WRITTEN BY NEIL MONROE, PHOTOGRAPHED BY BETH NEELY
One of the most popular genres of modern television has been home renovation. From the venerable PBS series “This Old House” to the more modern “Fixer Upper” and “Flip or Flop,” these shows attract a wide audience.
The premise is simple: Buy an older, rundown house, invest money in rehab and design, then sell it for a nice profit—all in one TV hour or less. Onscreen, it’s a formula that seems to work almost every time.
But as Newnan resident and contractor Ginna Jordan will tell you, the reality of such projects is far from the glamorous, seemingly easy transformations featured on TV. Jordan has successfully managed her own contracting and construction firm for more than a decade and rebuilt or remodeled dozens of properties in Newnan and nearby towns.
She brings that experience to her current project, one near and dear to her. It’s the house directly next door to hers in the Featherston Heights area of Newnan, and she believes it represents a solid opportunity.
“It’s a wonderful house, and it has great little details that make it very attractive, like original hardwood flooring, unique trim and molding, and an arched opening into the dining room,” says Jordan. “But this house is a bit of a challenge because of its age. It was built in the 1940s and it’s large, about 2,000 square feet, with a full basement and three bedrooms. But it only has one bathroom, and these days, that just doesn’t work.”
With design help from her neighbor, Minerva Winslow, Jordan is adding on a master bedroom suite, a new laundry room, and another bathroom, all on the main level. She’s also restoring a bathroom in the basement, reclaiming the original floors, replacing all the windows and putting on a new roof. The kitchen has been gutted and is being completely replaced and redesigned.
“For its age, the house is in good condition overall,” says Jordan. “The framing is solid, the walls are good, all the things that give a house durability are fine. Of course, you never know what you’re going to find until you begin to peel back the layers.”
One of the biggest potential challenges with any old home is termites. Despite best efforts to check a house before rehab begins, termite damage often goes undetected until a wall is opened or a pipe replaced, according to Jordan.
The rehab contractor began her close-to-home project in early October with a completion goal of approximately six months, barring unforeseen issues.
“That timeline reflects the challenges of working through the winter,” she says. “We expected some bad weather, but to be honest, this winter has been extremely difficult. The tremendous rain we’ve had through December has left us a bit behind. We’re working hard to catch up. As with any construction project, time is vital. Delays cost money. We have to stay organized, stay ahead of the job with our employees and our contractors, and make certain we’re moving effectively.”
If that sounds like a business-like, no-nonsense approach, rest assured, it is. Sitting in the unfinished, unheated living room of the project house on a rainy December day, Jordan is clear about her main goals: doing quality work and turning a profit.
During the housing downturn 10 years ago, she turned her business focus to the available market. She worked with government municipalities in the West Georgia area to rehab several foreclosed properties. She continues to do that type of work, even as the real estate market has improved.
“I started in this business working with my dad, and I learned some key lessons pretty quickly,” she says. “To succeed in this business for the long term, you have to be able to adapt to the market conditions that exist. We couldn’t change the downturn, but we could find a way to work through it.”
Jordan doesn’t see herself becoming one of the TV folks who make renovations and rehab look easy.
“I’m a contractor,” she says. “The TV folks are investors. They hire out the work, while we do the work. About three-fourths of our work is helping homeowners rebuild or renovate their own homes. Flipping a house is something that happens when there’s a good opportunity.”
For any would-be home flippers who dare try to match the success of the onscreen rehabs, Jordan offers some advice: “Know your market. This isn’t California, and while we’re doing well in and around Coweta now, the market can change quickly. You have to be careful.”
With the right knowledge and a willingness to try a different approach, it is possible to have success, she adds, using a successful project in her own Featherston Heights area as an example.
“During the downturn, a very large house had been vacant and on the market for several years,” says Jordan. “It had a fireplace in practically every room, and the problem was that the four brick chimneys were all leaning and needed to be rebuilt. As a result, no one wanted to buy the house.”
Jordan studied the house, met with an engineer and developed a plan.
“We removed the fireplaces and chimneys, reframed the roof, and solved the problem,” she recalls. “It worked, and that demonstrates another important point: Anything can be fixed.”