The garage in the new house was delivered “unfinished”. I don’t know why this is done, maybe because it costs too much money to finish it or the builder figures homeowners are going to be bolting lots of cabinets and things the walls so it doesn’t matter. Anyway, it looks terrible with the sheet rock, tape, and little lumps of goo (such a sloppy job):
We decide we couldn’t leave it like that. Too ugly. But we priced out the cost of finishing it with mud and texture, but it was just too much $$$. In the end, we decided just to have the thing painted.
So last night, we scraped down some of the more egregious goo lumps and smoothed it and the painter, Marshall arrived. Most of his work was taping up the water heater, floor, doors, pipes, etc, so they didn’t get splattered with paint. For actual painting he just loaded his sprayer with gloss white paint and went to town. In a matter of minutes he was done.
The garage looks much better. It’s still full of my crap, but that’s a whole other issue.
I’ve been moving small stuff, boxes and such since we closed, but today was the day for the big stuff: couches, tables, bookcases, mattress, etc.
I took just about three hours to pack up our major furniture, get it on the truck, drive to the new place and install it in the right rooms.
Now it’s time for the serious cleaning to beginning. No fun.
This is making me more than a little nervous:
Housing sales in July plunged to their lowest level in more than a decade, exceeding even the grimmest forecasts.
The National Association of Realtors said Tuesday that the seasonally adjusted annual sales rate of 3.83 million was 25.5 percent below the level of July a year ago.
The July sales were down 27.2 percent from June.
It was the lowest rate for existing-home sales since 1999. For sales of single-family homes, it was the lowest since 1995.
Analysts expected a decline because July was the first month in which buyers could not take advantage of a tax credit. That helped prop up the market last winter. But most had predicted a decline of only about 13 percent.
I don’t want to buy now if the house market is just going to completely crash again.
Dean Baker, co-director of the Center for Economic and Policy Research, estimates that it will take 20 years to recoup the $6 trillion of housing wealth that has been lost since 2005. After adjusting for inflation, values will never catch up.
“People shouldn’t look at a home as a way to make money because it won’t,” Mr. Baker said.
If the long term is grim, the short term is grimmer. Housing experts are bracing themselves for Tuesday, when the sales figures for July will be released. The data is expected to show a drop of as much as 20 percent from last year.
The supply of homes sitting on the market might rise to as much as 12 months, about twice the level of a healthy market. That would push down prices as all those sellers compete to secure a buyer, adding to a slide that has already chopped off as much as 30 percent in home values.
Doesn’t exactly inspire confidence and make me want to rush out and buy a home. On the one hand, I want to move. I need to be in a bigger place in a better neighborhood. On the other hand, why should I dump my savings into a sinking ship. I need a place to live so I’m either going to pay rent or pay a mortgage, but my rent is reasonable and housing prices have not come down so much in the Bay Area—at least the desireable parts of the Bay Area—to create any kind of parity in the market between buying and leasing, not like it has in, say, Phoenix:
Here are some shots of the interior of the Ghetto Cottage right before I moved all my shit in and despoiled the place.
Ok. I’ve been putting this off long enough. I’ve been putting it off because I think it’s going to be a long post and I haven’t had much patience with writing lately, but it’s time to get the story online before it fades too far in the distance.
On November 2nd I moved from my shitty corporate apartment complex in Alameda to a little cottage about 10 minutes walk from work on the Emeryville/Oakland border.
I want to start with something positive, so there are certain things I will miss about Alameda and my apartment. I will miss walking the cats down the end of the street and watching the Sunset over San Francisco. I will miss my closet space – I had three rather large closets. I will miss the onsite gym and the pool although they stopped heating it when utility prices started to skyrocket. The thing I think I will miss the most is being able to pay my rent with WorldPerks credit card. That’s about it.
Here’s what I won’t miss:
- The water would never drain in the tub no matter how much Liquid Plummer I would pour down there
- The electric stove
- The dishwasher that can’t wash dust off a dish
- The pathetic management
- The driers on the second floor which would randomly decide not to dry your clothes
- The office which would close inexplicable when I would come home to pay the rent or pick up a package
- My house key which would not work on the front door
- Having my parking space given away to a new tenant
- Being addressed as Andrew Heche
- Being isolated in Alameda
- A zillion more things that I can’t think of now that were making me miserable
For those of you who haven’t been following or forgot the deal, I’ll recap the basics of the story for you.
