Thursday, July 22, 2010

Help Wanted

This space has been quiet for some time.  Two years ago we moved to Alexandria to raise our family.   We needed a bigger house, better schools, less crime, easier parking, etc.  We miss our neighbors and the neighborhood.  We miss the vibrancy of city life:  the restaurants, the galleries, the shops.  An ideal place to live would combine the best of both worlds.  For now, we'll try to bring a little bit of the best of city to the suburbs.

Also in the past two years, the city council in their infinite wisdom repealed the vacant property tax.  "Unintended consequences" was the supposed reason.  Allegedly, some occupied residences were mistakenly classified as vacant.  People have written to this blog claiming as such but refuse to give their addresses even though real estate tax records are open to the public.  Repealing the tax is throwing the baby out with the bath water.  I suspect developers, like felon Douglas Jemal, objected to the recent uptick in enforcement and applied pressure on their favorite city councilmen (Jack, Mike).  The tax could have brought in $150 million a year.
This in probably my last post.  If anyone would like to continue this blog please add a comment including your email address.  The comments are reviewed before posting so your email address will not be published.


Khristian said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
Mari said...

Next time leave a comment with your email, then I can get back to you. It will not show up on the blog unless I want it to.

Mari said...

This was left by Jaime. I published it, before realizing there was a email address at the end. Sadly Blogger doesn't let you go back and edit those things out.
So here is his comment:
I have no problem in venting my frustration as well as addresses on homes I have purchased that were classified as blighted wrongly. The system in its current form (that merely blanket punishes) does not work. I have bought 15 homes in the city, none of them anymore than a shell. I complete gut them, and rebuild them. My goal has always been quality work, a great price, and to bring back the old gorgeous homes to their original grandness. I have decided (thanks to one of my homes being classified as blighted) to no longer work in the District.

My first experience with the """""""system""""""""" was with a home I fixed at 5205 14th St NW. I got a $35,000 tax bill and almost fainted. I learned about the process, and filed my exemption. Then filed again after 2 weeks and no response. Then hand delivered my exemption. Finally, after a month of emails, calls and walk ins, I got my approval for exemption and the taxes fixed. I spent a great amount of time trying to get the exemption on a home that was actively being rehabbed (it was bought, fixed and sold within 5 months). I had all permits (building, electrical, plumbing, AC) and the site was always spotless.

Since that, I have always checked the tax status on my homes. If it is class 3, I will not buy it. Most of those homes still sit today, as the owners owe so much in taxes they cannot afford to sell. They will lose their homes (if they cannot afford the taxes, they cannot afford to repair the homes, and the city will reach the ultimate goal of all this.....taking the home from the owner to sell and profit).

I am also a private lender in the city. I do loans on homes that no one would touch (especially normal banks). My company has helped 100's of homes in the city get fixed, but thanks to the new tax laws, we are pulling out and only lending in Virginia and Maryland.

On October 2nd I was reading the dcra website, and saw the new vacancy changes. I ran through the list and sure enough, I had property deemed blighted. Right now I am working on 6 homes, all under active construction (except one, which we are revising our permits). I own 1629 New Jersey Ave NW, 1921 6th St NW, 5221 5th St NW, 714 19th St NE (which we are revising the permits on after a tree fell through the rear of the home), 1600 16th St SE and 6506 7th St NW. It is the last one (6505 7th St NW) that was deemed blighted. That came as a huge surprise, as I bought it at the end of August, and have already completed the demo work, framing, electrical, plumbing, HVAC and am about to install the new windows and doors (with all necessary permits of course). Currently, the homes still has all the original windows (none broken) and exterior doors. Nothing is boarded up, the home is locked nightly, and the site is clean. There is not a single reason to deem it blighted, especially since it is an active construction site with permits, yet I have to go tomorrow morning and have a hearing with Nicholas Majett as to why (even with active permits and active construction) the city should reverse my classification.

As I said, after I finish out my current inventory, I am done in DC. Its not worth fighting and battling a city that wants to do nothing more than take back homes. The system makes no sense. I am also not lending in DC anymore. If something goes wrong, I get stuck with the home and a huge tax bill, not worth it.

I would love to discuss this with you more, I just realized how much I have typed right here. Dont think I am a pro blight, with homes sitting and rotting. I want the opposite, I want to buy those homes and put them back in the market. My issue is with DCRA's system. It basically drives the owner into having no choice but to give up their home.

Adrienne said...

Hi Mari,

I was wondeing if you had any suggestions for networking with people who know of vacant properties that arise in DC and MD? I buy vacant properties and fix them up (like Jamie) and then resell them. I am interested in keeping updated with the blog's sources and any other sources you can recommend.

Thank you,