As my son, Ulrick’s 18th birthday approached I asked him, what he would like to celebrate the up coming birthday. His reply was he wanted a mentoring class I used to teach. My response was: “The price of that class was more than I would spend on his present.” He kept insisting that that was he wanted and nothing else would do. As his mother, I eventually gave in. When the first day of his class came there were two other men who were paying large sums of money for my help. Ulrick’s class was free. The other two men had worthy goals of what was expected out of our sessions together. When I got around to asking Ulrick what his goal was, his reply was a startling “I want to buy a house in the same neighborhood where grandma lives.” I asked: “Why?” His flip response was: “He would eat lunch at grandma’s house each day that he saw work being done on a house of his choosing.”

At that time, I didn’t think much of his goal nor his motive. As the day progressed we did end up near the neighborhood that Ulrick had picked out.
Ulrick had asked for some help as he had just come of age to purchase and sell real estate. But his thing about picking a neighborhood so he could eat lunch at grandmas was odd to me. “Stop.” My son exclaimed, “there it is … that’s the house I want to buy.” Now that’s not how things typically go. It was not my system. And it was starting to bug me.

At our lunch break, his dad showed up. I saw my chance to get rid of him for the rest of the day. I sent the two of them to take a better look at that house in grandma neighborhood.

I saw a problem from the beginning. The house was vacant that’s good, and it had no sign of anyone had living there in years. That also can be good. But finding that owner, could be real tricky. When I saw Ulrick again at dinner, I asked how did it go. He replied: “As I was walking around the outside of the house a neighbor came out and asked what he was doing. Ulrick said: “I am going to buy this house, make repairs and then sell it. That neighbor quickly snapped, “There have been a lot of people trying to buy this house and none have ever been able to do so.” Ulrick with his young years said: “But I am.”

The next day I sent Ulrick downtown Houston, to the courthouse. Now he had been taught how to do this part. He had learned how to find the owner of record when he was16 years old. Once he found the name he still had to find that persons phone number or find a way to make contact. He looked in the phone book and there he found the name, address and phone number. He was so delighted.

Next he called the owner. As it turned out the owner was a real estate broker with a real estate office in town. Ulrick asked if I would go with him to negotiate and I agreed. Once we got to the Real Estate office, Mr. Crab, the owner, said he didn’t own the house any more and didn’t want to talk about it. So my son and I went out on the sidewalk to talk. I asked Ulrick if his work at the courthouse was complete. He proudly said yes he had done all the work and Mr. Crab was the owner. So back in to the office we go and talk to the owner of that house. I asked very politely about the house once more. Mr. Crab said he didn’t want to talk about it and that he had been though some bad times. To talk about it would only bring back old and bad memories.

Ulrick was very patient and so was I. After a few minutes Mr. Crab started to open up. He told us how Houston, a few years back, had hit bottom in Real Estate market. He had several rent houses he could not keep rented. He couldn’t make the payments, because he was so broke. His wife left him and took his daughters with her. Mr. Crab said as much as he hated to file bankruptcy, he was forced to do so. He had voluntarily given all his houses to a trustee in the bankruptcy hearings. They were to be sold to pay off as much of the debt as could be paid out of the proceeds.

So now, that could have been the end of the story, but Ulrick was sure Mr. Crab owned the house. Back outside, being very persistent Ulrick said, “Even though Mr. Crab went through bankruptcy I really believe he still owns that house.” I asked how that could be possible and then suggested that he check with the bankruptcy courts. This meant another trip downtown in a big city. Ulrick came home that night very excited. He said yes, he had been told the truth Mr. Crab had filled bankruptcy. He gave all his rent houses over to the trustee in the hearings. But for some reason the trustee over looked this house and never sold it.

So there was another trip back to see Mr. Crab. At this point I didn’t even think he would see Ulrick again, with having to remember all the bad things that had happened to him, but he did. But now he is claiming real loudly that “HE DIDN’T OWN THE HOUSE.” So, trying to be of some aide, Ulrick told him that he had $500.00 with him and was willing to give it to him in exchange for a quit claim deed. That deed would only be good if Mr. Crab really did own the house. It had been over seven years since Mr. Crab had filled bankruptcy. The current law allowed for Mr. Crab to maintain his ownership with no interference from creditors.

The broker didn’t want to take the money from such a young boy, but I said: “Teach the kid a lesson, take it anyway.” He took the money and we headed to the nearest notary to have the quit- claim deed signed. Persistence really did pay off. Later, Ulrick had the challenge to go back and get Mr. Crab to update the deed to a general warranty deed. Mr. Crab did so with out much ado. That house needed about $11,000 dollars in repair. Ulrick asked to borrow the money from me. I, of course said: “No.” He then asked one of the other men if he could borrow the money from one of them. And a man named Byron said yes. They talked it over, Ulrick not knowing how much interest he should pay, assured Byron that when he sold the house Byron would get $14,000. That would be what was borrowed plus $3,000. Ulrick did a lot of the work himself, and hired out some of the work.

The house needed leveling. Ulrick asked to borrow our levels and it was agreed, he could. He then hired a man to help. It takes at least two people to level a house … one inside reading the levels and one under the house with house jacks and shims. After the first day, Ulrick came home all muddy stating, the next time he needed this kind of a helper, he needed to hire a skinnier person. The man he hired was way too big to get under that house.

Once all the repairs were done, it appraised to FHA standards, at $36,000. Not too bad for some leg work and some keeping on! Another problem bites the dust.

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