Feb. 1, 2021

Laine and Kevin Berry: Our Restoration Nation

Laine and Kevin Berry: Our Restoration Nation

In this first episode of Season five, Stacy is flying solo. Feeling lonely, she invites a past podcast guest to join her for listener Q&A.  

Later, she talks to Laine and Kevin Berry of Our Restoration Nation about their preservation...


Summary:

In this first episode of Season five, Stacy is flying solo. Feeling lonely, she invites a past podcast guest to join her for listener Q&A.  

Later, she talks to Laine and Kevin Berry of Our Restoration Nation about their preservation projects and life post-Louise, the Big Little House in Louisville, Georgia.

More...

(0:00) Season five begins with Stacy flying solo. She discusses the changes to the show, which include the new website. Although the plan is to bring the show notes from past seasons up to date, the old site and new site don’t play well together, and that migration has to be completed manually.

(4:41) Alex from Old Town Home drops in to do the Q&A segment with Stacy. The listener question is, “What simple update increases a home’s value without breaking the bank?” Alex offers a well-rounded perspective since he and his wife, Wendy, own two houses, and Wendy is a realtor. 

Naturally, Stacy’s answer leans toward the practical aspects of curb appeal as she and Alex talk about short-term fixes for comfort and playing the long game of preparing an old house to appeal to future buyers. 

(14:11) After Stacy says goodbye to Alex, she flips the Q&A script to reveal that there is an opportunity for listeners to answer the question, “What is the weirdest or most surprising thing you’ve ever found in your old house?” Listeners can leave their voicemail answers by tapping on the microphone icon on the website’s lower right-hand screen. 

(15:30) Today’s guests are Laine and Kevin Berry from Our Restoration Nation.

(16:34) Stacy brings listeners up to speed about the fact that this is actually the second time Laine and Kevin have been interviewed for the show. Unfortunately, due to a natural disaster with catastrophic consequences, releasing the first interview was put on hold.

(18:04) Stacy, Laine, and Kevin talk about whether Louise’s chapter is closed and what has transpired after the fire. 

 (19:39) Laine shares some eye-opening facts about how much waste a demolished house can create and how they mitigated that by calling a salvage expert in to help.

(21:29) Stacy asks Laine and Kevin what’s next for Louise’s lot? They will be moving a house to that location. 

(24:26) Laine explains the difference between restoration, preservation, and renovation and how far they take each project for safety and modern life. 

.(27:45) Aside from moving a house, Stacy asks Laine and Kevin about their other projects. They reveal their other endeavor, which is preserving an Antebellum home in Arkansas that needed to be saved. 

(31:54) Stacy wonders how Laine and Kevin know when they’ve found “the one.” Their answer includes practical business calculations as well as some gut feelings.

 (34:14) Laine and Kevin talk about financing the purchase of an extreme fixer-upper that needs a full overhaul before it becomes inhabitable. They talk about loans and the importance of collecting many bids and holding contractors accountable to those bids and timetables. Certain loans can help facilitate that process and protect buyers and contractors. 

(42:36) Stacy asks Laine if she has ever had any regrets about saying, “If it was put in there in the first place, it can be put back.” 

(44:58) Kevin talks about how it felt when followers wanted them to rebuild Louise rather than salvage her parts for other projects. 

(46:21) Laine and Kevin close the show by explaining how Our Restoration Nation came about and their hopes and plans for it going into the future.

 Mentioned in This Episode

Thank you for listening to True Tales From Old Houses.

Until next time,

 

Transcript

Stacy Grinsfelder  0:03  
I'm Stacy Grinsfelder, from Blake Hill House, and I am the host of True Tales From Old Houses. This is season five. Hello, it is so good to be back. I missed recording and releasing new episodes. At the end of each season. I admit I'm I'm always ready to take a break. But then I just did I can't wait to be back. This last hiatus, it felt really long. Even though I kept packing my schedule during that time adding more and more and more. About three weeks ago, I turned to my husband Andy and I said, there is not enough January to do everything I've scheduled this month. But you know, that's just what I do. And the more I try to control that aspect of my personality, the more ways I figure out to fool myself into believing that I can do it all. I cannot. 

I suppose the important thing is that I do complete all of the essential tasks, and there was a lot of housekeeping to do behind the scenes of the show during the past six weeks. First, I'm excited because True Tales From Old Houses has a new website. It's easy to navigate, and it loads lightning fast. Now just like the old site, you can listen to every episode there if that's how you prefer to do it. The top menu bar makes it easy to contact the show, follow on social, donate, or subscribe to the podcast on your favorite podcast app. Now one note, the interface for the new website was incompatible with our old one and I had to migrate a lot of the information by hand. Season Four is nearly recreated in its entirety. But the previous season's episodes, episode pages rather, may contain only the player and some very simple show notes. I'll keep working on it until all the data is moved over. So if you don't see what you're looking for check back periodically because those updates will take a little bit of time. 

There is another really fun feature on the website, which I will get into during the next segment. So hold on. Before that--merchandise. Over the break, I had some inquiries about True Tales From Old Houses merch. There are a handful of T shirts left from the fall merchandise fundraising event. And if you wanted a T shirt and you missed it, take a peek at what's left. There's not very many. The sizes are a little hit or miss, but all tees are in stock and they will ship right away. The link to the merchandise page is at the top of the new website. 

