Emend by Eclipse
Copyright© 2020 by Lazlo Zalezac
September 16, 1976
Cathy stared at the check for $6,893.33 unable to believe that she was actually holding that much money. The house had sold for $44,000 and that was her share of the sale. Sandra had a check for the same amount. Neither one could believe it. They each had another check for $163.23 which was what was left in the account which had held the money to fix up the house.
Benny said, “You’re going to get hit with capital gains, but it shouldn’t be that bad. You’ll need to shelter the rest of the money for a year or so in order to buy the one dollar house. You’ll need a dollar, back taxes, and a $5,000 escrow account to get it.”
Sandra said, “I haven’t even seen one of them yet. How do you know I’ll want one?”
“Your uncle is providing us with an introduction to the man who can show us the houses.”
“We’re going to meet your uncle for lunch. Our treat. I suggest you come with us. After lunch, he’s going to take us to meet a Mr. Fischer.”
“Is he a friend of Uncle George?”
“I suppose they know each professionally. He holds the same job as your uncle, except he works in Oklahoma City. He’s the guy who pulled the certificates of occupancy.”
Over lunch, Mr. Miller was amused by the discussion. He had seen the houses and was pretty sure that even these kids wouldn’t tackle a job like that. They were disasters. He felt the buildings should have been torn down and the properties sold to a developer. He wasn’t the only one who felt that way. Mr. Fischer was of the same opinion.
“Have you seen these houses?”
“Only from the outside,” Benny answered.
Tim said, “They looked pretty bad, but I think half of them can be brought back to code pretty easily. Two of them had some pretty nice architectural features. It was really a shame that someone let them get in such bad shape.”
“We’ll probably have to have professional roofers fix the roofs. We could do it, but Tim doesn’t like heights.”
“What about you?”
“I don’t notice them.”
“Half of the value of those places is the land they are on. We really can’t lose. We spend five to ten thousand to fix them up to code, have four years rent free while going to college, and then sell them for forty to fifty thousand when we’ve graduated.”
“That’s a good plan,” Mr. Miller said. He thought for a second and then looked over at Sandra. She was smiling. It took him a second to realize what that smile meant. “You’re going to buy one of them too, aren’t you?”
“That’s the plan.”
“You’ll really do it, won’t you?”
“Actually, I’m surprised that the parents of college age kids aren’t all over this deal. They buy it, fix it up, their kid goes to college for four years, and then they sell it. Four years of college housing, instantly paid for.”
“My daughter may be joining you there.”
“I know the shit house sold today. How much did you get for it?”
“That’s a good price.”
“We’re glad to get rid of it.”
Benny said, “Let’s get the bill and pay.”
It took a few minutes to get the attention of the waitress and then a few more minutes for her to show up with the bill. Benny paid it while Tim and Mr. Miller talked about some issues of code. Sandra and Cathy were waiting patiently. Their curiosity was at an all time high. They wondered how bad it could be. They were pretty sure nothing could be as bad as the shit house, although Sandra’s uncle had initially reacted pretty negatively about purchasing one. Mr. Miller went on ahead of them in his car. They had to clear some people from around their car before they could leave.
It was a short drive to where they needed to go. They got out of the car and went over to where Mr. Miller was talking to a short guy who was as big around as he was tall. He had male pattern baldness with long hair that stuck out to the sides. He wore suspenders. He looked like some kind of mad professor.
The expressions on Cathy’s and Sandra’s faces when they pulled up to the curb were priceless. It was like they had just seen a twenty car pileup. They gazed at the houses with wide eyes, unable to believe what they were seeing.
Dismayed, Sandra asked, “Is that it?”
“It’s nothing but a pile of splinters.”
That was actually a pretty accurate description of the places, although Benny had described the houses as the output of a toothpick factory. It looked bad, but that wasn’t important. They were planning on removing all of that exterior wood and replacing it with wood sheathing.
“It hasn’t been painted in thirty years.”
“Any chance it was lead paint?”
“Nope. We checked.”
“Good. I don’t think I could take dealing with lead paint again. That was miserable.”
They walked over to the two men with Tim and Benny in the lead. The girls were following behind them looking at the houses in dismay. They couldn’t believe Tim or Benny would recommend they move into one of them.
“Every one, this is Mr. Leo Fischer.”
Mr. Fischer barely nodded his head. He was so involved in looking at their car that he barely noticed them. It wasn’t often that you saw someone driving a 1935 Phaeton except when there was an antique car show. This was very nice looking car, although it wasn’t finished yet.
“What kind of car is that?”
“It’s a 1935 Chevrolet Standard Phaeton.”
“We’re restoring it. We just got it running, titled, and through an inspection. There’s still a lot of work to do on it, but all of it is cosmetic. We’re driving it today because it’s the only car we have that all four of us can fit in comfortably.”
“That’s going to look great when you finish it.”
“Thanks.” Tim extended a hand while saying, “I’m Tim Blake. This is Cathy Peterson and Sandra Miller. The awkward guy over there is Benny Baker.”
“Sandra Miller? Are you any relation to George, here?”
“She’s my niece.”
“And you’re letting her near these houses?”
“I’m afraid so.”
“I guess we should get to business,” he said while pulling out some small envelopes with keys.
Tim said, “It’s really nice of you to take so much time out of your day to let us see these houses. We’ve really been wanting to look them over.”
