News From Terre Haute, Indiana

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September 23, 2012

Condemned house near ISU given new lease on life

TERRE HAUTE — An entrepreneur is a person who sees opportunity where others do not.

Chad and Natalie Overton are definitely entrepreneurs.

The couple, both Indiana State University graduates, recently saw a shining business opportunity in the form of a rotting, fire-damaged and garbage-filled two-story home close to the ISU campus on North Sixth Street.

“There were some nasty things in there,” Chad said.

The home was condemned by city officials after a fire; it then sat vacant for several years. During that time, scavengers stripped its plumbing and electrical wiring. And the home’s basement filled with garbage – literally to the rafters.

Now, after about a 90-day restoration, the home looks like something out of Better Homes and Gardens. The exterior has a new roof, new siding and fresh paint. And the inside has new “everything.”

“There’s not a thing in here that’s old,” Chad said, standing in one of the home’s upstairs bedrooms that looks out on two nearby ISU fraternity houses. Only a few wall and ceiling joists from the original home remain.

The Overtons own SERVPRO, a damage restoration company, so they have plenty of experience with fixing up badly damaged houses. But this home needed more attention than your average fixer-upper.

“We have a number of [homes on the city’s condemned list] that get rehabbed,” said Dean Branson, real estate administrator for the Terre Haute Department of Redevelopment, which deals with condemned and unsafe structures in the city. “But this was one of the most extreme rehabs you’ll find.”

The house stands between two existing homes on North Sixth Street, about one block north of Tippecanoe Street. The neighborhood is teeming with ISU students. The Overtons, after providing housing for Rose-Hulman students on the city’s east side, are looking to supply housing opportunities for people working or studying at ISU, they said.

Workers were still putting the finishing touches on the house Thursday, but three new tenants are expected to move in this week. One works at nearby Union Hospital, while the others work or study at ISU, the Overtons said.

The Overtons “did a great job on it,” said Dan Bell, lead inspector for the City of Terre Haute. After a final inspection, the house was removed from the city’s “condemned” property list Thursday morning, he noted.

In order for any home to get removed from the condemned list, it must be brought up to all applicable building codes, Bell said. That can be an expensive proposition.

There are currently about 300 condemned houses in Terre Haute and about 80 other homes awaiting demolition, Bell said. If not for the Overtons’ investment in the house on Sixth Street, it would have likely made the city’s “demo” list next month, he said.

Chad Overton estimates the rehab of the home cost about $90,000 and took about 15 people around three months of work. SERVPRO employees did the cleanup and the company acted as the job’s general contractor, he said.

The Overtons said they feel strongly about improving housing opportunities and the appearance of the neighborhoods near their alma mater.

“I wouldn’t have wanted my kids anywhere around it,” Chad said of the way the house used to look. “No one would.”

Awaiting the new tenants of the house are a brand new kitchen; three bedrooms, each with its own new bathroom. There is also a half-bathroom, hardwood floors in the kitchen and dining room, and a large common room generously lighted by four large windows.

“It doesn’t happen very often” that a condemned home is saved and taken off the city’s condemned list, Bell said. “But anytime we can save a house, that’s better than tearing it down.”

Reporter Arthur Foulkes can be reached at (812) 231-4232 or arthur.foulkes@tribstar.com.

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