As I was sitting here on a dark and rainy Friday morning seething quietly after cutting a check for a $1825 special assessment from my condo’s governing HOA, I realized it’s been a few days since I posted anything. What can I say, rage, it seems, beings out my inner soul as a writer – or maybe it’s just the catharsis I need after getting gang banged by a homeowners association board who must have been holding on to a shit ton of proxies when they voted.
I’m always curious about those who see rental income as a surefire pathway to wealth. Maybe it is under certain circumstances – if you’re local and can do many of the repairs yourself, if you paid cash and aren’t using at least a portion of the rent to make the note, or if you aren’t governed by an HOA that’s at least as good at spending other people’s money as the United States Congress. I’ve been renting out this condo since 2003 and I’ll admit that there have been a few good years – those years when nothing breaks and there’s no damage to be repaired. Those years are the rarity. Far more often it’s a break even proposition where you’re lucky to be about $500 into either the black or red by year’s end. Then, of course, there are those years where you end up pouring your own cash into the place hand over fist. No one talks about those years when they tell you what a great idea it is having a rental property.
At least the bastards got the bills out in time to use the whole damned mess as a 2018 deduction instead of having to wait an additional year to recoup a few pennies on the dollar. When your “bright slide” is consoling yourself that you have something to help offset the decreased federal deductibility of state and local taxes, you’ve really got to rethink the whole plan from start to finish.
This dark and rainy Friday is going to largely be about resisting the temptation to drive down there and nail a for sale sign to the door and being done with the whole bleeding mess.
1. HOA meetings. My neighborhood’s annual Homeowners Association meeting is scheduled tonight and leaving the house to attend this thing that’s happening a couple of thousand yards away from my back door feels onerous. Just the thought of having to do something like that every week or, gods forbid, multiple times of the week sends me into mild fits and twitches. I admire the hell out of you guys out there who have a couple of kids who you chase around to practices, performances, or games after work. I think it’s clear that the lack of “personal staff time” under those circumstances would make me certifiably crazy in short order.
2. Republicans/Trump/the Media made someone send these bombs. Bullshit. This is the same argument from people who want to believe beer companies make someone drive drunk or fast food joints are making us all get fat. You know who’s responsible for the dumb shit I do? Me. Not the president, not the media, not McDonald’s, not Budweiser. I’m responsible for my decisions and actions, even in this age that wants very badly to tell us that we should just blame things on someone else rather than take even the tiniest measure of personal accountability. If you want to live a life where you’re always the victim of someone else’s dastardly designs, I don’t suppose I can stop you, but it’s sure as hell not a world I ever intend to live in.
3. The rule of three. Sometimes making WAJTW a triple-topic post bites me in the ass. Usually that happens when the biggest things that annoy me are still holding over from the previous week or when it’s something that feels like it could (or has) featured every week. I mean there’s only so many times I can say some version of “people in general annoy the living hell out of me.” It’s always a true fact, but I like to have specific points of announce to point at rather than just the fact that people and their infinite capacity for stupidity continue to exist.
It was a long day at the office capped off by a two hour meeting to end the day. Every fiber of my being is screaming at me to throw on something flannel, have some soup, and stick my nose in a book for the duration of today’s hours of operation.
Then there’s this shitty little voice in the back of my head prodding me to do the responsible adult thing and show up at the home owners association meeting scheduled this evening. Seriously, who schedules things at 7PM in the middle of the week without providing a phone or video conference option? Leaving the house in the middle of the damned night grumble grumble.
Yes, I know I should go defend my interests against an elective body whose decisions have the effective force of law in order to stave off any increase in the association fees or a directive that all front doors must be painted purple. It’s the right and responsible thing to do. It’s practical and sensible and I just don’t want to do it.
Look, I know these things are supposed to harken back to the town meetings of yore, but democracy at the lowest level is just ponderous. It’s necessary but inconvenient. Maybe that’s what government is really supposed to be in the end. Still, I’d be ok if the 15 out of 120 homeowners who bother to show up at these things adopted a more convenient way of doing business.
My neighborhood has an internal Facebook-style social media site that keeps homeowners apprised of the latest news of our small slice of Ceciltucky. The vast majority of updates are made when someone is having a yard sale, there’s going to be an association meeting, or some other important civic event. This past week, though, the whole feed has been given over to a recent spate of crimes that threaten to drag our quiet neighborhood down into the gutter with Baltimore or the unfortunate souls who live in Elkton proper.
