Nowhere But Up
Jul 11, 2021 | by The Fellowship
As an American history high school teacher in California, I also invest in used real estate properties, update and renovate them, and make a tidy profit to supplement my income. Lake Charles, LA, is of special significance to me because I was born there and spent many summers there growing up, visiting my grandparents who are now deceased.
On August 27, 2020, Lake Charles was slammed by Hurricane Laura and just six weeks later, Hurricane Delta came roaring in. The destruction from back-to-back monumental storms was unbelievable! Because of my personal interest in and love for the town, I occasionally check on properties for sale.
This spring a unit of six two-story rental town-homes came on the market for a good price. I had actually viewed them in the past when they were owned for a time by a relative. Fortunately, they had not flooded during the hurricanes – but needed renovating and updating. The real estate listing showed pictures of their condition, and I decided to buy them. My plan was to drive to Lake Charles for a few weeks during my summer break from school and do my thing.
Six weeks after I purchased them, a third storm hit Lake Charles. This time it rained 15 inches in 12 hours (a once-in-a-century event) and caused unbelievable flooding where even the hurricanes had not. My six townhouses received some eight inches of water in the lower floors. I could not believe this had happened to me!
Mold began immediately. I contracted with a mold remediation company to make them livable. The tenants had to move upstairs -- where they remain until some four feet of drywall, insulation, and flooring, etc. can be replaced on the lower floors. With so many people in the city needing a place to live, no other housing is available to these tenants.
I arrived in mid-June with a reliable worker from California to find that contractors are booked ahead for innumerable months, fraud is rampant as crooks entice people to hire them for rebuilding and then skip town with the deposit money, and supplies are very limited with outrageous prices. The stress just kept building.
In order to get something accomplished, my worker and I began tearing out all the infrastructure that had to be replaced. One tenant had gone (probably left town for good as so many people had), so my worker and I stayed in the empty unit. He worked hard during the day, but I was appalled to discover that at night he went outside and smoked marijuana and drank beer. I told him in no uncertain terms that it was illegal to smoke pot in Louisiana, he was there working for me, and we could both get arrested and thrown in jail. If that happened, as a schoolteacher I would lose my job. He begged for me to give him another chance -- which I did. But when it happened a second time and then a third, I knew he was addicted. That gave me no choice but to take him to Houston and put him on a train back to California.
I was at a low point in my life when I got back to Lake Charles. Trying to cheer myself up, I ate dinner at a nice restaurant. Unbelievably, that resulted in food poisoning that kept me up all night and left me feeling weak. All I could do was cry out to God for help. When I talked to my dad, pouring out all the frustrating circumstances, my spirits were so low that I broke down.
One of the tenants has been bugging me since I arrived, like an angry wasp angrily buzzing everywhere I turn. He keeps thinking of special perks to demand, like running specified cables in the walls of his unit, flooring of his choice, etc. As I was having to endure another of his tirades, a car pulled up and a man got out and approached me. “I’m just finishing up a job down the street, noticed that you are making repairs, and wondered if you could use my skills,” he said. His specialty was dry wall. I hired him to do one townhouse, promising the other units if his work was satisfactory. I knew God had sent him when everything seemed hopeless! His work was excellent, so one major need is being met. I called my real estate broker asking for help and he was able to recommended a few people who would be able to help me with flooring, doors, trim, and other wood work, like cabinets. As I am preparing this story, roofers are hard at work in between rain showers.
I am obligated to return to California in eight days. My plan is to get the units back in reasonable shape and put them up for sale while the market is so hot. To have that done before I leave looks impossible, but with God nothing is impossible! He has a plan, and I am so thankful to place it all in His beyond-capable hands!
Weeping may endure for a night, but joy comes in the morning.