It seems as if there's a hell of a lot of houses for sale in the immediate area.
Of course we're in the middle of the worst recession since the Depression, and housing has taken a pretty severe hit because of the sub-prime mortgage collapse, and all that. People are out of work in record numbers (or very close to record numbers, which might as well be the same thing) and housing is still too expensive.
But what I've been seeing is "for rent" signs cropping up in front of a lot of houses; and today I saw the eighth one.
The eighth one, I might add, within about a mile radius of the bunker. These are signs I've seen by happenstance; I haven't gone looking for rental properties nor have I consulted any advertising organs. These are just places which have signs out front, sited on roads on which I have happened to be driving.
But if I reduce that perimeter to half a mile, only two properties drop off the list. One of these is on the east side of town, on a road which has houses on one side and woods on the other. The other one is over on the south side of town, on Main Street.
I think about this, then, in the context of me being here in the bunker. It's nowhere near ready for going on the market; none of the real deficiencies has been addressed seriously and the cleaning hasn't even been well started. Even if--somehow--everything is taken care of by next spring, we can reasonably expect the house to remain on the market for more than a year after that. (And I'm starting to think "two years" because of the house's older design; compared to new houses, it's small.)
My oldest sister seems offended that I am living here rent-free. Of course, besides just occupying space, I'm keeping the grass cut and doing other maintenance items, things that (were the house unoccupied) we would have to pay others to do for us. Even if we wanted to rent the place out, we couldn't; the same problems that keep us from selling it are keeping us from renting it. (The master bathroom, for example, is in need of some new drywall and a new toilet and-and-and.)
Getting the grass cut by a landscaper, by the way, costs about $70 per week.
But with eight other rental properties standing vacant--and remember, that's just the eight I happen to know of!--rents have got to start coming down, don't they? Rent in this town is shockingly high; you can expect to pay over $500 per month for a one-bedroom apartment, and at that you're getting a steal; I have never seen a property advertised for rent with a monthly fee of less than $600. (They may be out there; I have not seen any.)
Property taxes around here are insane. Move six miles east and they're about 1/3 of what they are here, so why would anyone want to own a home here? It's not even a question of valuation; it's just that the tax rates are so high. And for the money, what do we get? We have an amazingly crappy school system. (Example: they build a brand-new $60 million high school and have no money left to buy things like pianos for the music rooms. Teachers were having to scrounge up clapped-out spinets in order to be able to teach music. Then the school district complains that they don't have enough money.)
It hit home how bad they are when I saw the taxes and valuation for the east 40. Over the course of ten years, we pay the assessed value of the land to the government. That's right: if we don't pay them 1/10th of the value of the land every year they take it away from us. We don't own that land; we rent it from the government.
Whatever happened to the notion of private property?
So rents have to be high because the government rent is so high; and it ends up forcing people out of state. Then the government wonders why it can't pay its bills any longer, why there's a budget shortfall...and it raises the income tax, because government spending can never decrease.
...beginning to think Rat's got the right idea:
Of course, that wouldn't help property values any, now would it?