Setting Things Straight….

I’m letting this blog go back to its WordPress roots  It’s much easier to upload pics to Facebook, than to upload them to Flickr (whom I also pay), and then select each pic and copy the link and then paste it here, and then delete all the other assorted code that comes with each pic.

But there was a story that needed told, something that happened over a decade ago, that I have kept quiet about. The dust had settled over the events that transpired but a year ago I heard a comment from the spouse of one of those involved that Mark ‘had gone crazy’ and taken everything back.

Mark didn’t go crazy. Mark realized he’d been lied to and cheated and stolen from and then kicked to the curb, holding a bag that cost him a lot of time and money and pain and falling out with some close to him. Everyone else was told lies and those lies became ‘facts’ to those that heard them before they spoke with me.

Back when my children were young, and my wife and I wanted to get them into Catholic school, money was tight. Interest rates were falling and we refinanced for a lower rate and to get some money to put the kids in the school we chose. A former family member had a job as a mortgage broker, and to help him and his family, we did our refi through him.

When he saw what an excellent credit rating we had, he invited me to join him and two others in a real estate investment group they had formed. Buying houses at sheriff’s sales, fixing them up, and then renting them out was a big business back in 2000 and everyone was getting in on it. I did my research, looked at what they were doing, and got in on the action.

623W22h

Damage done by angry Boobs

While the paperwork was being put together for the LLC we were forming, I would purchase the houses in order to get a better interest rate, and have a better chance at a refi on the property to have money to fix it up. If there were a couple bucks left after the fix-up, we’d all get a few dollars to bank for ourselves, and the rent money would go towards the mortgage and a fund to cover any repairs that popped up.

We made our first purchase of a house in Cleveland, and we spent a few weekends painting, cleaning, installing a drop ceiling in one half of the duplex, and repairing whatever needed fixed. This looked very promising.

7028Morgan4Door kicked in to remove cabinets

As time went on, I purchased six more houses. I trusted my two partners on two and inspected four myself. Money was being used to paint and renovate and the houses were being rented. Or so I was told. One of the houses was going to be rented to a partner.

With all the purchases and refi’s, money was coming in and my two partners, who I’ll refer to as Big Boob Vrabe and Little Boob Reynol (you’ll see why later), were taking a bigger cut of the money because they quit their jobs to do this full-time. The job I had was not one you walked away from, as the benefits and pay were excellent. The Boobs were going to Disney, buying laptops and digital cameras, and living it up. The money I was getting was going in the bank or paying bills.

7028Morgan8Furnace stolen because house was not locked

To cut straight to the chase, a house was bought on 22nd St here in Lorain. It was in great condition, and only needed tile in the kitchen and carpeting in the living room and hallway. We had the money and got it done. Bob and Bob wanted to refi the house anyway to get more money out. I couldn’t see the need for it because the house was ready to rent now, and nothing needed done. Thus began the downfall of this entire partnership.

A little behind the scenes info to put more into perspective. A friend of theirs from said mortgage brokerage, which I’ll refer to as “Columbus Home Mortgage” (to protect the innocent and not-so-innocent), was apparently creatively submitting these applications. I’ll call him ‘Dave Not-ready”. Dave got pissed with me when I apparently asked the ‘wrong questions’ in front of the representative of the loan institution that was financing the last house we purchased. More evidence that something stinky was afoot. (Also, they had this insurance agent putting through the paperwork, listing each of these properties as my primary home, in order to get a lower rate. More BS that I learned later.)

So, due to my unwillingness to refi the property on W. 22nd, I was booted from the group. Words were exchanged, none of them pleasant, but I was expected to disperse funds from the pending refi. I was left holding seven properties with mortgages worth a little over $500,000. My intent was to sell them, because I couldn’t work and do the real estate thing. They gave me the keys, and I visited these houses to see just where I stood.

