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human nature - rent vs. own  RSS feed

 
paul wheaton
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I've been writing a new post for over a week now. It has become so freakishly giant, that I am now pretty sure that I need to extract a few pieces into their own threads.

The thread I am writing actually started as a response to the beer thread. In that, it is suggested that if people cannot clean up after themselves they should be booted from the property. While I do think there is some truth to that, I don't think it is absolutely true. My response to it starts with:

My favorite definition of permaculture is "Permaculture is a more symbiotic relationship with nature - so I can be even lazier."


And in this case we are talking about "human nature".

I don't want to boot people off the land. What a painful experience for everybody involved. I also don't want to spend 20 hours doing some sort of beer bottle CSI - it just doesn't sound fun.

So the real exploration is "what is the permaculture solution?"

- -

So my response is massive and not yet finished. But as part of the response, I wrote this thing about rent vs. own. And I decided that it needs a thread all to itself:

In my past there have been times when I was a renter and times when I was a homeowner. One lesson I learned is that improving rented property will make the rent go up. I even got to the point of talking to the landlord/owner in advance to say that I will gladly improve the property, at my own expense, as long as the rent doesn't go up. Lots and lots of promises from them, I improve things, and then the rent goes up. I never got paid a dime for those improvements. That seemed messed up. I was told, repeatedly, that my efforts had no value. It seems that if that were true, the rent would not go up. One place even tried to charge me for "destruction of property" (putting in gardens, with permission) even though that was the primary feature for raising the rent.

I have never owned a rental and then rented it out, but I have heard the stories. A tenant promises to make improvements in exchange for a reduction in rent and then never gets around to it. And, instead, ends up leaving the property (in much worse condition) while owing several months of rent.

These stories are not unique. We've all heard them. Maybe seen them and/or experienced them first hand. Further, this isn't rare. It is more the rule than the exception. It's like the world of renting is infested with ferengi. The (non) solution, on either side, is to document the hell out of everything and be prepared to go to court. At the same time, even court turns out to be weak - you win, but the other party has shenanigans to keep from paying even then.

Further, "improvement" is relative and subjective. One person can do an improvement and insist that it has a value of $20,000. And everybody else in the whole world might see it as "destruction". Maybe somebody might think it is worth $500 and not a penny more, while most people see it as "destruction" (thus, a negative value).

So all of these things are part of "human nature". As we design our permaculture systems we must embrace solutions that work with the ferengi-ness that is part of human nature.

Taking a look at buying and selling property, it does a pretty good job of taking this into consideration. A person might try to sell their property for 8 million. After five years of trying, they accept $200,000. In the beginning, they are certain that is worth 8 million. They will even utter the words that 8 million is a fair price. But nobody would buy it for 8 million. Or 7. Or 6 ...

Some people make an excellent living buying a fixer upper for $180,00, putting a lot of work and materials into it and selling it for $600,000. Flipping.

In the world of renting there appears to be an ocean of opportunity for resentments and shenanigans. (pulling numbers out of my butt) 60% of the time all people involve are diligent and make sure things end up right - usually this requires that the renter makes zero improvements/changes - thus not a great recipe for improving things. 40% of the time, icky people are rewarded and decent people are punished. So, being icky pays really well. 60% of the time, things work out to be fair. And 40% of the time, being icky means extra cash/candy in your hand.

Ownership seems to be where it is more challenging to be rewarded for being icky. And there is great reward for making improvement. I think there is ickiness in this space, but the ickiness is a lot harder to get away with. And the system is designed more for "what you see is what you get". And if you make improvements that others value, then you are rewarded.

Further, with renting, there is a repeating transaction - and sometimes the renter has circumstances change and cannot pay the rent. Awkward. With ownership, there are no such problems (assuming there is no such thing as a mortgage).

Of course, with ownership, you still have to pay taxes. And then there are going to be costs involving maintenance - no landlord to come and fix things for you.

So as I explore what the relationships are like between everybody involved in the wheaton labs project, I think "a more symbiotic relationship with nature so I can be even lazier" (where "nature", in this case, is "human nature") needs to be applied to all parties. What is the design that leads to growth with least conflict?

