Dear PoPville – FHA approved contractors?

Photo by PoPville flickr user hipchickindc

“Dear PoPville,

After a very long search and several unsuccessful offers, my husband and I finally bought our first home! Hoorah! We have purchased a renovation project and will be using an FHA 203k renovation loan. We would love to get recommendations on HUD Consultants and FHA approved contractors that others may have used and had a great experience with. Thanks!”

31 Comment

  • don’t use K & C builders operated by Corey Thompson. We were stupid enough to take the lowest bidder. He started our 203k job and ended up walking off before completion. (he completed about 80 percent, and knew that he wouldn’t be able to make any profit off the additional work).

    Make sure to be strict with your payments, b/c in my experience, the contractor says he has done a much greater percentage of the work than really has occurred. In addition, some 203k consultants that approve the payments are so busy, they don’t really double check the contractors work.

    thankfully our remaining balance and 10% holdback allowed us to pretty much complete the job, but it was a struggle.

    good luck

  • I would not recommend Dan Morrison of Morrison Homes, LLC. I do think I got a good value for my money, but he was truly a nightmare to work with. Every contractor cliche in the book.

    • I second this. What an absolute nightmare working with Dan. I had to get rid of him and go with Tamir Construction. They’re much better.

      I hear Dila Construction is great to work with, as well.

  • I wouldn’t be surprised if some people posting comments about how difficult it is to find a good contractor also rail against “hideous flips”

    • Indeed. Heaven forbid that somebody just wants to move into a finished home and not deal with contractors. Even with my hideous flip, I have had small improvements made that require money and vigilance. It takes enough time and money to just properly furnish a house, let alone have major work done.

    • If you like cheap construction, all made-in-china materials, and hollow core doors, then by all means get a “hideous flip.” Some people take more pride in their homes and some of these people end up having a hard time with contractors and want to share their experiences with others so they don’t make the same mistake. Isn’t that the point of this post? Anonymous speculative haters don’t help anything at all.

  • one question — how did you close the 203k loan without having this all lined up?

  • You must have a streamline 203K loan then, because they will usually never let you close without a contractor for a full 203K loan. The fun is just beginning…but hang in there and you will be alright.

    We had a full 203K loan and it was an absolute 10-month nightmare. We ended up firing our first contractor and had to find a second halfway through the project while paying both rent & mortgage. We almost went bankrupt, but were able to get it done in time for the deadline from the bank after their one and only extension!

    One thing I would say is check EVERYTHING on your contractor before hiring. Check the court records and make sure they are not in court suing their previous “clients” every month like ours was. Check their license # /insurance and bonding with DCRA to make sure their license is current…I would also pull a “record certification”…although nowadays DCRA will hand out a home improvement contractor’s( class C license )to just about anybody who wants one and pays a little money for it…Also check out the permits they are using for whatever other project they are currently working on (or last project) and make sure they are getting them under their name. EVERY single contractor except one we had was not licensed to work in DC and paid off another contractor to get our permits unbeknownst to us until after it had happened. It seems everybody wants the DC work, but doesn’t want to pay for the license to the city to do the work. I would also go through this checklist on this site about hiring contractors as it is much more extensive and probably necessary:

    Our first contractor tried to sue us of course after we fired him and continues to sue just about everyone else he works with as we soon noticed afterwards. I would never ever hire him again. His name is:
    Joe Johnson
    and his company name is: “Final Touch Home Improvement”

    His company works about 2 days a week and demands money upfront for work that isn’t even done yet.

    Always hold payments until you are entirely satisfied and had your HUD consultant walk through the work and had his eyes on it. Always make your contractor sign off on any work he is trying to get paid for and make sure that it states legally somehow that it is the full payment and only payment for that work item that was completed. Your HUD consultant will help be witness to these transactions and agreements. Often it is your only recourse later for protecting yourself. NEVER EVER pay cash/check advances no matter what they say they need it for. It’s bullshit. They only need to be paid for the work they do and materials they need for said completed work.

    I would contact: Urban Referrals and talk to Marla (she’s really cool and very helpful in finding you a good contractor):

    I could go on for days, but hopefully this helps. Just remember YOU are the client and there is never a stupid question.

  • Finding a contractor that meets the FHA requirements is really tough. I can’t recommend the one we used, he got the job done but not very well and we’re having to go back and fix mistakes. Our HUD consultant was pretty absent the whole time. The 203K loan is a great option but it requires a lot of diligence on the part of the homeowner.

  • That’s one of the many hurdle with these loans. You have to have that all planned out at least before you put down your offer. My wife and I bought our house almost a year ago using the 203K loan and our closing was delayed a month because we had a hard time looking for a contractor with 203K loan experience. In addition, there was so much paperwork to fill out (which comes with the FHA loan), and working with Bank of America wasn’t the easiest. It got to a point where we felt like we were submitting info that we already gave them.

    As for contractors, stay away from ACS Construction Services (German Almaraz). Nice guy and does nice work, but let’s say it was a nightmare to work with him…

  • Funny-

    No recommendations, only stay away’s so far.

    I will second urban referrals. I found a good handyman on there.

