John saw the trickle of water turn into a small stream. He rushed for towels and sheets – anything to soak up the encroaching rain.
Bending down, he noticed a section of discolored drywall. He gave the corner a gentle tug and a huge chunk fell away. He saw what was behind, and jumped back in shock.
John Kozlik of Minneapolis and his partner had been house hunting for ages.
The criteria were very specific – four bedrooms, three bathrooms, a fenced backyard, and ready to move in. When they saw the bright red door, matching mailbox, and grey siding, they jumped to call the sellers. It was perfect.
John marveled at the pristine condition of the newly-renovated home with brimming joy and hope.
“How much over?” he asked his partner, who wanted it just as badly. “10?” John grinned in agreement and texted that they were ready to offer 10,000 more than the asking price. If only he knew what was coming.
It didn’t take long for the sale to go through and the couple to move in.
Their foster dogs bounced with joy as they explored their new surroundings. One of them circled the living room, smelling every surface. Then, something odd happened. Every time it went to the walls and sniffed, it started sneezing.
Maybe it was the new carpet? Perhaps patches of paint hadn’t fully dried?
Either way, he took his scruffy friend to another room and blocked the area off with chairs and moving boxes. He poured a glass of wine for him and his partner to toast their new home. But then their other dog started sneezing.
“What’s going on, boy?” he asked. “It’s been a hard day for them,” John’s partner commented.
“They might be stressed. Or maybe it’s just new house smells.” They brushed off the reactions, waiting to see if it continued to the next day. Little did he know, the weather was about to reveal the true, and horrifying, reality.
It started as a light drizzle. They sipped their morning coffee and imagined how green the yard was going to get.
They enthusiastically planned where the flowerbeds would go and whether it would be red or white roses. Then the rain started to fall in torrents. John heard a trickle of water.
They ran around the house, wondering if they had left a window open. The sound grew. It was coming from the basement.
They bolted down the stairs to find water gushing from a newly exposed crack. John ran to the far wall and took a closer look. He spotted something black and slightly fuzzy.
“What the…” he muttered, pulling some of the ruined wall away.
There, against old cinder blocks, was a layer of blooming black mold. John tried to keep it together. He would just have to call a professional. One of their dogs ran down with them, sniffed the area … and sneezed. John felt his stomach drop.
He ran upstairs to the living room, praying he wasn’t going to find what he dreaded most.
He grabbed a knife from the toolbox, cut a small hole in a far corner, and shinned a light in. There it was … more black mold. He dialed the one number that could hopefully explain.
The phone rang and rang, but there was no answer. He tried again. Nothing.
After each hour he dialed, the dread built up and the heartbreaking truth set in. After a few days passed, John gave in and started tearing things apart. What he found was indescribable.
The $360,000 appraisal lowered by thousands with each base wall and floor that came to light.
Every outer wall was covered in black, there were cracks in the wood frames, and other poor construction that had been hidden. It only got worse when he went to the city hall to pull the work permits.
There were none. All the work that had been done to the house had either been illegal, poor, or fictional.
The watched in agony as their life investment dropped to a measly $120,000. A third of their home had been ripped up and the seller was nowhere to be found. They called the police, who would quickly find the scam.
It turns out the seller, Joe Werb, was one of four people who had created the company Ace of Spaces, LLC.
The team had bought the house to flip and as soon as the sale went through, they dissolved the business. But that’s not the only illegal thing he was up to.
Werb had a very long history of fraud and the couple weren’t the first victims.
Sadly, all they could do was start legal proceedings and hope the system they had trusted would make them whole again. The new plan is to learn from the mistake and try to find a new place … when they can afford it.