So what else is new? Well, I hired some new folks to do sound tech. Also, there'll be a few carefully chosen sponsors this season, and hopefully a field trip or two if this pandemic ever gets under control. You know, I love it here at Blake Hill House, but at this point during the pandemic, I think I could have a suitcase packed and be out the door in about 10 minutes or less. If you think your area is the perfect place for a True Tales From Old Houses podcasting, on location event, send me a message via the contact page on the website and tell me where you are and why I should pay your area visit. I'll do a little research, and maybe I'll be podcasting from your location before you know it. And finally, the guests this season. Very exciting. Our guests this season are engaging, educational and fun, and I can't wait to introduce you to all of them. My goal is always to improve your experience as a listener to be a resource and to produce the very best show possible. All right, let me look at my notes, notes, notes notes. Oh, well, it looks like high squished housekeeping items and announcements all together this week. But at least it brings you up to date. [musical interlude}

Right now it's time for Q&A. Devyn and I used to do this part together, but now that I'm hosting solo, there will be a little change to the format of this segment. Throughout the season, I'll be calling on a few of our past guests to weigh in on the topics with me. I figure two heads are always better than one and I never want this segment of the show to become an echo chamber. I do not claim to be an expert on everything related to old houses. So it's nice to call in friends to help me out sometimes. With that said, let's see who's here today. 

Alex  4:41  
Hello. 

Stacy Grinsfelder  4:43  
It's Alex from Old Town Home. Hi, Alex.

Alex  4:47  
Hi, Stacy. How are you? 

Stacy Grinsfelder  4:48  
Good. Welcome back. I'm glad you're here today.

Alex  4:51  
Thank you very much.

Stacy Grinsfelder  4:52  
I believe you kicked off season four for us. I'm really bad at this. This is one of those times where I really miss Devyn because he could always just bring it up real quick. "Oh, yeah, they were episode this from season this," and here I am struggling, but I think it was season four.

Alex  5:08  
Yeah, it was. I think it was first episode of Season Four.

Stacy Grinsfelder  5:11  
Excellent. Well, it's really nice to have you back. And I appreciate you taking your time to help me out with these listener questions.

Alex  5:17  
Certainly, I'm very glad to be back. And I love to help people out, whatever, wherever possible.

Stacy Grinsfelder  5:22  
Yeah, I think most of us on Instagram are familiar with you and know that you are a big helper. And I'm thrilled to have you here.

Alex  5:28  
I like that as my reputation.

Stacy Grinsfelder  5:30  
Yeah. It's always better to be known as the helper, isn't it?

Alex  5:34  
Right.

Stacy Grinsfelder  5:36  
All right. Are you ready for the first question? 

Alex  5:38  
Yep, shoot. 

Stacy Grinsfelder  5:39  
All right. And I should say that on during this season, you might as a listener, you might hear this question more than once, and I did that purposefully. I wanted to ask this question to more than one person, because I figure again, that two heads are better than one situation, but also, it's just, it's everybody has different ideas. It's nice. It's nice. So the question today is, and you can start if you're up for it, is: What simple update increases a home's value without breaking the bank?

Alex  6:10  
Well, I love this question. And the reason why is because I have two perspectives on this. I have my own personal opinion on it, but I'm also married to my wife, Wendy, who's a realtor. So I get to see this and her work day in and day out when she's looking at putting a house on the market and giving advice to her clients as to how to increase the home's value. So pretty much the two perspectives I have are both a short term and a long term value. How can you increase it in the very short term, and how can you increase it in the long term? So before I get started, are you asking for a friend? Are you putting your house on the market anytime soon or anything like that?

Stacy Grinsfelder  6:47  
I am not putting my house on the market anytime soon. In fact, I'm really a little curious about this question. Because most of our listeners, they're certainly not flippers, they're certainly not looking to do something quick to resell their house. So I --this could be taken two different ways. I'm glad that you're talking about Wendy, who's a realtor. That's perfect. She's she'll be a great resource for for the answer of this question. I'm wondering if people when they move in, sometimes these houses are pretty rundown, and they're just kind of looking for something to make both their lives better, and also maybe make their houses increase the home value? I think that might be where we're going from, but anyway, go ahead. You answer. And I'm not telling--

Alex  7:28  
That all makes sense. But so So essentially, when you're looking at it, from my perspective, increasing a home's value is either the short term trying to increase the value because you're preparing, like we said to sell. And that is the more superficial updates that are quick and easy and inexpensive. Paint is always the first one that people say, light refreshes on bathrooms are another great one. curb appeal is also a great one. You know, these are the automatics, the ones where it doesn't matter if you're watching HGTV or talking to a realtor anything like that, you're going to get those answers as sort of the first go around and how to increase a home's value. But when you're looking at this more from the long term perspective, especially with historic homes, it's a much different set of variables that go into this overall equation. So if you've just moved into your house, and you want to increase the home's value without breaking the bank, you might be looking at doing something that will just make you more comfortable in the house because you're increasing the home's value to yourself. refinishing floors is one of the first things that people tend to do that has a huge impact over the entire house and makes you feel much more comfortable. Everything's cleaner, everything is more put together. So that's one of those automatic ones, if you've just purchased a house, same light paint refreshes while you're preparing for the bigger projects down the road, where you can make yourself feel more comfortable in the house more comfortable in the individual rooms.

Stacy Grinsfelder  9:01  
Right. Can I interrupt for just a sec? 

Alex  9:03  
Sure. 

Stacy Grinsfelder  9:03  
I was gonna say and those are tasks that you can do before you even move in, and I highly recommend it because I I've done both of those while living in the house, and it's pretty tricky. So if you have an opportunity to do the floors before you move in, take it.

