November 8, 2012

“San Francisco Rental Market Drives Applicants to Extremes”

Now that this silly, inconsequential, election is over, we can focus on what we do best here in the Bay Area – increase housing prices. I’m so glad the election is over because now everyone can stop spending on campaigns, and spend more on buying homes. Or paying more in rent.

Recently, I read this piece and… well… frankly I was infuriated:

San Francisco Rental Market Drives Applicants to Extremes

by Sam Harnett | October 23, 2012 — 7:57 AM

San Francisco’s rental market usually cools down in the fall, but not this year. The average asking price for a one-bedroom in the city is now $2,673 a month, up more than 10 percent from last year. This big rent increase reflects a housing shortage fueled on one side by the recent wave of tech hires and the other by an absence of new units. In response, apartment hunting has returned to the frenzy of the dot-com boom, with prospective applicants packing open houses, forking over application fees and even engaging in bidding wars just to secure a temporary place to live.

I experienced this superheated market firsthand. My girlfriend and I spent three months this summer searching for an apartment. We saw over two dozen one-bedrooms, most for more than $2,200 a month, and almost all of them completely horrible. We’re talking shag carpet, mold, and converted garages with no windows. Even the worst places we saw drew crowds. The open houses were like some twisted beauty contest where you had five minutes to tell your entire life story, woo the landlord, and leave everyone else in the dust. Emil Meek puts it perfectly: the process “turns you into a monster.”

I met Meek and his girlfriend Alma Freeman outside of a packed open house in Potrero Hill. They are in their mid-30s and both have that stretched-out look of put-on smiles and constant heartbreak. Meek is a landscaper and Freeman works for a non-profit downtown. They have great credit and collectively earn $110,000 a year, but they still can’t find a place. Freeman says “it feels a little bit like you are looking on the sidelines and not really able to compete.” The desperation of the search has made them manic. They are arriving to open houses as much as an hour early, peeking into the windows to try and scope the place out, and doing everything in their power to get their application in before anyone else.

Even more worrisome Meek says, is how the process corrupts everyone involved. At one place they saw, the landlord was running a bidding war like it was some kind of game show. The couple had actually met the same landlord a week earlier at a different apartment, and there he had said he was looking to fill the vacancy with “just the right person.” At the second place, the “right person” had come to mean whoever was willing to pay the most money. He looked around at all the applicants and then said “sorry, it’s San Francisco!” As disgusted as the couple was, it didn’t stop them from putting down a bid of their own.

[snip]

Good grief.

1. These people should be pouring their money into mortgages and driving up prices, instead of being selfish, non-citizens and renting. Sheesh.

2. These landlords are such novices. Really? Only judging people by their incomes. You can do better than that! Let’s look at how professionals do it. Time for a flash from the past:

Home Front: Sellers can be choosers

June 17, 2005 12:00 am

By Amir Efrati / The Wall Street Journal

Within a month of putting her two-bedroom house in San Francisco on the market recently, homeowner Linda Gao had five offers, each one above her asking price of $699,000. So before accepting the most-attractive bid, she threw in an extra condition: If you want to buy my house, you have to feed the squirrels.

Two weeks later, she and the buyer hammered out a contract that included feeding the backyard wildlife, which Ms. Gao has done three times a week for the past two years. "I don’t think it matters if it’s a buyer’s market or a seller’s market," Ms. Gao says. "Anyone with a good heart would feed them."

In this booming real-estate market, prospective home buyers are encountering some unorthodox requests. As sellers are barraged by eager bidders, they’re seeking not only the highest price or wrangling over who’ll pick up taxes and closing costs — but some also are asking to stay in the house months after the deal closes, or requesting fixtures that typically stay with the property, such as refrigerators and diving boards. In Tempe, Ariz., one seller invited bidders to sit for interviews until he found one he thought his neighbors would like. A homeowner in San Antonio was happy to let her house go, but only to a buyer who promised not to renovate it.

"As a buyer you have no leverage in this market," says Bruce Ross Bernor, an agent in San Francisco. "You have to bite your tongue and go along with it."

[snip]

Some buyers aren’t eager to give ground. After Lisa Lai Fook offered the $499,000 asking price for a town house in Oakland, Calif., last month, the seller asked her to write a letter describing her background. Ms. Lai Fook walked away. "I’m really busy," says the 33-year-old chemical engineer. "To sit there and write a letter to someone I don’t know after I’ve put down a ridiculous sum of money is insulting."

Let’s face it… if you’re a property owner (a good person), if you’re not being demeaning and cruel to non-property owners, you’re not doing your job in helping those people understand their place in society.

Landlords! It’s time to turn up the heat! Demand that free cuddling be part of the lease! Demand that the renters feed the neighborhood capybara. Don’t have a capybara? Get one so that they have to feed it! Ask them to take a Meyers-Briggs test – but then throw it away just to make them understand you wanted them to waste their time.

Do it for the good of the Bay Area!

If you were a landlord, what would you do to renters?

Comments (9) -- Posted by: burbed @ 5:55 am