We’ve all picked up a few hobbies over the past year, and scrolling listings on Zillow and daydreaming about renovating your own fixer-upper like Chip and Joanna Gaines is likely one of them. Some of us are even crazy brave enough to turn those dreams into reality.
While the pandemic has pressed pause on many typical activities, the U.S. housing market has not slowed down. Despite COVID-19, the market has continued to grow for reasons ranging from higher demands for housing to historically low mortgage rates. This reality has prompted many people working remotely to explore their housing options.
Last month, I met a Rhode Island couple who recently decided to start a rehab project in Wheeling after falling in love with a listing that they found online.
Meet Jack and Tyler.
I started by asking why the Wheeling housing market was on their radar at all.
“I’m actually from Wheeling – born and raised.” Jack laughs. “So are both of my parents and grandparents; we are Wheeling Island people through and through.”
After graduating from Wheeling Jesuit in 2008, Jack worked in retail for a few years then started working in admissions at Wheeling Jesuit University, which allowed him to travel. As a regional admissions counselor, Jack was able to move house often while working remotely – living in cities like Arlington and Chicago.
On a work trip to Cincinnati, Jack met Tyler while sending out student acceptance letters. The two didn’t hit it off right away, but after some time, and a couple of after-work dates, they became smitten.
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Tyler tells me about their “polar opposite” upbringings.
“I was born and raised in Vegas.” Tyler laughs. “My first experience was in a large city and big tourist destination.” After going to college in Milwaukee WI, Tyler worked on the Vegas strip marketing for the Casinos before moving to Cincinnati to work in education. “Cincinnati was where I first saw a highway sign for Wheeling, but didn’t know a lot about the city, or West Virginia for that matter, until I met Jack.”
A couple of years and one puppy later, Jack and Tyler moved to the quaint town of Providence, Rhode Island in 2018.
But little did they know what would be in store just a couple years later.
“When the pandemic hit it became very apparent that we live in a public building and that our health and safety suddenly became the responsibility of all these people we don’t know,” said Jack. “We weren’t ready to buy anything in Rhode Island at that point so we thought why not Wheeling?”
Jack and Tyler aren’t alone. Wheeling is quickly becoming a place where young people can thrive and good long-term investments can be made. While our housing market can sometimes be wonky, with home prices ranging from $10,000 all the way to $1,000,000 in some neighborhoods, many properties in the city are affordable – if you’re willing to put in the work.
Like many folks, Tyler and Jack fell into the common pandemic ritual of online house hunting.
“For a while, we have had the nightly routine of scrolling through houses and dreaming, but then you spend weekends in a pandemic watching HGTV and you’re like ‘maybe rehab is the right way for us – what can we restore?’”
It wasn’t until the pair visited family in Wheeling during the summer of 2020 that their search became more serious.
“We started talking to a realtor about looking for property and I remembered a place I saw on 15th street and wondered if it was still there. So, I went for a run one day and saw it up close. I immediately went home and said to Tyler – I think I really want it” They both laughed.
“My father actually grew up on 15th street. So when we found this house I felt that connection to part of my own history,” said Jack.
“You always think that it’s not going to work out, that something is going to fall through, but it actually worked out. Right away we could see the vision – where it was in 1870 and how it could fit our lifestyle today. We really want to bring it back to its old glory,” Tyler said.
The pair closed on their new home in October 2020.
Tyler and Jack hope to begin the restoration process during the summer and fall while visiting family. For them, being a contributing part of the neighborhood and the larger Wheeling community is important and they see their investment in East Wheeling as part of that contribution.
“We have an interesting point of view because Wheeling is not our daily experience, but one thing that stands out to me is that every time we come into town, there’s always something new happening,” Jack says. “When you’re touring a city and there are cranes everywhere that’s a good sign. For a city with a small population, I think that’s a fantastic direction.”
So, If you see Jack and Tyler working on their new East Wheeling home, feel free to give them a friendly wave or a helping hand. You can also follow along on their home renovation journey by following them on Instagram (@304_lemonadehome).
• Rosemary Ketchum is a member of the Wheeling City Council representing Ward 3. Ketchum also serves as the Chief Facilitator of the public health coalition “Edible Mountain”. Rosemary’s work in community organizing and politics has been featured on TODAY, MSNBC, CBS, and CNN.