Perfection sometimes comes in disguise — as brothers John and Scott Hudson discovered when they took a big gamble on a frightening little house.
John, who lives in Rapid City, and Scott, an engineer in Cedar Falls, Iowa, decided to try their luck at flipping houses. John put the word out to real estate agents he knew, asking them to keep an eye out for the right property.
“We were looking for something we had enough cash to buy,” John said. “You have to look at it from the perspective of, how much is this house, what is it going to take to bring it back to life, and what is it worth when it’s fixed up?”
One Saturday morning, he got a call from his realtor, and the two went to look at a newly listed property. A dilapidated 1927 bungalow on Whitewood Street, just two blocks from John’s apartment, was being sold by an estate.
“It was one of those meant-to-be moments. You’ve talked about it and all of sudden something appears. Even though the house was really scary looking, it still had a little curb appeal to it,” John said. “I bet it was kind of cute in its day.”
Though Scott was apprehensive about the purchase, John saw potential and persuaded his brother to take a chance. The house is in west Rapid City, the area where the brothers had wanted to buy and flip a home.
“We didn’t know anything going into it. The terms of the sale were cash only, no contingencies, no inspection. Literally, you’re buying it as-is without a chance to have anybody go in and tell you what’s wrong with it. What are they hiding? Are there dead bodies in the attic? A sewer line that’s collapsed? The worst-case scenario things start going through your head,” John said, chuckling.
Three days after Christmas 2016, the first-time house flippers bought the bungalow and immediately began renovations.
“In my business selling flooring, I saw people flipping houses and sometimes all a flipper really needs is new paint and flooring. I’d see these guys doing it and making some money and thought well, that’d be kind of fun to do,” John said. “This house needed more.”
The home’s 90-year-old field rock foundation was sturdy, but most of the house, garage and utility shed needed to be repaired, replaced and updated. The house was uninhabitable for the first month of repairs. After that, John moved in and lived in a construction zone as the house took shape. He did a lot of the work himself, hiring help as needed.
The house and shed required new roofing. The garage got a new door and cement pad. The house needed a significant amount of new electrical wiring and plumbing. With the exception of its original porcelain bathtub, the home’s one tiny bathroom was completely gutted and renovated.
The now-gleaming wood floor in the living room and dining room is original to the house, although salvaging it took determination and creativity. Laminate had been put over the wood floor.
“When we pulled it up, we saw 90 years' worth of ground-in dirt,” John said. “It took (David Todd Fossen Hardwoods) three complete sands to get through all the dirt.”
The removal of the laminate also revealed a 3-foot by 3-foot hole which had been vent for a boiler. Fossen repaired the floor by splicing in new boards to match the original ones, John said.
Fortunately for the Hudson brothers' budget, the home's previous owners installed new windows, kitchen cabinets, central air conditioning and a forced air furnace that were all in good condition.
Outside, the now-charming front porch, stairs and wheelchair ramp were rotting and had to be rebuilt. A chain link fence, trees and 13 stumps in the yard needed removal.
Everything needed a coat of paint. Shawn Krull, a local designer and historic home aficionado, helped John choose neutral paint colors inside and out that complement the home's 1927 charm.
“Up until the end of May, we did something every day. Now I still just have a little trim work to finish,” John said.
John furnished the house by searching the local Facebook classifieds, antique stores and Habitat for Humanity ReStore. One of his prized finds is a marble-topped wooden dresser that he bought for about $50 and transformed into the bathroom vanity. Another finishing touch is a wooden swing he found online, painted and hung on the porch just in time for sunny summer weather.
As a delightful home emerged from the rubble, John realized the bungalow was perfect — for him. With 750 square feet on the main level and 750 square feet in the basement, it suits him and his new roommate, a dog named Toto.
Scott was supportive of John’s decision to keep the house, and the brothers are now watching for another house to buy and flip.
"People who live around here say, 'I can't believe this is the same house,' " John said. "It’s fun watching people drive by."