In 2005, I bought a house at the Dallas County auction for a California investor friend who asked me to bid in his place. With the help of a Mentoring student, Gloria Stephens, I was given valuable information about the current owner. What type of person she was and whether or not she would willingly vacate the property if I ended up getting the house for my friend. The owner had accepted the impending foreclosure sale and had agreed to vacate the house within two weeks of the sale, in exchange for $500. The only catch was… She would not allow anyone to see the interior of the house before the auction. While that is not the norm, it does happen from time to time.
Had the numbers been tight, I probably would have passed on bidding for it unless I was able to see the interior.
The auction God’s were on my side that day as I was the winning bidder (the ONLY bidder actually) on the house and even I was stunned that I was able to get it for $0.48 cents on the dollar (or 52% equity).
I had done well and figured with the move out agreement in place, the deal appeared to be a “slam dunk.”
That’s when things turned ugly.
The previous owner would not return any of my calls. The move out date came and went with no sign of the tenant moving out.
I placed a letter on the front door as a last resort before filing the eviction.
I filed the eviction and found that the tenant didn’t bother to appear in court. The judge ruled for the eviction and I crossed my fingers that the tenant would not trash the house on her way out. The “put out” was scheduled for the coming Friday.
Thursday afternoon I got a call from the tenant. I had never spoken to her directly and was rather surprised at how polite, articulate and pleasant she was. She was overly apologetic for not returning my previous calls and claimed she had been out of town for the previous three weeks “having to bury” her brother. I have been told a lot of things by people facing eviction and family deaths were not new to me. However, she was flawless with her explanation and I hate to say it but, I bought it.
Her request was simple enough… Postpone the put out until the following Monday and in return, she promised to be out by Sunday night and leave the house in a broom swept condition.
I called my friend who owned the house to ask him what he thought and our thinking was the same. We delay the put out two days and she hands over the house in a non-trashed condition. I called the Constable and he said he would see me Monday morning.
That is when I really dropped the ball!
The tenant had been so convincing that I didn’t bother to drive by the house Sunday night to see if she had actually moved. OOPS!
To make matters worse, I didn’t bother to round up a crew of guys to move the contents of the house out to the curb while the Constable kept the peace.
As I neared the house that Monday morning, I knew that I had made a serious mistake. The tenant had the U-Haul in the front but it was obvious that nothing had been moved until that morning. The Constable shook his head at me and said, “Where the hell are your movers?” Still stunned with how badly I had handled the situation, I pleaded with the Constable to give me 30 minutes to get some movers. He told me to go home and luckily for me… He said to come back the next morning “WITH the movers.”
As I walked back to my car, I glanced at the tenant who was standing at the front door, snickering as she waved at me.
I showed up the following morning with six guys ready to empty out the house. The U-Haul was gone and it appeared the tenant took what she wanted and left a big mess behind for me to deal with.
The Constable had me wait outside while he went inside to make sure it was safe for us to go in and start moving all the garbage out to the curb.
He wasn’t in the house for more than 30 seconds before he was back out in front of the house, waving us all off. He came over to me and said he can’t allow us to go inside because the house was infested with… FLEAS!
I tried to reason with him that the fleas couldn’t be that bad. He only laughed and told me to see for myself.
I gave the guys a confident look and walked inside. I think I got about six or seven steps in before I knew the Constable was not kidding. I was being bitten by more fleas than I could fathom. I turned and ran out of that house, with my arms waving all over the place and my feet bouncing around like they would if I was barefoot, trying to run across a parking lot paved with searing hot black top. One of the neighbors who was watching me prance around, managed to hold back his laughter long enough to yell out, “The Gringo Flea Dance! You can’t buy entertainment this good!”
Within a few seconds, a stream of water from a neighbors’ garden hose hit me and about 30 seconds later, I waved my appreciation to the neighbor as the water had flushed the fleas off of me.
Also laughing was the Constable. He told me to have the house bombed before trying to empty it.
End of story, right? NOPE!
I returned later that day with boxes and boxes of flea bombs and clothing that was more appropriate. I went in to set off a flea bomb but, right before I set it off… I saw something move. I walked over to the doorway where I had seen the movement and stopped dead in my tracks. It was a cat! And the cat had friends. All tolled… There were seventeen cats! How nice of that sweet to leave behind seventeen cats. It was good that she wasn’t there at that time because she had left all of the windows and doors…closed! The temperature was easily 110+ degrees inside and she had left them in that flea ridden, sauna!
Thankfully the SPCA was able to round all of the cats up that same day. I still tell myself that all of those cats were adopted but, in reality… I doubt that was the case.
By the next day, the house had been flea bombed repeatedly and we were finally able to clear the house out.
It was still a good deal for my friend but, I have not bid on a single house since, without first seeing the interior condition.
I will end the Flea House story on a positive note… The previous owner, who had abandoned seventeen cats in the hot, flea infested house, was prosecuted for animal neglect and cruelty. It made me wish that she would have been forced to endure the same thing but, it dawned on me that she DID live in that house!