage it effectively, then it will make them more money and save time and stress to hire a manager to do it for them. And if they are in a rundown neighborhood, or let their unit run down, they will get the kind of tenants that will feel comfortable living in that kind of unit, and that will lower the rent and increase the vacancy and maintenance which will dramatically lower their bottom line.
While we might like to believe purchasing real estate involves only what takes place inside of our parcel lines, there is no such thing as buying a “parcel island”. When we invest in real estate, we buy into a neighborhood and are therefore responsible for the image of the community. This is true for both owner-occupants and real estate investors. While it’s easy to blame blight on investors for not properly caring for their units, home owners, renters and local government (code enforcement) each play a major role in the image of a neighborhood.
Questions: How have you seen investment properties either harm or improve a neighborhood? How have you seen a lack of effective code enforcement damage a community? How would you suggest dealing with blighted investor-owned rentals in a neighborhood? If you are an investor, how do you maintain your own properties?
Talking about lawns and blight in the same breath seems overblown in some senses. But unkempt front yards are actually a very big deal because people will judge a community based on what it looks like. Is this a place where residents invest in their neighborhood or have they stopped believing in the future of their community?
I’m not talking about the one house on the block that is usually mowed, but has struggled over the past few months because the owner has been sick. This is more of a deep-seated issue where overgrown lawns have become a part of the normative and acceptable lifestyle in a neighborhood. On one hand it is only grass we’re talking about, but it’s really a sign of subdivision decay that can spread like a virus and encourage other forms of blight to take root also. A lawn may be a small thing, but if you begin to add up other examples of blight on top of unkempt lawns, it takes a huge toll on the ethos of a community and it definitely decreases property value.
Dealing with the “small things” like mowing the lawn is a perfect example of how “The Broken Windows Theory” works in a neighborhood. See the video below.
The notion of being a contributor to the health of a community is seldom on the radar in today’s society. We like to think we can simply exist on parcel islands in our subdivisions and believe what we do (or don’t do) carries little consequence for others. The truth is when residents begin to build high fences, stop mowing lawns and esseentially check out of the community, it makes an impact on everyone else. Our neighborhoods will thrive only when we begin to act on the belief that each household has a role to play for the sake of the entire community.
Questions: How have you seen a lack of lawn-mowing impact a community? What is the starting point for reversing the trend in a neighborhood where lawns are perpetually unkempt? How do you think new subdivisions should deal with unekmpt lawns due to unmanaged vacant foreclosures?
This is post #3 in “Blight Week” on the Sacramento Appraisal Blog
We love our fences in California, but the wrong type of fence can really leave a bad impression. When a fence is too tall, resembles prison bars, obstructs the view of the house, is plain ugly or screams “leave me alone”, it’s probably not enhancing the image of the neighborhood. There are many reasons why fences exist, but regardless of the reasons, when a community grows to have numerous fences like this, it promotes a blighted feel.
Please don’t misunderstand me. I’m NOT saying you are causing blight in your community if you have a certain type of fence. I’m only saying the way houses look communicate something to the rest of the neighborhood, make a reflection upon the entire community and ultimately impact property value. As much as we like to think we live on parcel islands, the truth is what we do (or don’t do) to the front of our parcels impacts how others view the neighborhood. If you don’t believe neighborhood presentation can influence the way others feel about the community, read a case study of Diggs Town Public Housing.
Removing or changing the type of fence may not erase the blight label from a neighborhood, but it is often one cog in the system. Blight is a complex reality that occurs over time, so beginning to breathe life back into a community involves removing characteristics that send a negative message and adding features that are more welcoming. I know design is a very subjective thing, but people’s feelings are too. If we want to see property values increase, people need to feel good about the neighborhood.
How do you think fences can help shape the image of a community? What factors would you say contribute to a blighted feel for a neighborhood? Which fences below seem welcoming and evoke friendliness? Which designs may give off a negative vibe?
This is post # 2 in the “Blight Week” series on the Sacramento Appraisal Blog.