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Economic Development is . . . (increasing the flow) of capital through the community and reducing its leakage.

2010 EDIES Story 5 of 24: How an $1,800 property tax sale & local talent were catalysts for an Extreme Home Makeover plus a new business in Gladbrook, Iowa

Doug Gethmann did not buy just any house in small town Gladbrook.   Rumor has it was a crack house, and many thought it was beyond repair.  But that did not stop Mr. Gethmann.  Today the rehabbed house is a success, and even has a home based business.  Doug Gethmann explains. Remind me – what are the EDIES

HOW WE DID IT: Mary and I spent an enormous amount of time planning this project to make sure that the finished home was exactly as we wanted it to be. There is nothing we would change if we were to do it over.

HOW WE GOT THE IDEA: We heard that taxes had not been paid on this property and that it would be sold on a tax sale.  It needed a new roof, had two layers of rotten siding, and the doors and windows were broken and damaged beyond repair.  But, I could see the wonderful architecture and knew that this home had potential to become not only a beautiful home, but an enormous improvement for the neighborhood and the City of Gladbrook.  So, after considerable debate, Mary and I decided to buy the property for the tax sale price of $1,800.

OUR GREATEST CHALLENGE: Walking down the basement stairs, you found a dirt floor that was so shallow you couldn’t stand straight up, which was unacceptable.  The house would never have significant value in this condition.

HOW WE OVERCAME IT: We realized that if we raised the house a foot, we could create a walk out basement design including a three car garage under the house.  So, we jacked the house up and dug out the basement. We realized that this house was a really good, straight, solid old house that had incredible potential.  We stripped off all the walls, removed the flooring, windows, doors, siding and shingles and covered the entire home with foam board insulation.  New roof, windows, doors and siding made a huge improvement in its appearance.  We then re-designed the second floor creating an open loft with a spiral staircase leading to a guest room with private bath.  We installed Geo-Thermal heating and cooling systems and sprayed closed cell foam insulation in the ceiling and walls.

ADVICE TO OTHERS: Do NOT constrain your thoughts to conventional practice.  Let your imagination bloom and focus on what YOU want the finished project to be.  Then adapt your ideas to the present architecture.  Never settle for a room that is too big or too small.  Walls are usually easy to move.  Our motto is “All it takes is a Dream”. Vision = success.

WHAT IS NEXT: The lot next door was a similar mess and also sold on a tax sale, this property for $675.  This purchase gave us the opportunity to also clean this lot up and build a shop so that we could bring our knife manufacturing business “Gethmann Knife Works” into Gladbrook.  An “Open House” is planned for the spring which will give the community the opportunity to see both our home and “Gethmann Knife Works”.

Economic Development Note:  Tax abatements and incentives are available in almost every city in Tama County for people who want to construct and add value to their real estate, both personal and commercial.  Contact us at Tama County Economic Development – we’d be happy to give you more details.

Photos of finished house and homeowner Doug Gethmann by Wayne Chamberlain. 



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