Shea Hicks-Whitfield Opens Up About Her Love for Detroit and Her Role on HGTV's 'Bargain Block'
HGTV sat down with the Detroit native to discuss all things Bargain Block.
HGTV's Bargain Block isn't a “new kid on the block” anymore: Hosts Keith Bynum and Evan Thomas, along with their stylish realtor Shea Hicks-Whitfield, are now a recognizable — and, of course, iconic — HGTV trio. The house flipping show's premise is catchy too: Based in Detroit, contractor and design partners Keith and Evan buy and renovate single family homes in the Detroit area.
In celebration of the show's success, we recently sat down with Shea, a Detroit native, to talk about what it’s like to work with the design-contractor duo, how house flipping is helping to revitalize neighborhoods and what she wants people to know about the great city of Detroit.
In Conversation With Shea
HGTV: On Bargain Block, you work alongside Keith, a contractor, and Evan, a designer. How do all three of your personalities play off each other?
Shea: Keith is excellent when it comes to the vision of the design. And then, with Evan, he’s brilliant with carpentry and building. I've been an agent since 2004, and I'm really good when it comes to pricing. Because I was born and raised and now live in Detroit, I know the neighborhoods.
HGTV: The concept of the show is a little bit different from other shows because Keith and Evan are buying several homes on a block and then renovating them and then selling them. Can you tell us more about that process?
Shea: So typically Keith and Evan will buy anywhere from three to six homes sprinkled throughout the block or within a two block radius, and then they typically focus on two homes at a time. A lot of times I'll help them find homes that are not in too bad of condition, which helps with the cost and the turnaround time.
HGTV: How much advice do you give to Keith and Evan? In terms of what's going to sell, do they listen or do they sometimes do their own thing and go against your advice?
Shea: As you'll see, they buy homes without me knowing. They'll say, "Well we kind of just went rogue and bought this house, and we want to get your thoughts on how much we could sell it for.” So that happens occasionally, but I think as far as the design aspect, that's where I give advice, because [Keith] may want to do a little more. He puts so much thought and love into these homes compared to an average flipper, who might just make it look clean and nice, and move on to the next one. I have to remind him that we are attempting to flip the home so you don't want to go too extreme with the design because you want to appeal to the masses. But then again you only need that one buyer to fall in love with the home and make it their home.
HGTV: When people see a show like this and they want to buy a block of homes especially in a historic city like Detroit, is there a way to protect the longtime residents who live there to make sure that they don't get displaced?
Shea: That's a good question. So far we haven't run into any issues when it comes to that because the neighbors are typically looking at homes that have been vacant and blighted for years. In most cases [Evan and Keith] are welcomed and appreciated. They're moving into these homes, and they're restoring and revitalizing blocks that have been left vacant for many years. Most long-time homeowners appreciate it because it helps increase the value. Also, it provides the perfect opportunity for a first-time buyer because the homes are still affordable to purchase within a neighborhood where they were raised or maybe their grandparents live. Another unique aspect is that Keith and Evan sell the home completely furnished, so it's the perfect opportunity for longtime Detroit residents.
HGTV: What do you want people to know about Detroit?
Shea: I want people to know that there is good in Detroit: revitalization is happening throughout the city and neighborhoods, and Detroit is a beautiful city. This show highlights good things are happening here.