GIVE CREDIT TO THIS CONTRACTOR
Jhonny Herrera came to Hartford from his native Peru “with empty pockets and a goal to just work,” he explained on a hot summer day while walking through one of his investment properties. With help from the Hartford Community Loan Fund (HCLF) Herrera has now rehabbed several multi-family homes in Hartford’s south end neighborhoods and has become one of HCLF’s most successful borrowers.
In 1998, when Herrera arrived in the US at age 26, he didn’t know anything about construction - “not even how to handle a hammer,” he laughed, “or what sheet rock was - because we don’t use sheet rock in Peru! Everything was new.” After studying English for two years, Herrera got a construction job abating toxic lead paint in old buildings, and learned how to work on everything from roofs to foundations.
In 2003 Herrera used his knowledge of remodeling to buy and fix up his first investment property in Hartford. After the building’s apartments were leased, Herrera tried to get a construction loan from a traditional bank to purchase and rehab a second property. “But even if you have good credit, a bank doesn’t want to take the risk,” he said. “It’s not personal—it’s only numbers (to the bank). They’re not going to trust you, or even sit with you.” Herrera continued, “It’s easy to understand what a difference the Loan Fund made for me when you consider that I rehabbed one house in 2003, then one in 2006, and another in 2010. But in 2013 I began working with HCLF. Since then I’ve added five more houses! With the Loan Fund, they know each person, the price of the house, what you need to do to make it work….. They monitor your progress. For a contractor and investor like me, it’s the best option - and you don’t have to work with those hard money lenders who kill you with interest.”
For Herrera, it’s satisfying to tend to buildings that were vacant and in disrepair when he first found them. Some of the properties he’s bought and rehabbed are on the same block as his own house. To Herrera, Hartford feels like home now. “I go back to visit my country, but I can’t be there for more than a week. Plus I have a lot of responsibility here. I can’t be away for a long time - phone calls keep coming,” he says with a smile.