‘Gimme Shelter’ with Daniel Gehman: Resurrection

A couple weeks back I wrote about the travesty of the house next door, which had, under my unsuspecting nose, been transformed into an ultra-sophisticated hydroponic pot farming operation. This went on for nearly three years, with my wife and I suspecting nothing.   Not long after I posted that, I heard

A couple weeks back I wrote about the travesty of the house next door, which had, under my unsuspecting nose, been transformed into an ultra-sophisticated hydroponic pot farming operation. This went on for nearly three years, with my wife and I suspecting nothing.
 
Not long after I posted that, I heard through the grapevine that the house had been sold. We waited, praying (admittedly, rather selfishly) that the new owners would be a good fit for us personally, and for the neighborhood.

Yesterday, we got our first glimpse of the new reality. Shortly after the thirty cubic yard dumpster arrived on site, so did the workers—who set about the task of dismantling the chaotic yet technically brilliant trappings of the enterprise. On my Saturday morning roller-blading outing, I stopped at the house and met the new owner and his contractor buddy.

What I think is about to unfold next-door sounds wonderful in many ways. First, the new owner is a newly married early-40s type with no children (Check!) who also happens to be a contractor, who is doing the work himself (Check! Again.) He is also a very pleasant, articulate fellow with a charming wife (Check! Check!) Of course, he asked me to relate the situation of how the property came to be in its alarming state, and I had another adventure of describing the byzantine rise and fall of the dope farm next door. Oh, and I urged him to scrub the blood off the front porch before his wife arrived to help out.

In what I deem to be an amazing “extreme makeover” episode, he and his crew had largely removed from the house most of the detritus by Sunday afternoon, and it lay in crumpled heaps in both the dumpster and the driveway. Huge sections of insulated ducts and circulating fans lay among the residue of drywall and light shafts. When I walked through the house, the windows were all uncovered again, revealing the bones of what is a pretty nice, if modest, single-family dwelling. With the heavy demo work complete, my new neighbor set about the task of cutting the grass, which had grown into a meadow.

I’m telling you this story because to me it is a poignant metaphor for what our industry has been enduring over the last year and a half. Clandestine enterprise was the culprit behind the devastating destruction of value that took place over my back fence. Today, at least one of the perpetrators is behind bars, and heaven only knows what became of the man gunned down by sheriffs at the house next door.

Our new neighbor bought the house with cash, for less than half of the previous sale price. The amazing thing is that he was able to see through the horror of the jerry-rigged “intervention” to the quality bones of the place showing through underneath. Now, with a little sweat equity and good sense, he has set about transforming it into a love nest for him and his new wife. In the process, we have gained promising new neighbors, and, if all goes well, new friends.

It is an astonishing turn of events, one that leaves me struck with wonder and gratitude.

There is the short term annoying factor that this sale will continue to torpedo the comps for my house. Last summer, the property to the east of me sold as a foreclosure to another young couple with whom we have a developing relationship. Nevertheless, the sale price was a shock to the system, like a cool sip of water following a mouthful of cranberry sauce. But they have both improved the property, as well as the culture of our street.

Now the northern neighbor, I expect, will do the same thing. As I consider all of these things, I pause to grasp the bigger picture. Sure, the “paper” value of my house will be suppressed for a while, but that’s what it remains—paper. On the other hand, the tremendous improvement of the social milieu is one that I anticipate will yield dividends far into the future.

What will come of all the wreckage in the housing industry? I hope that many of you will enjoy the tremendous good fortune and pleasant turn of events that my family is currently experiencing. What was broken down and de-valued by the unscrupulous can be picked up, dusted off, and returned to circulation better than it was before.

I am filled with hope. From all the news around us, it is possible that the darkest days of this crisis may be coming to an end; it may even be in the process of turning around as you read this. Continue to expect the unexpected; work hard, and believe in the future, and keep your eyes peeled for small glimmers of re-construction like the one to which I am presently witness.

May you be pleasantly surprised, and soon.

(Daniel Gehman is principal at Thomas Cox Architects. He can be reached at DanielG@tca-arch.com)