Gentrification

It’s Impact on All of us and a Question of Ethics, By Remy Fortier

As a renter in Berkeley and Oakland from age 17 until just a few years ago I have experienced the pain of unaffordable rent. While reading comments on Facebook about a Oakland Speak Out held recently regarding soaring rent prices in Oakland. Lot’s of strong feelings on this topic.  Some real estate investors may not work with me after reading this and that’s okay.  Some may call me a bleeding heart or completely disagree with me about the subject of gentrification.

I recently sold two multi-unit rental properties is the East Bay.  One in Berkeley and one in Oakland.  Both were distressed – in foreclosure.  However one had equity, the other a short sale didn’t.  In both cases I was able to STOP foreclosure and prevent the banks from soaking up every little bit of profit through court fees and legal charges while they auctioned the properties off to highest all cash bidder on City of Oakland Courthouse steps.  I’ve done this before and I will do it again.  It took a lot to close those deals.

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Photo by Kathy Ferreira

In both properties I had a seller who lived in one of the units and rented out the rest.  In both cases the sellers walked away with money.  But in each transaction I also represented the buyers.  The buyers who I know in my heart will be good landlords. Responsible about caring for their tenants and the property.  If the property has all units vacant (one was) then as a landlord that maintains the place and responds to tenants needs they have every right to charge full market rent.  I wish it were cheaper, we live in a awesome place.  We all pay because we love the Bay Area.  I’m glad that the dirt under our feet is worth money and I make it my mission to help first time homeowners stop renting. That being said… the buyer that purchased the home that was still occupied and under rent control DID NOT have a conversation with me about how to “get rid of” existing tenants.  I was never asked what slimy tactics could be used.  Instead, my awesome client was concerned with closing quickly before El Nino so that much needed repair work could be done. So tenants wouldn’t have leaky roofs.  During the long transaction the tenants were scared, worried that an owner occupying buyer would push them out and they would have to face current market rent (Forget haunted houses for Halloween.  Bay Area Rent is truly HORRIFYING!)  I could not promise them anything, it’s not my place as an agent.  But I did my best to find good landlords.  In the comments on Facebook about the Speak Out there was a lot of talk about an Oakland based real estate agent who attended the speak out and whose comments were taken as greedy and part of the problem.  You can read about that here.  People have a right to be upset.
I’ve been a renter in the East Bay since I was 17.  I was forced out of the home I grew up in on Milvia Street in Berkeley when an owner occupied buyer wanted to convert our duplex back to one house.  Well within his rights even though it sucked.  I may be in Real Estate, but I am not evil.  I’ll continue to make a difference where and when I can.  Turning renters into owners and finding great deals for ethical investors.

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