The story behind the unfinished Marlborough house

Ricardo Torres started building his dream house in 2009, but he put it on the market last year after he was unable to complete it.: Photo illustration by Danny Fulgencio

Ricardo Torres bought the lot next door to his mother’s house, on Marlborough at Davis, in 2008 and started building his dream home.

And then, he just kept building. He started with plans for two stories on a little more than half the lot. Then he realized that a third story would offer a downtown view, so he went up one more. A game room could be a haven for his son and nephews, so he decided to knock through the back wall to build one, taking the house to nearly 5,000 square feet.

At night, the 34-year-old jeweler would dream and plan with his wife about all the things their home could be. The result is a house that has been under construction for the majority of a decade, and now Torres doesn’t have the money to complete it. He put the unfinished house on the market last year, and now it is listed for $250,000.

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Torres started building the house shortly after his father died. He’s done a lot of the construction work himself, and he’s paid cash as often as possible, but he has acquired some debt. His mother took out a $45,000 home-equity loan on her house to help pay for construction, and Torres and his wife have borrowed about $20,000 on credit cards and personal loans. The Torreses pay $200 a month on the home-equity loan, and it’s all interest. In five years, the principal amount hasn’t lowered, he says.

Ask 10 ways why Torres hasn’t finished the house, and a solid answer remains elusive.

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“We just thought it would be that easy,” he says. “I wish we could finish.”

A year into construction, Torres lost his job when the company he worked for went out of business, and he had trouble finding employment.

They made mistakes, spending money and time on extras such as custom-made silicone stamps for the concrete driveway, indoor lighting fixtures and furniture before making the house habitable.

City code violations related to construction led to court dates and fines.

Meanwhile, the old apartments on West Davis and Rosemont, adjacent to the house, were torn down, and the complex now known as Bell Bishop Arts went up. Across West Davis, St. Cecilia Church burned and was rebuilt. But the construction site on Marlborough remained.

The unfinished house occasionally comes up among Torres’ L.O. Daniel neighbors, in casual conversation or at neighborhood meetings. Even though the property is unsightly, most neighbors are sympathetic. The only adjacent neighbors are Torres’ mother and a commercial property, which probably has limited the number of complaints.

“It’s been such a nuisance for years that it’s something you just get used to,” says Justin Epker of the L.O. Daniel Neighborhood Association.

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