With home prices soaring across the country, many might be wondering whether any real estate deals can be found—and “Bargain Block” proves they still exist.
On this HGTV show, now in its second season, partners Keith Bynum and Evan Thomas are trying to restore the iconic city of Detroit one block at a time. They buy run-down, abandoned houses and transform them into affordable, stylish homes that anyone would be proud to call their own. They don’t make huge profits, but that’s not the point of what they do: Their goal is to make a difference for cash-strapped homebuyers and in the neighborhoods they serve.
In the episode “1950s Surprises,” they remodel not one, but two houses, right next door to each other. They’re both 1,200-square-foot, three-bedroom, one-bath, two-story homes built in the 1950s. But beyond that, their stories are quite different.
Check out what happens to these two houses, which end up having very unique makeovers done that’ll teach you some great tips you might want to try yourself.
Renovating homes side by side makes sense
The first house they purchase is a real fixer-upper, for sale for a mere $25,000. They expect to put $70,000 into the renovation, then sell it at $110,000 for a $15,000 profit.
When a neighbor sees the guys working on the small bungalow, he strolls over, tells them he’s tired of working on his renovation project right next door, and asks if they’re interested in buying it from him.
This neighboring house is priced at $40,000, which is more than they usually spend, but Thomas sees the value.
“Whenever we can get houses that are really close to one another, that just makes our job easier on the sale, because we’re creating our own comps, and they have to use it because it’s literally next door,” he explains.
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The whole process of renovating both homes is simpler and less expensive because the close proximity allows them to work on both simultaneously and share materials and equipment.
They plan to spend $50,000 on this second renovation, some of which has already been done, and sell the house for $120,000, making a $30,000 profit.
A bad roof might damage floors and walls, too
Bynum and Thompson note that the major structural damage on the first house seems to be a big hole in the roof, right over the living room. They know it will take more than just patching to correct this problem. Rain and snow have been coming in, buckling the wood floors and rotting the walls. That means they’ll have to replace both floors and walls, in addition to the roof and ceiling.
“Every time we think we’ve got a good one and things are going well, you put a hammer in a wall and suddenly it all collapses around you,” says Thomas.
These possibilities should always be taken into consideration when bidding on an old home—you truly never know what you’re going to get.
Eliminate unnecessary doors whenever possible
In both houses, the partners are able to remove the second interior door to the kitchen, since the doors were almost right next to each other anyway. Who needs that?
Instead, they wall up the door, move a stove to that new wall, and surround it with upper and lower cabinets. The kitchen is now much larger and more practical.
Try a tile-over rather than ripping it out
Don’t like the old tile in the bathroom? You don’t necessarily have to rip it out.
If there are no cracks in the tile wall, Bynum says, you can do a tile over, where you adhere new tile atop the old. This saves time and money because you don’t have to do a messy and difficult demo.
Buy from local vendors to support the community
When it’s time to landscape, Bynum and Thomas head over to Detroit’s local Eastern Market for plants and flowers. There they come across some colorful flowers sold by Bob Pinter, a third-generation seller whose grandfather began the business there in 1926!
“It’s always fun to run into the generational vendors and kind of help support their families that have been here for a long, long time,” says Bynum. “We love having the opportunity to buy local. Anytime we have the opportunity to support Detroit, we definitely want to do that.”
How does this bargain block turn out?
Since they started on it earlier, the fixer-upper they’d bought for $25,000 goes on the market first. They list it for $110,000, after having spent $75,000 on the renovation, and manage to make a $10,000 profit.
They put the house next door on the market a few weeks later for $120,000, having just proven that they can get close to $100 per square foot for a renovated house in the area.
The second house hasn’t sold by the time the episode airs, but it gets a tremendous amount of interest. The “Bargain Block” team is confident it’ll get the full asking price, and it’s now ready to move on to the next block.