Alex  9:17  
That was something we did with our house that I'm really glad glad about looking back on it. I had no idea. We were first time homebuyers, and we ended up having a closing date that overlap with our apartment leased by I think it was three or four weeks, actually 18 years ago, I think this week. And those three weeks were invaluable in allowing us to come over here-- we just drove over every night with our tools and we worked on something. We we hired somebody to come in and refinish the floors during that time and it was a great way to kind of start to dabble in home renovation as well without living through it. But you--I think these, these different options for increasing a home's value in the short term are a great way to increase your comfort in the house too, which is so incredibly important. I think that's more than the general value of a house more than the dollar value of the house. Now, beyond the kind of shorter term items, where you can just come in and paint come in and refinish the floor, I think you also have to have the perspective of an old home owner, how can you increase the home's value without breaking the bank, and I think a lot of that comes down to preservation. How can you start to plan to preserve the original character elements of the house, rather than tearing them out to replace them with something else like a flipper might.

Stacy Grinsfelder  10:51  
Right. And let me say, too, I mean, the more we do that, and the better we make those original features look, the less likely it is that the next person is going to tear them out. You know, if they get something that already looks bad, they might think that the only solution is to remove it. And you can't --flippers are flippers-- flippers got to flip, but just the general next person who might look at the house and see something as not worth saving. If we make those things, if we preserve those original features, then it's more likely that somebody will respect those and be excited about them too.

Alex  11:26  
And flippers tend to get a stereotype with a lot of this that is, I think, in many cases unfair. Whether you're a fan or not of the traditional flipper doesn't really matter, you have to look at it from their business process. They're looking for speed, renovating an old house and trying to retain its character is never going to be fast. So you can understand why they might take something out, but if you're working on your old house, and you want to increase the home's value, and I'm a prospective buyer, in the future, I am going to be looking for these historic detail elements. And that's going to make a house more valuable for me. So in those early days of your home renovation, just refreshing something and making sure that you're committing to retaining something long term that you'll eventually work on in a more detailed manner. You know, that can go a long way to improve a home's value if you have the right buyer, especially if you live in a historic neighborhood like we do. People are looking for houses with retained historic architectural elements.

Stacy Grinsfelder  12:28  
Right? Absolutely. That's great. That's a great answer. I'm more practical. I mean, I am I'm all those things. I'm everything you just mentioned, but I do--I think my mind automatically goes to those things you can do to just clean up--clean up the yard, get the mildew and mold off your roof and your siding. You know, wash your windows just make the house look lived in if you're up against a situation where it's not looking so great. And you know, some of these houses are huge. They've been sitting empty for a long time. So maybe all that's not feasible, but even just spraying off the porch, putting some planters down, you know, making it look a little bit more homey--and the curb appeal, Obviously, you're not going to get a ton of money for that sort of thing, but you're on your way, and it's it's a good start.

Alex  13:14  
And to echo that you can go out and get a inexpensive power washer, electric power washer for about 70 to $80. And a power washer does wonders on the exterior of a house when you're trying to clean off porches, walkways, anything like that. And, you know, this is one of those elements that Wendy always says, when we're driving around and you see a nice area. A nice area tends to be an area that people take care of, and clean up their yard, their front porches, everything like that. So it's not like it costs a lot to do any of that stuff. It just takes time to go out and prioritize and clean things up and move stuff out of the way. And at least, I mean, you can be a total mess, but if you hide it from your neighbors they'll never know, right?

Stacy Grinsfelder  14:02  
Oh, yeah, I'm big about hiding the mess. All right. Well, thanks, Alex. That really gives us something to think about. I appreciate it.

Alex  14:09  
All right. Glad to be here. Thank you.

Stacy Grinsfelder  14:11  
Thanks for coming. Bye,  

[background music] Now, remember when I said there was something new on the website that I would come back to? Well, here it is. I love answering your questions, but starting this season, I have a question to ask you as listeners and lovers of old houses. And that question is: What is the weirdest or most surprising thing you've ever found in your old house? Now if you go to the True Tales From Old Houses website on the bottom right-hand side, you will see a microphone icon. Click on that microphone and you can leave a voicemail answer, which I might share on an upcoming episode of the show. Don't be shy. You can leave that voicemail using your phone or even your computer as long as it has a microphone. Once again. Question is, what is the weirdest or most surprising thing you have ever found in your old house? Be sure to offer your answer in a complete sentence, and I'll be collecting and sharing answers to this same question all season long. It should be a lot of fun. If you don't have an answer, you are welcome to leave a voicemail review, ask a question for me to answer on air, or let me know if you have a great guest idea or just something to add to a previously released episode. Use that voicemail feature and enjoy it. Your privacy--you may be wondering about that-- your privacy is important. Rest assured that any messages you leave will not be shared without your permission. [end music]

Today's guests are serial house restores with a passion for preservation education. Laine and Kevin are not afraid of that dilapidated, the abandoned, the underdog. The more work the house needs, the faster they seem to fall in love with it. They call themselves old house optimists, and it's my pleasure to share this interview.

Laine  16:19  
I am Laine Berry.

Kevin  16:21  
And I'm Kevin Berry and we run Our Restoration Nation.

Stacy Grinsfelder  16:26  
Wonderful. Well, welcome back, Laine and  Kevin, it's so nice to see you again.

Laine  16:31  
It really is great to be here...again.

Stacy Grinsfelder  16:34  
Yes, yes. All right. Well, to bring our listeners up to speed, last year, Devyn and I interviewed Laine and Kevin with the intent of releasing the episode in season four. And during that first interview, we talked mostly about your work on the Big Little House in Louisville, Georgia, which you affectionately named Louise. Sadly, shortly after our discussion, Louise was struck by lightning and she burned to the ground. So Laine and Kevin, you both have a way of inviting people into your restoration stories and making them feel a part of your mission. So this loss was really felt deeply by everyone who knew Louise and who knew you. And although you were open to us releasing your interview post-Louise, neither Devyn nor I had the heart to do it. And I think we both knew that after you processed your grief that a new story would emerge. So we decided to wait, and I'm really grateful that you're willing to come back for a second interview. Thank you, thank you for being here.

Kevin  17:36  
It's our pleasure.