You see, over the last three days there have been empty bottles of Mike’s Hard Lemonade found thrown into several yards. One of these bottles had the audacity to land in someone’s driveway and shatter. On another thread, there is news of an unnamed presidential candidate’s sign that was stolen from someone’s yard. The neighbors are up in arms over the effrontery of the vandals, thugs, and hoodlums plying their trade in our usually bucolic subdivision.
There’s wild talk in the hood about installing gates, and cameras, and streetlights and I love my neighborhood for having such a massive hissy fit of an overreaction to a $5 crime. It’s one of the ways I know I’m among good people. After spending a few years living in a suburban Memphis neighborhood where car windows were regularly smashed and at least one burglary was reported a month, I just kind of chuckle to myself. This is probably the safest neighborhood I’ve ever called home so I’m cautiously optimistic that cooler heads will prevail before someone calls an association meeting to approve a special assessment for security upgrades.
My guess, if only based on the type of bottles involved, is that it’s local neighborhood kids being stupid. Sure, you’ll want to stop that before it escalates beyond a few thrown bottles and a missing yard sign, but in the grand scheme I don’t think we’re seeing the birth of a new and terrible criminal enterprise along the banks of the Elk River.
Now if you’ll excuse me, I’ve got to go back to living the hood life here on the upper reaches of the Eastern Shore.
I’ve been so busy talking about the house and the move that I feel that I’ve neglected talking about the neighborhood. The new place, as much as I might want it to, does not exist in a vacuum. That being said, this is about as decent a subdivision as I’ve really ever come across. Acre lots are the minimum, with most being a little closer to two. No more than 40% of any lot can be cleared. Translation: Even in areas where the neighbors are closer than you’d like them to be, there are still plenty of trees between you and the next guy so if nothing else you have the illusion of space.
It’s the kind of neighborhood where everyone (except me) is out jogging on Saturday morning. It’s the kind of subdivision where everyone’s trash cans hit the curb at 6AM on the dot. Except mine, of course. I’m the redneck neighbor who throws it all in the back of the truck and hauls it away myself. Everyone has a fire pit instead of a burn barrel. I wonder if I cut a 55 gallon drum in half if it’ll look enough like a “fire pit” to get away with it.
Since the weather was nice and I wanted a chance to eyeball the people living on my left and right, I took a bit of a walkabout this afternoon. In order proceeding from my left it’s mom, dad, and two kids; ditto; mom, dad, three kids; mom, dad, two kids; mom, dad, four kids. That’s where I stopped. I know this because house-for-house ever single homeowner was out doing yard work this afternoon and I tamped down my inner hermit enough to make introductions. It’s almost a company town, with at least one half of most of those couples working for the government in some capacity. The rest are commuting to Baltimore, Philly, or Wilmington. I’m apparently a rare an exotic species in my hood – single without dependent children. Other than that, I’m living the stereotype of exurban bliss.
My friends living in DC or Baltimore would probably find this place as deeply unnerving as I find those cities… but now that I’ve had a weekend of “living” here rather than just spending time taking things out of boxes it feels more and more like the only right choice. I’m over the natural uncertainty of transition and find that I really do like it here.
And I’m not just saying that because the HOA Architectural Control Committee approved my plan to put up a fence in 36 hours. Over a weekend. Clearly these are my kind of people.
God love her, the representative of the management company hired as a caretaker for the homeowner’s association must have the patience of a saint. There was one couple at the meeting last night who I’m pretty sure were enjoying their first “big city” experience after coming fresh off the farm. Neither the budget, or the attached explanation of expenses, nor the further explanation of the manager, or the helpful comments made by the other owners seemed to sink in past the first or second layer of brain cells.
The only reason they were there is to figure out where their $120 a year HOA fee went and why the management company was hassling them about the length of their lawn. The nice lady went to incredible lengths to explain that she was only able to enforce the rules put in place by the previous builder and written into the HOA covenants and restrictions and once a new board was elected, they would be responsible for modifying and enforcing the rules.
The concept of maintenance of common areas seemed to present a real analytical challenge for this bunch. Apparently somewhere in the world $170 a month to cut, trim, and treat grass, salt side streets and alleys, and do general upkeep is considered excessive. If $10 a month in fees is going to get your goat, try living somewhere where the condo fees are north of $500 a month. Then we’ll tiptoe into a conversation of unreasonable fees.
My point is this: I don’t want to do it. You don’t want to do it. The guy down the street doesn’t want to do it either. So let’s just agree to put a board in place, let them make the executive decisions, and continue to pay the nice lady a few hundred bucks a month to handle the detail stuff like sicking the lawyer on people whose paint is peeling or who park derelict truck on the street. Otherwise slack-jawed yokels like you and the missus will run this place into the ground.