There are properties for sale next to the lab that a permie can buy. And for on the lab, I do wish to have many artisans in seed and soil here. At the moment, my intention to make things smooth is that I set a per-acre rate for "raw land". A permie can "rent-ish" an acre of raw land. But if there is an improved piece then a permie can "rent-ish" the raw land under the improvements from me and buy the improvements from the previous "rent-ish-er". This is the thing I made up nearly two years ago. I'm still thinking it is a pretty good design, but time will tell.



 
D. Logan
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On renting, I find that the situation is generally parasitic with the option for symbiosis. The property owner (and those of you who own property you rent, please forgive. This is not meant as an offense, but just a statement of facts) is charging someone more than the value of the property to stay there. If you rent, it is generally because you can't afford to own a property yourself. Not because you couldn't make the payments, but because of some other factor that limits the ability to own a mortgage. The owner offers you the chance to stay on their property. You do gain something, but you are paying their full mortgage + extra money for the right to remain there. Smart owners set up rules and limitations to protect themselves, including preventing you from making changes to the property. More often than not, if you improve the property (by their allowance) in a way that raises the value, it means that the taxes raise. They either accept losing some of that profit, or they raise your rent. Even if the taxes aren't assessed higher, they know they can now rent that property to someone else for more than you are paying and the basic desire to get something for nothing causes that parasite nature to manifest. Some will be honest and decide to keep things somewhat symbiotic.

The renter, generally, has zero incentive to care what happens to the property. The smarter owners will charge huge deposits, giving you a strong reason to maintain, but most only charge a month extra rent as the deposit (sometimes less), because very few people want to pay a huge deposit and that limits their options for tenants. If the only thing keeping you caring about the state of a building is a few hundred dollars you haven't thought about in a year or more, you probably aren't going to care at all. Survival is all about getting the most return for the least effort. Without a personal gain, our hard wiring says not to bother wasting our effort.

Ownership generally sidesteps this. If you own something, it is in your own best interest to maintain and improve it. Improvements offer immediate benefits as well as an improved potential property value if you eventually sell. Walking away from a typical rental, you take nothing with you but what you paid for and maybe a little bit of the deposit (my experience is that no matter how good you maintain, you never see your full deposit back). Walking away from a home you own, you see equity + the value of time spent with whatever you put into it (creature comforts, aesthetics, food systems, etc). I think the key to your rent-ish systems is to make sure whoever is doing the renting can walk away feeling they have gained for their efforts. Obviously the land and everything on it remains behind, so what is it they can walk away with? Offhand, knowledge is what comes primarily to mind. Maybe some fodder for a book. Possibly some bonus thing.

On the bonus thing, I could see it being something that costs you nothing as the owner, but is hugely valuable. PDFs, Recordings, etc. If they leave the property having improved it and without some outstanding debt of some sort, they will be given this bonus thing. Over time, you can add more and more to the pile of virtual things, since they cost nothing extra to produce a new copy or ship (email, weblink, etc) and over time the incentive to improve the property just keeps growing for anyone who comes. It also improves the benefits offered by choosing to rent there for at least a certain period of time. These are just my thoughts as they came to me though.
 
Mike Cantrell
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D. Logan wrote:The property owner (and those of you who own property you rent, please forgive. This is not meant as an offense, but just a statement of facts) is charging someone more than the value of the property to stay there.


I can't figure out any way that this makes sense.

The really literal way doesn't: If more than the value of the property means the amount of monthly rent (for example, $1,000) is higher than the sale price of the property (for example, $999), then no, that's virtually never the case.


The common-sense sort of way doesn't either: If more than the value of the property means more than the acceptable market for rent, then no, obviously not. If it's rented, then that's the rent value. If somebody's willing to pay that rent, then that's the rent value. That number can't be higher than itself, no matter what it is.


Is this just an emotional kind of thing where The Rent, in a generalized sort of way, Is Too Damn High? Your feelings are your feelings, but is that relevant here?

