Bonnie McLendon's good fortune in 1994 came when the winner of the house at 1707 W St. SE in historic Anacostia dropped out. As runner-up, McLendon got the call.
The 38-year-old single mother with two daughters had put her name up for three properties, and was living about 30 blocks from the prize, a boarded-up two-story brick end unit.
She could tell from the outside that the house needed work--the front porch roof was sagging badly--but it didn't look that bad, she recalled. The house is only a block from the restored Frederick Douglass historic mansion.
"But when I got in here . . . eeuw," she said.
"There was stuff all over the floor. . . . And a hole in the roof, so there was water all over the floor."
New floors were needed in the dining room and a back bedroom because of the leaks, she said.
The three-bedroom house was built in the '50s and abandoned some time ago. After $80,000 in renovations, the house probably is worth close to $100,000, said McLendon, an economist with the federal Department of Transportation.
Renovations took a year and now "it looks pretty good to me. It might not be as big as I might have wanted, or have as many closets, but still it's my home."
Her advice to new lottery winners concerns contractors, who she said at the time were reluctant to work with the HUD-backed 203(k) construction loans that finance so many of the lottery houses. She said few contractors wanted to wait to have their payments cleared after mandatory HUD inspections.
"I only had a few to pick from," she said, and the one she picked "went out of business. . . . So if anything went wrong, there was no redress."
Leaks from work done on the roof and in the basement had to be repaired, she said.
Lottery director Lynn C. French said "geography had something to do with" McLendon's problem in finding contractors. She said some contractors then were reluctant to work in Anacostia, and employees of the contractor who took the job were robbed on one occasion.
"We have contractors who are dying to do our jobs," said French. HUD inspections, she said, are no more a hindrance than inspections by architects required by other lenders. Some initial problems with HUD inspections, involving unexpected change orders, have been addressed, she added.
CAPTION: When Bonnie McLendon first saw this abandoned W St. SE house, the porch roof sagged, the house roof leaked.