“It’s my job to get rid of these houses,” Mr. Fischer said. He looked over at Mr. Miller wondering why he would bother to bring these kids over here to look at the houses. He really doubted they would be able to satisfy the terms of the sale. Odds were good they’d get through the first few steps, but never fix up the house. It was a lot of work for someone their age.
“Which one would you like to see first?”
“The large two story one over there.”
“That one is in horrible shape. It’s the worst one we have.”
“I know,” Benny said.
“When we did our informal inspection three weeks ago we were rather dismayed by its condition. Still, we think it might be salvageable. If so, it could end up being the most valuable one here once it is restored.”
While Mr. Fischer unlocked the front door, Tim was looking at the exterior of the front of the house. There were holes there. It was hard to tell what had created the holes. They could have been caused by someone kicking the wall.
“Are there any codes concerning house wrap or vapor barriers?”
“No. Generally they are a good idea, but we don’t have any specific requirements.”
“Wood panel siding is okay?”
Mr. Fischer was actually impressed by the questions they asked. He noticed that Sandra was taking notes. His eyebrows rose. It looked like they were really serious about this.
“The porch flooring is spongy. Would that need to be fixed to get the certificate of occupancy?”
“The porch roof is in sad shape. I imagine that has be fixed.”
“Yes. That’s actually a hazard. It’s near collapse. In fact, we had it taped off, but the tape blew away. These places have been sitting here for a long time.”
“Sandra, porch to be redone before move in.”
Tim said, “Front door needs to be replaced. We might as well add a door bell while we’re at it. Definitely needs a front porch light.”
Tim pulled out a tape measure. He called out measurements while measuring the windows and Sandra recorded them. Mr. Fischer watched them work. They were efficient and thorough. They didn’t miss anything. At this rate, they’d be there all day.
He went into the house and found Benny looking in an electric outlet. “Assume total rewiring necessary, from point of service to outlets. We’ll have to get a generator, or see if the electric company will let us have a temporary service without connecting to the house.”
Cathy said, “Noted.”
“The electric company will put in a drop for a temporary power outlet, but the installation of the drop box will need to be done by a licensed electrician and inspected. I’d recommend a seventy amp temporary power box, with GFCI, and fifty amps of outlet feed. However, anything sold in a local hardware store would meet code.”
“Good to know,” Benny said. “Does the code cover the number and spacing of outlets?”
“Yes. We deviate a little from the national code on that.”
“We’ll need to visit the library for a copy of that section of the code.”
“Got it,” Sandra said.
Mr. Fischer went back outside where Mr. Miller was waiting. He asked, “What’s the story with those four? They seem to know what they’re doing.”
“They just sold the shit house.”
The nickname they had given for the house they had just sold, had spread throughout the community. It was just so appropriate that the name stuck. Any one and everyone in the business knew the name and its origins.
“That place? I heard that was a real bio-hazard. How much did they get for it?”
“They must have done a really good job.”
“They did. They didn’t cut corners by using cheap materials. They didn’t waste money by going high end either. They basically used materials I would have used in my own house.”
“Interesting. Do you think they’ll actually buy one?”
“I think they’ll buy four. They have a good argument as to why it is a good investment. It’s so good I’m thinking about letting my daughter get one and fixing it up for her.”
“Really? I figured this whole dollar house idea was a waste of time. With the constraints on ownership, it would be damned near impossible to get financing.”
“From what I understand, they’ve got the money to do it.”
“They’re awful young to have that kind of money. Are they dealing drugs?”
“No. They work their asses off. They’ve made a fortune painting numbers on the curbs in front houses. Believe it or not, those two came to me to ask about relevant codes concerning visibility of house numbers from the street. Then they had me check if their work satisfied our code. They’ve painted numbers on half of the houses in three towns, now.”
“They’re the ones doing that. You didn’t mention that earlier. I’ve been wanting to talk to them about coming here. We’ve got some new developments where I’d like that done.”
“Talk to them. They’ll do it. They’ll jump on it faster than a duck on a June bug.
“My brother tells me that Sandra is making almost a quarter of what he makes, and that’s working one day a week and only when the weather is nice. She’s invested that money in other projects that have doubled and tripled it.”
“Particularly for a high school student.”
“She’s still in high school?”
“All four of them are in high school.”
“Shouldn’t they be in school today?”
“They made arrangements to miss a day for the closing. I checked.”
“It looks like they’ve finished their inspection of the house. Let’s see which houses they want to look at next.”
The two men went over to where the four were gathered. Tim and Benny were discussing the results of their inspection.
“I figure it will take about $10,000 to fix it right.”
“That’s a lot.”
“It’s a two story three bedroom house with some nice architectural features. It’s in a good location. It’ll be okay.”
“Let’s mark this one as a yes.”
Tim looked over at Mr. Fischer and asked, “You said this was the worst one, right?”
“How much interest is there in these houses?”
“You’re the first ones to actually inspect a house. Everyone else has taken one look at them and walked off.”
“Do you think this program will still be going on next summer?”
“I’ll buy this one now. We’re looking at three others next June or July.”
“Why delay a year on the other three?”
Tim answered, “We’re juniors in high school. We won’t be moving away from home until after we graduate from high school.”
“I’m the only senior,” said Benny.
“I thought all of you were seniors.”
“Nope. Just me.”
“Why don’t you do a walk through on the others, just to get a feel for what’s involved.”
“Okay. By the way, do you know any licensed electricians who are about to retire?”
“We figure a guy who is just retiring wouldn’t mind picking up a few extra bucks supervising us doing the labor.”