HGTV Stars Reveal Strategy for Homeowners Facing Affordability Issues

Elizabeth and Ethan Finkelstein are known for their television show ‘Cheap Old Houses’ and its corresponding Instagram account.
HGTV Stars Reveal Strategy for Homeowners Facing Affordability Issues
A unique-looking old house stands in Daggett, Calif., on June 16, 2007. (David McNew/Getty Images)
Jessamyn Dodd

In recent years, people with aspirations of owning a home in the United States have faced significant financial hurdles, including soaring inflation and high interest rates.

However, HGTV personalities Elizabeth and Ethan Finkelstein, known for their television show “Cheap Old Houses“ and its corresponding Instagram account, claim to have navigated these challenges by employing a unique strategy they call a ”house hack.”
“There’s the American dream of go get a bigger house, go get a bigger car, go get a bigger television, all that, but there’s also the American dream of pick up your bootstraps and figure it out and get creative, and those are our people,” Ms. Finkelstein shared with Fox News Digital.
According to the National Association of Realtors, existing home sales in the United States jumped 9.5 percent in February, the biggest one-month increase in a year. This means more homes were sold compared to the previous month. However, sales were still 3.3 percent lower than February 2023. The price of existing homes also increased by 5.7 percent in February compared to the same month last year. The average home price was $384,500.

There are more homes available for sale now. The number of unsold existing homes increased by 5.9 percent in February. This means it would take about 2.9 months to sell all the existing homes on the market at the current sales pace.

In a statement to The Epoch Times, John Tamny, author of “The Money Confusion: How Illiteracy About Currencies and Inflation Sets the Stage for the Crypto Revolution,” said housing does best when the dollar is in decline with housing as the hedge.
“Notable for now is that the dollar’s decline has begun,” he said. “Watch interest in housing consumption rise if it continues.”

The Value of Historic Homes

The Finkelsteins, who created the “Cheap Old Houses” Instagram account, established their presence long before the pandemic and have amassed 2.8 million followers. Their mission was to shed light on historic residences available at comparatively low prices, thereby democratizing access to homeownership for aspiring individuals.

“It’s a radical proposition, but one of the biggest hurdles to overcome is to break free from what you’ve always been taught homeownership and the ‘American dream’ ought to look like,” the Finkelsteins wrote in an email to The Epoch Times. “Cheap old houses are tremendous, untapped opportunities to enter into the housing market at exceptionally low prices for those who are willing to take it slow, perhaps occupy only parts of a house at a time while you work on rehab and restoration in others. The payoff is as emotional as it is financial, when you reinvest in a house that will live on beyond you.”

Their featured properties, often priced below $100,000 and dating back over a century, sometimes require restoration efforts. Yet, to the Finkelsteins, these homes offer more than just affordable shelter; they serve as portals into a market many deem inaccessible.

In contrast to the overall trend of rising housing costs and dwindling supply, the market for cheaper, older homes appears relatively immune to such fluctuations, according to Mr. Finkelstein. Despite market upheavals, including the effects of COVID-19 and material shortages, their “house hack” remains steadfast.

“This is not a get-rich-quick scheme,” Mr. Finkelstein told Fox News Digital. “This is really a sustainable solution for people to find housing that is affordable, potentially move their location, and live in one of these cheap houses and hack the system.”

He cited examples of individuals drastically reducing their monthly expenses by switching from renting to owning one of these budget-friendly homes. For them, it’s not a quick fix but a sustainable solution, and a means of reclaiming agency in an increasingly volatile housing market.

As the Finkelsteins reflected on their journey, they said they find fulfillment not only in the restoration of homes but also in witnessing the transformation of lives.

“I think [when] we started this, it was so much about the houses and getting the houses in the hands of people as an alternative to this completely ridiculous housing market, and we found that it’s so much about the people,” Ms. Finkelstein said.

Jessamyn Dodd is an experienced TV news anchor, reporter, and digital journalist covering entertainment, politics, and crime.