Friday, March 25, 2011

Mother's real estate empire

Mother really liked real estate.  She used to buy houses and fix them up, with the aid of my unwillling brother and a one-armed painter named Jimmy.  Jimmy was one of her homeys, as we would say today.  Actually, he was a client who never went away, but continued to do little things for mother, such as picking her up when she forgot to put gas in the car again or getting her in her house when she mislaid her keys or dropping off her glasses when she forgot them. 

The houses she bought were unpretentious.  She fixed them up, minimally, got the leaks in the roof repaired, slapped on a coat of paint, maybe replaced a leaky toilet, and then rented them for modest sums to poor or working class tenants.  Her real estate pretensions never rose above these modest investments, and frankly, considering the low rents she charged, I don't know whether she broke even on them.

Her tenants had a tendency to get arrested, or lose their jobs, or get drunk and rip the toilets from the wall, but she was a pushover.  The excuse she gave me for one tenant was that he had five children. 

Once, she had to evict a tenant.  This involved hiring a marshal, so the tenants must have tried her patience a lot.  My brother was called in to get the place back in shape, and he told me it was pretty bad.  He said it smelled like the monkey house in a zoo, among other things which I have forgotten.

But that was not the end of that tenant.  He stopped by her office a few weeks later and apologized, and she let him have the house back.  (Oh, yes, and she lent him ten bucks.)

Eventually, she turned over her entire real estate empire to Virginia, her long-suffering secretary.  Virginia was occupied by real estate transactions for years, almost to the exclusion of her real job, which was as a legal secretary,  Once in  a while in her spare moments she would type a legal document or file something, but most of her time was spent trying to collect rents or tearing her hair out.  She finally sold whatever of it she could, and got the rest torn down.

2 comments:

The Sanity Inspector said...

My wife wants to rent out our house if we can manage to move to a better school district. It's stories like this that continue to persuade me to want no part of being a landlord.

miriam said...

Renters are awful, in my experience.