Take one look at the Instagram account Cheap Old Houses and you’re bound to find your dream home, filled with charming design elements and architecture that many modern dwellings are lacking in. The best part? Every abode that makes an appearance on this page costs under $110,000.
Last week, fans of the account—which currently has more than 1.7 million followers—were treated to the premiere of HGTV’s new show, Cheap Old Houses, which follows husband-and-wife duo Ethan and Elizabeth Finkelstein exploring, well, cheap old houses across the country, picking one dwelling from each episode to post on their account, in hopes that someone will purchase (and preserve!) the abode.
House Beautiful spoke to the Finkelsteins to find out how their passion landed them a show on HGTV, what the series shows us that their Instagram posts don’t, and what dwellings from the series are their favorites.
The journey to becoming HGTV stars was a long one, says Elizabeth, “but it was worth it!” She adds that when Cheap Old Houses started to gain more and more followers, numerous production companies reached out to her and her husband to pitch the couple to networks as the next “flip couple,” taking on the traditional home renovation show mold. “But we're so different!,” explains Elizabeth. “We finally found a production company and a network that were willing to listen to who we authentically are. We love slow restoration and it wasn't ever going to fit a traditional TV mold.”
The best part of the Finkelsteins’ new starring roles? They get to travel the country, visiting some of the most gorgeous old homes—in addition to meeting “some truly wonderful people who became our instant friends.”
So, how does the show differ from the Cheap Old Houses Instagram account? “The series really brings the Instagram feed to life,” says Elizabeth. “Pictures are one thing, but old houses really engage all of your senses and there is nothing like being there and seeing it in real life. We educate viewers on what we're finding inside these homes, which we don't do as much of on our Instagram feed.”
What really brings these homes to life is the people who restored them, “which really brings the whole thing full circle, and hopefully let's people know that it's not as scary as it looks,” says Elizabeth. She adds that there is no staging to the show—“the houses are really for sale and the people we meet actually restored them, with their own two hands.” The only difference is the houses on the show cost, at most, $150,000, while dwellings on their Instagram account typically cost under $110,000.
A standout home that ranks among Ethan’s personal favorites from the show is a “massive” school house in Illinois that cost just $42,500. “Ethan loved that one and it was a really neat find,” adds Elizabeth. “Our followers love the old school houses and churches.”
One of Elizabeth’s top picks is a Federal-style farmhouse and a “gigantic barn” from the 1830s, located in upstate New York. “There are so many different kinds of houses on the show, because there really is a cheap old house for everyone, depending on your time and skill set,” Elizabeth explains. “There are small houses, big houses, huge fixer-uppers and move-in ready homes. All sorts!”
The Finkelsteins also enjoyed meeting Randi and Dave at Duncan Manor, “who restored a 6,000-square-foot mansion in the middle of a field in Towanda, Illinois.” They shared a special connection to Cheap Old Houses, as they found this house on CheapOldHouses.com, “so it was especially exciting to meet them!,” adds Elizabeth.
Evidently, Ethan and Elizabeth Finkelstein are not your typical HGTV stars—and that’s what makes Cheap Old Houses stand out. We can’t wait to see what other cheap old houses they have in store for the rest of the season!
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