House dreams turn to nightmare in Cape Coral
By Brian Liberatore • firstname.lastname@example.org • June 13, 2008
Bill Prekker has been planning to build his retirement home on land he owns in Cape Coral for the better part of three decades.
Then, he discovered someone else had already built a home on his property, and the 1,900-square-foot residence has been there for 11 years.
"Thirty-five years of a dream got shot down," said Prekker, speaking from his home in Annapolis, Md. "I would have been retiring soon."
Now, he wants to know why a house is on his dream land and how the mistake could have carried on so long?
After returning from the Vietnam War in late 1960s, Prekker bought the quarter-acre lot at 146 S.E. 18th St. for $4,300 from the Gulf American Corp.
He's seen it a couple of times since then, he said. The last time was in the early 1990's.
It was a few years after Prekker's last visit that a builder made a mistake.
Lee County property records indicate Baywood Construction owned the vacant lot at 150 Southeast 18th Street, just east of Prekker's parcel. In 1997, a mason apparently misread the blueprints and poured the home's foundation on the wrong side of a surveyor's line. The city had issued the building permit and apparently did not notice the house was in the wrong location.
City officials said Thursday they were looking into the issue but did not have a comment.
Shortly after the home was built, Richard Barton bought the house from Baywood for $73,900. Eight years later, in 2005, Barton sold the house to Frank Beal, Jr. for $230,000. Still, no one realized it was in the wrong place.
Beal said he never had the property surveyed, and the mistake slipped by.
Prekker, meanwhile, was in Maryland, oblivious to the dealings on his property. His tax bills listed his property at 146 S.E. 18th St. as vacant even though the house was there. Since 1999, Prekker has spent about $5,900 in local taxes for the lot.
Meanwhile, Beal has been paying taxes on his property 150 S.E. 18th St. and the house that was supposed to be there. The tax bills show the house where it was supposed to sit.
The office of the Lee County Property Appraiser never caught the error. Assessor Ken Wilkinson said he would send a field manager to investigate following a call Thursday from The News-Press.
The mistake may have gone unnoticed, but Beal hired a friend to install a pool last year. It was the pool contractor who noticed the house was 80 feet west of where it should have been. The contractor said he couldn't build a pool on someone else's land.
That's when lawyers got involved.
Beal contacted local real estate attorney Robert Burandt, who uncovered the property's history. Burandt has tried through certified mail to contact Prekker, but received no answer, according to Beal. Last month, Burandt contacted law enforcement officials in Maryland to check that Prekker lived at the Maryland address he had listed with Cape Coral.
Prekker said he remembers the police officers coming to his house. That was when he knew something was amiss with his Cape land. Prekker said following the police visit he contacted Burandt.
"Shocked and angry," Prekker said of the discovery. "I was shocked and angry."
Prekker said he has since hired an attorney and says he may seek money from Baywood Construction for the error.
Now, Beal finds he can't do any work on the house, can't install a pool and can't refinance it because of where it is. He gave Barton a $230,000 check for the home.
"We are just trying to get our money back from Rich Barton," Beal said. "It is his responsibility."
Barton could not be reached Thursday for comment.
The other solution, one that officials from Baywood Construction say they would prefer, is a transfer of deeds. Beal could take Prekker's lot and Prekker could take Beal's lot. The adjacent landlocked lots are the same size, shape and value. The only difference between the two is the house.
"We will cooperate in the transferring of deeds if the owners agree to it," said Mike Devito, owner of Baywood Construction.
Prekker, however, isn't sure he wants a transfer.
"That's not the property I was dreaming of," Prekker said.