Laine  17:37  
Thank you so much for having us again, Stacy. It's lovely to get to do this after everything that has transpired. This is a great way to-- I'm glad you didn't hear that episode. I'm glad we're doing it this way.

Stacy Grinsfelder  17:49  
Yes, yes. And you were so generous. You're like, "Oh, just air it. It'll be fine," and I remember Devyn and I both talking to each other and saying, "I can't do it," and he said, "I can't do it either."

Laine  17:59  
Yeah, right. We were just trying to be nice, but it didn't make sense. Yeah.

Shock

Stacy Grinsfelder  18:04  
Yeah, absolutely shock. All right. Well, you know, it is difficult to do this fresh start interview without going back or without going back in time just for just for a couple minutes--not for a long time-- to talk about Louise, and I'm curious, is the chapter of Louise closed? I mean, what happened in the aftermath of the fire?

Laine  18:24  
I wouldn't say it's closed at all, would you?

No, honestly, I think the house has inspired us and inspired a lot of people really, and and we still use Louise's image in our logos and that kind of thing, so I--you know, and people still-- we have we have new followers that find our YouTube page and don't know anything about the story and they start from the beginning and and then they find out that Louise has burned and then they're crying having only known Louise for two hours.

I got an email like what last last Tuesday? 

Kevin  18:56  
Yeah, 

Laine  18:57  
it was you know, this long heart-wrenching, "I just got your page. I was watching I was in love, and then it burned, and so we stopped"-- and I don't think the story of Louise is over. I think Louise started Our Restoration Nation. It really pulled-- she pulled together this group of people who are like-minded, who have the same passion, and who kind of I think felt disjointed and didn't really feel like maybe--maybe they were the only people out there who didn't like home improvement flip shows and wanted to be part of restoration, wanted to see restoration, and had nowhere to go to do that. And now, she has created this thing. So there's definitely a legacy there. Even though the structure is gone, the legacy remains.

Stacy Grinsfelder  19:39  
That's absolutely beautiful. Was anything salvages? I know that at some point you were looking for any bits and parts that you could send to someone else to use in Louise's honor. So what kind of items did you find?

Laine  19:53  
Well, we we did have several, [cough] excuse me, several items like that with hinges and just pieces of 

tiles. 

Yeah, that we were able to get to people who just loved her so much that they needed a little piece of her. But then we were able to salvage some really big things, some mantels and some doors, a ton of timber, old timber was salvaged during the final demo. 

Yeah, we wanted to--We talked at the very beginning of the restoration of Louise that had she just been torn down, she would have created 810 cubic feet of landfill waste. And so we wanted to make sure that as little as possible went into the landfill even after her fire. So all the bricks were salvaged and they'll be used in foundation of the new house that's going to go there. We had a salvage expert out of Louisville Jonathan Newsom came in and literally took every piece of flooring every joist, every beam that was salvageable. Every one of the porch posts. So I think, honestly, truly what actually went into the landfill was maybe a dumpster or two of waste and everything else is being repurposed. 

Stacy Grinsfelder  21:05  
Wow, what a testament to old growth wood, huh?

Laine  21:08  
Oh, 

Kevin  21:09  
absolutely. 

Laine  21:10  
Unbelievable. 

Kevin  21:10  
Yeah, the front two rooms didn't burn that badly. And the front porch didn't either. Those were the only things that really didn't burn completely. And so yeah, he was able to take a lot of timber off the house. 

Laine  21:23  
Yes. 

Kevin  21:24  
And we'll probably be using a lot of it as we work on the houses that we've got going. Mm hmm.

Stacy Grinsfelder  21:29  
Sure. So what's going on the lot where Louise was?

Laine  21:34  
Well, we're so excited. The city owns a piece of property that is a public park. It's five acres, it's a public park and on that piece of property is a beautiful Victorian home that is related to Louise in a roundabout sort of way, and had just been sitting for you for 24 years had been sitting as a storage building and neglected. Just, you know, a small city has small city budget, and so putting a roof on a house that's a storage building does not take priority in a city the size of Louisville. We totally understand that and so we have purchased from the city, that home and she will be moving to Louise's lot. We are hopeful right now-- the tentative plan is to move her on March the 13th, which is the day that we actually closed on Louse. So that--we're kind of hoping it's a full circle sort of moment for all of us.

Stacy Grinsfelder  22:31  
Oh, that's so exciting. I had no idea you were moving a house. So I feel like maybe we're gonna have to come back and visit with you yet again. To find out..

Kevin  22:41  
It's gonna be an experience for sure.

Stacy Grinsfelder  22:43  
Right. Oh, I look forward to watching that one unfold for sure. Well, that's wonderful. So new foundation of Louise's is bricks and then you'll have a house, a Victorian you said is taat correct? 

Laine  22:53  
It a

Kevin  22:54  
1885 

Laine  22:55  
1885 stick style Victorian, which is one of the only ones in the town. So we are once again saving a really important piece of Louisville history, and the two houses that sit across from one another, again will be related to one another. So it's it's just kind of the perfect end to that particular story.

Stacy Grinsfelder  23:13  
Sure, sure. What a sweet sweet ending. That's wonderful. Okay, so you clearly know a thing or two about restoring houses and probably most people who've been following you for a long time know this about you, but for new people, people just getting on board via this podcast, what is your history? How many houses have you restored?

