April 11, 2017

"Just a few years earlier, at age 23, I had purchased an abandoned house in Detroit from a live auction for $500..."

"The structure was filled with trash and had lived a hard life: two monstrous stories of no doors or windows, plumbing, or electricity – nothing. The backyard was a literal jungle, the porch needed to be ripped off and done again, the front yard looked like it wanted to be cut with a scythe...."

29 comments:

CEL said...

There are a lot of lessons in there for people willing to think them through. Thank you for posting this.

Achilles said...

Even if they give you money to take the property the taxes are going to make it not worth it.

Michael K said...

When I spent three months in Boston in 1965, the house across the street, West Cedar Street, from our apartment was sold to a young couple for one dollar. That was Beacon Hill about five blocks from Louisburg Square. Those houses are worth millions now.

I doubt that will happen in Detroit. Maybe Trump should put the EPA in Detroit.

Bill, Republic of Texas said...

The neighbor lady is a retired school teacher and her husband is retired auto worker? Something is really wrong with this picture.

It would do much more good to find out who is stealing the money of the neighbors. Where did all that pension and SS money go? Solve that issue and they will be able to pay their own taxes. Don't solve the missing money question and they'll lose their house again.

As Althouse says:
I'm skeptical.

rehajm said...

I wish them all luck but I never read that Detroit has learned the lesson of what brought them to disaster in the first place. Everyone acts as if the city was an innocent victim of a natural disaster or something. If people want to throw their own money at restoring a city on top of a crumbling foundation, fine. But...

Achilles said...

He will fix the house up and then learn that he doesn't really own it. The pensions of retired city workers own it.

TosaGuy said...

Interesting on many fronts.

I too am skeptical about the reasons for the house auction.

"Gentrification" would be less of a thing if those who move in and rebuild these neighborhoods would actually do the work and get to know those around them, rather than bring in outside contractors and then spend all their time in restaurants and galleries. I find that lifestyle more empty then one could possibly imagine because those experiences are fleeting and don't build anything.

I find renovating a house with my own hands to be a supremely complex and ultimately satisfying experience.

If someone doesn't want to raise a family there, then there is no neighborhood, just a collection of people hanging out until they die or find such a neighborhood.

MarkW said...

"..the taxes are going to make it not worth it."

It's not just the taxes. Auto insurance rates for those living in the city are astronomical (highest in the nation) as are homeowners insurance rates. Car insurance is so ridiculous that most city residents buy short-term policies just to be able to renew their registration and then go uninsured the rest of the year. And there's a 2% city income tax. And crime remains high and city services lousy. Living even in a free house in the City of Detroit is an expensive proposition. Which is why houses there are allowed to fall into ruin and are abandoned as people continue to escape to the suburbs.

TosaGuy said...

"He will fix the house up and then learn that he doesn't really own it. The pensions of retired city workers own it."

I recently sold my house in a city where the property taxes had grown to the point where they were the largest part of my mortgage payment. The area is now hip and trendy so I had no qualms about cashing out and finding someone else to pay that bill.

I now live in a rural area and know more of my neighbors than I did in the city.

Etienne said...

That story read like creative writing and not journalism.

Oh well... It's the post Industrial, Internet Revolution.

Jupiter said...

No one would have bid on that property if young white idiots weren't interested in moving in to the neighborhood.

TosaGuy said...

"That story read like creative writing and not journalism."

I agree, but that isn't all bad. He is smart, naïve, industrious, not part of the herd, indoctrinated, friendly.

The story is interesting, but he isn't quite capable of telling it.

Provided he stays, I would like to read an update after 10 years.

Michael said...

A year before the collapse the NYT had a map of homes in Detroit and showed those in foreclosure orin arrears. The troubled properties had nearly all been recently refinanced with proceeds going tones cars and bass boats and vacations.

I Have Misplaced My Pants said...

