Feature story (New Real Estate)

New real estate managers who turned the flaw of the Tech Boom into an advantage, become trendsetters in the Bay Area.

Those who were fortunate enough to buy housing in the Bay Area before the Tech Boom, now are in good shape and even invest their money further in real estate.

A former taxi driver and restaurant worker Binod Tamang does not like to waste time. As he waits for his 9-year-old daughter to finish her Kung-Fu lesson in Albany, he looks through real estate ads and checks for any housing market news. Housing has become his main occupation – he owns four houses in Richmond and San Pablo, renting them out for $1500 to $2500 per month.

Retired school principal Raul Ramirez also found real estate late in life. He rents out a triplex in the San Joaquin Valley and a house in Redmond, Oregon for $850 to $1700 per month.

Tamang and Ramirez are among the beneficiaries of the tech boom – a small group of residents who had the foresight and money to buy before prices got too high and now enjoy new income from their rentals.  No one knows, how many residents this represents, but Daniel Faller, owner, and founder of “Apartment Owners Association of California” says “I do not see a trend taking place.”

The new real estate managers share some attributes – some have inherited houses that then became investment properties, or they merely bought early and have benefited from the increasing rise in rents.

Ramirez, who lives in the house his parents bought in 1967 for $16,000 (now worth $1.2 million according to Zillow), watched his parents purchase their first property on Acton Street in Berkeley in 1965 for $15,000.  For years, they rented it out and in 2015 sold it in 2015 for $620,000. He bought his first duplex in 1982.

Tamang, who moved to the United States from Nepal in 1999, bought his first house in 2009, a year after the great recession of 2008. “Property value was really bad then,” says Tamang, bringing down prices and making it possible to buy a two-bedroom house in Richmond for only $45,000.

The money came from the earnings he had made working any number of jobs including delivery driver, taxi driver, restaurant worker, and even owning and running a restaurant. Back then, the houses he purchased were cheap and needed work. He quickly became an expert in plumbing, electrical work, and roofing.

Since then he has bought five houses and mostly renovated them himself, only occasionally resorting to the help of hired workers. Tamang sold one of them. The price of remaining homes ranges from $300 000 to $700 000.

“This is the not a piece of cake, you know,” says Tamang, pointing that he has to pay a lot – a property taxes, expenses for insurance, garbage, etc. “But I try not to raise my rent because I do not have to pay a mortgage’.

He has done so well that he pays $1400 per month to live in Albany where his children can take advantage of the better school system.

“I worked pretty hard for that,” said Tamang smiling.

He says he has other friends who have done better buying and selling houses – at least two or three friends in the Bay Area who are “much wealthier than I am.”

Ramirez too has friends who have benefited from the housing market.  One, he said, was a custodian who began buying properties about 30 years ago. Now he owns seven houses – all rented out.

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