Laine  23:34  
Louise was seven. So I guess we can say seven. And then with the piece the properties that we currently own and are in the midst of renovating, we're up to nine, that number could change to 10 very quickly, just depending on what happens in the next couple of months. So we've been doing this for about 20 years--started very small, like we recommend everybody should. We bought a you know, a cosmetic fixer upper, it needed a little bit of foundation work, but other than that it was in really great shape. It just was painted completely Pepto bismol pink, and every single room had carpets, 

Kevin  24:09  
redo the floors and do some paint

Laine  24:11  
very very minimal cosmetic work in that one and then just worked our way up from there and learned as we went worked on education outside of of actual restoration --learning. Once you get into it, you sort of figure out, I need some chops to go with this. I'm doing the right things making the right decisions and have just worked for the last 20 years to really make restoration and preservation, and, and, and in a pinch rehabilitation what we do, but to really teach people the difference between what we see on television, which is renovation and restoration preservation.

Stacy Grinsfelder  24:46  
Right. Absolutely. So let's do talk about that for a minute because you like to do a straight up restoration preservation but where is the wiggle room in that like how do you handle things like plumbing and electricity and...?

Laine  24:59  
Restoration is what you would see if you do a House Museum. Basically, if you get a house, you make it look exactly like it was. If it was built in 1760, then you literally are going to strip out everything that's not 1760 and make it that again. Preservation is where we like to fall, because preservation allows for you to show the house evolving over time. So it does allow for you to have crazy things like electricity and air conditioning. If your bathrooms were put in 1980s, you can redo those bathrooms. And then of course, the final little click in those three is rehabilitation, which is taking a property that is a historic home, making it livable for the 21st century. So the additions of bathrooms, kitchens, etc, but not altering the historic integrity of that building. So we still want to--we don't want to knock out walls, we don't want to change the footprint. We don't want to remove historic materials or paints, but we are allowed to keep it make it livable for for what we would consider a livable home. And I would say that 99% of people in the restoration preservation rehabilitation community, that's what they're doing. That's what they are engaged in. Because because that's just what makes it practical and functional for today.

Kevin  26:11  
And they're still saving those homes, which is what's most important to us. So we're definitely on board with that.

Laine  26:17  
Yeah, well, that's one of the three the secretary of Interior's you know definitions for historic preservation. That's, that's in their three categories. It's where we get to renovation that, Kevin, I'll get, we'll get a little snotty about that.

Stacy Grinsfelder  26:32  
Yeah, I have some walls to tear out. That's okay, right? [laughing] 

Laine  26:34  
[unitelligible] Sorry Stacy [laughing]

Stacy Grinsfelder  26:38  
And this interview ends now thank you very much. [laughing]

Laine  26:41  
Thank you so much. [laughing]

Stacy Grinsfelder  26:45  
No, I know exactly how you feel. And I feel the same way. So we're good. We're on the same page there. Now you--so as far as electrical goes, is that something that you would absolutely modernize for safety? 

Laine  26:56  
Oh, especially now we always would. So we say if if it can burn or it can flood, then those are the two things that need to be up to the highest standards, not just for your own personal safety, but for the safety of the structure. Two of the ways that we lose these historic buildings is through fire and flood. So we want to do anything we can to make sure that we're not doing something to cause one of those two disasters. So if you have knob and tube wiring, yes, update it. We had someone a couple of weeks ago say "Oh, don't update your knob and tube wiring. 

Kevin  27:27  
It'll be fine."

Laine  27:29  
It's electricing covered by cloth.

Stacy Grinsfelder  27:32  
Right

Laine  27:32  
That's not a good combination. So yes, definitely update those. 

Stacy Grinsfelder  27:36  
Right. I had a feeling I knew the answer to that one. But I just I wanted to hear you say it.

Laine  27:41  
Well, especially now, right? No fires, no fire. 

Kevin  27:45  
Yeah,

Stacy Grinsfelder  27:45  
No, absolutely not. Alright, so So let's talk about your current projects. You have a few things going on. You're moving to Victorian obviously, you have some other things too. Tell me about those projects?

Kevin  27:56  
Well, we have that one in Louisville, Georgia. And it's gonna require a lot of work-- a new roof and all new electrical and plumbing and HVAC Foundation and moving. But it's a small project. [laughing] It will be a big project for sure, but it also has so many things going for it that we didn't have with Louise. With Louise, we had a lot of rot. It had been getting rained in for decades, but this house is--the woodwork is in very good shape, the mantels, the tile. So it's actually

Laine  28:31  
structurally sound and I think will continue to be even after we pick it up and move it across town. 

Kevin  28:34  
Right. So,it does have a lot of things. We tried to look at the positive, and I guess I just named off a million things we've got to do, but but it does have a lot of great original features. And one of the things that we look for in a home.

Laine  28:47  
She wanted to know about our other homes

Kevin  28:48  
Oh, I know. I know. I veer. 

Laine  28:53  
He veers. [laughing] 

Kevin  28:55  
We hate it when it's been remuddled, and we've got to take out all of the '80s stuff, put in other stuff. But so the other project is in Helena, Arkansas, and we just really stumbled upon that one and had no intention of buying that at all, but it is very great historic home, and the family was really getting desperate. Tell them the story.

Laine  29:17  
I wouldn't say that the family was was desperate. The home had just come up for sale, but the area that it's in is very economically depressed. There are three heirs. They all live out--Their fear was that no one would want to buy the home because of where it's located, and so they were going to lose it to fire or that it would just fall down and they know that it's a very historically significant home. So they had started reaching out there. They they did contact one of the major major major online you know, Instagram, house marketing, community, vendors, whatever those are, I can't think of that, and they wouldn't list it because it is an antebellum home that has columns in the front they actually said, "We no longer promote properties that are antebellum homes with columns in the front," which is-- that's a whole-- I could-- just don't even get me started on that topic. And then they reached out to Scott Reed of Saving Old Houses and said, "Will you help us market this property?" Well, Scott said, "Give me five minutes," and he literally said, "Hey, there's this house. This is what they want for it." I called the grandson of the owner and said, "We want the house. He [Kevin] had COVID when we 

Stacy Grinsfelder  30:23  
Oh, no, 

Laine  30:25  
I know. poor baby. It's his own fault. He went to the gym, don't don't give him any sympathy or pity. [laughing] But the after he recovered, we went we took a look at it, and 

Kevin  30:25  
We--well, we were ready to buy it. 

