There was a little home in Temple Texas, the “Ash Home”. It’s owner, an elderly lady, had died. And during the last years of her life she wasn’t able to keep the house up very well. It was overgrown with bamboo and a huge rose bush, a beautiful rose that had grown so big that it hurt the house and ate up space in the yard. Ivy grew up the trees. “The entire property was like a jungle. In addition to that, there was a pile of ashes in the yard. The lady who had lived there apparently put all the ashes from the fireplace in a big pile”, remembers Sue Ann Kendall, Co-owner of Hermit Haus in Austin.
The house was sitting there in a beautiful neighborhood, but alone, empty and sad. The lady’s son didn’t want the house. Hermit Haus bought and renovated it. They did some serious yard work. The beautiful rose didn’t have to go, but was significantly cut down. They put on a new roof, power washed the brick, did major repairs, applied new paint and replaced windows and doors to meet current standards. The house got a new kitchen and bathroom upgrade. And the “Hermits” renovated original features that could be preserved to revive old charm.
The now happier home was bought by a family, a family that later discovered that there was enough room to make an addition to the home. So they added two mother-in-law suites. The now even happier home doesn’t only have a happy family living in it, the children of that family will also be able to enjoy having both of their grandmas living with them.
“This is one of the saddest and at the same time happiest stories we have experienced with our company”, says Sue Ann of Hermit Haus. The company buys distressed homes, renovates them, or – as we like to say more up-to-date – flips them, and sells them again. The technical writer and strategist has a full-time job with a software company. Flipping houses has been her “fun job” since she founded Hermit Haus with two friends and her husband, who is actually a software trainer, but grew up with a house flipping mom.
At first, Sue Ann and her husband were looking for a piece of property to retire on. They bought a ranch and called it “A hermit’s rest”. “To us it meant that two hermits get away from the hustle and bustle of the city and find peace, quiet and happiness in the country.”
So when they started making houses happy again, the business’ name “Hermit Haus” came natural. The Hermits started buying sad houses in an effort to turn them into happy ones. “If someone is in trouble, we help them get out of the house without going bankrupt. Or people who inherit a house and don’t want to deal with it ….” Like the “children” who inherited a home on the foot of Austin’s cat mountain. “They didn’t want it and let it sit empty for more than 20 years. It was like a haunted house, when we bought it”, Sue Ann remembers. “The house once was an 80ies beauty!” Apparently, the owner lived there part-time, but his wife refused to move to Texas. When he died the house was just deserted. All the kids live up north too.
The beauty of the 80ies included silk curtains, pretty wallpaper, high quality wood floors, sky blue countertops and a not so beautiful harvest gold refrigerator. Now, the beauty has faded and the house was ready for a makeover. And it got just that. Sue Ann says, they tore down walls, turned former awkward storage space into an office and put in windows which they had to take out again, because the building code didn’t allow windows on that wall.
“Well, it’s now an office without a window. But we put in a beautiful barn door and so many lights that it feels like the sun is shining in there. People will never be sad in that room.”
They also put in a new kitchen, bathrooms and light fixtures, painted some walls in happy colors and brought joy back into the sad house.
“I love it”, says Sue Ann. “The house is beautiful and the location is great. For me, cat mountain is the first hill of the Texas Hill Country.”
And the neighbors are excited too. “When we bought the house, the neighbors – almost in disbelief- asked ‘we will have neighbors again?! They look forward to having life back in the house.”
But sometimes, the homes don’t turn out quite as happy as the Hermits had hoped – like that house in the up-and-coming neighborhood in San Antonio. “We turned it into a really nice house”, Sue Ann says. “But every time someone wants to look at it, there are drug dealers in the front yard.”
But when she sits own her own front porch watching her dogs play or when she rides her horse across the ranch and visits the calw that she got to name because she was the first one to “find” it after it was born, she thinks about the houses the Hermits were able to make happy again.
Check out the hermits at www.hermithaus.com.