Caveat Emptor: Nightmare in Waveland. Good Karma for Sop

A couple trying to reclaim waterfront property devastated by Hurricane Katrina spent $206,500 for a home that is uninhabitable. To make matters worse, they have been evicted from the Mississippi cottage that sat behind the house. They had planned to be in the cottage until their home was rebuilt, but they ran out of time to finish.

Partners Robert “Bobby” Guercio Sr. and Carla Sue “Susie” Prescott also have exhausted their recovery funds. Both say they suffer from medical problems exacerbated by stress. Their home is a shell without drywall or interior finish work. A building consultant who inspected the house has found defects and code issues that he estimates will cost $144,265 to correct.

“We are so much worse off now than we were before Katrina,” Prescott said. “We were lost. We didn’t have a thing left, but we had hope. It’s like, now, there is no hope.”

Anita Lee has been writing a series of stories lately detailing the holes in Mississippi’s semi existent way of regulating home builders. I could name the states that do well and the ones that stink in the regulatory department (Mississippi allows unlicensed builders for instance) and being a construction CPA I was naturally attracted to the topic. I won’t go into all the Karma that culminated in this post beyond saying I met the couple that are experiencing the unlicensed builder nightmare today by pure chance. My advice to consumers is to be attracted to financial strength and longevity in the local market. And if after researching construction costs you get a price that is too good to be true it is only because it is just that. Other than that my only other advice is to never pay ahead of the work no matter what the sob story you are told. Established professional builders have the resources to buy materials on credit and float payroll for a few weeks so that substantial amounts of work are completed between draws.

Bobby and Susie didn’t do that of course and now they pay a terrible price. Susie still exudes an aura of hope, at least in the public setting that we met today. Bobby mostly rolled his eyes and shook his head at their predicament. The slabbed know people like Bobby and Susie as ‘tweeners, not poor enough to get the freebies but not wealthy enough to afford flood mitigated to code construction required by the post Katrina world as we continue:

Like so many others, Guercio and Prescott hired a builder who lacked the contractor’s license he needed to oversee construction of a home. He was able to build the house because Mississippi law allows property owners to apply for and receive their own building permits.

A residential builder needs a contractor’s license to construct any home valued at more than $50,000. Waveland Building Official Brent Anderson said homeowners often are convinced they can save money by pulling their own permits. Anderson said he sees too many homeowners pay dearly instead.

“That’s the worst thing a homeowner can do,” Anderson said. Continue reading “Caveat Emptor: Nightmare in Waveland. Good Karma for Sop”