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Friday, May 25, 2007

Do You Live at 310 1/2 East Mercer Street on Capitol Hill?

posted by on May 25 at 8:03 AM

Is this your house?


Technically it’s not your house, of course, it’s your landlord’s house. But you live in it, you pay the rent.

Well, the house you live in is for sale—and according to this real estate listing, you’re not supposed to know.

Capitol Hill Multi-Family Home

Drive by only, tenants unaware of sale. This recently remodeled craftsman-style duplex is situated in one of Seattles most desirable neighborhoods. The units feature views of downtown Seattle and the Olympic Mtns. The unit mix consists of one 3-bed/1-bath unit and one 1-bed/1-bath unit.

You might wanna start looking for a new place to live—unless you can swing the 700K asking price. And since you’re about to get evicted anyway, shit, there’s really no reason for you to pay June’s rent. Save that money—you’re probably going to need it.

RSS icon Comments

1 fun.

Posted by Mr. Poe | May 25, 2007 8:04 AM

Anybody want to go knock on their door and let them know?

Posted by outraged | May 25, 2007 8:15 AM

#2 is a great idea. I think Dan should do it.

Posted by Mr. Poe | May 25, 2007 8:17 AM

LOL! No doubt. Stick it to that landlord.

Posted by JessB | May 25, 2007 8:19 AM

That was... nice of you, Dan. ?!?!

Posted by shocked&awed | May 25, 2007 8:23 AM

Wow, shitty. I bet this sort of thing happens all the time now. If you rent someone else's house, it might not be a bad idea to set up an automated search on one of the MLS sites for your house -- then it'll email you when it's up for sale.

Posted by Josh Santangelo | May 25, 2007 8:24 AM

it's my understanding that if the tenants have signed any sort of long-term lease (something other than month-to-month), then it's illegal for the owner to sell the house "out from under" them like this. i'm pretty sure the owner would have to pay the tenants to get them out of the lease. the tenants need to make sure they don't sign anything releasing the owner of this liability. i'm pretty sure that's how it works, but can anyone else back me up on this?

Posted by jameyb | May 25, 2007 8:28 AM

$700K for that piece of shit!!!

Posted by wf | May 25, 2007 8:29 AM

If the tenants have a lease, the new owner would be obligated to uphold it and any terms agreed to by the previous owner and tenants. Also the owner is required to notify tenants 48 hours ahead of showing the house, according to the Landlord Tenant Act.

It's very shitty of a landlord to not disclose placing the house on the market or at least giving them a heads up, the tenant may not have wanted to live there if they knew they'd be dealing with a new owner.

Posted by JakeLunden | May 25, 2007 8:36 AM

@7 - that's probably true, but lots of folks have month to month.

This is really despicable. I hope someone prints this out and posts it all around the neighborhood (or at least on their front door).

Posted by Levislade | May 25, 2007 8:38 AM

I know that place. That is pretty lame. They should also update the map feature on that website. I looked and they still have Cafe Minnie's and the Gravity Bar listed on the map.

Posted by that sucks | May 25, 2007 8:41 AM

There is no disclosure needed on this home.

There is an obligation to disclose when the sale has happened, but the new owner must honor the current lease. However, when that lease is up, there is no obligation of the new owner to renew that lease.

This happens a lot in real estate... and more often than not, the new owner takes on the investment in their portfolio and when the current renters decide to move on, then they remodel or demolish the home.

Nothing to be alarmed at... just common practice:)

Posted by Jason | May 25, 2007 8:46 AM

Just stick a web URL for this SLOG on their front door and a card saying "Been nice having you as neighbors".

Posted by Will in Seattle | May 25, 2007 8:47 AM

It looks like it's next to a section 8. It also looks like it belongs in New Jersey. $700k? Why not buy a piece of land and build instead?

Posted by Mr. Poe | May 25, 2007 8:58 AM

Back in '99 my wife and I rented a place in North Seattle near the Larry's Market and Oak Tree Cinema. About 5 months into it we suddenly were notified that the place was sold and we'd be dealing with a new landlord. There was some anxiety but the new landlord (despite making a rent increase his first order of business) turned out to be really cool, better than the first one.

