1. In 2011, I became a San Francisco landlord. After my mother’s death I chose to pull her retirement account and savings out of the stock market and put it into something I could touch and feel rather than leave it in the stock market where I can’t really know how and what it is actually DOING.

    I know San Francisco, I grew up here and have seen it change and evolve continually since I was born. I know investing here is one of the best things one can do to build assets and create security for our family. When we bought our condo, it was the end of a downward trend, and right before the uptick we are still experiencing today. It may come down again, it may stay high, but we are holding on to it for the long haul.

    I can only assume my 3 person family is different from most landlords. We know, respect, and like our tenants, try to be as attentive as possible to their needs, and expect mutual respect for our property in return. We couldn’t be more content, and why shouldn’t we be? We lucked into a stable stream of income, and want our tenants to be as satisfied as we are.

    Large firms that own buildings don’t see people as partners in the rental arrangement. People are numbers tiered at rent levels. Satisfaction from tenants does not figure into decision making. A perfect world in my eyes would be one where there were more opportunities for average people to make equity investments in real estate, and one where content and quality of the investment were characterized as one that maximized the benefits to everyone. One-sided deals are not sustainable in the big picture and future we all share and are influenced by.

    —Maggie (Cole Valley)


  2. Boy did I get lucky…

    I got my 2-unit building fifteen years ago just as the dotcom bubble started making real estate prices go crazy. It was a pretty hairy time for tenants but nowhere as bad as today. A friend got evicted from a house in the Mission and my landlord actually brought in investors to look at the building. The writing was on the wall and it was time to go.

    Being the poor activist that I was, I needed serious help to actually buy a place. Help from my folks, easily acquired credit cards, and a Federal loan program enabled me get a ridiculously low priced two-unit way out on the southeast waterfront near Hunters Point Shipyard; the place they tell the new kids not come except to drive through quickly for Open Studios or the Banya. The old merchant marine who owned the place died and his sole heir wanted to sell. I was lucky to be in the right place at the right time. The original tenant moved on to a bigger place with a garage. Right next door. Can’t really blame someone for not wanting a 28 year old as your landlord.

    Even though we’re not in the thick of the craziness, the housing market is letting my family live comfortably while working a lot less than many people have to in this town. At the same time friends are being threatened by their entitled new landlord who simultaneously celebrates local makerdom while using family resources for predatory real estate pursuits. I am totally grateful for my fortune because I know that we couldn’t afford our home today by a longshot. I also know that I didn’t do much to deserve the windfall that’s come my way. I think that the loopholes that allow unethical bottom feeders to profit off the misery of our friends and neighbors need to be closed.


  3. I got lucky to own a rental unit so I don’t need to be able to make so much money

    I bought a house with an in-law unit ten years ago using a down payment I inherited and the kind of mortgage that caused the housing bubble that I shouldn’t have been allowed to get. Then, through no intelligence of my own, my house in North Bernal ended up in the Hottest Real Estate Neighborhood in America(™). I got out of my sketchy mortgage into a low-rate 30 year fixed because my neighborhood got fancier.

    Now, because it is so groovy and desirable and close to the Google (and Apple and Yahoo and Genentech) buses, no one I know can afford to live in my neighborhood. Instead of friends in my community, I get to charge obscene rent. I don’t want to charge obscene rent. If I had wanted to live in a rich neighborhood, I would have moved to Pacific Heights in the first place.

    I rely on my rental income but I certainly didn’t do anything to earn it. I don’t need the right to make so much money. I’d rather make less money and get to live in an economically and culturally diverse city.