‘Bargain Block’ Recap: 1950s Surprises

Jason A. Michael

“It’s not easy, but it’s what we do.”

That’s Evan Thomas, speaking about the vision he shares with his life and business partner Keith Bynum to convert Detroit one block at a time.

In Episode 3 of Season 2, the couple finds a pleasant block in Northwest Detroit with just two houses in need of rehabbing. The couple buys the first, a 1,200-square-foot, three-bedroom, one-bath bungalow for $25K. Sounds like a steal, until you consider the buckling living room floors and crumbling front wall, the result of water damage caused by a hole in the roof.

But Bynum is ever the optimist. “The house has a lot of charm, and I want to try to preserve as much of that as possible,” he says.

Built in 1951, Bynum names this one the "'50s House" and Thomas sets a reno budget of $70K. As usual, the potential profit margin is slim. But Thomas and Bynum aren’t in it for the money. That much we know.

Bynum envisions this house as “modern with a feel of nostalgic elements,” but he doesn’t want it to reach “kitschy cute.” He plans on incorporating lots of velvet, including a green sofa and an original art piece in navy blue and gray.

The couple has barely started work on the house when they’re approached by the owner of the house next door — the only other house in need of repair on the block. The owner had started the work on the house himself, but now he’s ready to get out from under it. He offers to sell Bynum and Thomas the house for $40K, and they accept. And just like that, they have their next project lined up.

Working on two homes next to each other at once allows the pair to maximize efficiency. The new bungalow, like the first, has three bedrooms and one bath and is 1,200 square feet. But it’s laid out differently, and somehow the rooms feel oversized.

Bynum dubs this one the "Chunky House" and explains that it will be a “concept house of epic proportions, avante garde with experimental furniture, oversized chunky décor and large scaled tile with funky shapes and patterns. Big in size and big in design.”

After a very successful open house at the '50s House, the home sells for the asking price of $110K. The demand is so great that the dynamic duo’s real estate partner, Shea Whitfield, rushes them to complete the Chunky House. She demands they up their schedule by a week, which results in the couple pulling out their old air mattress and camping out in the house on the final night as they attempt to finish everything in time.

Of course they do. And interest in the Chunky House is even greater than the '50s House. Though the episode ends before the house is sold, it is unimaginable that they didn’t receive their asking price of $120K.

A highlight of the show is when the couple visits Detroit’s Eastern Market to purchase flowers for landscaping. The couple talks to a third-generation seller whose grandfather started selling at the Market in 1927. And speaking of highlights, somewhere in between completing the two houses, Whitfield announces she is pregnant. Bynum and Thomas are thrilled, especially when Bynum secures permission to decorate the baby’s nursery.