A Detroit man bought an abandoned house in the city for $2,100 and spent 9 months renovating it for his mom. Here’s how he did it — and what it looks like now.


  • The Detroit Land Bank Authority is auctioning off thousands of publicly owned properties through its public platform, Auction — and the bidding starts at $1,000.
  • In June 2017, Vincent Orr, a native Detroiter, won an abandoned home through the bidding process for just $2,100.
  • In an interview with Business Insider, Orr explained how he transformed the home into a livable space for $40,000.
  • Visit Business Insider’s homepage for more stories.

You can become a homeowner in Detroit, Michigan, for as little as $1,000 — but it’ll take a lot of work.

The Detroit Land Bank Authority, founded in 2008, set out on a mission to return run-down and vacant properties in the city to productive use. To do so, it auctions off thousands of publicly owned properties through its public platform, Auction — and the bidding starts at $1,000.

Read more:Run-down and vacant homes in Detroit are being auctioned off for as little as $1,000. All homeowners have to do is get them into livable condition in 6 months.

We caught up with Vincent Orr, a native Detroiter, who purchased a home for his mother through Auction in June 2017.

Orr won the Detroit home for $2,100 — but that was just the beginning

While Orr had the highest bid, claiming full ownership of the home required some work.

The DLBA has a compliance program requiring winning bidders to renovate the auctioned homes. After the home is renovated, a compliance officer deems the home livable or not. If it is, complete ownership is transferred to the bidder.

It took Orr nine months to renovate his property. In an interview with Business Insider, he explained how he transformed the space with just $40,000.

Keep reading for a side-by-side look at the transformation.

Have you bought a home through the DLBA or a similar program in another city? If you want to share your story, email this reporter at lbrandt@businessinsider.com.

Detroit is a major city in Michigan that was once home to the booming auto industry.

Google Maps

In the 1950s, the auto industry started declining and companies started moving out of Detroit. By the 1960s, people were leaving Detroit in droves.

In 2013, the city filed for Chapter 9 bankruptcy protection. Now, more than five years later, more and more programs are seeking to improve the city.

Wealthy entrepreneurs are investing in the city too, like Dan Gilbert, the billionaire founder of Quicken Loans. As Business Insider previously reported, after Gilbert moved his company to downtown Detroit in 2010, he started the real-estate firm Bedrock.

Not only is Quicken Loans one of Detroit’s largest employers and taxpayers, but as of 2018, Bedrock had invested or allocated $5.6 billion in roughly 100 properties in downtown Detroit and nearby neighborhoods.

In June 2017, Vincent Orr purchased this home for his mother through the Detroit Land Bank Authority’s daily auction. It cost him $2,100.

Detroit Land Bank Authority

Orr, a native Detroiter, grew up in the same ZIP code where he purchased the home, in the northwestern Detroit neighborhood of Fitzgerald.

Orr graduated from Wayne State University with a degree in media arts and is a production supervisor.

“My family roots in this neighborhood run pretty deep,” he told Business Insider. “I wanted to stay around and bring it back to the level that I remember it at when I was a child.”

“When I first purchased the house, it was in complete shambles,” he said.

The patio before the renovation.
Vincent Orr/Facebook

According to the neighbors, the home had been vacant for about 10 years, Orr told Business Insider.

Orr told Business Insider that the porch was torn up, the windows were missing, and the roof was caving in.

It wasn’t just the exterior of the home Orr had to worry about — the interior needed work too. The upgrading process included, among many other steps, replacing pipes and walls.

Vincent Orr/Facebook

When the home was purchased, the cabinets in the kitchen were worn down and dirty, with parts missing.

The kitchen before the renovation.
Vincent Orr/Facebook

Orr told Business Insider that he was able to do most of the work himself.

The pre-renovation bathroom.
Vincent Orr/Facebook

All in all, Orr spent $40,000 over the nine-month renovation process, he told Business Insider.

Vincent Orr/Facebook

He installed all the windows, all the doors, and the furnace.

Vincent Orr/Facebook

He also handled the plumbing work and the electrical wiring.

Vincent Orr/Facebook

Orr hired workers only when it came time to install the ductwork for a forced-air central heating system and to repair the roof.

Vincent Orr/Facebook

The hardest part of the process was finding contractors, Orr told Business Insider. Though he did most of the work himself, things like finding a roofing company turned out to be more difficult than he expected.

He even renovated the kitchen himself.

The kitchen before it was renovated.
Vincent Orr/Facebook

Now the renovated space sports white cabinets, marble countertops, and new appliances.

The renovated kitchen.
Vincent Orr/Facebook

Orr said that checking in with the DLBA went smoothly. To keep the organization up to date, Orr sent images of the home throughout the renovation.

Vincent Orr/Facebook

“For the final inspection, they didn’t have to come out, because I documented everything with photographs and sent it to them. They had been following the process along the way,” Orr told Business Insider.

“You have to show them evidence of the house being occupied, so you show them furniture in the living room, furniture in the bedrooms, and appliances in the kitchen,” Orr added.

As soon as the home was completed, Orr’s mother was able to move in. Now, he said, they’re focused on decorating.

Vincent Orr/Facebook

In March, Orr purchased the home next door through the DLBA’s Own It Now platform. He won the home for $1,200 through a blind bid. He’s now renovating it.

The first home Orr purchased, after renovations.

Detroit Land Bank Authority


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