(cf http://www.rentistoodamnhigh.org)





D. Logan wrote:If you rent, it is generally because you can't afford to own a property yourself.


I don't think that's the case either. The last eight places I've rented, its been because I needed someplace to live, but hadn't picked someplace permanent yet. That's the case for everybody I know, too.

The freedom to pick up and leave is a valuable thing. A house that you own, but don't want to own, that's a millstone around your neck. Plenty of smart people are renting because don't want that millstone.
 
D. Logan
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Mike Cantrell wrote:
D. Logan wrote:The property owner (and those of you who own property you rent, please forgive. This is not meant as an offense, but just a statement of facts) is charging someone more than the value of the property to stay there.


I can't figure out any way that this makes sense.

The really literal way doesn't: If more than the value of the property means the amount of monthly rent (for example, $1,000) is higher than the sale price of the property (for example, $999), then no, that's virtually never the case.


The common-sense sort of way doesn't either: If more than the value of the property means more than the acceptable market for rent, then no, obviously not. If it's rented, then that's the rent value. If somebody's willing to pay that rent, then that's the rent value. That number can't be higher than itself, no matter what it is.


Is this just an emotional kind of thing where The Rent, in a generalized sort of way, Is Too Damn High? Your feelings are your feelings, but is that relevant here?

(cf http://www.rentistoodamnhigh.org)


When I say the rent is more than the cost of the location, what I mean is that the renter is paying the mortgage payment + profit. No owner in their right mind would rent a location for only mortgage or less unless maybe it was family or a dear friend. The owner does what they can to make sure the property is never empty, so they get equity without paying a mortgage + a steady profit as long as the location is being rented. Market value determines what the total number for a location can be, but most of the time they are aiming for a certain percentage of profit. The renter gains none of that equity. I don't think this is cruel or wrong, but I do think it means there is very little reason for the renter to care what state the place ends up in outside of morality. If I can afford rent on a good quality one bedroom, I could probably afford the mortgage of a 2 or 3 bedroom home in many cases. This has been my experience though, your mileage may vary.



Mike Cantrell wrote:
D. Logan wrote:If you rent, it is generally because you can't afford to own a property yourself.


I don't think that's the case either. The last eight places I've rented, its been because I needed someplace to live, but hadn't picked someplace permanent yet. That's the case for everybody I know, too.

The freedom to pick up and leave is a valuable thing. A house that you own, but don't want to own, that's a millstone around your neck. Plenty of smart people are renting because don't want that millstone.


There are exceptions. When I move to TN eventually, the plan is to rent at least long enough to get a feel for a given area. Almost everyone I have ever known personally who rented, did so because they couldn't yet buy a home of their own. Many worked jobs that paid too low for the banks to be willing to offer a loan, had bad credit and/or had some other issue that prevented it. That said, there is indeed a major benefit of being able to move away at any moment and I think the mortgage crisis issue did move more people away from bothering with a home for the time being. Your life experiences and people you have known clearly differ from those I have had and known. That doesn't make either of us wrong, but instead gives two perspectives on the same situation. That is a valuable thing. Thank you for offering up the opposite viewpoint!
 
Stephanie Meyer
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I think there is quite a bit of room between " it isn't mine so I'm not as careful with it as I would be with my own stuff" and "it isn't mine so I am going to trash it". The first renter is one who can be incentivized I think, the second one has some major character issues in my opinion. I think a healthy system can eventually weed out the second type but wouldn't it be less costly in damage to nip them in the bud?

I think of this as it relates to bad coworkers. if management gets rid of them it is hard for them and not real pleasant for anyone , but if it is left for coworkers to encourage their migration, it gets very ugly. Both ways "work" one way or another...
 
Zach Muller
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D. Logan wrote:
The property owner (and those of you who own property you rent, please forgive. This is not meant as an offense, but just a statement of facts) is charging someone more than the value of the property to stay there.



