Class project: Renovate for return on investment
Students in the Renovations and Remodeling Program at St. Helens High School recently completed a series of extensive upgrades, improvements and rebuilding projects at a home on Boulder Creek Court. The three-bed, three-bath 1,478 -square-foot- home hit the real estate market Tuesday, July 4.
Within 24 hours of the house being listed, three offers came in at or above the asking price of $259,000, and the project house has since sold. The class purchased the home for $180,000 last year.
This year's class, referred to by students and staff as "R & R," was a pilot program that kicked off last fall. In January 2016, the district received a $380,000 grant from the Oregon Department of Education to launch the program. The focus was on teaching high school students who have some building and construction experience about hands-on home repairs, rather than the basics of new home construction.
The program's concept will sound familiar for anyone involved in the housing industry — purchase a cheap home in need of repairs or remodeling, invest time and energy into fixing it up, then sell it and use the profits to invest in the next project home.
Students were involved every step of the way, from deciding if a property was worth an investment to completing repairs like hanging drywall, installing tile and deciding on wall colors and carpet styles.
Building and construction teacher Joe Mauck worked with the class of 10 students every day for an hour and half since school started to renovate the home. It had been vacant for months prior to its purchase. During that time, a tree had fallen on the roof, cracking support trusses, and pipes had frozen throughout the house.
Students were tasked with many projects to get the home ready to sell, including repairing the roof truss with the help and consultation of Lower Columbia Engineering, hanging sheet rock and dry wall, rebuilding of the home's subfloor and floor, installing roofing insulation, re-laminating countertops and putting in new bathroom fixtures and kitchen tiling.
On Tuesday, July 11, an open house was scheduled to show off the students' work. With a fresh coat of a blueish-gray paint on the walls, shimmering new appliances, door knobs and hinges, it was hard to tell what remained of the house when they first started working on it nine months prior.
A six-minute video Mauck had created was projected onto the living room wall, showing the slow but steady progress of repairs throughout the school year.
Numerous students congregated in the living room of the house, chatting with parents and visitors about what they had worked on, telling stories of personal struggles and joys experienced during the project.
Kayla Jerome and Alexys Finch, both incoming seniors, said throughout the year they learned a lot about how to work as a group, and said they both feel like they've learned skills that will help them throughout their lives.
In addition to instruction from Mauck, students worked with local contractors and engineers, real estate agents, St. Helens city staff and builders for a deeper look at what is involved in home repair and sales.
Realtor Lea Chitwood also worked with the students to educate them on the process of home-buying and how to assess financial impacts when it comes to a return on investment.
"My big thing in real estate in general is to educate," Chitwood said. "Whether you're a student or you're 50 years old and buying a house, I want to educate people."
Chitwood will continue to work with the students next year as well as the program continues to grow, something she is looking forward to, she said.
St. Helens School Board Chair Bill Amos also worked with the class throughout the year. He said he watched the students grow to look at major projects with a "lens of possibility," rather than just giving up.
In some cases, however, students learned to be realistic about their capabilities. Some things should be left to the professionals who have been trained in the field for 20 years, Amos joked.
While not everyone will build a house from the ground up, or even own their own home, everyone will live in some sort of dwelling, and knowing how to do home repairs can be a valuable skill, Amos noted.
Students will now turn their focus toward their next project home, a smaller structure that will be more of a "guts-up" rebuild, Mauck said.
Finch, one of just two students returning to the program in fall, said she is already looking forward to helping lead the class on that project.