Home in the Heights sells first renovated vacant house

New homeowners have already purchased this foreclosed and vacant home on Westover Drive in Cleveland Heights' Forest Hill neighborhood from the Home Repair Resource Center, which is in the process of renovating it through its Home in the Heights subsidiary. Photo by Mike Gaynier.
Home in the Heights, a recently created subsidiary of the Home Repair Resource Center, has sold its first renovated property: a formerly vacant, foreclosed home on Westover Drive in Cleveland Heights.

Publicity about the project brought inquiries from many interested buyers. The final purchasers, Mark Finkenbine and Nadelane Joseph of University Heights, say they loved the potential they saw in the home when they first visited, shortly after renovations began in March.

“We came in just as the house was being gutted and were able to pick and choose colors and tiles and floor coverings. It's a big, collaborative effort, and we’re really looking forward to getting it finished,” said Joseph.

Purchasing and renovating vacant homes in Cleveland Heights has been an important part of the center’s mission. In the organization’s 37-year history, it has completed and sold seven renovated homes. Home in the Heights plans to acquire and renovate several vacant homes in Cleveland Heights this year and sell them to owners who will occupy these houses and be responsible neighbors.

Currently there are more than 1,000 vacant houses in Cleveland Heights. Home in the Heights was formed in response to this crisis.

“Last year, our board decided to establish Home in the Heights as a way to address the vacant houses in Cleveland Heights,” explained Kathryn Lad, executive director of the resource center. “Community support is tremendous, and people are excited about our plan to turn empty houses into beautiful family homes that strengthen our neighborhoods.”

Home in the Heights was poised to begin renovations last September on three vacant foreclosed homes, but the national lending crisis resulted in the withdrawal of committed financing for construction costs. Subsequently, Home in the Heights and the center secured private funding to renovate the Westover Drive house, which is in the Forest Hill neighborhood.

“Our intention was to have this first home ready for sale in 90 days, but when Mark and Nadelane decided it was the perfect home for them, we completed a sales agreement that allowed them to work with us on the modifications they desired while the  renovation was  in progress. This should demonstrate to the banking community that it is time to begin lending again to support community redevelopment,” Lad said.

“Home in the Heights has the capacity to manage multiple home renovations simultaneously. It’s past time to get moving on more of these renovations.”  

The  house on Westover Drive has been vacant for more than two years. Significant modifications are being made, including enclosing a covered porch that will become part of the new kitchen. When work is completed, the home will feature higher energy efficiency and lower maintenance costs, a new kitchen and bathrooms and numerous other planned amenities. Construction features green technology and high-quality materials to match neighborhood and community standards. A public open house is planned for July.

“We're happy to be buying from a community organization and not from somebody who's just flipping houses. Home in the Heights has shown a commitment to doing a high-quality job, and even going beyond the basics by researching and specifying details that are true to the history of the house and the neighborhood,” said Finkenbine.

Home Repair Resource Center has developed a new Homebuyer Education Program to prepare buyers for successful home ownership. A down-payment financial assistance program for low- to moderate-income buyers is available through the center and the City of Cleveland Heights. Qualified buyers are eligible for up to $15,000.  

The center, located on Noble Road a few blocks north of Monticello, also offers popular financial literacy and budgeting classes and programs designed to help homeowners maintain their homes and improve neighborhood property values. Hands-on repair classes have been attended by hundreds of Cleveland Heights residents. The center’s tool loans and resource library are also very popular.  

Home Repair Resource Center and Home in the Heights are primarily supported by Community Development Block Grant funds and individual contributions. To learn more or make a donation, visit www.hrrc-ch.org or call 216-381-6100.

Mike Gaynier is a Home Repair Resource Center board member and a Home in the Heights advisory committee member.

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Volume 2, Issue 6, Posted 3:13 PM, 05.22.2009