18 April 2022
DALLAS, N.C. — Joyce Picklesimer can never return to the home she shared with her late husband, Buddy.
On April 7, her furniture and boxes crammed with some of her belongings lay on a curb as her family cleaned out the house she had been renting in Dallas.
Picklesimer herself now lays in bed in a small room in her daughter’s Cherryville home.
The 800-square-foot house in downtown Dallas that she rented for nearly 20 years is to be sold, and she was forced to move.
“It’s just been hard to realize all of it’s just gone,” she said. “It’s like somebody cut a piece of my world off.”
Picklesimer’s daughter, Cynthia Pilkington, has tried desperately to find her mother a place of her own.
Pilkington, who works a third-shift job and has three children at home, said that Picklesimer was notified in February that she had to be out by April 3, but many apartments in the area have a waiting list of a year or more.
“Everybody has a waiting list if it’s anything Mom can afford,” Pilkington said.
Picklesimer is not alone in her predicament.
Belmont real estate agent Chip Wilson said that he gets several calls a week from people who can’t find anywhere to live.
“I probably get three to five calls every week from people in the same kind of situation. Not as desperate as hers, but they’re still in tough spots,” he said.
Housing prices, he said, are at a peak.
“I have a house in Lowell that I have under contract in the regular market. It is under contract for, I kid you not, $40,000 more than I had it appraised for three months ago,” he said.
Rent also is high. Wilson said he lives in Belmont, and “I’m looking out my window right now at a house that’s half the size of mine, and it’s owned by one of the hedge fund rental companies. And I think they’re asking $2,200 a month, and they probably will get that if they’re willing to wait long enough until they do.”
Picklesimer is disabled by lupus and other illnesses and has been bedridden for five or six years, Pilkington said. Such an abrupt transition after so many years of living in that house seems to have affected her health.
“I have never seen mama this broken,” Pilkington said. “She was crying her eyes out when we took her out of here Friday. It was so pitiful.”
Picklesimer’s landlord, Jackie Kirksey, said that he has been saddened to lose his longtime tenant, who he has known for decades, but he also is in a difficult position:
He said he had a stroke in December, he does not have health insurance, and he has been burdened with thousands of dollars in medical bills.
He fears his bills will be sent to debt collectors, and that he could lose his own home. He added that asking Picklesimer to move was a decision he did not come to easily, but he doesn’t see another way out. He feels he’s been backed into a corner.
“It’s a no-win situation for both of us, I mean, it really is,” he said. “It still hurts my heart to know that I had to ask that woman to move. … I’ve been backed into a corner in a bad way.”
Cynthia Hegler, the owner of investment firm Southern Home Group, said that the tendency to villainize landlords and real estate investors is misdirected.
“You know, the real underlying issue with this in my opinion, the reason the market’s going so crazy and the reason prices are rising so much, it’s all about supply and demand, and there’s not enough houses to go around,” she said. “And when you get to a situation where the supply is low, and the demand is high, in any sector of the economy, the people that could afford the most are going to be the people that get the product.”
The situation, she said, is multifaceted: Outdated zoning laws make it difficult to build new housing, landlords are seeing their own expenses rise, and hedge funds aren’t just buying up available property — they’re also funding other purchases.
“And then you’ve got rents increasing, so people are having trouble finding places they can afford,” she said.
Kirksey said that he cried over asking Picklesimer to leave, but he was losing money on the house. He is paying more in property taxes and insurance, and he spent thousands to replace the heating and air conditioning system in the house.
The rent on the house, for which Picklesimer received government assistance, was $540 a month, Kirksey said. Then came the stroke. With his medical debt, he said, he was faced with a devastating choice.
“I did not want to ask her to move, no. I’ve just — I’ve got to pay these bills,” he said.
Hegler said that Picklesimer in some ways is lucky — She at least has a daughter who made room for her.
“There’s a lot of people that don’t have families that help them. Even in my own business, I’ve run into situations like this before,” she said. “It’s heartbreaking, and it’s hard even as a business owner to make a decision.”
Picklesimer was able to live alone in Dallas because she has an aide who comes and helps her, but the aide, although she still comes, isn’t there all the time. Picklesimer said she is worried about burdening her daughter.
“She’s got kids and a husband,” she said. “I feel like I’m in the way, stopping them from doing stuff they want to do.”
She also simply misses Dallas. She grew up in Dallas, attended the town’s schools, and at her home in downtown, she watched her neighbors grow up, get married, and have children.
Furthermore, Buddy, who she married in January 1965 at the age of 15, died in the house, she said. The two had been married for 48 years.
“To me, he was still there,” she said. “It’s been like a bad nightmare. … It’s like it drained me. It took everything in me out of me. … I feel like I’m in somebody else’s body.”