  • 203K process is a joke. The banks need to revamp the 203K loan. Home Owners should be able sub-contract to professionals instead of fly by”GC’s”

  • p.s. Also I would never let your contractor use “Third Party Inspections” for your permit inspections. Often times they are buddies with the contractor who they are paying off to give them “approved” inspections/stickers so they don’t have to get a regular DCRA inspection from a random inspector who…god forbid might find something wrong with what they did = more time and money on the contractor. Sometimes they will just give them an approval without ever even inspecting it. (who knows what your contractor could have done without an proper inspection…)

  • Neil Jannsen, Jannsen Design.

    Good luck with that loan process though. I went through hell and would never wish it upon anyone.

  • If you can, pay for your drawings and permits out of pocket. Then, once DCRA finally issues your permit, apply for the 203K.
    I made the mistake of getting the 203K (full not streamlined) at closing time and then waited 16 months for DCRA to issue a permit. 16 months!
    Of course the 203K expired in the meantime and now I’m fighting with BofA to let me keep working.
    Good luck!

  • Sorry to add more bad tidings. The FHA inspectors are known to be pretty bad too – HUD doens’t pay enough to get the good people. I had a man named Sam Smargissi who didn’t inspect properly and let lots of shoddy work slide. I can’t recommend the contractor I used b/c the work was not good. Check Angie’s list?

  • also, be careful with your insurance company — mine threatened to cancel my policy during construction because the home was unoccupied. It took a lot of sweet talking for them to reinstate and give me more time to move in…

  • I also went through the 203K rehab loan process and it was beyond underwhelming and frustrating. Something you almost wish you could do twice because so many things did not go right the first time but now you know better. I was told it would take two months to finish my house it took six.
    I recommend A Plus Improvements for very small jobs, a bathroom or maybe a basement but not an entire house rehab. I have heard good things about Laura with Home Checks homechecksllc(at) Usually the bank has a list of 203k consultants mine was Hi Tech Consulting, Inc. 410-544-8216, they work in DC as well as MD.
    Good luck!

  • Don’t know about FHA – but I have nothing but good to say about Positive Space – Scott Evans. He built my basement apt. (from nothing) no problems in 5 years and I have bidding wars every time I rent it. (And he lives in Petworth)

    • I would also recommend Paul Parsons of the PTP Group. Paul is great and will definitely look out for you.

  • I also used Urban referrals and would recommend it.

  • I thought my FHA/203k renovation nightmare was unique, but unfortunately it seems to be the norm. My quick two cents:

    1. AVOID SAM SMARGESSI, HUD consultant.
    2. Become very good friends with your mortgage person. Keep him/her in the loop.
    3. King and King Construction is a sham.
    4. Spend the 400 bucks and hire an independent inspector after all the work is done and before the final payment is released.
    5. Do not pay for anything upfront.

  • apparently everyone has a terrible time doing 203k renovations.

    be careful who you choose as an inspector. if he only responds to your emails and phone calls with one line email subjects in all caps, he’s probably not a great person to work with.

    ahem! *jim delgado* ahem!

  • My wife and I did a 203k a year ago. We bought a foreclosed house in northern Columbia Heights and did a full 203k (not streamlined). We went with Dila Construction. I had some issues with the site manager, but when there were issues I went to Utku, the owner of Dila, and he was extremely responsive. All in all it worked out well for us.
    It’s important to recognize that if you’re thinking about a 203k you should be prepared to be very involved. It’s not rocket science but there is a strict process (bureaucracy) you have to abide by. Stay on top of the paperwork and inspections and you’ll be fine. Important to note that the inspections aren’t really inspections – they’re simply checks in the system to make sure the work is up to FHA minimum standards. Don’t expect them to comment on the quality of the work – unless it’s egregious or clearly breaking code.

  • I highly recommend my contractor, Antonio DeCampos. He did a complete renovation on my basement and turned it into a basement apartment. He stuck to his original estimate (I asked for a few extras that were not originally in the estimate, which only came to an additional $650!), and used all high quality and beautiful materials. Lots of attention to detail. He even befriended my admittedly high-strung pooch, who was there every day of the construction. The only caveat is that it took way longer than originally estimated- a 2 month job turned into 5, but it was WELL worth the wait- The apartment looks gorgeous, and Antonio is extremely easy and pleasant to work with. [email protected]

  • Thanks for all of the words of advice! Hearing about these terrible experiences makes me a bit nervous, but I’m hoping that 6 months of hell will be worth it when we move into our new home. Has anyone worked with Frank Nicol of FEN Enterprises? It looks like he has done a lot of work in the Columbia Heights/Mt. P area. He was recommended by our realtor and broker.

  • There is the National Directory of Certified 203k Contractors located at These contractors complete an intense 30-day program that consists of reading a 72-page 203k Contractor Manual, completing a 3-hour 203k course, passing a 7-page 203k test with 80% or better and having their license, insurance, references (business and customer) and financial stability checked and verified before becoming a Certified 203k Contractor.

    The 203k renovations should never be attempted/completed by a contractor who is going to wing it. Hire a 203k-experienced/educated contractor, one whose 203k experience/education can be verified, such as a Certified 203k Contractor, which exist in 29 states and in about 3,500 cities around the country.

  • An contractor can make or break the 203k loan experience, and don’t necessarily take the lowest bid either. You get what you pay for.

Comments are closed.