That's not to say that this could end up being a shitty deal for these tenants but there's no reason to assume that it will be.

Posted by Matt from Denver | May 25, 2007 8:58 AM

What a piece of shit the owner of that property is. Even if it turns out that they get a new, cool landlord, it's just wrong to not give tenants a heads-up on this. I hope they trash the place heavy metal-style before leaving.

Posted by tsm | May 25, 2007 9:06 AM

This happened to me when I rented in Ballard. The new landlord was beyond cool -- didn't raise my rent for the 3 years I stayed there *and* returned my rent check every December, giving me a month's free rent.

Posted by Cat | May 25, 2007 9:08 AM


Posted by Forney71 | May 25, 2007 9:10 AM

Thinking about this more, I can see why the landlord isn't letting the tenant know. If the reactions here are a gauge then most tenants would flip out, get angry and some might even vandalize the property. No wonder they're keeping this from the tenants.

Posted by Matt from Denver | May 25, 2007 9:11 AM

@ 700K, the new owners will not be renting out the property, unless the rent is $2500/month. Do the math. Time to look for a new place.

Posted by wbrproductions | May 25, 2007 9:13 AM

According to King County records the current owner is named Kurt A. Burgan. Google has his phone number as 932-5483. Give him a call, Dan!

Posted by DOUG. | May 25, 2007 9:16 AM

As posted earlier, if tenant has a lease than theyre covered, if they have a month to month than is SEE YA! Tenants should not allow lock boxes or allow real estate agents to just show up with out the proper notice, Landlords are required to give proper notice (RCW 59.18.150)

When the house is being shown make sure to blast your 2 short cd with the bass way up. If youre white, may I suggest Slayer's God hates us all.

In any case, Savage performed a good deed.

Posted by SeMe | May 25, 2007 9:19 AM

You can get the same house in Lacey for about $200,000. It's all about location. If I could afford the house I would either make the commute or stop working at the UW and get a job at Evergreen.

Posted by elswinger | May 25, 2007 9:20 AM

#12: just because this is "common practice" does not mean it's not in complete defiance of basic common courtesy. someone should let these people know. i'd do it myself but i don't live in seattle.

Posted by brandon | May 25, 2007 9:21 AM

SeMe @ 22, the ad says "Drive by only, tenants unaware of sale." That means that no showings will take place.

@ 20, this also indicates that it will continue to be a rental, $2500 a month or no.

Posted by Matt from Denver | May 25, 2007 9:22 AM

@19 - huh? The pissed-off reactions here are precisely in response to the owner keeping this from the tenants, not the mere fact that they're selling. Letting your tenants prepare for a possible eviction is the only decent thing to do.

Posted by tsm | May 25, 2007 9:23 AM

26 - in an ideal world, sure. But many tenants would definitely be pissed (or more likely, anxious and annoying) if they knew about the sale beforehand.

Posted by Matt from Denver | May 25, 2007 9:26 AM

Oh, and also - 700K for that house? Not quite. Seriously, some Capitol Hill landowners have OD'ed on hubris here - I know two folks who've already had to drop insanely high quotes on their places by 5-10 percent in recent days.

Posted by tsm | May 25, 2007 9:26 AM

Dudes, what the fuck? A lease is a lease is a lease. If the tenants have a lease, then the lease must be honored. That’s the law, and the tenants are in no danger. If the tenants don’t have a lease, then the risk here was reciprocal; the tenants could have left anytime they wanted on 20 days notice. When I was growing up my dad always based our financial planning on the idea that a landlord could and likely would raise the rent as soon as our lease was up. This new “tenants rights” kick everyone’s been on lately is really a little baffling to me. If I rent someone my TV it’s still my fuck’n TV and, as long as I honor the terms of the agreement, I should be able to ask for it back any time I want. A house is just a TV that keeps rain off your bed; it's just a thing and the person who owns it ultimately gets to decide how what happens to it.

Posted by Judah | May 25, 2007 9:37 AM

That's really fucked up.

Posted by Kristi | May 25, 2007 9:37 AM

@29, most people I know who rent in Cap Hill are on month-to-month after 1 year of tenancy. I would guess that's the case here as well - if a secure lease was in place I think the owner would be upfront with the tenants about the sale, if nothing else to assure them their lease will be upheld.

