Note From the Editor: While a bit long, this story is one you’ve got to read. Wow!
A Home With Serious Promise
In July of 2001, I got a call from a homeowner that got one of my flyers that I left on their door. They were very interested in speaking to me, as I try to help the homeowners stay in their house. I was with my cousin Dave that day so we headed over to the house. On the way, we looked over the foreclosure report on the house and we found it was worth around $250,000 and the estimated payoff was under $150,000. With those figures, it was about a $0.60 on the dollar deal or 40% equity. It was in a very nice part of Plano (Northern suburb of Dallas) and in a subdivision that was under 10 years old. We got fairly excited.
We pulled up to the house and we both grinned while looking at the landscape and the exterior. It was in great shape! It was clear that someone had taken a lot of time to maintain the exterior like they had. The problem was, just because a house looks good on the outside does not mean it will look good on the inside. We rang the doorbell and the husband answered the door.
He was in his early 40’s and wasn’t exactly dressed to impress. Big baggy shorts, “muscle” tank top t-shirt and bare feet. When we stepped inside the house, it was just like one of those cartoons where someone is walking and it is bright and sunny and when they cross a street it suddenly becomes dark, cloudy and starts to rain and storm. It was awful inside! No…Worse than awful.
Just Because it Looks Good From the Outside . . .
All the windows had been covered with bed sheets and it was fairly dimly lit everywhere. There was trash literally piled up all around the main part of the house. We looked down at the carpet and we saw stains all over it. In fact, we couldn’t walk anywhere without a stain within a few inches from another.
The owner just acted like this was very normal and said things like, “Oh that. Yeah, the kids haven’t mastered drinking out of a cup just yet.” When I saw yellowish stains, I didn’t ask him if the dogs had mastered going to the bathroom outside.
As the owner walked around the main part of the house, we noticed he was sweating to no end. He kept pulling a towel from his pocket and wiped his forehead. Dave and I were wearing typical summer clothes and we had just been outside but, neither of us felt hot at all. Why would we? The house we were in was FREEZING. The thermostat was set at 60 degrees yet, the owner was sweating profusely. I looked over at my cousin and he flung his finger across the bottom of his nose and looked ahead at the owner. (I was pretty naïve then but later Dave told me he was probably on cocaine or some sort of speed)
We asked to see the master bedroom and he walked towards the bedroom. The door to the bedroom was not like a typical bedroom door. No, this door was a commercial grade security door. The top half had glass with the security wire running across the glass. The owner pulled out a big key ring that was attached to a retractable belt clip. He unlocked the door knob lock, the top dead bolt and the bottom dead bolt! Keep in mind now that this was a MASTER BEDROOM he was unlocking. I got a real sarcastic look on my face and asked, “So, who are you trying to keep out exactly?” His reply was, “Oh, the kids are always messing around and I don’t need them goofing off in here.” I asked, “Where are the kids?” He pointed behind me. We turned around, looked down to see two small kids behind us. When I say they were small, it’s because they appeared to be about 4 and 6 years old! I turned back to the owner and said, “Oh yeah. They sure look like they could unleash some hurt onto any room.”
Walking into the bedroom, we stopped dead in our tracks and stood with our mouths hung open. The room was gone! Well not missing really but the owners had gutted it along with the bathroom suite and the walk in closet. The carpet was gone and only concrete remained. All the drywall had been pulled from the ceiling and walls, to the point that you could see all the framing and the exterior brick. The toilet, bath tub, shower, sinks and cabinets had been removed. You could see a few water lines that had been capped off and the toilet flange was uncovered on the floor.
Dave asked what exactly he was doing to the room and the owner told us he took everything out because…He was operating an actual simulcast radio show from the house and all the things in the room had the potential to create interference. He was standing in front of a massive DJ station that was at least six feet wide, 5 feet long and 4-5 feet tall. He acted as casual as he could while we were still in shock. I said, “You actually run a radio show out of here?” He said he does a radio show that is picked up by over 100 stations across the USA & Canada.
I will never forget right then when he told us to hang on and turned around. He turned the volume up and we heard Lynrd Skynrd playing Sweet Home Alabama. The song ended and he puts on his headphones and leans over to turn on the microphone. He flipped switch and the “On Air” light comes on that was hanging on the wall. He started talking and said “All right! That was Lynrd Skynrd there, singing Sweet Home Alabama. Coming up next, we have AC/DC in line and stay tuned after that as Deep Purple will be in line after that.”
He flipped the switch, took the headphones off and turned back to us and said, “Ok, sorry about that. Where were we?” Dave replied, “Umm c-c-can you maybe j-just show us the rest of the house?” He nodded and we walked out of the radio room and across the living room to where there was a big curtain hanging from the wall.
