Realtor Shea Hicks-Whitfield Shares Her Love for Her Hometown on HGTV's 'Bargain Block'

The born-and-raised Detroit realtor talks about her love for her hometown as well as what it's like working with Keith and Evan.

While Bargain Block may be a “new kid on the block” when it comes to renovation shows, the show takes place in Detroit, an American city with a rich history. The house flipping series showcases contractor and design partners Keith Bynum and Evan Thomas who, along with realtor Shea Hicks-Whitfield, buy and renovate single family homes in the Detroit area.

We recently sat down with Hicks-Whitfield, 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.

HGTV: On the new show “Bargain Block”, you work alongside Keith, a contractor and Evan, a designer. How do all three of your personalities play off each other?

Hicks-Whitfield: 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.

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?

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.

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?

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 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.

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?

That's a good question. So far we haven't ran into any issues when it comes to that because the neighbors typically have been looking at these homes that have been vacant and blighted for sometimes up to 10 years. In most cases [Evan and Keith] are welcomed and appreciated. They are 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.

Is there a highlight that you can share with us from this season?

I do have a sneak peek into one of our episodes. There is a young lady who moved away from Detroit for school, but she was ready to move back. One of the reasons she was relocating to Detroit was to reconnect with her dad whom she hadn't spoken to in a very long time. She had been keeping up with Keith and Evan on social media, and when the opportunity came up for her to purchase a home, she was able to purchase a home two blocks away from where her dad lived. It was a sweet moment.

What do you want people to know about Detroit?

I want people to know that there is good in Detroit, that revitalization is happening throughout the city and neighborhoods, and that Detroit is a beautiful city. I feel like this show will highlight Detroit and show good things are happening here.

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