The last place I rented was sold - the owner was upfront about it. One tenant moved because she found it too stressful not knowing what was coming. The rest of us stayed, new landlords were complete dicks who didn't know the Seattle law and tried to jack our rent 65% effective immediately. My neighbors paid their last month rent and never got their deposit back. Once we were all gone, the building was remodeled (poorly - if you've got a living room with views of the Olympics & a balcony, why would you turn it into the kitchen?), sat empty and for sale for a year or so, and finally has tenants in it. *shrugs*

Anyway, with the market as it is, there's no way it'll end with a situation close to what #17 had.

Posted by genevieve | May 25, 2007 10:14 AM

i am very proud of you for posting this dannifer. fucking landlords. desperate real-estaters with huge fucking dollar signs for eyeballs are eating seattle alive. $700, 000 for that piece of parkinglot-surrounded shit? a sin. pulling it out from under current tenants? pure rat-faced dirt. all developers should be shot on sight, and evil landlords should be tortured with hot pokers and burning wire.

Posted by adrian! | May 25, 2007 10:23 AM

Not only are they asking $700 thou for that POS, but they're trying to sell it sight unseen. Who wants to bet that the house is full of dry rot?

Posted by keshmeshi | May 25, 2007 10:32 AM

Ok, I did the math. A remodeled 3 bedroom with views would get $1800-$2500 and the 1 bedroom about $500-$600 per month.

If you've got about $250,000 cash to invest as a down payment, you'd collect enough rent to pay the monthly mortgage, and you'd be earning about 12%compound on appreciation on the $700,000 price, or about 30% compound my $250,000 investment. As rents rise with inflation, you'll also be getting a steadily increasing monthly income within 5 years.

That's an f***ing good investment! Dan, what do you think about getting into the real estate biz with me?

Posted by Sean | May 25, 2007 10:52 AM

Obviously the house is crap and not worth $700, but the language in the listing and the fact that the seller and the selling agent are unwilling to show it make it clear that they're looking for a buyer that will tear it down and build town homes. @14 "why not buy a piece of land and build instead?" That's exactly what they're doing--this is land, not a house. That may come as a shock to the tenants, of course. It takes a while to get this stuff going, though, so hopefully the new owner will give them a good 6 months or so before buying the adjacent lot, doing the demo and getting something new started.

Posted by c'mon guys | May 25, 2007 10:52 AM

Seme - point of clarification at 22 - (chickle, chuckle, guffaw, inside joke, how soon you forget!) it's SEE YA on a month to month IF the new owner has a just cause! Selling the rental is not a just cause to ask a renter to vacate...the NEW owner may ask them to vacate if s/he wishes to move in (or have an immediate family member move in), renovate, demolish, etc. See here (click on Just Cause link):

Posted by LH | May 25, 2007 10:56 AM

@35 - true dat. Obvious tear down deal. Coming soon: townhouses!

In real cities they upzone places so you can build 100-story tall residential rental apartments with 25 percent occupancy by people under 50 percent of median income.

But we don't live in such a place - We're still in denial our population will have doubled in less than 20 years, even though it's obvious as all get out.

Posted by Will in Seattle | May 25, 2007 10:58 AM

I doubt you can stick townhomes on a 2000 sq ft lot.

Posted by DOUG. | May 25, 2007 11:03 AM

At least these tenants won't have to endure the agony of open houses and an endless stream of pushy realtors & buyers calling or just showing up with no advance notice to poke around their living space and examine their lives.

If they have a longer lease, nothing will change. If they're month-to-month, it's the reality they should be prepared for, and it could've come in any number of sudden or unexpected ways.

Posted by Explorer | May 25, 2007 11:07 AM

I agree with the general principle that the tenants should be kept informed but there has not been any mention that a potential buyer may be the real intended 'victim' here. Suppose that the current tenants are the worst in the world. Perhaps the current owner is tiered of dealing with them. Perhaps the current owner is afraid the tenants will trash the property if they found it is for sale....

Who knows, but if I saw this advertisement my first question to the owner would be, "Why don't you want the tenants to know you are selling?" There has to be more to the story.