Yea, I had 6 houses that weren’t worth diddly. Cabinets had been installed in a few of the homes. These two returned and yanked them all out. Money had been paid to them for a dumpster to empty out an attic and garage at a house on Morgan in Cleveland. All the garbage was still there. Because they failed to make a duplicate of one of the keys, they beat in a brand new door at one house so they could remove more cabinets. They spray painted obscenities on the wall and ceiling at another Lorain property, but they did it in Spanish to try not to incriminate themselves. Materials from painting and cleaning were strewn over another house because they were pissed.

Other things came out after the fact. Loose lips sink ships, and all. When visiting the properties and speaking with the neighbors, I learned that these guys would pay a neighbor kid $20 to mow the lawn while they threw a football around until he was done. A lot of their ‘work afternoons’ were spent at a strip club, drinking and throwing bills at the girls. There was even a discussion of hiring some of the strippers to paint the interior of a couple of the houses, and the Boobs would sit in chairs and drink beers and watch.

I made the difficult decision to file bankruptcy and let the banks foreclose on everything. Big Boob expected me to continue to let him live in the one house (which was in Elyria), and to draw up a lease-to-own agreement. After what I was left with, I told him he had 30 days to get out. He left garbage in the house, a mattress, took part of a window so that the house was open to the elements, and broke most of the ceiling lights.

Word got back to them through a mutual acquaintance that I was going to file bankruptcy and stop paying on the houses (banks won’t foreclose until after you’ve stopped making payments) so they told all the tenants to stop paying rent. This later led me to file suit against all of them in small claims court in Cleveland for unpaid rent. This meant months of driving to Cleveland after working all night and sleeping in the court house until court convened in the morning.

Still trying to find a way to deal with their anger over the end of the gravy train, and trying to cover their butts should I try to sue them, they went to Cleveland one night and set fire to the garage on Morgan that had all the garbage in it. The Fire Department came and put out the fire and then just hours later, they returned to the property and set fire to the house. How do I know? Because when I found out this happened weeks later, I went out to see for myself and to talk to the neighbors. Three neighbors all told me they saw two men running away from the property that night that fit the descriptions of my two partners, one short and round, the other tall and thin.

Guess what happens when a property that is being foreclosed upon by a bank, owned by someone who’s planning to file bankruptcy, is found to have burned due to arson? The Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms investigates. Yup! Now I get to drive out to Cleveland a few more times to meet with an agent with ALL the paperwork I have concerning housing appraisals, mortgage paperwork, insurance information, and leasing agreements. They found me completely innocent of any wrongdoing and wished me luck should I pursue charges against my former partners.

Meanwhile (yes, there was other stuff still going on), these two hold a pig roast at the Elyria property on money they got from me to try to entice other family members to invest in their venture. Well, there was already a divide between some of the family based on the lies they told and the facts they got from me and my wife. After hearing from us, they all politely declined due to shortness of extra money. (Big smile!)

Not getting any takers on the investment side of it, they decided to try their hands at remodeling and home repair. They talked another family member into taking a loan out against her house and they would replace the gutters and make other repairs. Well, Little Boob ended up putting his foot through the roof and damaging the ceiling in the back room of this house. And when they replaced the gutters, they hung the gutters with an INCH-AND-A-HALF of space between the edge of the house and the back of the gutter!! “It’s supposed to be like that!” they claimed. Imagine the additional BS I’d have had to deal with had they actually WORKED on some of my houses!!

So, on top of taking non-paying renters to court and dealing with mortgage companies telling me I should beg family members for money so my house doesn’t go to foreclosure (LMAO-Dude, I ain’t livin’ in that house!), the Boobs then got the residents to break stuff in the houses and outside the houses so that Cleveland Housing Inspectors would cite the houses and I’d have to repair them. Driving 45 minutes to East Cleveland to fix the interior of a toilet tank, a part that NEVER breaks, is a pain in the backside. But they were being boobs and I just looked forward to the day that all this would be over.

One of the houses had a porch, and nice wooden spindles along the railing. These were kicked out and thrown around the yard. I was contacted by a housing inspector who told me I had 30 days to repair the spindles. I explained that the house was in foreclosure proceedings, I was filing bankruptcy, and I didn’t have any money to fix that. She told me she understood and asked that I keep her informed on the progress of the foreclosures.