I moved into the Ballena Village Apartments in December of last year. Within a week I received a letter from management saying that as part of their ongoing efforts to improve the plumbing, contractors would need access to my apartment for 10 days (it turned out to be more like 14) at the end of January, which was odd since I asked about the plumbing before I moved in and was told it was fine. How much can you learn by turning on the taps? They worked when I was there. The water pressure was fine. I was deliberately deceived by the staffer who showed me around, Don Dunbar. After I signed my lease and moved in, the same Don Dunbar explained to me that he made a mistake when he told me that the cat deposit was for all pets. It was per pet. He was shaking me down for double deposit. I never paid it. In January when the contractors came into my place, they managed to seal one of my cats behind the drywall and moved a huge bookcase to get at the pipes in the kitchen sink and never moved it back. I complained to the corporate office. Heartless bastards offered me no compensation. Even the contractors felt some contrition and offered me a small check in compensation. The only thing Ballena would agree to was to terminate my lease and return my deposit in full (I doubt they will live up to the full deposit, but we’ll see). I would have moved out sooner, but it’s tough to find a good place and I didn’t want to make the same mistake again. One day I came home from work, about 2 months ago, and there was a car parked in my spot. I went upstairs to call the office, but I realized I left my keys in the office. It’s about a 30 minutes round trip from Alameda to my office, so I figured the car would be gone when I got back. It wasn’t. I was standing behind it getting ready to call the office when I see these two women approaching. The older one looks at me and says, are the one who parked in my spot last night? I said if by your spot you mean my spot, then yes. This is my spot. She said it was her spot. I said it was my spot and rather than go on like that, I said, when did you move in. She says, two days ago. I say, that’s interesting, because I moved here in December and have been parking in the same spot ever since. Can you move your car please. No. I was so fucking upset. I called the office. No one answered and I left a message. I called the late night security to have her towed, but all they would do is come down and put a note on her car. I saw the two of them getting into a Miata in the outside lot. I went up to them and asked again if she would move her car, just as a matter of courtesy since there was a mistake and it was my spot. She said. And then her younger friend with an annoying New York accident started tearing into me saying it wasn’t her (meaning her friend’s) problem. It was the complex’s problem. She wasn’t going to move. So much for civility. She was forced to move the next day when she was reassigned. I should have slashed her tires.
Anyway, for these reasons and many more, I wanted/needed to get the hell out of there. The problem is that there is a shortage of quality housing in the Bay Area. I could have moved immediately to some shitty place or an expensive place or even worse a shitty expensive place, but I have a lot of stuff and I didn’t want to move and then have to move again. I wanted to find the right place and move once. I looked all over. In the city. In all the desirable parts of the East Bay and some of the not so desirable parts of the East Bay. I even upped the amount I was willing to pay to $1500 but I still didn’t find anything worthwhile. Even worse, I would show up at these places that I thought were crap and there would be heaps of people looking it over and filling out applications. It was totally discouraging.
I didn’t find anything until October 30 when I answered an ad for a detached cottage in Emeryville (It’s really in Oakland, but it doesn’t really matter). I didn’t have high hopes. I didn’t really want to live in Emeryville (or Oakland for that matter). I would have preferred North Berkeley or Rockridge, but at that point it was really time to extend my options. And I’m so glad I did.
I walked into this place I knew immediately that I could live here. I would say wanted to live there, but there was another cottage listed on Craigslist (with no contact number??) that I wanted to check out but never did get to see. The house in front is a Craftsman’s style and the cottage is to the to side, not in the back like most of them, so it has the sense of being a house on its own. Adding to this sense is the fact that it comes with a garage, which right now is full of my stuff but will soon house my Subaru. Next to the garage is a wood fence which leads to a set of stairs. The left is my wooden deck and to the right is the pistachio (not my favorite color, but what the hell) door. Inside, the house is long and narrow, maybe 18 feet wide and 50 feet deep. Off to the right, there’s a working fireplace flanked by built in bookcases. If you hook a right u-turn you go up the stairs to the bedroom which is above the garage. You go straight through the living room to the kitchen and the bathroom. The whole place is floored with bamboo. There’s central heat. A stacked washer/dryer in bathroom. The kitchen looks brand new like it came right out of a modern living brochure. It’s all white, rimmed in cabinets with copper handles. The gas stove has a built in microwave. New fridge with the freezer on the bottom (keeps the cats from
sticking their nose inside and inventorying my fridge every time I open it). Pur water filter on the tap. A dishwasher that actually washes dishes. 15 minutes walk to the Ashby BART. 10 minute walk to work. It’s my new oasis. I walk around it and I can’t believe it’s mine.
