The Minnesota Ave. house was special to me, this wasn’t a project this was going to be my home. Located a few blocks from the beach in Oceanside, California I was obsessed with buying this house. I stalked it, I watched for any signs of life to secure my belief that this was in fact, a vacant house. After months of driving by and calling the owner I finally met with him and got him to agree to sell to me. We inked the deal at a diner on Pacific Coast Highway and I had my dream house. It just needed a little work….
When it came time to hire the contractor I had to select a pro. I was utilizing an investor version of the 203K rehab loan. This means my lender was loaning me the money to purchase the property plus $33,000 to rehab it. I just had to do everything by the book. Permits, qualified contractor with insurance and workman’s comp insurance a true professional.
Jeff was a good friend and roommate of my mentors and close friends in Orange County. He was young, motivated, pursuing his master’s degree and doing everything I thought was impressive on a resume for a contractor. He’d even completed projects for other investors or was currently completing them. All of this led me to ignore asking some key questions before giving him the project. This was a tough lesson I had to learn, especially that other investors he was working with didn’t speak up and let me know about their issues they had been experiencing with him.
Once we closed on the house and started demo things took a turn for the worse almost instantly, the crew was not managed and work was being done at too fast a pace for quality or inspections to be a concern. There was drywall going up with termite damaged wood in need of replacement behind it. Tile going up with the wrong thin set, pipes being capped incorrectly leaving a slow leak to be hidden behind walls that were sure to cause thousands of dollars in damage if left alone. It was a mess and I was quickly losing control of the project.
My gut told me to send everyone home, Jeff hadn’t been on site in weeks and there seemed to be no order to the build. I was too trusting and too patient because I was working with a friend. Had it been a stranger they would have been fired within the first week.
When the crew did a no show for our first rough inspection which I was certain we would fail (and did) I finally pulled the plug. From that very moment it seemed every task completed so far on the house was unraveling and had to be redone. Randomly I would hear a loud crash from the hallway and the unmistakable sound of tile smashing into a thousand pieces and bouncing across the floor.
That’s right, $1300 in tile were installed with the wrong thin set. They were dropping like flies.
Each day I would show up to more falling. It was torture and all I could do was laugh it off and take them back down. Did you know hydrochloric acid will remove old thin set so you can reuse them? Well now you know what we had to do next.
Items like this led me to explore every inch of the house to see what else I had missed from the crew speeding along without a care on my property. There was an old setup for a water heater in one closet that had since been moved to the garage. The lines had been capped but it wasn’t until I took a closer look did I realize even the smallest of plumbing tasks was beyond their ability.
There were numerous other shortcuts and signs of poor workmanship throughout the house that had to be undone. It was frustrating to have had such a bad experience but I regrouped and hired some fantastic subs to come in and finish the project. Each specialized trade had to keep an eye out for the prior work so we could address it and correct it before moving on.
The house is done now; I’m living here and enjoying my dream house by the beach. I lost a lot of sleep and sanity over this project. Dealing with a bank and a rehab loan while firing a contractor doesn’t allow for a simple cleanup but my focus stuck to what it would take to complete the job and that was all that mattered. I made a conscious effort to let go of any anger or frustration I had towards Jeff and the work performed at the house. I knew it would do me no good to hold on to that resentment and frustration. It wasn’t easy but it didn’t matter anymore. It was done, over and I had what I’d set out for over a year ago. The rest were minor details, bumps in the road and that was that.
It wasn’t until a few weeks ago when a friend sent me a text message did I know the universe had taken care of my situation for me. Apparently I wasn’t the only person severely mistreated by Jeff and his crew of hacks. One of these individuals went so far as to seek out Spike TV’s new show “Catch a Contractor” with Adam Corolla. When I saw the clips on YouTube I was stunned! I felt vindicated and that finally someone had taken the time to call this person out for their unprofessional ways and dangerous work. It was satisfying to know that in a strange way justice had been served. Without me having to do a thing.
Looking back I still cannot believe how crazy this project was, I’d taken on far worse and it had been a breeze. I’d traveled to Belize during another remodel; this was the project from hell. I’ve learned a lot about how I chose to hire a contractor, focusing more on referrals from past clients, seeing actual projects and not worrying if they drive a nice car, has a degree or what circle of investors they run with.