A Detroit man paid just $3,300 for 2 abandoned homes and transformed them for his family to live in. See inside the impressive renovation.

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Vincent Orr in front of his newly renovated home in Detroit. Detroit Land Bank Authority
  • In June 2017, Vincent Orr won an abandoned home from the Detroit Land Bank Authority for just $2,100.
  • In 2019, he purchased a second vacant home from the DLBA for $1,200. 
  • Orr transformed both homes into livable spaces with only $100,000.

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You can become a homeowner in Detroit, Michigan, for as little as $1,000 — but it'll take a lot of work.

The Detroit Land Bank Authority, founded in 2008, set out on a mission to return run-down and vacant properties in the city to productive use. To do so, it auctions off thousands of publicly owned properties through its public platform, Auction — and the bidding starts at $1,000.

In 2017, Vincent Orr, 33, a native Detroiter, won a home for his mother through Auction for $2,100 — and that was just the beginning of his adventures in real estate.  While Orr had the highest bid, claiming full ownership of the home required some work. 

The DLBA has a compliance program requiring winning bidders to renovate the auctioned homes. After the home is renovated, a compliance officer deems the home livable or not. If it is, complete ownership is transferred to the bidder.

It took Orr nine months and $40,000 to renovate the property. However, he learned so much that he's become a bonafide home flipper, in a priceless consequence of the project. 

In 2019, he purchased a second vacant home from the DLBA. The home, which sits next door to his mother's, cost him only $1,200.

While Orr is currently leasing the home to a family member, he is still renovating the property. He has spent $60,000 refurbishing the home and making it habitable, and anticipated at least $5,000 more for repairs.

"COVID-19 put a little damper on the project because material prices increased," Orr said. "I prolonged a few things like concrete work and putting up a wooden fence, but those are things that I plan on doing this summer."

In an interview with Insider, Orr explained how he transformed both spaces with just $100,000. Keep reading for a side-by-side look at their transformations. 

Do you have a similar story you'd like to share with Insider? Get in touch with reporter Alcynna Lloyd at alloyd@insider.com.

This story, originally published in 2019, was updated in March 2023.

Detroit, Michigan, was once home to the booming auto industry.


Google Maps

In the 1950s, the auto industry started declining and companies started moving out of Detroit. By the 1960s, people were leaving Detroit in droves.

In 2013, the city filed for Chapter 9 bankruptcy protection. Since then, numerous programs have sought out different ways to improve the city.

Wealthy entrepreneurs are investing in the city too, like Dan Gilbert, the billionaire founder of Quicken Loans. As Insider previously reported, after Gilbert moved his company to downtown Detroit in 2010, he started the real-estate firm Bedrock.

Not only is Quicken Loans one of Detroit's largest employers and taxpayers, but since its founding in 2011, Bedrock and its affiliates have invested and committed more than $5.6 billion to acquiring and developing more than 100 properties in Detroit and Cleveland.

In June 2017, Vincent Orr purchased this home for his mother through the Detroit Land Bank Authority's daily auction. It cost him $2,100.

orr before 2

Detroit Land Bank Authority

Orr, a native Detroiter, grew up in the same ZIP code where he purchased the home, in the northwestern Detroit neighborhood of Fitzgerald.

Orr graduated from Wayne State University with a degree in media arts and is now a global supply chain group leader with General Motors.

"My family roots in this neighborhood run pretty deep," he told Insider. "I wanted to stay around and bring it back to the level that I remember it at when I was a child."

"When I first purchased the house, it was in complete shambles," he said.


The patio before the renovation. Vincent Orr/Facebook

According to the neighbors, the home had been vacant for about 10 years, Orr said.

He told Insider that the porch was torn up, the windows were missing, and the roof was caving in.

It wasn't just the exterior of the home Orr had to worry about — the interior needed work too. The upgrading process included, among many other steps, replacing pipes and walls.


Pre-renovation. Vincent Orr/Facebook

When the home was purchased, the cabinets in the kitchen were worn down and dirty, with parts missing.


The kitchen before the renovation. Vincent Orr/Facebook

Orr was able to do most of the work himself.


The pre-renovation bathroom. Vincent Orr/Facebook

All in all, Orr spent $40,000 over the nine-month renovation process.


