Friday, May 30, 2008

Real Estate Realities

The news has been full of stories about the real estate slump and how it not only effects homeowners who can’t pay their mortgages, but people who rent from landlords who can’t pay the mortgage and face eviction. I can report first-hand on that latter part of that story.

Four years ago, I moved into this nice little house here in Coral Gables. It was owned by a friend of mine and it had been sitting empty for several months, and he was happy to have someone he knew renting it. I was happy to move into a nice neighborhood that was seven miles from my office versus my apartment that was 20 miles from my office.

But two years ago my friend decided to sell the house; Miami was at the peak of the housing boom, and he got a very good price for it. He sold it to a man who went by the name of D’Angelo __________*, a real estate speculator who was also in the process of buying several other properties in the area. The arrangement was that I could stay in the house for a small increase in rent, and everything seemed to be going well.

Then, last October, I got a knock on the door. It was a process server. D’Angelo had not paid a penny on the mortgage since the previous June, he was in default, and I, as the “unknown tenant,” was listed on the foreclosure papers. I immediately contacted my lawyer, who wisely counseled me to stop paying the rent and put it in escrow pending the outcome, and he would work with the bank’s attorneys to see if I could work out a deal to buy the house on a short sale.

Long story short: all those efforts have been to no avail, and I will be out of here a week from today. I have a great realtor who is finding me a lot of really nice places for rent to look at this weekend. Ironically, the nicest — and most affordable — are literally across the street from my old apartment complex.

Meanwhile, D’Angelo has vanished. All attempts by me, my lawyer, the bank’s attorneys, and apparently several private investigators to locate him have come up empty. The last I heard — in November — was that he was either in Las Vegas or Spain. Frankly, I hope he’s in Turkish prison and married to the guy with the most cigarettes.

So, if my blogging seems sporadic for the next couple of days, you’ll know why. And if you have any leads for rental property in Miami (ideally I’d like a 2 BR house with a garage) that’s not in East Naples or Key Largo, drop me an e-mail.

*I’m keeping his full name out of the story; with my luck, he’ll come out of hiding to sue me for defamation.