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"Is that a deal or what?" Juan Carlos quizzes me. "And the best part is that once you're paid off, you can use our products and services for the rest of your life."
I tell him I'll get back to him. There is a romantic flair to the phonetic pronunciations that could come in very handy if I find my soul mate on echatepaca.com.
The following day, I call Juan Carlos and take a pass on Hablando Inglés by speaking to him in perfect English. He is quite surprised how quickly I have mastered the language. That's when I tell him I've been speaking English for 31 years. "Well now I feel like a pendejo," he says, bursting out laughing.
Next, I call the number on the "Handyman Special." It leads me to a two-bedroom, one-bath, single-story residence at 1210 NW 125th St. in North Miami. The house could use a fresh coat of exterior paint to replace the drab light-pink color scheme. Tall weeds and overgrown bushes have devoured the front yard. The roof looks like it needs work. And the windows are boarded up. But for $48,500 it's a steal, Dean gushes when he answers the phone. He tells me I don't necessarily need all the cash to buy the house. "If you can come up with 40 percent and closing costs, we can get you a hard-money loan," Dean explains. "But to be honest, $5,000 to $10,000 is not going to be enough."
Dean claims to be a real estate investor residing in Albuquerque, New Mexico, but buying and selling properties in Miami-Dade. He is among dozens of land hustlers whose roadside signs troll for customers. All of them are looking to capitalize on the recession. Some act as middlemen for banks hoping to unload their housing inventory from the record rash of foreclosures in Miami-Dade.
Dean, who declines to provide his surname, boasts he earns $10,000 to $15,000 on each of his real estate transactions. He asks me if I am looking to buy the North Miami abode as an investment. "You may want to do a mentorship program with me," Dean suggests. "I can teach you. Making one deal will pay back your investment. And you can do it from anywhere in the world. All you need is a phone and a computer."
Basically, he would generate sales leads for me and give me access to his hard-money lenders to start closing deals. "You have access to my information and my connections," Dean offers. "You have access to my inventory. If I have seven, eight properties to show investors, so do you."
Essentially, Dean tries to sell recently foreclosed properties owned by banks and lenders to real estate investors looking to buy houses at drastically reduced prices. In the case of the North Miami home, it used to be owned by a man named Jean Carlo Adrasse, who took out a $210,000 mortgage to buy the property in 2007. He stopped making payments a year later. In 2009, his lender, Countrywide Home Loans Service, filed a lawsuit against Adrasse to foreclose on the residence. According to court documents, Adrasse owed $210,000 plus late charges and attorney fees.
When the house was sold at auction last September 28, Countrywide bought it back for just $20,300. Dean is now marketing the property at more than double the bank's purchase price. And that's how the real estate cycle renews itself over and over.
"This is a great time to be selling to investors," he brags. "You can make $8,000 on one deal. Do three or four a month, and you're doing pretty good. I've even made $30,000 on just one deal."
A graduate of Miami Beach High, Dean says he moved to New Mexico a few years ago when his wife landed a job with the government. He doesn't specify which agency. "I enjoy teaching people my business," he says. "I taught my uncle, who is still in Miami. He was literally broke. Now he's making close to $150,000 a year."
A six-figure salary would certainly increase my chances of finding a date on echatepaca.com, I ponder. I had set up a profile on the dating service two weeks ago and still hadn't met any women. In fact, I couldn't even get a conversation started in the chatroom. No one understood the English Juan Carlos taught me.
Dean assures me his business model would get me laid and rich at the same time.
He gives me another phone number, his private line, to call him back if I decide to take him up on his apprenticeship offer.
I meet Samuel Pichardo at a table outside the Starbucks on Biscayne Boulevard at NE 135th Street. The 23-year-old North Bay Village resident, with his oval-framed eyeglasses and skinny body, resembles an Xbox champ rather than a shrewd businessman with a plan to conquer the handyman market within the tri-county region one roadside sign at a time. "Road signs have an extremely high return call rate," Pichardo says authoritatively. "It costs me $1.50 per sign, which generates five to ten calls. The key is placing the signs in high-density places."
Pichardo is the mastermind behind the "Fix wut your husband destroyed" sign. His number leads to the handyman referral business he started more than a year ago with his 31-year-old girlfriend, Ena Devi, while they were chilling inside a Barnes & Noble bookstore. She is with Pichardo when we meet at the Starbucks. "Signs work for anything and everything," Devi attests. "I told Sam it would be nice to have one number to get ten handymen to call you back."
What a wonderful article, the best kind of human interest story. You are a great writer, and to think (grin), you are a Nica! (I joke, I stepped foot in Nicaragua, once, only about fifteen feet).Frank, thank you for the fun story. I have a sign picture to send you, it's fresh and here in the Grove, not quite like your thrust, but it shows our local color.
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I hope these fools take down some of those ugly signs. I live in Libery city and these signs are plastered all over the place. Liberty city already have issues with litter, the last thing they need is more litter. If this guy is trying to flip houses, does it not work against them to litter a place that they are trying to sell a house in. I don't mind a few signs but they are putting up hundreds of signs that are making our neighborhood look bad. CLEAN UP OR SHIP OUT!!!
Great Article. I have always thought about doing the exact same thing, maybe I should get a job at Miami New Times.
You really should do an article on how Hispanics in Miami-Dade County has made it so that nonSpanish speaking Americans and legal U.S. residents are unable to find gainful employment within the city limits. You should do an article on how inheretly racist Hispanic Americans in Miami-Dade County are and how they use and dispose of Americans and legal residents who speak only English. That is a story that would earn you a pulitzer. Tell the truth about what Miami Dade County is really like if you are not Hispanic.
Fantastic article. I was cracking up at the "biutiful" part- my girlfriend came over here when she was a kid and still pronounces it "be-a-YU-ti-ful." What was the guy's number again?
Excellent article. Goes to show how many scammers there are in South Florida. Hence the scammer capital of the world. Besides Nigeria. All we need now is to have people saying they have large sums of money overseas and need your help to take it out for a price.
Good luck with finding a woman on echatepaca.com. lol...
Excellent article! Depicts life in south florida so well..we are full of "inventors" all the time..congrats on this article. Posted to Facebook
Why do you mock a 32 year established Hialeah company that promises/offers to teach English in six months when the University of Miami promises to do a thorough course in teaching/learning Espanol in only seven days?
Maybe UM offers the formal, proper Spanish, which very few in South Florida speak or understand.
It is similar to someone from 'Ox-Bridge' trying to understand someone from the backwoods of Mississippi.
Otherwise, your article was fairly amusing.
So if you are living in Miami and you can't get a job because you don't speak Spanish, then why don't you just learn Spanish? It's not a very hard language to learn. I'm sure you could learn it if you tried.
Calm down! I have a lot of non-Hispanic friends that enjoy Miami very much....stop being such a sourpuss. 95% of Hispanics are very outgoing people, just make an effort to get to know them and stop being a racist!
We shouldn't have to learn spaninsh to get a job because Miami is not in South America. It's in the United States of America and we speak ENGLISH here. A hundred years ago my ancesors immegrated here and they learned English and so should all the people who immegrate today. We build a strong society and a strong country by having a common language. Things fall apart when people cannot communicate effectively. "Trapped In Miami" I really feel for you. My family escaped Kendall 25 years ago and it's only gotten worse since then.
We shouldn't have to. You live in an English speaking country. In fact this country was built on the English language and you should learn English and speak it. And if you don't like that then Leave.