Sticking with New Orleans

A year after the Hazelwoods appeared in the pages of MONEY, the family is giving New Orleans another try.

By Josh Hyatt, Money Magazine senior writer

NEW YORK (Money Magazine) -- Darryl and Jennifer Hazelwood have moved on after Katrina. Now if only they could move in.

"It'll be a relief to get into our new house," says Darryl, 35, who expects the New Orleans home they bought a year ago to be ready for the couple and their kids Emily, 2, and Dylan, 1, any day. "Then we'll feel as if we've got our lives back."


If he sounds a tad tentative, that's understandable. Last year, when MONEY first chronicled the family's plight ("After the Flood," September 2006), the Hazelwoods had found a home in Lakeview to replace the one that had been ruined by Katrina.

But $132,000 worth of insurance payouts didn't cover the $198,000 price tag of their new house and the $110,000 in repairs it needed to be livable again. As MONEY suggested a year ago, they had to unload their old house.

The solution: Jen's father paid them $50,000 for it. "He was doing us a favor," she says. But he too benefited. After his demolition firm knocked down the house, he sold the land for $60,000.

After following MONEY's advice to retire their $4,800 in credit-card debt, the Hazelwoods put the rest of the $50,000 infusion to work: "We had to gut the first floor and rebuild it from scratch," says Jennifer.

Or rather, they had to find contractors willing to do it. "This was not exactly a big job; they'd want it, but then they wouldn't show up," says Darryl, who is a handyman at his father-in-law's firm.

The work ended up taking about a year rather than the six months they had hoped for. "There were always more complications," recalls Jennifer.

By comparison, their work lives have been blessedly simple. A year after reopening the ballet school she co-owns, business has picked up faster than expected and Jennifer is earning about $800 a month from it.

The new location is even better than the one they lost. Not only is it bigger, but its eight windows stir curiosity and bring in students.

She's glad they stayed in New Orleans. "We're not lighting the world on fire," she says, "but we did get through it."

She's realistic too; if the city floods again, she won't rebuild. "We would have to look elsewhere," she says. "But this would still be the place I loved most." Top of page

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