Vincent Orr/Facebook

He installed all the windows, all the doors, and the furnace.


Vincent Orr/Facebook

He also handled the plumbing work and the electrical wiring.


Vincent Orr/Facebook

Orr hired workers only when it came time to install the ductwork for a forced-air central heating system and to repair the roof.


Vincent Orr/Facebook

The hardest part of the process was finding contractors, Orr said. Though he did most of the work himself, things like finding a roofing company turned out to be more difficult than he expected.

He even renovated the kitchen himself.


The kitchen before it was renovated. Vincent Orr/Facebook

Now the renovated space sports white cabinets, marble countertops, and new appliances.


The renovated kitchen. Vincent Orr/Facebook

Orr said that checking in with the DLBA went smoothly. To keep the organization up to date, Orr sent images of the home throughout the renovation.


Vincent Orr/Facebook

"For the final inspection, they didn't have to come out, because I documented everything with photographs and sent it to them," Orr said. "They had been following the process along the way."

"You have to show them evidence of the house being occupied, so you show them furniture in the living room, furniture in the bedrooms, and appliances in the kitchen," Orr added.

As soon as the home was completed, Orr's mother was able to move in.


Vincent Orr/Facebook

His mother's home wasn't the only property transformed on the block. DLBA's program has  gained a lot of media attention, encouraging more development in the neighborhood. 

"I started receiving phone calls from all over the country," Orr said. "I had news crews flying in from New York City and I even did a lead abatement commercial with the state of Michigan." The recognition has exacerbated gentrification in the community, he said. 

According to Orr, as more homes on the block are renovated and transformed into luxury properties, new buyers are moving in, inventory is declining and property values are increasing.

"A lot of money is going into the neighborhood," he added, "There are houses with new roofs, trees, windows, and updated mechanicals. In my particular area, there are not many houses for sale." 

In 2019, before the neighborhood was transformed, Orr purchased a second vacant home from the DLBA.

Vincent Orr's second home

Courtesy of Vincent Orr

He got the home, which sits next door to his mother's property, for $1,200 through a blind bid. 

Prior to Orr's purchase, it was badly damaged in a fire. What was left of the home was exposed to the elements and thieves who ransacked everything from its meter box to the garage door. 

"I had to install the drop meter so a utility company could even hook up the house," he said. "Once that was completed, the home became a smart house controlled by Google."

Orr Installed a new garage door that came with a smart controller. The project cost him $4,000.

Vincent Orr's remodeled garage

Courtesy of Vincent Orr

Orr said that he had to replace the front and back doors that were stolen, as well as the patio's walls.

Vincent Orr's home before rennovation

Courtesy of Vincent Orr

Doors weren't the only loot that the thieves absconded with. Parts of the plumbing system were missing, too.

Vincent Orr's bathroom

Courtesy of Vincent Orr

"The house was vacant for decades and scrappers came in and cut out copper," he said. "So I had to call a plumbing company to replace service lines."

One of Orr's biggest projects for the home was transforming the patio into a functioning office space.

Vincent Orr's remodeled patio

Courtesy of Vincent Orr

"The patio was a shell but it had structure," he said. "I redesigned it by framing and measuring the other windows in the house and matching the sizes. I also  added a patio door."

While the home's renovation is not yet complete, it is livable. In fact, Orr is leasing the home for $1,200 per month to a family member while he fixes it up.

Vincent Orr's home

Courtesy of Vincent Orr

Orr intends to add a private fence to the home, as well as a new walkway leading up to its porch.

When the home is completed, Orr plans on moving on to his next project — an empty lot opposite his mother's home that he purchased for only $100.

Vincent Orr's new lot

Courtesy of Vincent Orr

The lot once had a decaying home on the property, but Orr petitioned the city and the DLBA to tear it down. Once the home was demolished, he purchased the lot for $100. 

Being the owner of these three properties is a big deal for Orr because he wants to leave a legacy for his family.

Vincent Orr's second home

Courtesy of Vincent Orr

"I don't have any children yet but I do plan on having some one day," he said. "I want them to know they will be able to inherit property." 

"I'm three generations removed from slavery," Orr added. "My great, great grandfather was born in the 1860s. Being able to own multiple properties honors those in my family that couldn't own anything."

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