Investment in a Neighborhood

When Amanda and Bernie arrived in Cleveland from Los Angeles in 2017, they planned to buy and renovate a multi-family property in Cleveland Heights as an investment and return to L.A. a few weeks later. But the restoration of the large 4,500 square foot three-unit apartment building took months, and by the time it was complete, the couple had given up their sunny California house and moved full time to the Coventry neighborhood of Cleveland Heights.

Amanda and Bernie, who both work in the film business, have since renovated and currently manage 15 multi-family unit properties in their neighborhood, and will soon close on several more.

While they usually do not look to renovate single-family homes to sell, they were drawn to a house on Canterbury Road in Cleveland Heights in the Cuyahoga Land Bank inventory last year. “We just love the neighborhood,” she says. “There is a cute bakery and a lot of great stores nearby, and when we did a walk-through with the inspector, we fell in love with the house.”

Vacant and abandoned for several years, the home needed significant repairs. The stairs leading to the basement were completely gone, and water damage from a leaking gutter had deteriorated a whole corner of the house. “It is the worst house we’ve seen,” says Amanda. “We typically buy distressed properties, but this one was far beyond the usual. We were surprised no squirrels or raccoons were taking up residence,” she jokes. Other large-scale renovations included mold remediation, all new HVAC and electrical work, refinishing all the hardwood floors, installing a new roof, and building a new garage.

While the couple does a lot of the renovation work themselves, they also rely on a crew of carpenters, plumbers, and electricians in their renovation work. “We design everything ourselves, and let the experts do the technical work.”

This first property purchased from the Cuyahoga Land Bank through its Deed-in-Escrow Program took a year to renovate, but was well worth their efforts, says Amanda. “It was fun to have the Land Bank’s inspector come out monthly and see the progress we were making and how much work we put into it,” she says. “The house had a reputation as the biggest eyesore in the community. All of the neighbors were excited to see the renovation, and we were happy to walk them through the house and show them what we were working on.”

The house recently sold for over asking price after multiple offers. The restoration also spurred more home improvements in the area, including renovations to the houses on either side of the home, one of which has been vacant for 30 years.

“Buying a house to renovate through the Cuyahoga Land Bank is a great opportunity,” says Amanda. “Maybe not one at the same level of distress ours was in, but what a fantastic value if you can do some of the work yourself. Even if you hire a contractor, you can add nice finishing touches and make it your own because the purchase price is low. I would highly recommend this program to anyone.”

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