Bill Nemec had known Jerry Hillbrand is entire life. Jerry and Bill’s father met during the Korean War, and Bill knew him as Uncle Jerry.
They kept in touch over the years and their paths sometimes crossed in their professions. Bill was a police officer and Jerry a medical examiner. They also lived near each other in Allied Gardens.
After Bill retired, he would often stop and chat when he saw Jerry outside.
“I was never invited inside the house. We always hung out in the garage,” Bill said. Jerry’s wife, Katrina, was a very private person, he added.
“They bought the house in the mid-’60s. My grandfather was the real estate agent,” Bill continued. “I remember going over there and seeing the inside. It was probably in 1965. That was the last time I set foot in the house.”
Last year, the two Hillbrands, both in their 80s, fell ill and died within months of each other. Katrina died in March, while Jerry was in the hospital recuperating from a fall. Jerry, who needed to move into a convalescent home, died in November.
It was during that time, that Bill realized the Hillbrands’ home was a mess. He had gone over there to look for some documents. “I was going to get the place cleaned up for him so he could come home,” Bill said.
Instead the Nemecs found out they had inherited an 80 percent share of the three-bedroom, two-bathroom 1,550-square-foot home. The other 20 percent went to a neighbor who had also helped the couple, who had no children.
“It was just really rough loosing them both in the same year. Jerry was just a great guy and Katrina was a neat lady,” Bill said. “Emotionally, it was just too much at once.”
A closer inspection of the house revealed just how rundown the place was.
The popcorn ceiling was crumbling, the curtains were disintegrating, the paint was pealing, the carpet was dirty and threadbare and one of the bathtubs was used for storage. The kitchen appliances were probably still the original ones from the 1960s. Many weren’t functioning.
“We really weren’t attached to the house, just the people in it. So we decided to sell,” Bill said. Plus he needed to divide the assets with the neighbor.
They hired an estate sale company, who removed dumpsters of junk and sold what was salvageable.
“We thought about fixing it up, but it was a lot of work – beyond my capabilities and skills,” he said. The estate sale company recommended True Craft, a real estate investment firm. True Craft would buy the house “as is,” renovate it, and then put it back on the market.
Bill also hired a real estate agent and got quite a few offers, but they all had contingencies based on inspection, something he wanted to avoid.
True Craft was the only “as is” offer and it came without any sales pressure. And although some of the other offers were higher, Bill said, “my gut says I couldn’t have sold it for more.”
Seventeen days after they first met with Jeff Stordahl, who co-owns True Craft with Paul Williamson, the Nemecs had the check in the bank – without having to do any additional repairing, cleaning or clearing. A big bonus for Bill was that the house was properly renovated.
“I looked at the quality of the work and it seems to be really good,” Bill said. “If we could have put the house together for my aunt and uncle, that’s exactly how we would have done it. The house has a Mediterranean look. She would have loved that.
“If my aunt and uncle could be standing at the curb looking at the house, they would hope it goes to a nice family.”
For more information on True Craft San Diego, call (619) 436-4322.