Copyright: Tessie Bradford, 2012
Hana smiled when the knock sounded at the front door. Nine o’clock on the dot. Punctuality spoke volumes to a person’s professionalism. Maybe, finally, this fifth time would be the charm. She set down her coffee cup, picked up her folder of pertinent documents and sent up a silent prayer for strength and patience.
“Good morning, Mrs. Coswald,” he greeted as she opened the door.
“Mr. Maclosky, please come in.”
He shook her hand for real, no condescending little grasp of fingertips and no sweaty palm. Okay, this is already better, she thought while motioning him into the living room.
“You said the house was a fixer-upper,” he commented, turning full circle. “But this room could be on the cover of any home magazine.”
She couldn’t help beaming from ear to ear. “My arthritic joints and still spasming back thank you. I’m really happy with the way the room turned out.”
“What did you do in here?” he asked with curiosity but none of the patronizing disbelief she’d experienced from the other contractors she’d interviewed.
“All of it. The floor alone took me almost three weeks. Apparently, the installers of the horrific yellow shag carpet that was here when I moved in worried it was going to move, so they used gallons of glue and about a million nails. The time I spent sanding and refinishing the floor felt as if I was on vacation compared to the month and a half I spent on the ceiling and walls. Steaming and scraping off the four inches of wallpaper came first, patching, painting and staining the exposed wood followed.”
“The beams were covered?”
“Yep, kind of defeats the whole purpose of them being up there, don’t you think?” Hana chuckled, gazing up at the now beautifully stained wood accenting the vaulted ceiling.
“I’m impressed, damn impressed.” He flashed a wide, slightly crooked grin.
The fluttering sensation in her tummy area, an occurrence Hana hadn’t experienced in more years than she cared to count, took her by complete surprise.
“I once had a big, muscle-bound guy quit on me after the first day of removing carpet and prepping a wood floor. It’s hard as hell work; dirty and back breaking.”
“It was definitely harder than the tutorials I watched on the internet made it out to be.” She laughed.
“You gotta tell me how you finished these jobs so quickly by yourself.”
“It sure didn’t feel as if things were moving quickly, but I stuck to a schedule; four hours a day Monday through Friday, two on Saturday, and absolutely none on Sunday.”
“Wow, now that’s dedication.”
“My motivations are frugality and slight obsessive tendencies, with a healthy dose of stubbornness thrown in for good measure. Mr. Maclosky, I’ve been trying to hire out my remodeling project for months. You have no idea what I’ve been subjected to along the way.”
“Oh, I think I might, but I won’t talk smack about the competition,” he said, shaking his head and rolling his eyes. “I’ve been successful in this business for over thirty years because I do quality work, on time, for a realistic price.”
“That’s what I learned during my research and why you’re here. Would you like to see my inspection reports?” She held out the bulging folder.
“Later, after we do a walk through. First, I want you to explain to me what you’re looking to have done and why, and it’s Sam.”
Hana was a firm believer in first impressions and gut feelings. She liked Sam Maclosky. “Fantastic, I’m all for dropping the formality; please call me Hana.”
“Let’s get down to it then, Hana.” He pulled a pen out of his pocket and flipped open his notebook.
She tried to ignore the fact that his words inspired thoughts as far away from home improvements as possible. Focus, woman. What the hell is wrong with you?
“Okay, well, as I told you in my email, the three big projects as I see them are the front porch, the kitchen, and the bathroom downstairs.”
“I actually checked out your porch before I knocked. The brickwork is sound, except for that bottom step. The entire railing should be replaced though, not fixed; too many of the boards are rotting. Next?”
“This way. Now, you’ll see the half-ass approach the previous owners took to renovations.” They walked into the spacious kitchen. “Who installs high-end walnut cupboards and granite countertops, brings in stainless steel appliances, but doesn’t replace the sink or update the plumbing?”
“Someone who is long on money and short on brains?” he asked with a laugh as he got down on the floor and leaned into the cupboard under the sink. “Yep, these are original pipes, but they ran a new water line to the fridge for the ice maker and door dispenser.”
Hana sucked in a giggle as she covertly checked out Sam’s ass. Despite his prone position, nothing was showing that shouldn’t be. His T-shirt remained securely tucked into his well-fitted jeans. She swallowed a couple of times before speaking.
“Also, only three of the outlets in here work, so when I want toast or coffee, I have to unplug the microwave.”
“This was an as-is sale.” It was a statement not a question. He stood and scribbled notes on his pad.
“Yes, but I did my homework. I had three independent inspections performed; electrical, plumbing and structural.” She again offered her papers. For some reason, it was important to her that Sam understood she’d made a sound decision.
“Hana, I wasn’t being negative, just thinking out loud.” He smiled but didn’t take her folder. “I promise I’ll go over all you have in there after I see things firsthand.”
She nodded and led the way downstairs.
“Wow, I wasn’t expecting this,” he said with surprise when she flipped on the lights.
“I know, cool, isn’t it? This space is what sold the house to me.”
Hana spent the bulk of her time on the lower level. The main room was large, bright due to perfectly placed lighting, and casual in décor. Eight people could comfortably perch on barstools around the wet bar, while others lounged in front of the big screen TV. Not that she had large groups of people over with any regularity, but when her kids and grandkids were in town, they had plenty of room to spread out in. A forty-gallon aquarium was the focal point in the corner next to her home office area.
“Through here is the bathroom. The water’s shut off ‘cause the sink and shower fixtures drip and the toilet flushes on its own.”
“That’s unique,” he commented while removing the top of the tank. Hana stepped out to give Sam space to assess the bathroom. When he was finished, he leaned against the doorframe and tapped the end of his pen against his chin. “I guarantee you have water damage down to the sub-floor and behind that crappy shower enclosure. My recommendation is to gut this room and start from scratch.”
Dollar signs danced in Hana’s head. “Looking forward to hearing what that’s gonna cost,” she said with a sigh.
“It may not be as bad as you’re imagining. I need to get some measurements in here and out front, look over your inspections then work up the numbers. It’s going to take an hour at least.”
“I’ve got all day.”