Some might question the reliability of the tax valuations as a proxy for actual value. A private appraisal, which includes a visual inspection of the interior and exterior of the property, is generally considered the most accurate indicator of value short of an actual sale.

Private property appraisals for the five J Avenue properties completed in 2013, which were obtained by TCB, do indicate that the properties are worth more than the most proximate tax revaluation, which took place in 2012. Compared to the 2012 tax valuation of $227,300, the five properties were privately appraised at $268,000. But comparing the 2013 private appraisal with the 2005 purchase price of the five properties — an estimate based on their share of the $1.3 million Weaver Group portfolio — the properties depreciated by 16 percent. During roughly the same time period — from the 2004 to 2012 tax revals — the tax valuation of Blade III’s five J Avenue properties dropped by 21.2 percent, compared to an 8.2 percent decrease in a comparative neighborhood sample.

Tenants who spoke to TCB on condition of anonymity gave mixed reviews of the responsiveness of the property managers contracted by Blade III. One tenant on J Avenue said the property management company isn’t typically responsive to requests for repairs and that she doesn’t bother to contact them anymore. She said she paid out of pocket for a new screen door, for pavers to make a pathway from her driveway to the front door, and to put in new grass in her front yard.

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In contrast, another tenant who has rented a house in the Textile Drive area in northeast Greensboro for the past two years said he has nothing but good things to say about his experience with the property management company. On two different occasions when he called in a maintenance request — for a leaking roof and a clogged drain — the repairs were made within 48 hours, he said.

The tenant on J Avenue told TCB that in the six years she’s rented her house, five different property managers have handled maintenance. Rent-A-Home of the Triad took over management of the properties in December 2015, according to Kerri Person, the company’s president and CEO. She said her company prioritizes repairs based on urgency.

“I would say that we are very responsive to tenants’ reasonable requests,” Person said. “If they don’t have heat we will react very quickly. We will react quickly to a plumbing leak or sewer blockage. If a house needs a new HVAC system or a new roof, that’s more subjective. Trash in front of a house — we’re not going to drop everything and rush over there.”

The J Avenue tenant said she recently complained to Rent-A-Home about a pile of trash in the front yard of one of the other properties, located at 1806 J Avenue. The trash has been there since before Christmas, she said, adding that a new family moved in with the mess still in the yard, and then abruptly moved out after only two weeks, but the trash has remained.

Person said she doesn’t recall receiving a complaint on the property, and in any case she said the house at 1806 J Avenue is actually occupied by a tenant. She added that while her company might look into the matter, it would be the responsibility of the occupant of the house to clean up the mess.

The high turnover in property managers is more likely a reflection on the owners than the professionals that handle day-to-day maintenance, said Brett Byerly, executive director of the Greensboro Housing Coalition.

“Just about every major property-management company in Greensboro that I know of has held this portfolio,” he said. “I believe the property managers get fed up with the owners because they’re not willing to make the investment to keep the properties properly maintained.

“I know a lot of property managers who don’t want to represent substandard properties,” Byerly added. “It hurts their name.”

Byerly said he first encountered Blade III’s properties in 2010 when Greensboro received more than $1.5 million as part of the federal stimulus program to subsidize housing for people who had recently become homeless or who were at risk of becoming homeless. A company called Emerson was handling property management at the time.

“My job was being the housing locator for the program,” Byerly recalled. “I had to go find landlords who were willing to take a chance on people with criminal-record barriers and credit barriers. It was difficult. We had to do an inspection. Because we weren’t using federal recovery dollars to move people into substandard housing, I would make Emerson fix it up before we moved anyone in. With the Blade properties, Emerson said, ‘The owner doesn’t want to invest any more money.’ I said, ‘Well, then we can’t rent it from you.’”

Later, in 2014, when the housing coalition assisted tenants who were displaced from Heritage House with finding new housing, Byerly said he encountered a similar resistance to his insistence that Blade III make the necessary investment to bring the properties up to snuff before he referred new tenants to them.

Since Rent-A-Home took over the contract for property management in December 2015, Kerri Person said the company has sent out notices to tenants asking them to list needed repairs, and the property management company has identified Blade III properties with vacancies so they can fix them up and put them back on the market.

“We’ve done very good with that,” she said. “Blade has been good to work with. It doesn’t do them any good to have a house in poor condition. For any investor, it doesn’t make sense for a house to be in poor shape.

“Many people think landlords are really wealthy and can afford to make significant investments,” Person added. “That’s not always the case.”

Without the ability to review monthly rental revenues and outlays for repairs and maintenance, it’s unclear whether the Blade III investors have made a profit from their real estate investments, but there’s little doubt that the members would be considered wealthy by most definitions. Beyond the salaries that typically go with executive positions in prominent law, insurance and real-estate firms, the Irving Park homes of Nathan Duggins III and Jay Robinson are respectively valued at $696,300 and $543,200 on the Guilford County tax rolls.

“People have to find a balance where they’re doing the most they can do, but they’re spending money wisely,” Person said. She said Blade III “absolutely” has demonstrated a willingness to make necessary repairs.

“We wouldn’t have taken on the properties if they didn’t,” she said.

Blade III has invested upwards of $200,000 to remove lead from its rental properties, including two of the houses on J Avenue, through a federal grant in which the city of Greensboro provided matching funds, the city confirmed on Tuesday.

1 COMMENT

  1. The city costs the not-so-well-off even more should someone unconnected do something that the status quacks find out about–and they always do given the time on their hands that the rest of us lack plus their buddies in black who keep ’em updated on what went down while they were away on vacation again; such slander gets distributed online via your friendly “neighborhood association” who claim to be looking out for everyone’s interests when they’re really roasting someone to raise property values and their own egos–both are in a dead heat.

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