May 27, 2024
Millennial Couple Bought Fixer-Upper Sight Unseen for 0K, Worth It
  • Evy Rivera and Jacob Evans bought a Victorian home in Earlville, New York, in July 2023.
  • The house cost $150,000, but it needs a lot of updating.
  • The couple is living in the house as they renovate it, which they say could take years. 

Evy Rivera and Jacob Evans were looking to put down roots when they found their dream fixer-upper.

After living in Denver for eight years, Rivera, 34, and Evans, 35, decided to spend a few years living on the road in a camper van, taking advantage of their remote jobs. Rivera sells vintage houseware and decor online, while Evans works as a sales supervisor at a stairlift company remotely.

But in 2023, they decided they wanted to buy property, so they relocated to Rivera’s parents’ home in Florida while they hunted for the perfect home. They knew their search might take a while, as Rivera had a specific vision for their home.

“I was a little obsessed with ‘Cheap Old Houses’ for a while,” she said, an Instagram account turned HGTV series focused on acquiring and renovating — you guessed it — cheap old houses.

After watching the series, Rivera and Evans fell in love with the idea of renovating a dated property while maintaining its integrity. Many millennials are pursuing this dream since fixer-uppers are often cheaper in a US housing market where prices still hover around record highs. They do, however, require additional patience and elbow grease.

Indeed, a 2023 study from the home-improvement show Today’s Homeowner surveyed 1,000 Americans and found that 55% renovated some space in their homes in the previous year. The majority of people who said they renovated were Gen X or millennial homeowners.

Old home-owners often turn their renovations into passion projects, with many chronicling their journeys on Instagram or TikTok.

With their dream of a cheap house in mind, Rivera and Jacobs decided to search for an affordable Victorian home in New York and Pennsylvania.

Rivera and Evans found the perfect home in central New York

Months into their search, they stumbled upon the Dwight Reynolds House in Earlville, New York, which they said was originally completed in 1875. The 3,000-square-foot home has five bathrooms and two bedrooms, and it was listed for $150,000.

“We had seen quite a few Victorian homes already in other parts of New York,” Rivera said.


A couple stands in front of their Victorian home.

Evy Rivera and Jacob Evans bought a Victorian home from the 1800s.

Evy Rivera and Jacob Evans



“It’s probably one of the most unique ones that we’d seen looking through the hundreds of listings across the northeast and US,” Evans agreed.

The couple told BI they were immediately drawn to the tower that sits on top of the property, as well as the original woodworking details that could be found throughout the home.

“We loved the facade and that all of those original details were still in place,” Rivera said. Although they loved those details, the house wasn’t in great shape, but that didn’t deter Rivera and Evans.

“We found the home really beautiful even if it was falling into disrepair, like many homes in central New York and upstate,” Rivera said. “We still thought it had so much potential.”

They took a virtual tour of the property with a real-estate agent, and they decided to put an offer in on the house in the summer of 2023. They were apprehensive about buying the house sight unseen, but they knew they would be able to see the property before they officially closed.

Luckily, they loved the house when they were finally able to set foot inside while they were in contract. They closed on the property in July 2023.

The renovation process started as soon as they closed on the house

When Rivera and Evans moved into their home, they focused on getting the first floor in livable shape, where they plan to live while they renovate the second and third floors.

As soon as they closed, their first order of business was cleaning the house, which was filled with old furniture and trash from the previous owners.

“The house was so dirty,” Rivera said. “It took us like a couple of weeks to clean everything.”


A man works on paneling inside a historic home.

Evy Rivera and Jacob Evans



They also had to fix the siding on the front of the house promptly, as there was a hole in the wall on the front of the home as a result of rotting wood.

Today, the first floor is in decent shape. They’ve made the front-facing windows shine, their foyer has been updated, and the dining room feels cozy.

But Rivera and Evans say they still have a lot of work to do on the exterior of the home before they can start making headway on the second and third floors, like patching holes in their porch where squirrels and pigeons make nests.


A dining room with large windows and blue walls.

The dining room.

Evy Rivera and Jacob Evans



“It’s not a glamorous life at all,” Rivera said of restoring their home. “If you’re buying a historical home that has been neglected for a long time, you are not going to be thinking about the pretty wall colors and curtains you’re going to hang up in that beautiful room.”

“Yeah,” Evans added, “you’re gonna start with a really dirty, disgusting, boring projects, like removing the family of pigeons from the hole in your porch.”

They hope they’re able to get their bedroom and bathroom on the second floor in working order soon, but they have to prioritize structural issues first.

The renovations will take years to complete

The couple told BI they have spent around $9,000 on the renovation to date buying tools — primarily at estate sales — and materials, focusing on ensuring the house is structurally sound.

However, they anticipate they could spend upwards of $125,000 to $150,000 on projects as they continue working. They also expect updating their home will take years to complete because they both work full-time and because they want to maintain as much of the building’s historic integrity as possible.

For instance, the home has custom-made moldings, and several sections are missing. To ensure they replace the missing patches with wood that looks similar, the couple will have to have new pieces made, which takes more time than it would to just remove the molding and replace it with something basic.


A house with lumber in the front yard and a ladder leaning against it.

The house is a work in progress.

Evy Rivera and Jacob Evans



Likewise, they don’t want to replace their historic windows from the 1800s, so they’re looking into solutions that will keep them intact while making them more energy-efficient.

“We have to have a realistic expectation and know that this is going to take a few years,” Rivera said.

They’re also documenting their renovations on social media, originally posting to keep their friends and family abreast of their renovations, but they also want to show other hopeful homeowners that they can revive a rundown home, too.

“I think a lot of people think that it’s not an option for them to buy a house that’s not in great shape and then just live in it and slowly put some money into it,” Rivera said.

“They think they need to buy a house that’s 100% you know, everything updated and renovated, but it’s really not an option for people,” Evans said. “But I don’t think a lot of people realize you could just buy a house that’s not in great shape and just kind of make it your own.”