It’s an unlikely collection of 10 men and one woman — a retired engineer, a few military veterans, blue collar workers and others on fixed incomes. Few say they could afford to go it alone in the sky-high housing market in San Jose, where a typical two bedroom rents for about $2,500 a month, far more than what they pay Hicks.
Most of the men are divorced, widowed or never married, and many suffer from health ailments and a crankiness exacerbated by Bay Area traffic, crowding and the state’s liberal policies on crime and immigration.
Hicks, 58, was an engineer and marketing executive at IBM, Xerox and other companies before retiring in his early 40s to raise his daughter from his first marriage.
He bought a few investment properties in South San Jose, and looked for long-term returns when he sold them. He kept rents low — between $500 to $1,200 a month for one bedroom — and never raised prices once a tenant signed a lease.
Many of his tenants have been with him for more than a decade.
“We became brothers,” said Mike Leyva. The 64-year-old Army veteran and retiree signed a lease in 2004 and never left.
In recent years, Hicks began to believe there was a better life outside the valley.
Vaulting real estate prices added incentive. He kept up on tax laws that could maximize the returns on his property. Selling his San Jose rental houses and buying new properties with the proceeds would allow him to defer taxes. “It’s a great financial move,” he said.
Hicks was also moved by discussions with his pastor and sermons at his church, the Vietnamese Living Word Community Church, about Biblical journeys. His spiritual beliefs guided him to his decision to move with his new wife, Fidessa, 31, and her 8-year-old daughter.
Cautiously, he broke the news to his friends.
“I was totally shocked,” Leyva said. “I thought he was joking me. I had a lot of questions about it.”
Levya spent two days researching the move and became convinced. He expects to slash his rent from $1,200 to about $800 a month, with more room in a newer home bought by Hicks. “I’m excited,” Leyva said. “It’s going to be a new journey in my life.”
Ed Blomgren, 70, pays $495 a month for one bedroom and a shared bathroom. The retired machinist, a Navy veteran, lives on a fixed income and couldn’t afford market-rate rent.
Blomgren grew up in Colorado, and he welcomes a chance to return to his home state, where he still has family. “At my age,” he said, “I think it might be a good thing.”
Hicks planned to stagger the sales of his properties over several months, to make the move easier. He went to Colorado Springs with his wife, Leyva and Harvey in December to scout properties.
He expects to get a lot more for his money. The median home value in Colorado Springs is $263,000, compared to $1 million for a single family home in San Jose, according to real estate website Zillow.
Hicks came to Jamison with a proposal: sell all three homes, so he could buy a half-dozen newer, bigger and cheaper homes in the small mountain town, home to the U.S. Air Force Academy.
Within a day of listing his Raposa Court home, Hicks had two offers in hand above the $998,000 asking price.
After an open house, Hicks agreed to a $1.25 million cash offer. Another interested buyer agreed to purchase one of Hick’s rentals for $900,000, even though Hicks didn’t list it.
In the next two months, several tenant friends will fill up moving containers with their personal possessions and several motorcycles. Hicks expects at least six tenants and another Bay Area friend to eventually make the move. He will bring his family to Colorado this summer.
Hicks and his wife plan to buy or build a large home for about half the cost of what they sold their San Jose house. He expects to buy another six homes in good neighborhoods.
Silicon Valley will be in the rear view mirror, he said. “I even bought cemetery plots,” Hicks said. “But I’m selling them.”
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