Monday, January 5, 2015

What Lurks in Vacant Properties?

What would you do if you were to walk into a vacant and boarded house and find someone in it? Oh, don’t you go around walking into boarded houses? Seriously? Man, you are missing out! You should try it. It's really fascinating. There are so many interesting things to see and experience. Did you know when they are boarded they are really dark inside? Be sure to take a flashlight. 

One time I walked up to a house and was poking around trying to see if I could get inside. All of the windows were boarded. A neighbor walked up and said, “Hi. What are you doing here?” I told him I was curious about this house since it was vacant. He said, “Oh, it's not vacant”. I looked at the house again and then back at him. “But…but, all of the windows are boarded up. And, I can see inside and part of the roof is missing.” He turned to look at me like I had grown a second head and replied, “This is a poor neighborhood. We can't afford to replace the window every time it breaks. Heck, have you seen the kids in this area? They destroy anything they can. Just take a look around, graffiti, vandalism, broken windows, damaged vee-hickles. Kids, I tell you...” And, he slowly walked away.

I am sure you have a home. Or, at least live in a place you call a home. You know, when you leave work you say, “I'm going home.” As we know, it's the place where we sleep and keep all of our stuff. We should all be thankful we have a place to call “home”. Even you teenagers out there, it's really not that bad. Trust me on this. It could be worse. I've often pondered the homeless and from where they have come. Have they chosen this life? Have they been forced into it? How many like the simpleness of homelessness? So many questions. So few answers. But, this is about real estate. Maybe someday I will write a blog about life and the "ponderings" that go with it. It could be fun. 

Back to the homeless. The ones I have met have been nice enough. On occasion, I have walked into a “vacant” house and found someone sleeping in the corner on the floor. It can be startling. However, I haven't ran into the types Ben has. Now HE has had some experiences.

A couple of years ago he was inspecting a house we bought down near 24th Street and Roosevelt. When he walked up he noticed there were people were hanging out there and milling about. He gently asked them to leave because he was going to secure the property. As he walked in he looked at one of the guys and sad, “Are the rest of the units vacant?” He was told they should be. As he walked through the units he hollered and banged on the walls to let anyone know he was coming in. It was dark. The windows were boarded. His only light was a mega-powered flashlight that made the room bright as day. You should see it! It's really bright. With a flashlight in his hand and a pistol on his hip, he walked into the back unit. Just as he turned into the back room he came face-to-face with another human. Just standing there. Ben yelled at him, “Why didn't you say anything when I banged and hollered??” The man said, “I didn't respond.” Ben said, “I noticed. Now pack your stuff and get out.” He waited outside until the man left. As he left, he kept looking back at Ben, clearly concerned as Ben had a pistol holstered on his hip. The building was secured. The homeless had to find another place to live.

It's strange. The homeless who occupy these vacant buildings have never put up a fight. I'm not saying I want them to fight. In fact, we are quite happy they don't. They just simply pack their stuff and meander down the lane to find another vacant place to call “home”. Then when that one becomes no longer viable they move on to the next. And so on. In fact, this was an interesting observation in an area known as “Sunnyslope”. It's a part of Phoenix with high crime and vacant properties and large number of homeless.

Ben and Tate were cleaning out a triplex we purchased down near 7th Avenue and Dunlap. This is a really nice area. By “nice” I mean there is a ton of opportunity with vacant properties. Sunnyslope. When they arrived there were many homeless hanging out and making themselves at home. The guys simply asked them to leave so they could clean up a little and secure the triplex. At one point they were certain there were people in the attic. They finished boarding up the windows when Ben heard, “Hey! Stop! Turn around with your hands on your head!” It was the police! They came up and pulled the gun from Ben's holster. Being Ben was only 19 at the time, he could not conceal-carry. But, he could open-carry. You know what's weird? In Arizona you can open-carry at 18 but you cannot buy bullets for the gun you carry until you are 21. Once 21, Arizona residents are allowed to conceal-carry in the state of Arizona without a permit, as long as one doesn't have a felony. On another note, later this month Ben and I are going for our conceal-carry permit. It's not required but comes with added benefits, of which I will not go into here. We are in the middle of an exciting story about houses, homeless, guns and cops!

Back to Sunnyslope. The cop pulled the gun from Ben's holster and then asked what they were doing here. Ben told them they were cleaning and securing the property as we had just purchased it.

Cop: “What's your name?”
Ben: “Ben”
Cop: “Last name?”
Ben: “Wuollet”
Cop: “Hey! Do you have any family in the department?”
Ben: “Yea. My cousin” and he gave him her name.
Cop: “Ah. You Wuollets are all over town. Grab your gun and put it back in your holster.”

The police were glad someone was finally taking care of one of the eyesores in the neighborhood. They wished them well and went to chase another call.

Our pondering was this: a bunch of homeless living in a houses they don't own, leaving trash and undesireables strewn about, damaging property and the cops get called when someone is working on a property? I guess doing repairs on properties in that neighborhood is unusual. Sunnyslope.

And THAT is real estate in my corner of the globe.