As a landlord and a renter I will say this aligns with my experience, no offense taken. If I don't charge a higher rent than my mortgage payment how am I supposed to have the money to make repairs when I am required by law to do so? ( air conditioners, heaters, roofs etc.)
The acceptable renting rate is naturally higher than the mortgage payment in that cities economy so it is not like I am jacking up the price in order to make a profit, I set my rental rate according to the market and the price I think will attract the kind of renter I want. ( someone who is normal, has income, stability etc.)

My landlord owns the property I currently live on outright. So all my rent every month is pure profit for her. Should she charge less than the going rate just because that is the case? No one does that for a stranger.

To me it makes very little sense to rent unless you have to. That is the reason I bought a house in the first place, sure I have the dreaded dept and mortgage,(ooh I'm really scared.....NOT) but I pay less every month than someone who rented a house like mine, and when I feel like getting out of town I get the money back when I sell the house, or become a landlord in my case. So a renter may have peace of mind or whatever and not as much dept on paper, but after years of paying, they actually spent more than a homeowner, and they have nothing to show for it. A lot of people stigmatize mortgages and associate it with slavery and all this type of stuff, but are still working all the time making payments to rent a place, that doesn't sound anymore free than having a loan and making payments on that. Call it a millstone, blessing, curse, slavery, we are all still a part of the economy. I have trouble grokking the romance of living dept free, when I don't really care about the depts I do have. I live and breathe, dance, laugh, make things, learn, work, pay, get paid, play, get paid to play it's not a crazy big deal to get loans, buy and sell stuff.
 
Mike Cantrell
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Zach Muller wrote:If I don't charge a higher rent than my mortgage payment how am I supposed to have the money to make repairs when I am required by law to do so? ( air conditioners, heaters, roofs etc.)

There's the rub!
Landlording is a business like any other. You've got income on one side and expenses on the other.

Income:
The rent, if any

Expenses:
Mortgage, if any
Property taxes
Incomes taxes
Maintenance and repairs (remember that this can be unexpectedly catastrophic)
God forbid, eviction expenses
Advertising


If you're both lucky and good, then the income is a larger number than the expenses, and the amount of effort it takes to gain that is fairly small.
Maybe you're less lucky and good, and the income is still larger than the expenses, but the amount of effort it takes to gain that is fairly large.
Or maybe you're unlucky, or doing it poorly, and for all the effort you spend on it, more money's going out than coming in. That sucks, but it's common!





Zach Muller wrote:when I feel like getting out of town I get the money back when I sell the house

Badabing, just like that! Sell the house! There's ALWAYS a buyer willing to pay at least as much as what you still owe on it. Always! And quickly, too!

I'm being facetious, of course. And while I'm ready to believe that we've got a much worse environment for reselling a house up here in Michigan than you do in Oklahoma, still surely you don't have a red-hot real estate market even there, do you? It can't be so good that nobody ever has trouble selling a house? It's still 2004 there?





D. Logan wrote: That doesn't make either of us wrong, but instead gives two perspectives on the same situation. That is a valuable thing. Thank you for offering up the opposite viewpoint!

You're a gracious guy. Thank YOU!
 
Zach Muller
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Not so much a rub for me, I knew landlording was a business when I decided to do that rather than sell right away. Think of it as a residual income stream if you like.


Zach Muller wrote:when I feel like getting out of town I get the money back when I sell the house

Badabing, just like that! Sell the house! There's ALWAYS a buyer willing to pay at least as much as what you still owe on it. Always! And quickly, too!

I'm being facetious, of course. And while I'm ready to believe that we've got a much worse environment for reselling a house up here in Michigan than you do in Oklahoma, still surely you don't have a red-hot real estate market even there, do you? It can't be so good that nobody ever has trouble selling a house? It's still 2004 there?





Haha actually looking around I am not sure what year it is for oklahoma anymore. With so many embarrassing things coming out of this state sometimes I feel like a majority of people still are stuck on 20-75 year ago issues.

