Editor’s Note: This is the second in a series of stories following the process of building a business from the ground up in Liberty Hill.
By Rachel Madison
Amy Gandy has been patiently waiting over the last few months to get the ball rolling on renovating the two homes she owns on Grange Street. But even in all the waiting, she’s found a way to utilize one of the homes this summer.
Gandy, who just started her own real estate brokerage company, A. Gandy & Co., in May, has started to transform the home at 111 Grange into her company office—and her team has been working on site through it all.
The work started in the yard, where everything was covered in about a foot of leaves. Gandy hired her kids to load up about 50 bags of wet leaves, and a dumpster brought to the property was full in a matter of hours. The inside of the house was full of furniture, as the previous owner had her own furniture recycling business, and many of the rooms couldn’t fully be seen.
“For example, I didn’t know what the fireplace looked like at all,” Gandy said. “And I didn’t know there were windows in the dining room because it was completely full of furniture. Even one of the showers was full of a bunch of plastic tubs.”
Some of the furniture pieces were nice enough to keep. Gandy plans to use some of the pieces to furnish the office to give it an antique feel.
At first, the plan was to just do the bare minimum to make the house function as an office, like give it a fresh coat of paint and update the landscaping, but Gandy and her husband, Mike, decided the house could use a little more work than just cosmetic upgrades.
“We decided to have the foundation leveled at this home, just like we did with our other home next door,” she said. “The foundation company told us that the original cedar posts under the house used to be 4-by-12 and they have deteriorated down to 4-by-4. That’s impressive considering the house was built in 1910. They’ll be adding 55 concrete piers under the house, which will lift and level it.”
Amy Gandy added that drainage issues along the street and sidewalk have caused the underside of the house to be wet all the time, which has added to its foundation problems. Because the house has settled so much in its 100-plus-years history, she’s also expecting the inside to need a lot of work after the foundation is leveled.
“We will see what all happens on the inside, but I’m fully expecting to have to do new sheetrock in the whole kitchen because it’s the lowest part of the house,” she said. “Mike is very handy and will do some things, but he doesn’t want to do sheetrock work, so we will be hiring that out. I’m hoping other than that it will be mostly cosmetic stuff [like cracks in the walls and ceilings] that will have to be repaired.”
Once the foundation work is complete, the next steps will be to have the exterior of the home painted and central air and heat to be installed. These projects are all set to be completed by the end of September, Amy Gandy said. The home will be painted a beige color with white trim and a navy blue porch and doors, to match the A. Gandy & Co. colors. The Gandys also plan to take down the railing on the front porch so people can see how the porch wraps around the house.
Once those major projects are done, the Gandys will focus on the outside of the home, she said. This will include landscaping and the removal of all the outbuildings on the property.
“I want to do xeriscaping in the yard with native plants so it’s not high maintenance but still looks nice,” she said. “I also want to keep part of the yard as an outdoor area with a picnic table for my team to be able to sit outside. I would also love for the picket fence around the home to be gone so that we can have some additional parking.”
All of the outbuildings on the property will be torn down or sold, except for maybe one the Gandys call the “Model T barn.”
“It’s original to the house, but it needs a new roof and we’re not sure it can be moved without falling down,” she said. “We like that one and the charm of it and want to keep it, but the rest will be gone. We’re definitely going to have to have another dumpster when we tear down the outbuildings.”
On the inside, Amy Gandy plans to paint every room herself, followed by updating the flooring—except for the couple of rooms that still have the original floors—and modernizing the plumbing. The two bedrooms in the home will serve as offices for her team and the kitchen will be the break room, while the main living area will serve as a conference room and seating area for clients.
Lining up the contractors for all the work that needs to be done has been challenging, Amy Gandy said, because each one has to be scheduled in the right order.
“We had to wait eight weeks to get the foundation work done, so we had to schedule the painters after that, but we also had to get the central air company scheduled in between then so we could get rid of the window AC units and not be dying in the house while we are all trying to work. It’s been a lot just getting everyone scheduled on the calendar.”
While they’re focusing on big changes at 111 Grange, the Gandys haven’t left 109 Grange behind. In fact, before they do any additional work to it, they’ve got plans to use it in its current state. For two weekends in October, it will be transformed into a haunted house for the community to enjoy. Approval from the City of Liberty Hill was just received, she said, and she’s excited to start planning all the spooks and scares.
“We will have people go in the front door and maze through the house and out the back door,” she said. “I told Mike that while the house is already scary looking, we should make it scary and use it in its current condition.”
Gandy plans to get the Liberty Hill High School theater department involved as actors for the house, and instead of charging admission, she will be asking attendees to donate canned food items for Operation Liberty Hill.
“We are also hoping to have time blocks that you can reserve your slot so you don’t have to stand in line and wait for hours,” she said. “I think it’ll be fun for the city and the kids. It’s just going to be our way of giving back and having something fun for the community.”
Amy Gandy said they are still working on their final plans for 109 Grange, which is why no other work is being done to it for now.
“We are still working on the final version of it and also deciding whether we are keeping it residential or trying to zone it for commercial. It’s a huge jump when you take a property to full-on commercial because it can never be reverted. We are leaning more toward keeping it residential because this area is already zoned for bed and breakfasts, and turning the house into a bed and breakfast is the ultimate goal. I saw the charm in it immediately when I came to see it, so that’s the plan. We’re getting closer to jumping off and getting going on that.”
Ultimately, Amy Gandy said she can’t wait until October, because that’s when all the work currently underway will be able to be seen.
“I just can’t wait,” she said. “I’m excited. By October, [111 Grange] will be a nicer place to look at and for us to come to work every day, and we will be working on getting the haunted house ready [at 109 Grange]. I hope people will be able to see the progress, because I know it’s hard to see sometimes. It’s been a lot of waiting, but things are finally starting to take shape.”