Moving there turned out to be a huge headache. I was going to call movers to do it for me, but one of my coworkers said, hey forget that, get a U-haul and I’ll help you move. 11 hours or completer struggle later we managed to move all the heavy stuff from my third floor apartment to the cottage. We started at 5 right after work didn’t finish unloading everything into the garage until after 4am. I knew I had a lot of stuff, but I didn’t realize I could fill a 17′ truck. I couldn’t even get everything in there. I had to go back for some small stuff, the dishes, all the food in the fridge and the cats the next day. It was about 15 trips up and down the stairs because as a last Fuck You from Ballena to Andrew, the ancient elevator was busted on my last day in the apartment. Fucking shithole.
Anyway, that’s done and I’ve been spending my time organizing my things, putting books in the cases, getting comfortable, waking up late, going home for lunch. It’s great. Somehow I feel like it was meant to be and after almost a year of suffering I deserve to have a great place to come home to.
On top of all this, I can let the cats come and go from the cottage. I’ve kept them in the house so far, although they managed to sneak out the front door once or twice, because I want to make sure they know where home is. But I put their collars back on last night and made them new tags and will soon send them out to roam around the neighborhood, maybe as soon as this weekend, so expect some little cat lost stories coming shortly.
I guess the going rate for accidentally encasing a cat in the walls is 100 bucks. I know this because Jess, the foreman of the contracting crew working on the plumping in my apartment building, came by this morning before 8 o’clock this morning to hand deliver a check for that amount in compensation, I suppose. He told me he has taken a good ribbing down at the shop, which I couldn’t care less about. I thanked him and shut the door in his face. Then I looked down at the check and saw that it was made out to “Andrew Heche”. I don’t know any Andrew Heche. That’s certainly not me. I don’t even know if I will be able to cash it. It’s a perfect representation of the lack of attention to detail and consideration by these plumbers and my apartment complex which still hasn’t addressed the issue of the major inconvenience and disturbance of having my place ripped up within a month of moving in.
Last week, before my kitten was sealed in the walls by either an unconscious, incompentent or malicious plumber, I filled out a survey on the website of the corporation that owns my apartment complex detailing the bullshit that I’ve had to put up with since I arrived at the Ballena Village Apartments (Where Coming Home Is The Best Part Of Your Day). On Sunday, of all days, I got an email back from Veronica Dickerson, Regional Portfolio Manager (what the fuck is that?), empathizing about my less than positive experience and wanting to know what she could do to make it better. I’m dying to hearing her response when I tell her that my cat was entombed by the maintencance crew. She’ll have to be fairly creative to “provide resolution to [my] concerns.” She can start by making sure the fucking plumbers stay the fuck away from my cats. Then she can finish by giving me a free month’s rent.
Here’s the letter.
Dear Mr. Hecht,
Thank you for taking the time to complete our on-line resident survey.
Customer satisfaction is our number one priority here at Sequoia
Equities and we rely on feedback from our residents to help us achieve
excellence in customer service. I apologize that you have not had a positive experience and I would like to speak with you to provide resolution to your concerns. I left a message for you and I look forward to speaking with you. Please feel free to contact me at (925) 945-0900 at your earliest convenience.
Regional Portfolio Manager
This is the motto my apartment complex. It just seems weird that any apartment let alone my apartment has a motto, but there it is. It would be an acceptable motto, if they could, you know, live up to it. I mean, who wouldn’t want coming home to be the best part of your day? However they don’t even come close so coming home tends to be the most aggravating part of my day, and I don’t particularly care for my job, so this is saying something. So when I call the management office to talk to someone about a problem and I get the voicemail message that says, thank you for calling Ballena Village Apartments where coming home is the best part of your day, I want to rip the fucking phone out of the wall. Rest assured, in the unlikely event that I do ever own an apartment complex, you can bet your ass that it will not ever have a fucking motto.
Good. Now that I’ve got that off my chest, I can get down to business. I’ve been in my place about a month now. I should have been writing about my experience as it was happening, but it was a slow drip, like Chinese water torture that only finally came to a boil last night. Let me try to recap some of the problems.