It's not that your house is guaranteed to sell, it will sell if you bought something that is appreciating in value, and will gain equity on your time frame and be desirable when you want out. You can't expect to get more than it's worth or you won't sell it. I bought a house in a major district that gets economically better all the time. It will always be close to downtown, the arts district, a university, major highway access just far enough away, and all the things that people tend to value in a modest city home. All those pluses on a property in a city that is actually growing a lot economically right now. I wouldn't be able to even rent some freak house somewhere in a questionable location let alone sell for a profit, no matter what state I happen to be in. All these things were considerations when choosing what to invest in. There are examples of people doing just about anything poorly or having bad luck, is that really a reason to avoid trying something yourself?
 
John Wolfram
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D. Logan wrote:No owner in their right mind would rent a location for only mortgage or less unless maybe it was family or a dear friend.

Actually...a good number of people do something along those lines because there's a second item on the "income" side of the equation: value appreciation. Although here in the midwest we haven't had much residential house appreciation, in areas like San Francisco with crazy high price to rent ratios people buy houses not so much for the rent but for the appreciation. Of course, whether these people are "in their right mind" is debatable.


Going back to Paul's original question, it seems to me that it is human nature to work 10 times as hard on a project/property you own compared to one your rent, just work on, or are employed at. While I work reasonably diligently for my employer, for my own business, if things weren't off the books I would probably get thrown in jail by the Department of Labor for how hard I drive my employee.
 
Bill Crim
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I think Rent vs Own isn't the right mental model; Temporary vs Permanent is the right model.

Renting(Outside of dense urban areas) is a symptom of a temporary situation. Owning a home in an appreciating market that you sell in 5 years is also a temporary situation. Owning a home, with a 30 year fixed rate mortgage, where you expect to stay for > 10 years is permanent. Owning unimproved land in the wilderness tends to be permanent. Since Paul wants to keep things informal(No official long-term lease or purchase of land), the entire legal situation on the Lab is temporary for anyone who is not Paul. Therefore in order to be on the Lab long term, you need to be in a long-term(permanent) relationship with Paul.

Only an experienced person can just pull up stakes, move to Montana, and make a living on unimproved land. In fact, I bet an experienced person would still need many thousands of dollars of seed money(or a separate income entirely) to become even vaguely profitable in 3 years. An inexperienced person would need lots more money. (to cover their living expenses while they acquired the experience.) As you get farther and farther outside of a city, the economic opportunities diminish, making the entire enterprise that much harder. Taking on a risky business venture is only possible if there are few capital requirements(low startup costs or shared infrastructure), or strong enough markets (property/tools) so that capital can be recycled back into the economy if the business fails. Moving to Montana to put down roots on the Lab means taking a business risk(no income/market/infrastructure), as well as a risky life situation(no house). That is a very hefty risk to take, based on the strength of relationship with someone(Paul) you have never met.

Finding people who are compatible with your vision means you probably need to have a lot more people coming through the Lab. You should embrace that fact, and setup short-term rented accommodations for people who aren't gappers or Ant Villagers.(Rented as in campground/cabin, not as in apartment) Rent high enough to keep the aimless drifters moving on, but low enough to allow someone to take their time evaluating if the situation is something they want. (Like $10 a day or $50 a week). 4-5 Love Shack style buildings. So lowering the barrier to taking the first step is key. If you want someone to start a long-term relationship with you, you need to give them a chance to "date" you first. (A uni-directional podcast relationship isn't enough)

If you want to find a Prince, you need to kiss a lot of toads. Pucker up.


 
Rufus Laggren
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I'm a landlord. And I'm a renter. Both can work good or bad. For the last couple years I've watched two different members of my family come to grips with how much they wish they did NOT own property - at least not the property they do own. All kinds of people out there. I don't think either renter or buyer(owner) is much worse than the other. Often an owner used to be a renter; same people. Like certain things, it all depends. I'm an easy going landlord and suspect I don't raise the rent enough. But I have good people that like living where they do and keep the place clean and undestroyed. The first place I rented in SF I had an easy going landlord and he's the only reason I stayed in SF - I had some rough periods there. I doubt that assigning more value to one side of the fence or the other helps you figure things out. It's a time/place thing: It depends.