Got another notice 40 days later, telling me I needed to replace the spindles and paint the porch on the property. Another call to the inspector, who ‘sounded’ concerned, told me not to worry about it, and to continue to keep her posted. Thanks!

Received a summons to appear in court for inaction concerning the repairs of the porch and the paint. I told Judge Pianka what my situation was and about the conversations I’d had with the inspector. She denied EVER telling me not to worry about it and said she had told me to try to do whatever I could to fix them up. Guess who Pianka believed? Now I had 30 days to make those repairs or end up in jail, plus I would pay about $500 in fines and court costs. At this point, as far as I’m concerned, ‘everybody lies’.

I got a notice in the mail that there was a warrant out for my arrest for failure to appear at a court hearing. Seems the Boobs told a resident that if he made any repairs or painted the house, they would deduct the cost of the materials from his rent. After he made the repairs, they lied to the renter and said I changed my mind and refused the deduction. So the renter called a housing inspector to the house to complain about a railing and a notice to appear in court was issued. However, the Boobs told them to list my mailing address as the one at which the renters were living and I never received the summons. So, someone mailed it to my home. I called the Court, and was told I could come in and pay the fine, but to be careful driving, because if I was pulled over for anything, they’d see the outstanding warrant and I’d be arrested on the spot.

Needless to say, I pretty much held my breath all the way into Cleveland, doing EXACTLY the speed limit. I almost ran up the steps to the court’s office to pay the fine. Once that was done, I almost broke down. I’ve about decided that there is no end to all this BS.

I think I mentioned earlier that there was a refi in the process when the ‘business’ was dissolved. I kept every penny, and disbursed none of it to the two knuckleheads. Now, mind you, I could’ve buried that money, about $9,000, in a hole and filed bankruptcy and dug it up later. However, in my mind, it wasn’t my money and I wasn’t going to be a cheat. So I used it to pay the mortgages on all those properties until it was gone. The last payment was made in November of 2002. My bankruptcy was filed in the spring of ’03 and discharged in June, I believe. It was done. The properties were forfeited back to the mortgage companies, the only house I had to worry about was my own, and the only building I would need to concern myself with was with rebuilding my credit.

What about the Boobs, you ask? Little Boob got divorced. He ended up refinancing his own house to live on that money, and then trying to flip it to someone to get more money out of it and instead, got none of that money back and stuck with an even larger mortgage. At the end, he had sold almost the entire interior of the house on eBay before he lost it.

Big Boob just recently bought a lot in Amherst, apparently with the hopes of building on it. He’s been sponging off his wife’s family for the last 14 years. Big Boob’s wife was heard to say, when she found out that her husband was doing something a little sly and in the ‘grey area’, ‘I don’t care as long as there’s money coming in.’ Interesting.

Me? I still have my home of 22 years, celebrating 21 years at the job that I kept. I keep to myself and prefer to do things alone or with my wife and children. I haven’t gone crazy in the least bit, as you can see.

There is a lot of unpaid court settlements from renters that had judgement rendered in my favor. So, if there are any collections lawyers that would care to take this up, I’m sure there’s a few bucks in all of that for both of us.

Bessemer15“Wonderful” house in Cleveland

7028Morgan9Attic that was never cleaned of the house that was burned

West101gHow the Boobs cleaned up after a job

7028Morgan6Cabinets they damaged because they were angry

FISI: Mom’s House

In a past life, I did a series called “FISI” aka “Fame It – Shame It.” I featured houses that folks needed to fix up, and houses that were very fixed up. The City needed to do something about the rundown houses, before they got worse, and I felt the need to recognize those that went the extra mile on their homes.

For a number of reasons, FISI is not a priority anymore. One day, I’ll relate why I started FISI in the first place.

So, I get a call from my “source” about this house that needs some attention, and this is where it’s located. Just from the intersection, I already know which house it is.

I call this property “Mom’s House” because it’s been a favorite of my Mom’s for a long time. If ever there was a dream house, and we all have them, I think this would definitely be Mom’s.

