Buffalo homesteaders buy house for $1

Local couple rehabs a home in Hamlin Park

A child's shoe and a hat from the early 20th century
A child’s shoe and a hat from the early 20th century

BUFFALO, N.Y. (WIVB)- Tom Lester and Zoey Tuppen never liked the idea of a mortgage, but they wanted to be homeowners.

They opted for Buffalo’s Urban Homestead Program.

It’s been around for decades, but is becoming more popular.

“We kind of read about the program and it was almost a joke at first,” Lester told News 4.

It sounded too good to be true. Buying a vacant home or lot in the city of Buffalo for just $1 plus moving costs?

A newspaper from 1904
A newspaper from 1904

For Lester and Tuppen, the total sticker price turned out to be $184.

“It was affordability, I don’t think we saw ourselves being able to afford buying a house the conventional way,” Lester said.

But the couple admitted, homesteading is a big undertaking and it’s not for everyone.

They bought their Florida street home in Hamlin Park about a year ago, and they’ve been there 20 hours a week ever since, slowly fixing it up.

“We’re not that far in,” Lester said.

They’ve put about $3,000 into the home so far. They have electricity, but it will cost another $3,000 for plumbing and around $10,000 for a roof.

All in all, the couple is looking at $35,000 to complete the project.

In order to participate in the Buffalo Urban Homestead Program, you must have $5,000 saved and promise to stay in the home for at least three years.

“It would be very hard for us to walk away after putting so much into this,” Tuppen said.

Medicine from the early 20th century
Medicine from the early 20th century

Another thing to consider, many of the homes available for homesteading tend to be in low income neighborhoods, but Tuppen says the growing homesteading community could help turn that around.

“Everyone was kind of sharing their tools, sharing advice, helping each other gut their homes, so right from then I felt very comfortable and that really helped me calm my nerves about what type of neighborhood it is,” she told News 4.

The couple plans to move in by the end of this summer; they’ll join two other homesteaders on their block, a number they hope will soon grow.

During the gutting process, the couple found unique local artifacts, including a newspaper from 1904.

Learn more about the Urban Homestead Program here.

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