That old fixer-upper down the street with the “for sale” sign out front could be starring in a new HGTV show soon. Earlier this month, the cable network aired the first episode of Cheap Old Houses, a show that started out as a popular Instagram page and now shines a light on affordable, older homes, some of which are in the Capital Region.
“We started Cheap Old Houses on Instagram, and it ignited a movement,” says Ethan. “Our site features the best historic properties on the market right now and that means we have to go find the best places to post.” Adds Elizabeth: “We always say no sleep until every house is saved.”
The Instagram account in question (and subsequent subscription service), which initially showcased historic homes selling for less than $100,000 (the total has been upped to sub-$150K), was started by wife-and-husband duo Elizabeth and Ethan Finkelstein in 2016. The couple met in New York City, and according to the Times Union, it was Elizabeth who was first inspired to launch her CIRCA Old Homes website and later, the Cheap Old Houses Insta page, having grown up near Saratoga in her family’s Greek Revival home. Though neither is a traditional real estate agent, Elizabeth has a degree in historic preservation and her husband has a background in digital marketing (they’ve been covered by the New York Times, and Elizabeth now writes a column for Country Living).
Enter their HGTV show. Cheap Old Houses, which first aired on August 9, will feature a 10-episode first season (the third episode airs tomorrow). In each episode, cameras follow the couple as they tour low-priced older houses across America and ultimately choose which ones to feature on their Insta account. During each walkthrough, Ethan and Elizabeth share stories of the homes’ historical significance and architectural uniqueness. Relying on Elizabeth’s background as a historic preservationist, as well as the couple’s shared passion for saving old properties—and with the help of 3-D graphic renderings—the pair imagine what the houses could look like with proper restorations. They also visit beautifully restored homes formerly featured on their Instagram account.
The first episode featured Ethan and Elizabeth in Upstate New York, checking out two cheap old houses, listed for just over $100,000 in the Capital Region’s Amsterdam and Fort Plain. They also stopped in Greenwich to visit a saved old schoolhouse that has been meticulously restored.
“Cheap Old Houses is a real estate rabbit hole—and we live it,” says Elizabeth. “And that’s not even the best part. We get to meet the people who restore these houses too.”