So, enough said. And sorry about the ladders.

And kudos to Londo Painting for a job VERY well done!

FISI – Westgate Plaza – Shame, Shame

How many of us drive through the intersection of W. 21st and Leavitt Rd countless times during the week, and we just accept the site (sight) that occupies the northwest corner of the area? You could’ve counted me among that group, until about a month ago.

 

While you can’t tell much from the panorama above, when you get right up close and personal, you’ll see just how far gone the former strip mall really is.

This is pretty indicative of the entire plaza. Boarded up and filthy windows, rust, trash.

This is the first storefront I walked up to, but first, I had to cross this welcome mat.

Built in 1957, Westgate Plaza used to host a grocery store, coin laundry, and other assorted retail establishments. Over the years, one by one, the stores closed, and the building slowly deteriorated. 

Searching for “Westgate Plaza”, I found the site listed “For Rent” here, with the minimum divisible storefront being 634 square feet. The rental rate is $8 per square foot per year. Last verified on July 16th, the listing states the following:

 

Join us as we create a new Westgate Plaza on Lorain, Ohio’s west side.

Located at the intersection of SR 611 and SR 58, this crossroads connects Lorain with Amherst, Port Clinton and other lakefront communities

G West LLC and/or Georg Abakumov, the owner and mail contact, respectively, should probably concentrate on rehabbing or “creating” the new Westgate Plaza before they try to rent it out. Let me show you why:

This is a good representation of the stores in the plaza. Not a single one is ‘move-in ready’, which is what a storefront should be if you’re trying to rent it out. Purchased in August of 1999 for $225,000, the ‘anchor’ tenant advertised is Family Dollar. The only other tenant is….you have to see it to believe it and truly appreciate it:

The reason I don’t see anything happening here is because it’ll be 10 years in just a few weeks that G West has owned this property, and Family Dollar is the biggest move they’ve made to populate the plaza, AND because they are over $20,000 behind on the property taxes.

Does anyone really think they’ve got money to get this place fixed up “to create a new Westgate Plaza”? Yea, me either.  Maybe the City could send someone down there to check it out.

Mayor Tony K’s Adding to His List

In April, I discussed an article that detailed local cities getting money from the Neighborhood Stabilization Program, set up by the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development. The City of Lorain received over $3 million from the Program, and the last line of that post asked “So, Mr. Mayor, what is the plan for this money?”

Today, I find the Mayor’s knock-down list has grown by another 18 houses. As I scanned the addresses, some of them looked familiar. And there was a reason, too. Because they’ve been featured in past FISI’s.

311 W. 14th Street,

and 217 W. 15th Street, were featured in the same FISI here.

 

520 W. 18th Street was the lead photo for this FISI, and the MJ lead with this property on their front page.

Finally, FINALLY, this one at 216 Lake Place is being taken care of. I’ve written about this, and Loraine wrote about it, too.

The City’s Building, Health and Engineering Dept’s will need to do inspections of the homes to determine if they meet the established criteria of a public nuisance. This could take anywhere from 2 to 6 months. The Prosecutor’s office will then need the Court to declare the houses nuisances, and the Board of Health will need to determine who will foot the bill.

This is a looooooong time coming, but it’s getting done. Much more is getting done than under the previous administration. I’m not too thrilled about the timeframe for this happening. There has to be a way to speed up the process. How about a dedicated Housing Court?

Catching Up on the Headlines….

I’m looking at pieces-parts of the MJ and Chronicle from the last 2 weeks. Torn apart by a multitude of emotions. I want to jump and holler “Hell Yea!” I want to throw my hands in the air and scream “What the devil took you so long?!” And then I want to ask two questions: “The police are going to do it? Why not the Building Department?” and “What is the City doing with the $3+ million??” Sorry, that’s three.

Let’s start with Saturday’s Chronicle. The headline read “Lorain to businesses: Clean up or pay up”

City administrators will be asking downtown business owners to spruce up their properties-or else-in anticipation of the summer season and are offering financial assistance for those who may need it.

Those that ignore the request could find themselves cited by city inspectors.

