Local homesteaders making progress

Tom Lester and Zoe Tuppen

BUFFALO, N.Y. (WIVB)- Tom Lester and Zoe Tuppen took on their Hamlin Park homestead about a year ago.

News 4 met the couple in May, when they first began serious rehabbing. Thursday, we checked-in with them to see their progress.

The empty room in the middle of the house is now clearly a kitchen, with a stove-top, a sink, and a newly stained wood floor.

Lester and Tuppen told News 4 it’s slow and steady, but they’ve already gotten over a major obstacle: utilities.

Their home passed its electric inspection, has full plumbing, and is getting gas Monday.

The couple bought the house from the city for $1. They’ve spent about $200 in fees, but now own it mortgage free.

The major costs come with the fixing-up, and there’s a lot of it.

“To actually see the fixtures in place and to really map out the final it’s like, it’s really exciting, it’s like almost weird because you didn’t feel like we’d get here for a while,” Lester said.

The project hasn’t been without surprises. Everything from dead cats falling out of the ceiling to unexpected costs: the new hot water heater set them back an extra $1,000.

“With this project you honestly have to take it easy and you have to just [go] day-by-day, because things come up, things aren’t perfect,” Tuppen said.

And some of the jobs are harder than they expected.

“Sanding the floor. You wouldn’t believe how long that takes,” she told News 4.

Lester works on the house every day after his job.

“I usually spend 6 hours a day here,” he said.

And he admits, homesteading isn’t meant for everyone.

“Every one of these houses is a full gut rehab project,” he told News 4.

For now, Lester and Tuppen won’t be seeing any more homesteaders on their block.The city has put the program on hold because it needs to get its green code passed.

For the Tuppen, the programs works two-told: it gives young people an affordable start, and helps revitalize neighborhoods.

The couple’s move-in day is expected to be late September to early October, and they’re still on budget. They anticipate spending  $35-$40,000 once the project is complete.

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