Laine  30:36  
I would have bought it over the phone. 

Kevin  30:37  
But and the so it's the nephew that was the realtor, right? 

Laine  30:41  
No, the grandson 

Kevin  30:42  
the grandson that was the realtor, and Laine was like, "Okay, yeah, we'll buy it."

Laine  30:46  
We'll take it. 

Kevin  30:46  
And he said, No, you've got to come look at it first. And we were like, Well, you know, that's not really our jam, but

Laine  30:52  
We never look at it first, but okay, 

Kevin  30:54  
yeah. So anyway, we--when I finally recovered, we went to look at it and bought it shortly after. I mean, it was not even a month was it?

Laine  31:01  
I know. So he--we found out about it on November, I think it was like November the 26th and we closed on it December the 13th. So it was 

Stacy Grinsfelder  31:08  
Oh, yeah, 

Laine  31:08  
another very quick jumping into a project, and to the family, it's a catastrophe. To us, it has running water and working electricity. So we're like, this is a mansion.

Kevin  31:21  
It's got a heater! I mean, it's unbelievable! [laughing]

Stacy Grinsfelder  31:25  
That's funny. My husband and I, we we look at houses-- I mean we don't actually tour houses, but we have a little bit of a different point of view when it comes to looking at houses. So we'll be driving along and I'll see a house that's just leaning, you know, barely. And I, the first thing I'll say is like, "Oh, I bet that's so wonderful inside," you know, and his first reaction is "Run, run far away!"

Laine  31:49  
Luckily, we're on the same page. 

Stacy Grinsfelder  31:51  
Yeah, that's good.

Kevin  31:53  
We're house optimists.

Stacy Grinsfelder  31:54  
Yeah. Well, I have a question for you both. Because you bring up a really good point when you know, you know, and I'm just curious, because with I mean, there are tons of old houses available. And you , I mean, if you had a book to flip through them, what makes you say yes, that's the one. I mean, how in the world do you just know? How does your gut tell you the right thing?

Laine  32:15  
I think it's a combination of things. First of all, we do look at what the house costs, obviously. It's always gonna play a part in it, if it is, you know, if the price is right, so that with all of the restoration and repair, we're going to have to do, we're not going to be down in value. We don't buy these necessarily for resale. We buy them for historic tour homes and for bed and breakfasts, but still, sometimes you have to liquidate an asset, and so we don't, we don't want to end up in a situation where we've invested more than the market will bear. So that's always important. We look at--we often will have, you know, like we really wanted an antebellum home this time. So that that made buying the one in Helena, very easy, because it's a very, very significant, historically significant antebellum home. And then we look to see, are there unique features in the property? Are there things in this property that are different than, you know, I hate to say  your run-of-the-mill historic home, which is a hilarious thing to say, but a lot of history, like you said, there's tons of them out there. We could buy homes every day. So what is in this property that sets it apart? It's like your gallery on your staircase, Stacy that you know, your little area, 

Stacy Grinsfelder  33:28  
Yes 

Laine  33:28  
like that's one of those things that I would walk in and be like, Okay, this entire house is worth that thing. So yes, we're going to restore this home. And then there's that intrinsic  je ne sais quoi that you-- that sometimes you just have. I do anyway, when I walk into a home where I see a home and I know this is it's mine. I don't know, I can't really tell you what it is. I can't really tell you what it is that's speaking to me about it, but it does just happen. With the one we bought in Florida. I walked in and said, This is my home, I don't care how hard we have to fight to get it. I don't care how long it takes. I don't care how long it is to do these renovations, restorations. This is my home. So there is that element to it, whatever that is. 

Stacy Grinsfelder  34:14  
Mm hmm. Wow. That's neat. Well, it kind of dovetails nicely into my question for you-- the next one that I have for you, because you're known for taking all these projects that are basically at least at the startup uninhabitable. And with the popularity of websites like Old House Dreams and the Cheap Old Houses Instagram, awareness of the opportunities of these opportunities is growing. So I'm wondering, can you offer any insight into how to buy a neglected fixer upper that also needs a full restoration? like what are some of the funding options?

Laine  34:42  
Right. Of course we try to do as much as possible with cash because then nobody's standing over your shoulder and there's some of them that are cheap enough that even somebody working in a $20,000 a year job can buy for cash after a little bit of savings. Truly. Rhere's some that are like-- we bought we bought Louise for $5,000 so that's something that's something that almost anybody can do, but for those who can't, there are there's a wonderful loan that we are huge proponents of it's the 501. No sorry. [laughing] I'll tell you how to make a nonprofit organization. 5013c. 

Kevin  35:15  
That's the way to go.

Laine  35:19  
I one of those too. It's the FHA 203K loan, which is wonderful restoration loan, that does allow you to purchase the home and they they appraise it based on what it will be worth once the restoration is complete. And then they give you a percentage of that money to do your restoration. And the reason that I really love the 203K for first timers--one of the major problems that new restoration couples enthusiasts run into are contractors that can kind of take advantage. They underbid to get the work, or they never show up. With the 203K, the bank, FHA, the government actually provides you with a 

Kevin  36:08  
an officer?

Laine  36:09  
An officer? 

Kevin  36:10  
It's a basically

Laine  36:13  
An officer is the best way to 

Stacy Grinsfelder  36:15  
Like a social worker for your house

Kevin  36:18  
Yes!