He pulled it to the side and we saw the entrance to another room. The door that used to be there was gone and the hole was widened. There used to be a three car garage there but he had converted it into a fully operational…MOVIE Theater! And I am not talking about an elaborate home theater system. No, this was an actual movie theater! It was done pretty nicely too. The walls had been covered to resemble a theater, box speakers mounted on the walls, rope lights outlined the walkways, and he had installed (bolted down) over fifty movie theater-style seats!
In the back of the room, there was a 35mm projector behind a glass barrier, which projected the image onto a full size screen that had to have been at least 25 feet long and 15 feet high.
I remember saying to Dave that it would be pretty cool to have a movie theater in your house. He laughed at me and said, “You’re an idiot! Yeah it sounds cool to say you have your own theater but, who is going to want one in their house? Blockbuster Video doesn’t exactly rent out 35mm movies!”
Along the walkway there were many framed pictures of local celebrities on the wall. We saw Chuck Norris posing with him and Leanne Rhymes in another. There were several pictures that had a rather pretty Dallas Cowboy Cheerleader in them. We asked who it was. He told us that the woman was his wife. We both perked up and asked (while looking around) if she was here.
Right then a woman walked into the room and we looked over at her, said hello and told her who we were. She said hello and introduced herself. The husband then said “This is my wife.”
Our faces went blank as we glanced at the pictures and then at her. There was no way that either of us would have ever thought that she was the person in the pictures. His wife was wearing an oversized hooded sweatshirt, shorts and no shoes. Her skin on her face was so pale and dry that she honestly resembled a dried out gray raisin. Her face was grayish with noticeable cracks. The thing that was most noticeable was her nose. Let’s just say that, if Rudolph the Red Nosed Reindeer ever got sick, this woman could have easily stepped in to replace him. Her nose was very red and she rubbed at it almost constantly. She didn’t talk like she had a cold either.
The floor in that room had obviously been where their two St. Bernard’s slept. Or at least that is where they went to the bathroom. It was really sad to see. Both Dave and I ended up stepping in dog crap three times each because the dogs had literally covered most of the walk-able floor area. I looked at the owner with a “what the hell is this?” look on my face and he waved his hands and said, “Oh that’s nothing. It cleans up fine.” Our attitudes had gone from excited to stunned, to shocked, and at that point we were pretty much disgusted by how these people lived.
We all went upstairs and two of the three bedrooms were totally empty and we looked in the third to see the wife sitting in the middle of a full size mattress, no sheets or blanket, on top of a box spring with no bed frame. Both kids were also sitting with her. They were just staring at the doorway. It was creepy because there was literally nothing else in the room. The two kids got up and came over to us in the hallway that was lit up. It was sad to look at them. They weren’t smiling at all. They just looked at us without saying anything. They were covered in dirt and the clothes they had on were covered with stains and spots of food. I don’t think they had changed clothes in two weeks and it had to have been just as long since they had had a bath.
We both looked at the owners with a “what is your problem?” look. The husband just whisked them away and told them to let the adults be.
By the time we saw the kitchen we didn’t think we could see any worse . . . We saw worse. The vaulted kitchen had gorgeous granite countertops and expensive floor tile. The cabinets were also very expensive. It’s too bad they had all but been ruined by the wife. She was behind us and explained that she was in the process of giving the room a new look. We don’t know what look exactly she was going for though. She had taken a 3” paintbrush and slapped paint all over the cabinets. The paint she used was black and when you looked at it from another angle, it changed to a black with sparkly gold tint. There was paint drippings all over the countertops as it had run down the cabinets and dripped onto the counters. Most of the 12” floor tiles had noticeable cracks in them or were missing pieces due to them being broken up.
I will never forget the voice she used when she said, “I know it’s not much to look at right now but, when it’s done, its gonna look awesome!” Her voice reminded me of Roseanne Arnold’s but with a lot more nasal sound to it.
We told the owners we will call them the next day as we had to run some figures to see if we could work anything out with them. As we were walking to the car, there were four adults walking up with maybe 4 kids behind them. All of the adults were each carrying two 24-packs of beer. That’s eight cases of beer for 6 adults to drink. We just shook our heads and got in the car.
We sat silent for a few minutes while looking at the house. Dave then said, “That is seriously messed up!” I replied, “Yeah it is. Those lucky kids probably go unnoticed by the parents for days.”
We called them the next day and told them that we wouldn’t be able to help them. Looking back on it, had I been smarter and realized what may have really been going on in that house…
I know that I should have called Child Protection Services.
The house never made it to the auction though. I later heard that the wife’s father had reinstated the loan.
As I have said many, many times in classes… This isn’t a business about houses. It’s really a business about people and the homes they live in. This is one house I wish I had never seen. Ever since then I sometimes wonder what ended up happening to the house, the owners and more importantly… Their two kids.