And there's different ways to exchange value. Money isn't the only medium in this world. This was explicitly laid out by one of the most money grubbing dirt practical persons in the world - a very successful house flipper. I researched flipping about 10 years ago. Turned out I don't want to do that. But one of the smarter gurus insisted on a particular point: To make a deal you find a possibility - it will appear anywhere, any time so if you're looking for something you pay attention and ask, always. But here's the good part, the point: The real art commences after you find something. You need to figure out what the other person actually truly wants and try to find a way to offer it. It's rarely just money and often money is just a small part. Sometimes the other person doesn't themselves know what they actually need to close the deal. Money is only _part_ of the deal. The more fully you perceive and understand the person and the situation, the more likely you'll find a way to make a good offer - good for both parties.

The flip side of that, if you're selling, is figuring out just what you're _really_ selling. Or again, alternatively, what it is that people are really buying from you.

IOW, looking only at _$$$_ you will miss seeing all the other pathways, needs, economies, transactions, mediums of exchange, possibilities. Looking at renters vs buyers and trying to lay out arguments and decide a winner purely with $$$ won't show much of the real picture at all. It all depends. On lots of other stuff.

Rufus
 
David Livingston
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I rent and am happy about it . I am improving the property the LL is very happy . I am very happy as I am creating a biodiverse envioroment that will sustain some one and get even better with very little money over time, I know I will not live here forever I dont care about this nor will I live for ever either. ( I am 54) Here in France there are lots of regulations about everything so the LL cannot just put up the rent as he pleases but then he gets tax insentives to rent to poor folks like me so it evens out.
The landlord is so happy he is talking about buying me a walking tractor
 
paul wheaton
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I suppose my purpose in writing this thread is the idea that all plots have a value that is roughly the same. Whether improved or not.

And then a person can go onto a plot and create their improvements. They might think that the improvements are worth $40,000. But that could result in five years of no buyer - and then the improvements are sold for $8000. Therefore, the fair price is $8000.

Another important part of this: I am not part of it.
 
Penny Dumelie
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Nothing to really contribute that hasn't been touched on already...

just wanted to comment that I love the reference to the ferengi.

:p
 
elle sagenev
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I hope you have some sound legal documents and good insurance Paul. I'm a bit pessimistic thanks to my work but so long as you own the land you will always be involved in what goes on there. You can't get out of it unless you sell.
 
David Livingston
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Is not the issue the words renter and buyer ? It all ties into the land=money money=land equation thing bit like conventional beekeepers obsessed with honey=money .
Would it not be better to redefine the relationship between the person and the land ?
Stewardship maybe ?

David
 
Kyrt Ryder
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paul wheaton wrote:I suppose my purpose in writing this thread is the idea that all plots have a value that is roughly the same. Whether improved or not.

And then a person can go onto a plot and create their improvements. They might think that the improvements are worth $40,000. But that could result in five years of no buyer - and then the improvements are sold for $8000. Therefore, the fair price is $8000.

Another important part of this: I am not part of it.

What I'm trying to grok here, is how are you *not* a part of it? When someone's roots run dry, they are no longer entitled to be on the land. How are they going to sell something they have no entitlement to?

The improvements are there, they are not. The improvements [be they legitimate improvements or not] are essentially yours now despite your desire to not involve yourself.

One way I might see around this is if the improvements are assigned 'value' [the value the Labs Administration sees as appropriate to improvements made], and this value can be 'spent/consumed' paying rent. Therefore if one couldn't pay the rent but had enough accumulated value, they could burn that up buying themselves more time [measured in units no smaller than either Months or Quarters, whichever is more appropriate] and opportunity to develop an income. If they still can't pay the rent, then there aren't any improvements they 'own,' they're completely cut loose.

 
David Livingston
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improvements = money = land = headache

I think we need to get away from the money .

David
 
David Livingston
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Or how about not renting but leasing?

