Investor learns the risks, rewards of buying a house from the city

by Ainsley Smyth

Armed with flashlights, the public can check out for themselves the boarded-up houses, one-time public housing units, that the City of Wichita is selling.

Totaling 352 units in all, it’s been a two-year process to get them to new owners, and out of the city’s hands.

The Housing Authority has been holding open houses for interested buyers since the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development approved the sale of the units. They hope prospective buyers will see a new home or investment opportunity.

Logan Bradshaw, the Assistant Director of Housing and Community Service said, while working at an open house in March, that there has been a lot of interest in some of the houses. But while the city’s hoping for potential homeowners to bid on the units, the open houses are mostly attended by investment buyers. 

“We’re trying to find more effective ways to communicate and reach more people so that more people know the opportunities that are really coming down the pipe and that currently exist,” she said.

Many are hoping the sale of these houses will help Wichita’s affordable housing problem

Bathroom before remodel. Photo courtesy of Francisco Enriquez.

But as one buyer, Francisco Enriquez, learned, there can be more to renovating one of these houses than can be recognized at first glance.

He knew the opportunity came with risks. The condition of the house was less than perfect. 

“Although visually, there were some items that needed to be addressed, at the time it didn’t seem that it needed too much work,” he said. “But once we got in here, it was a different story.”

Enriquez, a Wichita native with a background in sales and construction, took the opportunity to buy a house below market price. Now after six months, a lot of work and a few unexpected setbacks, he’s ready to sell.

Enriquez grew up with a father who worked in construction, as a subcontractor. He remembered times when his father would finish a job, but not get paid. Enriquez looked up to his dad, but it was frustrating seeing him get ripped off.

When he started his own company, 360 construction, in 2014, Enriquez wanted things to be different. 

Bathroom after remodel. Selena Favela

“The goal was to protect the workers,” he said

As for his latest project, buying and rehabilitating a house is something new for Enriquez. He attended the first round of open houses last fall and found the unit. 

“I took this opportunity because I think there’s more buyers at this price point,” he said. “I don’t think there’s enough houses at this lower price point.”

In December, less than a month after Enriquez had purchased the property, the empty house got a surprise visitor. 

“I came in to unlock the house and found that the window was broken,” Enriquez said. 

The kitchen area before the remodel. Photo courtesy of Francisco Enriquez.

He spoke to a neighbor, and learned that a man had broken into the house and then told the neighbor that he had also tried to start a fire inside.

Then when he started renovations, Enriquez found another, more costly surprise: a leaking roof and water damaged ceilings. 

“But in the construction industry, that’s the name of the game,” Enriquez said. “It’s not uncommon.” 

Despite the setbacks, Enriquez and the roughly thirty subcontractors he employed throughout the process finished their renovations in April. 

On top of repairing the roof and ceilings and replacing the broken window, they refinished the original wood floors, replaced other flooring, redid the bathroom completely, made the kitchen larger and added a bedroom.

Up next on the list is to buy an AC unit because the house, while sitting empty before Enriquez bought it, had its unit stolen.

Enriquez said he’s hoping to sell the house, and get enough for it to make all that work worth it. He said he’s not just in it for the money, though.

The kitchen remodel included knocking out the wall in the left side of the photo to create a more open space. Selena Favela

“The housing market has gone extremely high and sometimes unreachable for many people,” Enriquez said. “So the opportunity that (the city is) providing for people like me to come in and revive these and provide affordable housing; it’s a wonderful incentive.”

Sarah Gooding, Director of Housing and Community Service said that while the homes may not be affordable to some potential buyers, especially with the renovations needed on many of the properties, some of her department’s other initiatives, like the Home Repair Program, can help. 

The city continues making its way through the units it set out to sell in January 2022. It’s yet to be seen how adding these houses to the market will impact it.     

Ainsley Smyth, a student at Wichita State University, is the Spring 2024 semester intern for the Wichita Journalism Collaborative.