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Home Lifestyle Business A high school teacher bought a ‘trashed’ home in Detroit for $2,600...

A high school teacher bought a ‘trashed’ home in Detroit for $2,600 and got it into livable condition in less than 2 years. Here’s how she did it.

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  • The Detroit Land Bank Authority is selling thousands of publicly owned properties through programs such as Own It Now and Auction.
  • These homes can be bought for as low as $1,000.
  • In June 2018, Deandra Averhart, a native Detroiter, purchased one for just $2,690.50.
  • In an interview with Business Insider, Deandra explained how she transformed the property and her biggest takeaways from the project.
  • Visit Business Insider’s homepage for more stories.

You can become a homeowner in Detroit, Michigan, for a few thousand dollars — but it’ll take a lot of work.

The Detroit Land Bank Authority (DLBA), 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 sells thousands of publicly owned properties through programs such as Own It Now and Auction. Homes can be bought for as little as $1,000.

But claiming full ownership is not without work: The DLBA has a compliance program that requires purchasers to either renovate and occupy or demolish the house.

We caught up with Deandra Averhart, a native Detroiter, who purchased an abandoned home through the DLBA’s Own It Now program in June 2018. She paid just $2,690.50 for it and has spent a year and five months fixing it up. So far, she’s spent around $13,000 on renovations. One way she was able to keep the budget low was by decorating with furniture she bought at thrift stores or on Craigslist.

In an interview with Business Insider, Deandra explained how she transformed the property and her biggest takeaways from the project.

This article is part of Business Insider’s ongoing series, How I Renovated It, where we talk to homeowners around the country about the process, budget, and transformation that goes into a renovation. If you have a story you’d like to share, get in touch with this reporter at lbrandt@businessinsider.com.

The Detroit Land Bank Authority — the DLBA — is one of several organizations and people working to revitalize Detroit.


Michael S. Williamson/The Washington Post via Getty Images


A weak housing market and low-valued homes have made it difficult for Detroiters to obtain mortgages. The Detroit Home Mortgage program, which was put in place in 2016, is working to increase homeownership in the city by lending qualified buyers the money needed to both purchase and renovate homes in the city.

Through the program, Detroiters can receive two loans: The first mortgage is for the appraised value of the home, while the second mortgage, which has a limit of $75,000, closes the gap between the home’s sale price and its appraised value and covers the cost of renovations.

Deandra Averhart bought this abandoned three-bedroom, one-bathroom home in June 2018 through the DLBA’s Own It Now program. It’s located in Detroit, near the University District.


Deandra Averhart


She told Business Insider that originally, she wasn’t interested in buying a house. However, after talking to a friend, she decided that investing her money was a better idea than paying rent.

A brief history: Detroit, Michigan, was once home to a booming auto industry. However, in the 1950s, the industry started declining and companies started moving out of the city. By the 1960s, people were leaving in droves.


Google Maps


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.

Deandra’s birth name is Tia DeShay, but it was legally changed to Deandra Averhart when she was adopted. She writes, has her own podcast, and is a high school English teacher.


Deandra Averhart


Deandra told Business Insider that through the DLBA’s program, she ended up paying $2,690.50 for her property.


Deandra Averhart


“Today, Thursday June 21, 2018, at 10:00 am I closed on this house. Total Purchasing Price: $2690.50. I owe no mortgage, just property taxes,” she wrote in an Instagram post back in June 2018. 

Deandra also told Business Insider that the house was in unlivable condition when she bought it.


Deandra Averhart


“It was completely trashed,” she explained. “It had a hole in the back underneath what I call the nook in the kitchen.”


Deandra Averhart


Trash was scattered throughout the house.


Deandra Averhart


There was also no running water or electricity.


Deandra Averhart


“There was nothing. There was no furnace, no hot water tank, nothing,” she said.


Deandra Averhart


She had her work cut out for her, but she wasn’t alone. With the help of her students, a coworker, and an independent contractor, she was able to turn the abandoned house into a home.


Deandra Averhart


Deandra told Business Insider that her students helped with the cleaning and the landscaping. “They were going into their senior year so I knew they needed money for senior activities,” she said.


Deandra Averhart


When it came to things like the plumbing, the electrical work, installing new windows, and putting in new doors, Deandra hired an independent contractor.


Deandra Averhart


Despite the home’s condition when she bought it, Deandra was able to move in just two months later.


Deandra Averhart


By that point, her bedroom, the bathroom, the living room, and her spiritual room were done.


Deandra Averhart


However, the kitchen wasn’t ready.


Deandra Averhart


In fact, the kitchen wasn’t completed until a few months later.


Deandra Averhart


She told Business Insider that the kitchen was finished right around Thanksgiving 2018.


Deandra Averhart


She also told Business Insider that while she worked to finish the real kitchen, her dining room served as a makeshift kitchen.


Deandra Averhart


“I had a toaster oven, a microwave, and a refrigerator. That’s all I had,” she said.

Throughout the renovation process, Deandra kept the DLBA up to date with her progress by sending them photos of the home every month. It took around a year and five months to fix the house to her liking.


Deandra Averhart


When it came to decorating, she got most of the items around the house from thrift stores or on Craigslist. “I am a thrift store queen,” she told Business Insider.


Deandra Averhart


Deandra told Business Insider that the hardest part of the project was finding her patience. “Everything is not going to happen overnight,” she said. “I had to work around the contractor’s schedule, and I had to work around my own schedule.”


Deandra Averhart


And, while buying a house wasn’t originally part of her plan, she doesn’t regret the purchase.


Deandra Averhart


She told Business Insider she spent about $13,000 on renovations.

“Every time I walk through my home, I am amazed that I did this. It brings tears to my eyes,” she said.


Deandra Averhart


Do you have a similar home-renovation story you’d like to share? Get in touch with this reporter at lbrandt@businessinsider.com.

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