Laine  36:19  
A loan social worker who works requires that your contractors give you concrete bids at the beginning of the work. And those contractors are not allowed to exceed that price through the entire project. They're not paid until that social worker has come and checked out the labor to make sure it is efficient, and it meets FHA guidelines. And then 80% of the funds are distributed to the contractor and the rest of those funds are distributed once the project is complete. Also, they have a six-month timeline. So you have to complete the work in six months. If it's not done, then you have, you can write and ask for an extension. But it really gives a lot of protections for people, as you walk that path, you know, and like the worse the house is, the more I am super pro 203K loans just because it really protects you from unscrupulous people who want to take advantage. One of the things we see  that we still still deal with it. Workers come they see these people who bought this ramshackle home, and they automatically think, oh, their pockets must be limitless, it must be deeper than the deep blue ocean. And so they immediately, you know, double or triple the price of work that they would do for someone else. And so the 203K loan really does give you protection from that.

Stacy Grinsfelder  37:35  
I run into that too, because I have a really big house, and it has a lot of beautiful features. And so I often have the same troubles, you know, someone will come and I'll be like, Oh, you know, how much will this cost? Well-- looks around--. 

Laine  37:46  
uh-huh

Kevin  37:46  
yeah

Stacy Grinsfelder  37:48  
I don't think so. That's not really how it works around here. But yeah, that's something that everybody who's listening should be aware of that sometimes a bid is based on what they think you can pay, not necessarily what the project costs.

Laine  37:59  
Absolutely. That's why we always say, bid bid and bid again.

Kevin  38:02  
You need several bids to really find out and then and then also, if you have someone you trust in the area, you know, we do this all over the country. So we have to find people that we trust in the area, but they'll recommend someone who is honest, and that's always important.

Stacy Grinsfelder  38:18  
Now, let me get a clarification really here real quick, because I think of FHA loans as first-time homebuyer loans. But are you saying that this loan could be used for someone who's restoring a home for a first time?

Laine  38:31  
Anybody could. I could go get an FHA loan today, you could go get an FHA loan today, FHA lenders have different criterion than a standard conventional loan. And most people have, who have purchased a home in the past, no longer need those FHA criteria, which is, you know, 3% down, you can have a higher debt to income ratio, there are a lot of things that fall within that FHA guideline that makes it easier for people to purchase a home. So usually, by the time people are our age, they don't need that anymore. But you can do an FHA loan as many times as you need to. But the FHA loan, the 203K loan is specifically designed for restoration renovation, and if we wanted to go and do--we've done 203K loan. If we wanted to do seven of those, we could.

Stacy Grinsfelder  39:13  
Oh! okay. All right. Good to know. So I will, I'll put a link to that particular type of loan on the show notes, to make sure--because there's a lot of, you know, numbers at the end of that. There's a lot of different options, I guess I should say, That's not so many numbers to remember just talking about it here, but when you go to a website and see all the different types of loans, it may become overwhelming. So I'll link it for sure. 

Laine  39:35  
And I will say a lot of the information online tends to get very overwhelming and the people who talk about it when talking about, Oh, you don't want a 203Kk because because of all the restrictions that go on it. No, you want a 203k because of all the restrictions that go on it. It is protections for you. You need to look at your FHA officer as your ally in this process. If you do it like that. It's kind of the same thing as a code enforcement officers.

Kevin  40:01  
Just like

Laine  40:02  
We get so frustrated with code enforcement officers. "Oh my gosh, they make it so hard."  No, they're making sure your house doesn't burn down. So 

Stacy Grinsfelder  40:08  
right 

Laine  40:09  
They're your allies, 

Kevin  40:10  
They are there for your protection.

Laine  40:11  
 Yeah. And it's the same thing with the FHA officer. They're there to protect you through what can be sort of a landmine field of restoration and renovation. 

Stacy Grinsfelder  40:21  
Right. Okay. I have a quick side question. unrelated to what we're talking about. Do you have a bird?

Laine  40:26  
We do you have a bird?

Kevin  40:27  
Do you want me to go cover the bird up? I can 

Stacy Grinsfelder  40:30  
Oh, that's okay. Iwas like, Wait, am I hearing like a parrot or?

Laine  40:35  
Yeah, no, it's it's a budgie. It's very loud. I can can put a sheet on her. 

Stacy Grinsfelder  40:40  
Okay.

Kevin  40:42  
We we forgot about it.

Stacy Grinsfelder  40:44  
Oh, that's okay. It's really funny. I have a bird clock too. So Devyn and I, whenever we recorded together, it never failed. That bird clock would go off sometime when we were talking. 

Kevin  40:53  
Oh, ok. [laughing]

Stacy Grinsfelder  40:53  
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Laine  42:21  
I apologize.

Stacy Grinsfelder  42:22  
Oh, please don't please don't. We're all working with what we have and what we can hear. We're all at home. Zoomin' like crazy. So no, it's perfectly fine.

Kevin  42:32  
I'm just glad we don't have our eight dogs running around.

Stacy Grinsfelder  42:36  
That's great. All right. So we talked about the loan--ways that people can fund these projects. That's great. Now I was talking about Devyn and I have to talk about him again since he was here for the last interview, but Laine he had a favorite line of yours regarding saving old houses, and it was-- you said, "If it was put there in the first place, it can be put back again," and I would like to know, was there ever a time when you wanted to eat those words?

Laine  43:01  
No, honestly, not. For me. I'm even with Louise I you know, I think just because I have a life philosophy of if it doesn't kill me, it really has no power over me whatsoever. It can be it can be fixed. It can be repaired, and to me it's almost more-- it's fascinating to watch the fact that I'm standing in this house that's 200 years old, the middle of it seems to be caving in, I can go underneath it, I can jack it up, I can put some new supports in and look it's good as new. So I don't I don't think so.

