When the Abby Brothers first saw Page’s mansion listed for sale online, she knew she had found a forever home.
But the 6,000-square-foot home in Aberdeen, North Carolina, wasn’t quite livable yet. The six-bedroom mansion – which has been vacant for nearly 40 years – had broken windows and crumbled floors. Not to be shy about the project, Abby, 31, and her husband, Trey Brothers, 33, paid $155,000 for the property in 2018, fascinated by the home’s structural integrity, grand staircases, and antique furniture.
“When we first came to see the house, we didn’t need a key, we didn’t need a realtor — you could just crawl through the broken windows or open the front door because there was no lock,” Abe told CNBC Make It. “It was captured by the items [and] It was very dilapidated.”
The house—originally built by a wealthy local family in 1913—ended up in need of a nearly $268,000 renovation. But the most expensive part of the couple’s budget didn’t go toward demolishing walls or rebuilding modern amenities. Instead, they spent most of their money preserving the home’s original elements, such as its 109-year-old wood floors.
“It was important to keep the original details of the house because it’s history,” says Abby. “Homes aren’t built like they were in 1913. The details aren’t the same there. And if you want those kinds of details in a house now, they’re expensive.”
In fact, the last valuation for the renovated home was $900,000—but the duo, along with their one-year-old son and family pets, have no plans to move in. Here’s how to find and develop a vision to turn the vacant home into their dream home on your own.
When the couple first saw the list online, they were living in Baltimore, Maryland. Abby was a registered nurse and Trey was considering leaving the military, and they wanted to go back to North Carolina where they both grew up.
Abe says they “had no intention” of buying a mansion, let alone one that is more than a century old. But she was drawn to the “near convict” home because of its history: The Pages were wealthy industrialists who founded several North Carolina towns and helped bring railroads to the state.
The house was originally built for one of Page’s daughters. During the Great Depression, several family members moved in and out of the mansion before another family bought it.
When Abby and Trey went to see the house in person, remnants of that history were scattered throughout the vacant mansion. “There was furniture in every room,” says Abby. “It really looked like a time capsule…There were piles of magazines. There were colored scraps on the floor where it looked like someone had thrown a party years ago and just left.”
Once Trey – who now works in IT – saw that the original structure of the brick house could be salvaged, he knew it had potential. He also knew it needed major renovations: Almost all the windows were shattered, the first floor kitchen sank downstairs and there was a massive leak in the ceiling, he says.
The couple met with contractors to estimate the cost of plumbing, electrical, and other specialty projects. When they realized that house flipping could become a profitable investment, they “took a leap of confidence,” Abe says, and planned to move without secured jobs.
Before they could move in, most of the house had to be lowered into studs and revetted. The original wood floors, which the couple insisted on preserving, were sunk into every floor of the house. These renovations took about nine months to complete.
To keep the house “as original as possible,” says Abe, they only made small tweaks to its master plan, such as adding a bathroom under the stairs and expanding the kitchen and master bedroom. “We have a fully modern kitchen, [but tried] To keep it integrated with the original design of the house,” Trey says.
Their new and improved kitchen on the first floor now has a dishwasher, double oven, refrigerator, two-tub sink, washer and dryer in stock. The wide staircase in the front hallway, one of Trey’s favorite parts, was “very inside” and needed to be carefully refinished to preserve its structure.
The couple kept the house’s original doors and lighting, and the house’s sofas, chairs, and cupboards—some of which are from the 19th century—were renovated. There’s an original piece of furniture in every room, says Abby.
The brothers’ family has been living in the renovated and renovated mansion for three years now. A handful of projects, like completing winterizing around the house, remain.
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