Revitalizing an older housing market takes innovation, time and someone to see the possibilities lying dormant beneath neglect or age.
And money. Some might say that last part’s the kicker.
Kim Ehlers of White Lake, S.D., is a former real estate agent who is looking for investment properties, and her husband, John, is a retired carpenter. If they could impart one word of caution to homeowners today it would be: maintenance.
“It’s so much more expensive to repair than to maintain,” Kim said. “As a Realtor, that was the hardest thing for me to explain to people—to maintain. (Your house) is the biggest investment of your life.”
White Lake faces what many small towns do—an aging population, and, thus, an aging housing market. By the time some homes are put up for sale, the cost to renovate outweighs the benefits.
“Right now it seems like we want families to move into these communities to support our schools, but … we need housing for families,” Ehlers said.
Karie Geyer, of Veblen, said a lack of family housing is also a problem in her community—and in Veblen, nuisance properties are also a concern.
The community formed committees and clubs and sought the help of consultants in how to deal with nuisance properties. “The city can’t do everything, so we help with community events and projects, (and) research,” she said.
When she and her husband, Dave, decided to relocate to her hometown, they chose an older home to renovate because for their family, that was the most cost-effective choice. She was able to pay less for a home, invest more into it and take an active part in the outcome.
They purchased her grandmother’s home and dove into renovations, which were done in phases over the years. They were also able to hire family members to do some of the work.
Whether buying an older home or fixing one up for sale, time is a factor both important and difficult to put a dollar amount on. “Seventy-five percent of your outlook (on renovations) is time,” John Ehlers said.
Geyer advised looking carefully at available resources before starting.
“You really have to do your homework—visit with your local contractors before you make these decisions because your timing and others’ timing may not match up (which can slow down a remodel),” she said.
“It was a ton of work,” Geyer added. “The key is being positive.”