The Journal Gazette
Tuesday, December 01, 2015 3:33 pm

City's property brothers

Rosa Salter Rodriguez The Journal Gazette

On HGTV, Drew and Jonathan Scott are the "Property Brothers," twins who bring vacant and neglected houses back from the dead.

Fort Wayne has the Brough brothers – real estate agent David Brough (pronounced "brow") and Mark Brough, investor and construction expert, who, although not twins, emulate the Scotts by buying homes out of foreclosure and making them livable, even lovable, again.

"I don’t like the word ‘flip’ – that’s not what we do. We rehabilitate," says David, owner of Anthony Realtors in Fort Wayne.

Indeed, five years after the worst of the foreclosure crisis, the Broughs are part of a trend. These days, more homes that have endured long periods of vacancy are returning to their original purposes as family shelters and vibrant parts of neighborhoods.

Locally, scant information exists about how many foreclosed-upon homes have returned to their previous status. But the Broughs are among those making it happen since going into business in 2008.

In Fort Wayne, the Broughs say, houses they’ve chosen have become some of the city’s hotter properties, often selling within days and garnering multiple offers.

One, at 4420 Pembroke Lane in Southwood Park, had three offers within the first 24 hours after its first open house Sept. 14. The place, about 90 years old, sold for more than its listed price of $169,900.

"This house sat empty, on and off, for three or four years," says David Brough, noting the house sold in 2009 on land contract for $93,000 after being on the market 525 days. The home went into foreclosure soon after that, he says.

"Neighbors said they would frequently mow and pick up trash to make it look nice in hopes that someone would purchase it. I know that many people looked at buying it, but the average home buyer doesn’t have the resources to manage a rehabilitation of this scale."

Indeed, he says, the house needed a lot of work after the brothers acquired it through an online auction early this year.

"The heating system was antiquated, with old steam heat and radiators," Brough says. A new high-efficiency heating system, with central air and new duct work, was added, as were high-efficiency windows.

The space also was reconfigured. Originally on the market with four bedrooms and 11/2 baths, the home sold after an additional bath was added and a half-bath converted into a full bath. The additional space was gained through raising a roof line.

"We added a huge master suite with a full bath and a large walk-in (closet). It’s a premium because there aren’t that many (older) houses like that."

Brough says he and his brother have concentrated on properties in Southwood Park, in part because they both live there and know the neighborhood from the ground up. But the pair also have done homes in the nearby Woodhurst neighborhood, in Sycamore Hills and in the North Anthony Boulevard area, among others.

Their price range for buying a home is between $30,000 and $110,000, while they aim to to sell properties between $80,000 and $180,000.

"We look for opportunities to increase value," David Brough says, adding that buyers, typically young couples, "really like the friendliness and the family feel" of Southwood Park. "There’s so much value and so much margin here."

He says his specialty is marketing the properties, while his brother works on rehab plans, coordinates contractors and chooses finishes, as well as providing some sweat equity.

Mark Brough, who studied business at Butler University before moving to California for a few years, says a key to rehab success is "there are no shortcuts." He says he always chooses high-end finishes, such as stainles- steel kitchen appliances and quality ceramic tile.

"You know how some people say they’re builders? Well, I’m a rebuilder," he says. "I look for good bones and good construction. And good layout. Layout is key. You need good layout, or have something we can affect to make it that way."

The brothers now have more than 50 redone homes to their credit.

"When we first started doing it, we weren’t that skilled, but now everything has been perfected, down to paint colors," David Brough says.

He says he does much of his marketing through open houses, where he displays before, during and after photos of properties.

"People really like to see how they’ve been transformed," he says.

Often, he adds, the bulk of open-house attendees are neighbors. But that usually leads to referrals and sales, as people talk to friends and relatives about what’s happening in their neighborhood. 

Southwood Park is one of several Fort Wayne neighborhoods that severely restricts rentals, which has aided the brothers’ efforts, David Brough says.

"Neighbors really like us because we’re taking houses that they’ve been looking at for a long time (as a problem) and turning them into something again. It really creates buzz," David Brough says. "As soon as the Dumpster shows up on the lot, they’re on it. They’re curious."

He says he knows how neighbors feel when they see nearby properties falter.

"I was living next door to a vacant house, and it’s no fun," he says. "A living house is better than an empty house."


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