'Unsafe and too expensive': Landlord leaving San Jose, taking tenants with him

- In the heart of Silicon Valley, the high price of real estate, coupled with a perceived low quality of life, are pushing some residents to move elsewhere. One landlord, after taking inventory of everything – from cost of living to earthquake probability to quality of life and new state laws – has decided now is the time to leave for greener pastures, and he’s taking his tenants with him.

“I’m looking for a more peaceful life. I don’t feel like I’m getting that here anymore,” said Tony Hicks as he stood outside his home that just sold for seven figures.

Hicks says the disappointment he feels with the State of California is leading him elsewhere. An engineer who went into real estate 30 years ago as a way to supplement retirement, he’s now in final preparations to sell all three of his South San Jose homes.

“The cost of living, and that fact that we don’t feel safe anymore,” said Hicks.

When he says “we,” he isn’t just referring to his wife and two daughters. Hicks, headed to Colorado, offered the same rental deal for his 10 tenants – people who share a deep religious faith, and whom he refers to as his friends and family.

“I can’t afford to live here otherwise. One he leaves, I can’t afford the rent here anymore,” said Edwin Blomgren, who’s been renting from Hicks since 2010, and has never seen a rent increase.

A retired navel petty officer, Blomgren is like many “friends” living in the three rental properties.. They are older, on fixed incomes, some have served in the military, and all see the financial writing on the now bare walls..

“San Jose is just too expensive for people like us. Not everybody works for a high-tech firm,” said Retta McDaniel Setser, another renter. 

The exodus by Hicks and crew, from California to other states with a lower cost of living, represents a new wave, according to Tuscan Properties real estate agent Sandy Jamison.

“For retirees, I think they’re looking at the numbers and they’re trying to decide where they need to be in order to live the rest of their life,” said Jamison.

Hicks is trading three older San Jose homes for six new ones in Colorado Springs. More square footage, a larger lot size, and brand new amenities.. matched to the much lower rents.

“I’m not going to raise their rent, ever...I just worry about the people I’m with. When they come in and rent from me, they’re more than tenants, we’re friends,” said Hicks.

Moving vans arrive here March 7th, and the first group of residents will be in their new digs by the 12th.

Tony Hicks and his immediate family will remain in town until school is out in June, then they’ll come, and say they have friends who may also make the move east to the Rocky Mountain State.

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