David
 
Dillon Nichols
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paul wheaton wrote:
At the moment, my intention to make things smooth is that I set a per-acre rate for "raw land". A permie can "rent-ish" an acre of raw land. But if there is an improved piece then a permie can "rent-ish" the raw land under the improvements from me and buy the improvements from the previous "rent-ish-er". This is the thing I made up nearly two years ago. I'm still thinking it is a pretty good design, but time will tell.


This sounds like an awesome setup in many ways, but I don't see how it doesn't involve you! If Jimbo builds a Wofati and a garden, then leaves and puts a $20,000 pricetag on the door, is this parcel going to sit vacant until someone agrees on a price with Jimbo?

That said Kyrt, I think Paul has previously mentioned he would be open to that sort of arrangement, of negotiating rent in exchange for ownership, on tenant departure, of existing quality infrastructure. Makes sense to me, but again definitely involves the lord o' the fiefdom!


D. Logan wrote:The property owner (and those of you who own property you rent, please forgive. This is not meant as an offense, but just a statement of facts) is charging someone more than the value of the property to stay there. If you rent, it is generally because you can't afford to own a property yourself. Not because you couldn't make the payments, but because of some other factor that limits the ability to own a mortgage.


This all sounds very logical; the landlord is in business to make money, and collects a premium from the renter because either the renter is too poor to own, or needs shorter-term/more flexible housing. However, it's not necessarily true; the speculation factor is HUGE.
A few enabling things:
-the real estate and banking industries having a lot to gain from high home prices, and a lot of resources to manipulate pricing
-governments being happy to harvest the increased property taxes
-governments transferring risk from banks to taxpayers
-the media industry struggling for advertisers and happy to print advertorials

In my area, and most of Canada, this amounts to properties costing far more than the long-term price/income ratios suggest is rational. Check out Demographia's annual reports...

nterestingly, rents followed prices up... and then detached, IMO because people were running out of money and taking steps to cope which lowered rental demand; sharing houses, couchsurfing, living in their van, living in their parents basement, leaving the area, etc.

Similar rampant price speculation is returning in some parts of the US already; short memories! Much of the rest of the world has a similar problem.

I hate renting; I have a thing for permanence. I had the ability to buy, but having done the math, it was/is far cheaper to rent here. And, this is true even without assigning any value to the risks you assume by owning; disasters from market collapse to earthquake to building envelope failure to divorce to drug dealers downstairs. And then, as Mike says, there is the 'freedom to pick up and leave' factor.
 
August Hurtel
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It seems to me time preference is the principle issue. The landlord gets paid a profit, but it is essentially for providing the service of thinking further ahead than the renter does. From a legal perspective, Mark Shepard's separation of the property into it's own business, which then rents to the farm concerns, is the best that I can think of, since it provides maximum protection. There are also the clear numbers that come out of each business unit, though there are ways to keep someone around if their contribution is deemed to provide intangibles. One business can make a loan to another, for instance.

Anyone taking up the offer is likely to have more of a long term perspective than most renters. Long term equity in the property as a whole would also tend to work, and minimize potential conflicts between long term improvements to the property versus a particular plot. I don't know if this is actually legal- I know there are cases where the 'investor' has to have a ridiculous amount of money to qualify, although some of the crowfunding people seem to think this will go away one day and we'll be about to crowdfund and get equity in the resulting company.

Anyway, time preference. And, probably, a lawyer.
 
David Livingston
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Lots of very well thought out answers but they still all to me sound like land equals money , money equals land .
As long as this is the basis of people thought then Pauls origional problem remains

David
 
August Hurtel
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I can't see a direct way of including time and the long term improvements. There were indirect ways in the past- this is one of the reasons monarchies came to be for instance. Then there were also things like boardinghouses, were, in return for money, the lady running it usually provided food, a room, and a ton of rules most people wouldn't like to have. If the renter had better time related skills, he would eventually be able to move out, but if he didn't I think the boardinghouse ladies provided a good service and kept the person living a life a lot more fulfilling than now.

Presumably, if not money, another asset would have to be used. This is because you need assets to do the long term improvements- even just to overcome entropy and unexpected pig bucket problems.
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