Home to sprout from grow house
PORT RICHEY - A federally funded program to buy and resell foreclosed homes is helping to convert a one-time marijuana grow house back into a single-family home. "Our goal is to have someone in here by Christmas," said Gregg Schwartz, president of Tampa Bay Community Development Corp. "We want to get them in the house before the end of the year so they can qualify for the homestead exemption." Pasco received $19.5 million in the first round of grants from the Neighborhood Stabilization Act. The county expects to find out this month whether it won another $29 million grant from the program. The development group is working with Pasco County to renovate and sell the house at the corner of Fox Hollow Drive and Lake Chrise Lane. When narcotics officers raided it in February 2008 they seized 53 plants worth about $1,000 each.From the outside, the house blended in with the neighborhood. The inside was a different story. The owners ripped down some walls and built others, all lined with foil, to create the clandestine greenhouse in the master bedroom and family room. Schwartz envisions the winning bidder rebuilding what was there and make it better than new. The group held an open house Wednesday for contractors who are interested in bidding for the job. "This is the first time I've ever seen a house where the master bathroom has been ripped out," Michele Nichols said. She was touring the property for Gallagher Family Homes, which hopes to land the contract that could exceed $40,000. Joseph Matissek, president of SC Signature Construction, has renovated dozens of foreclosed properties. "This isn't the worst I've seen," he said. "Let me put it this way - you can breathe inside. Some of the ones I've been in were totally trashed." The work list is extensive: new windows, electrical, roofing and flooring. The kitchen and bathrooms will be completely remodeled. Missing walls and closets have to be rebuilt. Every surface will be painted, inside and out. Competition is steep, too. Brooksville homebuilder Bruce Sarik said he has bid on 20 NSA projects and only won one bid. "A few years ago, we'd be lucky to get two contractors at an open house," Schwartz said. Now anywhere from 10 to 20 contractors will bid on a project. "That's because we don't have any other work," contractor Bill Grosshanten said. When the work is done, someone will be able to buy a two-bedroom, two-bath lakefront home with a pool for about $120,000.
Reporter Laura Kinsler can be reached at (813) 259-8109.