INDIAN HILL, Ohio -- For this week's Home Tour, we invited two experienced West Side remodelers/property – aka flippers – to the East Side to tour the smallest and second-cheapest house currently for sale in the posh Village of Indian Hill.
Then we asked them to tell us how they would fix it up on a budget of about $100,000.
On hand for the tour was the usually high-end real estate agent Perrin March of Coldwell Banker West Shell. He’s the man chosen by the house’s owner, U.S. Bank, to find a buyer for the 1,712-square-foot, 1965 ranch house that’s listed at $450,000, less than half the average value of Indian Hill homes.
The challenge we gave remodelers Rick Pouliot and Frank Eversole of EP Investments was to suggest how to turn the house – even though many people might consider it a tear down – into an attractive home for owner-occupants seeking affordable entry into a high-end market.
Pouliot and Eversole, who live in Westwood, walked through the house and its basement/garage space, which is partially finished but not included in the official square footage. We waited outside with March while the remodelers took their tour.
“When I posted the picture of the house on Facebook, you’d be amazed at how many people said ‘I love that house,’” March said. “It’s not that ranch house across the street you want to wipe out. There something to it.”
The house might look like it’s bulldozer-bound, he said, but “this is a rare opportunity to take something little in Indian Hill and do something with it.”
March said the village’s laws for remodeling houses include complicated restrictions but would allow for certain changes within the current footprint. It’s also possible, he said, that a garage/carriage house could be built in the backyard. That would eliminate the temptation to return the existing garage under the house to its original two-bay state, allowing more living space to be created during a remodel.
March said he believes the house was a tract home when it was built in 1965, but that subsequent additions – a federal-style pediment above the front door and glassed-in family room off the dining room – changed its character in ways that run contrary to today’s tastes.
You could tell he was anxious to hear the ideas of two West Side guys who are used to remodeling for resale homes of similar size but priced far, far less.
Their 15-minute tour completed, Pouliot and Eversole stepped outside to deliver their verdict.
“I think most people looking at this are going to want to tear it down,” Eversole said.
But that wasn’t going to be part of the discussion, so he and Pouliot eyeballed the façade of the house and generally gave it a thumbs up, pointing out the attractive symmetry of the two chimneys and shuttered windows flanking the federal-style pediment.
Pouliot said the pediment is somewhat odd, but added that it gives the house a Colonial Williamsburg feel that a new roof and appropriate paint job could play upon.
“I don’t think I would change the outside much at all,” he said.
Eversole agreed the house needed painting and a new roof and suggested widening the steps up to the front door and adding brick like you’d see in Williamsburg to enhance the its curb appeal even more.
The landscape’s evergreen shrubbery made both men cringe. It would have to go.
A sidelighted white door opens into a 20-by-14-foot living room, beyond which are glass doors and a brick patio and wisteria arbor. The room seemed like a strange place to start our discussion, so we passed it on our way to the kitchen.
Quickly, Pouliot and Eversole announced that the 50-year-old, 9-by-11-foot kitchen was a total gut job. But they said it could be great if made bigger – and modern. A quick fix would be to knock out the wall between the kitchen and the 11-by-13-foot dining room, creating a long space that’s open to the 19-by-13-foot family room beyond.
A significant chunk of the $100,000 budget would be sunk into the kitchen, Eversole and Pouliot said. They would remove its appliances, cabinets, soffits and vinyl flooring. They’d install all new cabinets, counter tops, high-end appliances and a hardwood floor that matches the dining room’s.
They would divide the space with an island and seating, and they’d redo the dimly-lit ceiling in the new 24-by-11-foot kitchen, adding pot lights and a chandelier.
And, of course, Pouliot said, they would paint over the pink wall with a neutral color.
Discussion then turned to the family room, whose hardwood floor runs perpendicular to the boards in the rest of the house, indicating it was an addition. The six-sided room features 7-foot, aluminum framed windows on three sides.
The family room, Rick said, “is fantastic.” The floors need replacing, the windows reglazing and the fireplace modernizing – but that’s about all, he said. Frank called the room “the selling feature of the house,” because of its wide view to the grassy backyard.
March suggested a few feet of the brick patio between the family room and bedroom wing could be taken up by an enlarged living room, but Pouliot and Eversole disagreed. Money would be better spent elsewhere, they said, and an inexpensive upgrade would be to extend the patio into the backyard and create a grilling and outdoor dining space.
Next, we moved from the family room back to the living room, odd in that it is longer than it is wide and that visitors enter it directly through the front door. No problem, Pouliot said. Because of the room’s length – 20 feet – and the fact that it would be adjacent to a new kitchen, the space would be great for an extendable table that could seat a dozen or more people.
“I think people are going to like it the way it is,” Eversole said.
Moving into the bedroom wing’s hall, we visited the guest bathroom, which drew more cringes from our remodeling duo.
“This is a disaster,” Pouliot said, as he sat on the toilet and waved to imaginary neighbors through the large window next to it. The flippers agreed they would move the toilet across the room and get rid of the bathtub Pouliot said “belongs in the basement for the dog.”
They would build a glass-enclosed shower where the toilet is now and install privacy film on the window that wouldn’t be noticeable from the outside.
As far as the first floor’s three bedrooms go, the remodelers – knowing there was plenty of sleeping space left to develop in the basement and garage– suggested reducing them to two.
The 11-foot square middle room should be sacrificed, they said, in order to create a larger master suite with a large walk-in closet.
“I think you need a nice master suite at this price point,” Pouliot said.
The remodelers would gut and enlarge the master bathroom by taking out an existing closet, creating space for a high-end shower/tub combination and double-sink vanity.
The first floor vision completed, Pouliot and Eversole headed to the basement and remaining single-bay garage.
“I would not spend a lot of money down here,” Eversole said.
First to be done downstairs, Pouliot said, would be to replace the ceiling and get a grip on the space’s obvious drainage issues. Evidence of minor flooding included peeling paint and some mold low on the walls, but that’s nothing a little re-engineering and minor plumbing couldn’t cure, he said.
Eversole and Pouliot said they would keep the finished basement bedroom and convert the garage bay into a second bedroom.
They would enlarge the basement’s 21-by-13-foot kitchen/family room combination room by knocking out a wall on one side of a wasted, centralized room.
Although the downstairs full bathroom is small and needs renovating, the only physical change the remodelers suggested was flipping its door so it opens out to the family room, essentially making the bathroom feel larger.
Whether or not all the changes suggested by Pouliot and Eversole could be done within a $100,000 budget depends on the materials used and the amount of sweat equity the home’s new owners could contribute.
“It’s a small house and a big project,” Pouliot admitted.
But, Eversole added, $100,000 in changes would make the house “very usable” for a young family.
“As far as renovating it for sale, though, I wouldn’t. I don’t think there’s enough return there,” he said.