There Goes the Neighborhood

I used to have a view across the street of trees, trees, wild grasses, wildflowers. It was soothing. I enjoyed watching the greening in spring. I used the trees as a barometer of wind speed so I’d know how to dress for my morning walk. Even the snow was peaceful resting on the pine boughs.

Then came COVID, a ‘stay at home’ mandate, and suddenly there was a feeding frenzy of people moving in and out of houses in the neighborhood in the spring and summer. I actually verified this frenzy by browsing realtor sites which showed houses selling the day after they were listed. Since I wasn’t seeing a lot of people around, and very little traffic, my thinking was that people weren’t looking at these properties in person and had called realtors before houses were even listed giving them (the realtors) the specifics they (the buyers) were looking for in a house and blindly put in offers — of full price.

Apparently a pandemic is the ultimate motivator for people to move — and move quickly.

Realtors didn’t even have to work at selling. They were just getting commissions for merely posting a listing. Easy money for them. There were no signs of bidding wars in my neighborhood. However, I noticed in the fall that suddenly prices of houses were rising. I believe it was greed on the part of realtors and not a lack of properties (in my area), because for the first time in my life I began to see listings that had their sale price adjusted upwards if it was on the market for more than a week instead of lowering the price to attract buyers. Seriously. Realtors decided that sellers should ask for prices higher than the property’s worth because there were buyers willing to pay any price, and of course, their commission income would be higher too.

This is not a development neighborhood. We don’t have streets that are in a grid. Not every street has curbs. There are no sidewalks. W e walk, jog, bike ride, skateboard in the streets. Houses were mostly built one by one, over the course of a number of decades and most were custom built for the original owners. We have all styles and sizes. Lots are not cookie cutter either. It’s one of the reasons I chose this neighborhood. We have mature native trees.

As the feeding frenzy began to wane, suddenly developers wanted to make money in this neighborhood and went looking for empty lots. The lots across the street were not for sale. But that bozo GC probably hounded the owners, because he overspent on the land. The sellers were no fools. There were lots for sale in the neighborhood but the bozo didn’t want those lots, so the sellers asked for twice the worth of the land.

There are other empty lots next to an owner’s house (which they use) that developers tried to buy. One lot I pass by on my usual morning walk route is kept as their own park — complete with benches and a firepit. They used to have family gatherings using the area. They have shrubs and border gardens near the front of the property. One day the owner was outside and I told her to never sell her extra lot. She smiled at me and shook her head no. Yeah, the developers had been knocking on her door and she said no. The same is true of another lot I pass by in and out of the neighborhood. They have a row of forsythias that front the empty lot to clearly mark the lot as private property (and you have to peer carefully to see the ‘secret garden‘. Another lot is just kept wooded and natural for their children’s use.

Back to the two lots across the street. The GC had every single tree, seedling, wild grass and bushes leveled. He didn’t use a tree service. He had someone use a dozer who literally rammed the trees, shook them against other trees to remove, not caring about damaging the trees and fences of the surrounding existing homes/properties. (Note the yellow dozer in the above photo.) Then he piled up the dirt from his excavations and left the piles sitting so long grass and bushes grew in the dirt piles because…Mother Nature.

Having looked up the property sale, I estimated what the new houses would have to sell for in order to make a profit. This, after all, was not someone building out of goodwill, but for profit. The sale price would have to be more than any other house in the neighborhood regardless of size or age. Way more. As building materials rose in price as construction commenced, I realized I had to up my estimate by 100 grand. We do have estate size homes, even mini mansions in this town, but not in this neighborhood. Even during the feeding frenzy, the smaller homes in town were the ones most sought after, so the owners would have a large yard. And I haven’t seen any sign that the new owners want to expand the houses. They are, however, diligently working on their yards — front and back.

I now have two fugly 3,000 sq. ft. black barns across the street. They’re not actually black, but there’s only a couple hours a day when they don’t look black, only dark colored, but still fugly 24 hrs/day. They are nearly identical inside and out. (OK, he didn’t use all the same light fixtures…) They are being advertised as ‘trendy’ new builds — if you want a house that is several years behind the trends, including being painted gray throughout the interior. I did a walk through (as most of my neighbors also have) and for all the size it is a poor use of space. The bathrooms are a maintenance nightmare, there is required two-zone heating and cooling (which will be a bear to service and/or replace and have fun keeping cool in that 3rd story room next to the attic which has no attic fan or visible ventilation), rooms on the second and third (attic level) floors don’t have full upright walls so if you’re more than 4 feet tall, people will be hitting their heads all the time. The fireplace (not wood burning) is more decorative than useful and ill-placed, and not all the windows open. But there are multiple roof lines, which is why multiple rooms (including the master bedroom) have slanted ‘attic’ shaped walls.

For the price, a buyer could buy one of the estate homes or even buy in the waterfront neighborhood where they would be surrounded by homes of equitable value. These barns are surrounded by homes of lesser value. The buyers will be paying for the high price of building materials and will never recoup their investment.

The bozo actually has a pending offer on one of the barns. I saw the inspector outside with the buyers and since then I’ve seen a slew of activity. The buyers apparently hired a very thorough inspector. Contractors have been back in regard to HVAC, painting, electrical, siding, porch railings and others in unmarked vehicles armed with tools and buckets. Even the bozo has been by with tools…

The fugly barn may be priced at more than twice any other house in the neighborhood, but it’s far from perfect. From what I’ve seen. He built a few others (yes, all the same exact structures) around the neighborhood. One sold, another now has a reduced price and there is no feeding frenzy for the remaining ones.

He could have left a border of trees on these properties since he didn’t grade the property completely flat. There is a 3-4 foot wide slope around the perimeters which slope towards, and not away, from the houses he built.

This developer is no tree hugger and since this is a town that has had an Arbor Foundation Tree City designation for decades he shouldn’t be allowed to build when he can’t work with nature. He decimated every tree on every lot he bought.

I have a few trees in front of my house which partially blocks the view of the fuglys, but I may have to plant a few more…