Kevin  43:30  
We're such house optimists. 

Laine  43:33  
Yeah. 

Kevin  43:33  
We look at a houses- like in Louise's case, we look at it as this magnificent structure is so far there. If we were building this from scratch, it would have taken us forever to get to this point. So to rebuild these small areas that have rotted or fallen off is going to be easy in comparison. 

Stacy Grinsfelder  43:54  
Right? Right. I'm very much a house optimist as well. I feel like there's really nothing that you can't problem-solve your way through. You may not like doing the work. You may not enjoy every aspect of it. But I feel like there's always a solution to every problem for sure

Laine  44:10  
Absolutely. And if it ends up saving you money in the long run. If you look at that, what would it cost me to build this new? I hate when people use the term money pit. That's one of those, you know, you hear phrases that just get under your skin and you just you're like head wants to explode. And for me money pit is one of those phrases because there's no such thing. Yes, you're always going to have unexpected expenses. Yes, if you have a budget, you probably should add on 10 to 20% to that budget. But if you look at the overall structure that you are the caretaker for and what it would cost you to produce it new, if you could even produce it, that the money pit idea is just a misnomer. It's a ridiculous idea.

Stacy Grinsfelder  44:53  
Yeah, absolutely. I don't care if your house was brand new, there's always something to do and always something to pay for.

Kevin  44:58  
Yeah, and usually worse. Yes. You know, when you come to what do you ever eat those words? We wouldn't. But we did--after Louise burned, like I said, we had the first two rooms and the porch were still basically there. We had so many people that loved her so much that they wanted us to rebuild from, you know, rebuild her. 

Stacy Grinsfelder  45:19  
Right. 

Kevin  45:19  
And and we just said that, you know, that doesn't make sense money-wise, because it would probably cost over a million dollars to build the house the way it was. But that would be like a 95% new home, and that's not saving an old house. That's just building a new house. That's not what we do.

Stacy Grinsfelder  45:37  
It's almost like a vanity project at that point.

Laine  45:39  
Oh, absolutely.

Stacy Grinsfelder  45:39  
where you're

Kevin  45:40  
right. And I understand. They were--there were people in mourning over the loss, and so I understand them wanting to bring her back. But yeah, it just

Laine  45:49  
You can't, you can't. You can never resurrect something like that lost to fire. You can never resurrect that, because it's just impossible. So better that we take those funds and save, right now, three more houses than try to rebuild one would that would never be the same. It would be a poor facsimile of what she had been 

Kevin  46:08  
for sure. 

Stacy Grinsfelder  46:08  
Right. Absolutely. And as sad as it is, every story has an ending. And you know, you don't always get to choose when that is, but there is an ending to every story. 

Laine  46:20  
Absolutely. 

Stacy Grinsfelder  46:21  
Yeah. All right. Well, we are going through this so quickly. But I do want you to spend some time--Tell me about Our Restoration Nation. Tell me what it is, what your hopes and dreams are for it--where you're going?

Kevin  46:32  
Yeah, well, you know, we, we, we gained quite an audience of followers when we were working on the Little house, and we named her Louise. And Laine has this great way of writing posts from the houses perspective. So people just really fell in love with this personality. And so when she burned, it was--there was some depression set in of Oh, no, we've got this great thing going. We're encouraging people, and, and really teaching people some things that they can do to restore all homes. And so we just kind of thought, Well, where do we go from here? And so, you know, it wasn't soon, it wasn't long after Louise burned, that we thought about taking that other house, which we'd already kind of scoped out because they were crazy house people. So we'd already looked at that house. But it wasn't, didn't take us long at all to say, you know, what we need to do is move that house over to that property. But we wanted to create something that would be bigger than one house.

Laine  47:35  
So after that decision to keep it going. So really the decision at that point was do we just shut it down and stop, which we've seen a couple of other people do who've lost their properties, or do we try to continue this group of excitement, enthusiasm that we have going? And we decided that we wanted to try to continue the enthusiasm, and continue this as a as a place of learning, a place of allowing us to teach our followers allowing our followers to teach us. And so we decided to change the name from Saving the Big Little House to Our Restoration Nation and open it up. That's why we for a while did Show-off Sundays-- let other people show their projects that they were doing. We do educational videos that we do both on Our Restoration Nation and then on our YouTube channel, and really sort of switched the focus to be more project--individual project-oriented, along with overall house restoration so that people feel like they have a place to come and commiserate with each other. Whether it be over the loss of a house in their neighborhood that they just had, or "I'm working on this huge project, I'm losing my mind" or "Oh, I see what Laine and Kevin are doing today. I did that yesterday,"  just a place where people feel a sense of community and belonging.

Stacy Grinsfelder  48:46  
That's wonderful. That's a really good mission. So let me say today, I guess that I want it so they can find you at OurRestorationNation.com and also at @ourrestorationnation on Instagram. And so I think we're gonna wrap for today. And I just wanted to say, you know, thank you so much for coming back for this interview this time around, and it really feels like I'm entertaining friends this time.

Laine  49:15  
Thank you so much. Thank you for all that you do. I love following your page. Amazing.

Stacy Grinsfelder  49:21  
That's so nice. It feels good to hear that. So thank you. Thank you very much. 

Laine  49:25  
You're very welcome--heartfelt 

Stacy Grinsfelder  49:28  
Good luck to both of you on all your all your projects.

Laine  49:31  
Thank you.

Kevin  49:31  
Thank you very much.

Stacy Grinsfelder  49:33  
Thank you for listening to today's episode. Be sure to follow True Tales From Old Houses and Blake Hill House on Facebook and Instagram. And for more information about this episode, including show notes, transcripts, merchandise and to sign up for a monthly newsletter, visit true TrueTalesFromOldHouses.com. Until next time,