Posted by Cameron | May 25, 2007 11:19 AM

You know what's more appalling than not notifying tenants of a sale?

The abundance of ignorance and bullshit in the comments from people who clearly know nothing about real estate investing. Horrifying.

Posted by Sean | May 25, 2007 11:42 AM

y'all heard me: shoot developers on sight!!!

Posted by adrian! | May 25, 2007 12:02 PM

"Horrifying"? That is horrfying to you. Good luck in this bright and shiny new world.

Posted by opus23 | May 25, 2007 12:05 PM

That was a great thing for you to do Dan, I hope the tenants see it. Douchebag landlord I REALLY hope no one buys it.

Posted by Lynnsy | May 25, 2007 12:37 PM

I used to live on 15th and woke up one morning to find JAN DRAGO's son had bought the house we were renting. Neighbors house also. Our rent almost doubled.

I'm guessing he was hoping to develop the two plots into something, but nothing really ever came of it last I noticed.

Posted by Dougsf | May 25, 2007 12:47 PM

@36 - true dat, i forgot about the Just Cause ordinance. its been a while.

Smarty (black) pants.

Posted by SeMe | May 25, 2007 12:47 PM

Looks like local property and housing laws need some revisions!

Posted by Gomez | May 25, 2007 1:03 PM

It a DUPLEX. The owners might live there with their tenants. The new owners will have the option to keeps the tenants. It can take months to find a buyer for a house plus 30 to 90 days in escrow. If they are renting month-to-month, that's plenty of time to give them notice. Get off your high horse, Dan.

Posted by davidLBC | May 25, 2007 1:45 PM

I'm not on a high horse. I just thought it was weird to put an ad up on a public website, advertising a house for sale, with a photo of the house and the address, and then including a note that says, "DON'T TELL THE TENANTS! THEY DON'T KNOW THE PLACE IF FOR SALE!" , well, that's just a little weird.

Posted by Dan Savage | May 25, 2007 2:04 PM

I'm still stuck on the idea of SEVEN HUNDRED THOUSAND DOLLARS for that crappy piece of shit.

As to the tenants, well, one of the liabilities of being a landlord is that sometimes you end up with tenants that are batshit barking mad. This might be one of those cases. I'll give the landlord the benefit of the doubt. It's entirely possible he just didn't want prospective buyers bothering the tenants. I doubt it, but it's possible.

Still, SEVEN HUNDRED! THOUSAND! DOLLARS! for that?! Keerist.

Posted by Geni | May 25, 2007 2:14 PM

David's just being a twat, Dan.
A twat that's assuming a whole hell of a lot.

If anything, Dan, your entry is a stinging indictment of landlord/tenant relations. And whether or not this is common and happens all the time isn't the point. In fact, if it DOES happen this often, then that's an indictment in itself.

Can we stop bickering about whether or not this is technically kosher, and start bickering about whether or not this pracitice is ethical?

Windermere, the biggest realtor in Puget Sound, is willingly advertising the fact that this is happening behind the tenants' backs, for crying out loud! I can almost see the shit eating grins on these realtors' faces.

Posted by Gomez | May 25, 2007 2:26 PM

So has anyone had the balls to tell the tenant yet?

Posted by Jay | May 25, 2007 6:28 PM

Because I have no problem telling the tenants.

Posted by Jay | May 25, 2007 6:33 PM

If they lived in Fremont, I'd tell them.

Posted by Will in Seattle | May 26, 2007 12:03 AM

I lived in that house from 1989-1994. The owner wanted to tear it down to build condos, but an underground water system was going to get in the way of building a parking garage. Some dude from California bought it, and fixed it up. Great view of the Space Needle; noisy every morning from the garbage trucks in the alley.

Posted by 310 1/2 | May 26, 2007 8:00 AM

I also lived there, in the '90s. That home was the unofficial watering hole of Saint Bushmill's Choir and several other non-famous bands, until it was sold for $125k in 1996. It's right next door to the house owned by the manager of Jefferson Airplane, whose silver jaguar still lies rotting in the drive.

Highlights include the underwear model photo shoot in the dumpster niche outside the back door, and the Westwood recording bus ripping open it's roof on the eaves as it tried to negoiate the tight sloping alleyway.

Good times.

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