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THE MORTGAGE MELTDOWN

His rates, family budget seeing cuts

August 11, 2007|Annette Haddad, Andrea Chang and Daniel Yi | Times Staff Writers

GEORGE ORDUNA

Tile setter

Nearly every day, George Orduna advertises his services on Craigslist: "Tile setter . . . specializing in tile on counter tops, kitchens, bathrooms, floors, etc."

Nearly every day, he's disappointed.

"Usually they call and want an estimate over the phone," Orduna said. "But when I give them a price they say, 'OK, never mind,' and hang up."

At the height of the housing boom, Orduna had about five jobs a week laying tile in Los Angeles-area homes.

"I had so much work I would have to give it to someone else," he said.

Now, the 25-year-old Lincoln Heights tile setter is picking up only a job or two a week. Business is unstable -- some weeks Orduna can expect to make as much as $800, others only $200. He said the sluggish housing market had made homeowners less inclined to install new tile, an expense often taken to beautify a home before putting it up for sale.

When he does get jobs, clients aren't willing to pay him as much, he said.

"Right now, it's pretty bad," he said. "Nobody wants to pay more than $12 a square foot anymore, and before I could charge $20, $25 a square foot."

Fewer tiling jobs means "everything's tight budget" around his own household, Orduna said. He and his girlfriend, Blanca Rodriguez, wanted to send their 2-year-old daughter to a private day-care center but they couldn't afford it. To cut costs, they are trimming their grocery bills and Orduna has quit his gym to save on membership fees.

"We're just trying to save some money, save what we can," he said.

Adding to his problems are homeowners who balk on payment once their projects are completed.

"Owners find an excuse not to pay us," he said. "It happens now so many times."

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