I visited the apartment on a Monday and decided I would take the place. I was told I would be able to move in on Thursday. It turned out that I wasn’t able to move in until Saturday. The reason: the guy who showed me the place was off Tuesday and Wednesday and no one else in the office wanted to do the paperwork. I should have taken this as a bad sign and told them to fuck off.
The day I come with the movers, the elevator is flooded and inoperable. This wouldn’t be so bad except the key they gave me doesn’t work in any of the outside doors.
I’m told that the office will accept packages that are too big to fit in my mailbox, but the first time I get a package, it isn’t accepted and I have to go all the way to the Oakland airport to pick it up in person during my lunch hour.
The first time I tried to do laundry, I put a load in the washer, then I put the soap in. I went to put the quarters in, but there are no quarter slots, only a slot for a card. There’s no machine in the laundry room in my building to buy a card. I go down to the main laundry room near the pool to get a card. There’s a machine, but there’s a hand written sign on it that says it’s broken and won’t be fixed for two days. So my laundry is sitting in the washer covered with soap. I have to take it out, put it back in the hamper and drive to the closest laundromat. Did I mention it was freezing outside?
I gave a list of things that needed to be fixed in my apartment to one of the onsite managers before I moved in. He said it would all be taken care before I moved in. Was it? Of course not. It took a month of persistent pestering to get them to work on my place.
There’s a note taped on my door the first week after I move in telling me that the water needs to be turned off from 8:30-4:30 one day. Not a problem since I’m not in the apartment, usually, during those hours. When I come home after work and turn on the tap, it gurgles to life and spits out an effluvia of brackish brown sludge like some third world nightmare hotel. This water kills my Brita filter that’s supposed to be good for three months in less than a week.
On December 31st, less than two weeks after I moved in, I get a long letter from the management telling me that there is going to be major plumbing work in my building and in my apartment. Did they mention this when I was thinking about moving in? Take a guess. People are going to have to come in and out my place for 7 days. I’m instructed, if I have pets, and I do, to keep them in the bedroom and keep the door shut. This is great advice except there is no door between my bedroom and the bathroom in my apartment. I tell them this and they provide an apartment two floors down where the cats can stay during the day. Bringing Fil down is no problem. But every time I take Mak out of the apartment, he wails like we’re headed for kitty Auschwitz. It’s even worse because there are all these plumbers around making horrible noises as they cut through dry wall and pipes. I have to leave my cats in this empty apartment all day.
Meanwhile the plumbers are working away on my apartment. One day I come and the toilet seat has been ripped from the toilet. No note. No nothing. Just the broken toilet seat. I say something and the next day I come home and the toilet seat has been replaced but the toilet doesn’t work. One Sunday I came home from Tahoe to find that the plumbers had turned on the heater and left it running all weekend. They always leave the fucking lights, inconsiderate bastards.
Then I got a call from the management who said that the plumbers needed to work on the apartment where the cats were staying during the day and I needed to lock them in the bedroom of that apartment. On Tuesday, I ran into the foreman who told me that on that day and on Thursday (yesterday) I wouldn’t have to move the cats downstairs, because they wouldn’t be working on my place. They’d only need to come in for an inspection.
On Thursday I get a call from the management telling me they rented the apartment where I have my cats and I can’t keep them there any longer. I’m not given another apartment as a replacement. When I come home Thursday night, the cat food and blankets that I left in the borrowed apartment are sitting on my door step. I open the door. Only one cat comes. This is unusual, but not alarming. Maybe Fil was sleeping when I came home and didn’t want to get up.
I start looking for her. I can’t find her in the usual spots. I look some more. Then I hear some faint meows coming from the bathroom. I look, but no cat. I can still hear the meows. They are coming from BEHIND THE FUCKING WALL. Like I said, the plumbers had cut massive sections of dry wall to get at the pipes. Fil had wandered in there and the stupid ass plumbers encased her in the walls. I got out my power screwdriver and liberated her. She was stunned.
I was so fucking pissed. And this on a day when the plumbers, according to the foreman, were not even supposed to be working in my place. When I talked to the foreman this morning, he apologized profusely, but insisted that he didn’t me tell not to move the cats on Thursday. What was I going to do, sit there and argue with him about what he told me? Unbelievable.
The big question now is what to do. I don’t want coming home to be the worst part of my day, but I fully expect this sort of bullshit to continue over the next 11 months. The complex is owned by a large real estate conglomerate located conveniently in Walnut Creek. I think I’m going to have to go pay them a little visit.
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