April of 2008, I wrote this, wondering why our downtown looked like it did, when Vermilion, Norwalk, Amherst and Elyria’s looked like they did. In a nutshell? Someone on Amherst’s Design Review Board once told me: The business owners here really care.

It shows. There. And here.

So the City wants downtown cleaned up and spruced up for the coming summer season, which will include the ferry service to the Lake Erie Islands, the International Festival, Port Fest, the Perch and Walleye Festival and 4th of July festivities; all of which will draw crowds to Lorain.

Duh. Did someone just realize this?

Three days after I wrote that, I had a source of money for helping these owners. The article goes on to say:

The Business Development Loan Fund, the Title IX Loan Fund, the Commercial Facade Loan Program are programs available to help property owners who want to beautify their properties but may not have the cash on hand…

As Mike Kennedy of Kennedy’s Billiards said:

There’s no reason people can’t throw a coat of paint on their buildings.

So, there’s my first two exclamations.

In Friday’s MJ, the sub-headline reads:

Police emphasize citing derelict property owners

The plan is to reduce crime, specifically drug-related crime, by citing owners of derelict properties that pose a hazard to the city. I’m not going to mention FISI, but they are a little behind the times. Wasn’t it just a few years ago, a teen girl was raped in an abandoned house? Shouldn’t action have been taken earlier than this?

AND the police are going to issue the citations. The citations may be limited to littering/depositing of garbage, owner’s responsibility and dangerous building. They would be misdemeanor charges, but it is a start.

There’s my two questions.

Now, let’s talk about some money.

Flashing back to April 1st, The Chronicle ran a story about how Elyria is going to buy houses to demolish them. They are going to be able to buy 10 homes for $132,000, money that they got from the Neighborhood Stabilization Program. Eight of these homes will be razed, and two will be rehabbed and sold to moderate income families. Elyria hopes to buy 30 – 40 homes in the next few months, and homes that need more than $30,000 in repair work will be demolished. Deals were negotiated with several financial institutions, allowing the city to buy one home for as low as $5,000.

The program, set up by the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development, has an accelerated timetable, meaning the funds will be used in the next few months. The grant is designed to help local governments acquire and redevelop foreclosed properties. Elyria got $2.4 million in grants,

Lorain got over $3 million from this program.

So, Mr. Mayor, what is the plan for this money?  

FISI – From Shame to Fame

There has been exactly one property that I’ve gone back and “famed” after “shaming” it. There is another whose progress I am following as it is being rehabbed.

The property at 1401 W. 19th St. is one that I figured would be a pile of wood before it would be a ‘fame.’ Boy, was I wrong. I covered it once at WoM, and twice more here and here, I noticed in December that the siding had been removed. Heading back home from the library on Wednesday, I turned off of Oberlin Avenue to see what was going on with it.

Check it out!

From this:

to this:

to THIS:

Formerly a ‘Forfeit to the State of Ohio’, the Auditor’s site now lists JPS Property Management as the owner at this address. Ownership was transferred to JPS 2 days after I posted the last article.

A huge round of applause to JPS for tackling this project, and improving what was previously an eyesore and securing what once was a danger to the neighborhood.

FISI – Could History be History?

Last year, in a conversation with ‘That Woman’ Loraine Ritchey, she mentioned to me that the ‘House on the Hill’ was going to be rehabbed. Since she’s had to look at it for the past 30+ years, and it’s been a painful sight at that, she was thrilled that there was a plan to restore the house. I offered, when next she spoke to the owner, to chronicle the restoration project, as I thought the revitalization of the house would be interesting. 

It wasn’t a long time after that when Loraine told me the task was more extensive than the owner realized, and he was abandoning the project. The question now is: What happens now? Is there someone out there that would be willing to restore a piece of Lorain’s history? Is there help that is available, financial or otherwise, that can be tapped to bring back a link to the City’s past? Or is this piece of history, history?

The inside upstairs shows considerable damage to the ceiling.

The window frames show significant aging and damage from the elements, while the roof looks to be in good condition.

So, where do we go from here?