I wish the retired couple who are clearly not able to manage their own affairs anymore had adult children to monitor their well-being. Evidently they do not.

BobJustBob said...

This Old House is doing a Detroit remodel this season. Seems pointless but no doubt it makes all involved look virtuous and properly Progressive for Public Television.

Richard Dolan said...

Nice. It may not all be true, but as Passover melds into Easter, there's no harm in assuming that it is.

Birches said...

And just how much are the taxes on a house like that?

TosaGuy said...

"This Old House is doing a Detroit remodel this season. Seems pointless but no doubt it makes all involved look virtuous and properly Progressive for Public Television."

I loved TOH back in the day before everything on the show became a million dollar project and they let interior designers run the show.

It used to be about craftsmanship, sweat equity and work. Norm got back to that a bit with his New Yankee Workshop show.

Michael K said...

" Norm got back to that a bit with his New Yankee Workshop show."

I liked that and have not watched the TOH for a while.

Paul Zrimsek said...

"The war for our humanity is upon us. It is personified by our politicians, our interactions on the internet, in tens of thousands of people losing their homes in places like this, in the violence racking our country, the gun deaths once tolerated only in Detroit broadening to suburban enclaves all over America."

Wait, what?

Michael K said...

"I find renovating a house with my own hands to be a supremely complex and ultimately satisfying experience. "

I've done some of that and agree. Now, I'm too old to do it myself but it is still satisfying to bring an older house back, even if I can no longer do the work myself.

We bought this house in Tucson, which is a 1973 construction that looks like nothing has been upgraded or even had preventive maintenance. Now we have guys installing saltillo tile though the entire house. I have done that myself and am watching these guys to see they do it right.

I remodeled a kitchen and a bathroom myself. I was 25 years younger, though.

We have had workmen in here since we moved in January 15. I feel like we are camping out.

By summer, it will be done and should look great. Nice area. Worth the trouble.

I always felt a surgeon should be able to make things with his/her own hands. When I was being interviewed, only one person asked me about whether I was comfortable with tools or played a musical instrument.

I'm reading another biography of Harvey Cushing and his manual dexterity was a major factor in his success.

TosaGuy said...

Michael K.

Sounds like a great project. My dad and I built our own house when I was a kid. Picked up invaluable skills, but it was two years of essentially camping out.

My current house requires a second bathroom and complete kitchen renovation. The former can be done without major impact to living in the house, the latter, of course, will have to be on a much faster timeline.

Rocketeer said...

"Norm got back to that a bit with his New Yankee Workshop show."

Norm is definitely good at what he does, but even that show is "ruined" somewhat by the high-end, specialty woodworking equipment he has access to.

TosaGuy said...

"Norm is definitely good at what he does, but even that show is "ruined" somewhat by the high-end, specialty woodworking equipment he has access to."

It is fun stuff to use and definitely can expand what one does. My dad was a wood shop teacher and we would go to the school's wood shop with all of those fun tools when working on a project.

jaydub said...

It would have been a better story if in the end he discovered he had been bidding against the current owner. I really thought that's where it was headed.

TosaGuy said...

I always thought Hometime was the better PBS home improvement show.

The host, Dean Johnson, his the brother of Wisconsin senator Ron Johnson.

Left Bank of the Charles said...

The good deals in Detroit are the $40,000 homes. You get a lot of house for that price, in reasonably good condition.

MarkW said...

"The good deals in Detroit are the $40,000 homes. You get a lot of house for that price, in reasonably good condition."

It only seems like a good deal until you factor in the cost of everything else and the quality of the neighborhood. At that point you'll understand why even houses in reasonably good condition are selling for $40,000 while the same houses, if located a few miles away in a suburb, would sell for much more while still offering a lower cost of living overall.

David Baker said...

There's an element of jungle fever in the writer's story, currently in its first-to-second stage of development.

Otherwise, I liked him securing his neighbor's house, although the telling was unusually tedious.