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‘Good Bones’: Watch a Mom and Her Kid Turn a $4,000 Fixer-Upper Into $259,000

Karen Laine and Mina Starsiak of "Good Bones"


House-flipping duos abound on reality TV, but few are as compelling as Karen Laine and Mina Starsiak, who are now kicking off Season 2 of the HGTV show “Good Bones.” Sure, this mother-daughter duo might be cute, but in the flipping game, they’re the real deal. There are no tortured family arguments or complaints about broken nails here!

Their backstory: Laine quit her law practice to help Starsiak, her daughter, fix up her first home after college. They caught the renovation bug, and opened an Indianapolis restoration business, Two Chicks and Hammer. It wasn’t long before HGTV came calling; their show’s first season drummed up 14 million viewers, many of whom no doubt tuned in to the Season 2 premiere this week.

And these women do not disappoint! In “Decaying Duplex Gets a Transformation,” Laine and Starsiak kick things off by purchasing a four-bedroom, two-bath duplex for 4,000 bucks. No, there are no missing zeros there.

We know what you’re wondering: How bad is it?

Well, the second they pry off the plywood barring the front door, they realize that the house is mostly gutted down to the studs. The floors and stairs are so shaky, walking on them is too risky.

The duplex is so rotten the floors and stairs are unsafe to walk on
The duplex is so rotted, the floors and stairs are unsafe to walk on.


Where most people would flee such a project, Laine and Starsiak roll up their sleeves and get to work.

They estimate they’ll need at least $200,000 to make the home livable, but how do they plan to do that? It turns out that this home isn’t quite as hopeless as it looks, and that we can all learn a ton about renovations from these two. Check out some highlights below.

Bargain homes exist, if you know where to look

First things first: Where the heck does anyone find a house for only $4,000? It turns out that nearly every community has “distressed” properties that their former residents have abandoned because they couldn’t pay their mortgage, property taxes, or other fees. And the banks or local governments that own them are often eager to get them off their books.

You can search listings for foreclosures on realtor.com®, or just keep an eye out for anything marked as “bank-owned” or “real estate-owned” to score a great deal. The catch, of course, is that these places often need major work.

Lifting a house isn’t as hard as you might think

Raising the entire structure to fix the foundation and/or add solid floor joists sounds like a crazy, Herculean task. However, in reality, it’s not as bad as you might think. The key is to basically disconnect all utilities and obstructions to the house’s frame, wedge metal jacks under each corner, then lift them—simultaneously—notch by notch. You’ll want to hire a pro, of course, but you should just know it’s not impossible.

“We get a lot of practice jacking up houses, because none of our houses have all their parts in them anymore,” says Laine. “We have to lift them up a little to put their parts back in. That happens all the time.”

Demolition should still be done carefully

Laine’s son Tad, Starsiak’s stepbrother, helps them with the demolition, but botches things badly. Instead of carefully dismantling the chimney from the inside, which is the proper method, he climbs on the roof and simply pushes it over. Of course, it’s so heavy it falls right through the roof, creating a big, gaping hole—prompting Tad to say apprehensively, “I need a suitcase, I need $10,000, and I need a ticket to Mexico.”

He might be joking, but his mom and stepsister don’t seem amused.

Laine's stepson Tad helps with demo
Laine’s stepson Tad “helps” with the demolition.


Invite buyers in near the beginning

This might sound contrary to your better judgment because you’d think you want a buyer to see the house only when it’s perfect, but not so: By bringing buyers in fairly early in the restoration process, these house flippers get their client’s input, and can better customize the house to make it more appealing.

In this case, Jeff, the potential buyer, says he would like more square footage, so the women close in a porch on the second floor to add a den/reading room.

The potential buyer said he wanted more square footage, so the 'Good Bones' team added a room upstairs under the eaves.
The potential buyer said he wanted more square footage, so the “Good Bones” team added a room upstairs, under the eaves.


Coordinate the inside with the outside

For the interior, they’ve settled on a crisp, clean color scheme of gray, white, and blue; so they paint the outside a fresh, light blue and the trim a warm white.

“I like it when the outside gives a clue as to what’s happening on the inside,” explains Laine.

The 'Good Bones' team turns a decrepit duplex into a charming single family home.
The “Good Bones” team turns a decrepit duplex into a charming single-family home.


How does it go?

So does all their hard work (and believe us, it is an insane amount of hard work) pay off? The duo hold their collective breath as Jeff comes back to see the house fully finished and staged.

“Do you love it?” Starsiak asks tentatively.

“Is there anything stronger than ‘love’? It’s beyond whatever I could imagine,” he says, reaching for his checkbook. “You blew me off my feet.”

He happily pays $259,000 for the house on which they spent $185,000 to repair. After commission and closing costs, they make a $44,000 profit.

Now, who thought this home was beyond repair?

Potential buyer Jeff more than loves their work
Potential buyer Jeff more than loves their work.


New episodes air Tuesday at 10/9 p.m. central on HGTV.

The post ‘Good Bones’: Watch a Mom and Her Kid Turn a $4,000 Fixer-Upper Into $259,000 appeared first on Real Estate News & Insights | realtor.com®.