The front of the home at 8668 57th St. following nearly six months of renovations made by Park Place Wesleyan Church.
Photo by GIGI LAURSEN
The home at 8668 57th St. needed significant enhancements before the church could put the house on the market as part of its Habitat for Missionaries program. Profits from the sale will fund missionary projects around the world.
PINELLAS PARK – Flipping homes is nothing new to real estate investors. The process – buying low-priced houses that need renovation, fixing them up, and then re-selling them quickly for a profit – has long been a strategy for making fast money.
But instead of focusing on personal gain, the members of Park Place Wesleyan Church have discovered that buying and selling homes is a creative way to raise money for its missionary programs.
Last year, for the first time, the church started working with the group Habitat for Missionaries, an Indiana-based nonprofit organization. The group helped the church find investors – three members of Lakeland’s Faith Wesleyan Church who provided an interest-free loan for the project – and a home to renovate and sell for profit.
After extensive renovations, the two-bedroom home at 6445 81st Ave. N. sold 15 minutes into its open house last February. A couple walked in off the street after seeing the open house sign and offered cash up front. The project raised around $10,000, which was donated to Jeff and Angie Hicks, former members of the congregation who are currently living in India where they work as missionaries.
“Look at the market,” said Gigi Laursen, the project leader. “For it to sell that quickly and to raise the money we did, we definitely had God on our side.” She added, “The day of the open house we were still out there putting the amenities of the home on fliers and printing them out, and my husband was out putting up signs when we got the call that it sold already.”
“It’s exactly what we prayed for,” said Debra Osborne, a licensed Realtor who volunteers her time and real estate expertise for the project.
Now the church is wrapping up renovations at 8668 57th St., the second home it has purchased under the Habitat for Missionaries umbrella. And the project’s team is thinking even bigger than last year. With a January open house planned, it hopes to raise more than $20,000 for various missionary projects around the world.
This time around, the church wanted to be able to help a family get a fresh start. So the project team found a four-bedroom, two-bath home, more appropriately sized for parents with kids, Laursen said.
“We had a lot of families interested in our last home,” Osborne said, “but they couldn’t do a two-bedroom. [This property] is what we prayed for. We knew God would send us the right property.”
Used as a rental for decades, this new home was a real challenge for the volunteer team working on renovations. One of the bathrooms needed to be completely gutted and the plumbing had to be redone. Not only that, but the crew relocated the indoor entrance to the garage in order to create a more spacious kitchen, turned part of the garage into a laundry room, and created a screened-in back porch. And Osborne estimates they spent at least 50 hours scraping the walls of the main bedroom, stripping multiple layers of paint.
But despite all the work the crew put into renovations, the home was still worth the time and effort. “It had a good roof and a good foundation,” said Leif Laursen, Gigi Laursen’s husband. “It’s exactly what we were looking for.”
The majority of the work done on the house was at no-cost to the church – from the volunteer crew doing the construction, to the plumber, electrician, landscaper, and others who donated their expertise.
“We got a break on pretty much everything,” Osborne said.
As work on the home wraps up, the team is getting ready to put it on the market.
And the benefits of these renovations and re-sales are two-fold. Not only does the church raise money to fund missionary projects, but it’s able to help buyers purchase a new home at an affordable price.
“We get to bless someone in our community as well as bless the mission field,” said Laursen. “We’re able to sell at a little under market value so a person who was otherwise unable to afford a home is able to.”