‘Cheap Old Houses’ are Hard to Find

Ethan and Elizabeth Finkelstein see gold in those fixer-uppers

Ethan Finkelstein isn’t sure if his grandparents’ old farmhouse in Deerfield had insulation, but he knows it had plenty of warmth: his grandfather tinkering with a tractor or boat out in the yard, his grandmother serving up snacks with a fire roaring in the kitchen and his cousins crowding together for a viewing of “The Wizard of Oz.”

According to family lore, his grandparents paid their taxes by making maple syrup on the property.

“It was just a magical place of inspiration and awe,” he says. And, as a Navy brat, “It was the sort of steadfast homestead that we could always go back to.”


Ethan’s uncle, Mike Ineson, on the family’s tractor, nicknamed “The Senator.”

After his grandmother died in 2006, his family decided to put the farm up for sale. At the time, Ethan was devastated. He and his then-girlfriend, Elizabeth, had only just started dating, but he figured he’d make one last effort to hold onto the property. “I was like, let’s buy this farm and go move up there,” he says. “And she was like, ‘Well, maybe someday we could do that.’”

In hindsight, Ethan realizes it all worked out for the best.

“It was a little too expensive, and it was falling down, and it would have been a major project,” he says. “For better or for worse, it kind of led us on this multi-decade-long journey of finding our cheap old house and the kind of place that we wanted to build.”


Ethan readies “The Senator” to be taken to its new home at their farm in upstate New York.

Since then, Ethan and Elizabeth, now married, have built an audience of millions as they find the best “Cheap Old Houses” hiding in plain sight. In addition to their popular Instagram account (@cheapoldhouses, which has 2.4 million followers), their brand now includes a book, forthcoming this fall, and an HGTV/Discovery+ show, set to debut a second season next spring. The couple are now in the middle of renovating their own 1700s-era property in upstate New York, about two hours west of New Hampshire.

Even as their Instagram account continues to post affordable fixer-uppers from cities big and small, Ethan acknowledges there’s a noticeable lack of such listings in the Granite State — where the median home price just reached a record high of $495,000.

“I think it’s a commentary on new homes and how we don’t have enough new houses in the market,” he says, “because clearly there’s enough people who want to be in New Hampshire, and they’re paying the price to do it at the moment.”

Part of the mission of “Cheap Old Houses,” he says, is to show people what’s possible when looking for hidden potential in properties that others might just see as a piece of land to turn over for profit.

“Everyone should be able to live free or die — if it’s in New Hampshire or not — in a cheap old house and a house that’s affordable to them,” he says. “It’s becoming harder and harder in today’s society to find that.”

Still, he and Elizabeth are doing what they can to fix that — one cheap old house at a time.

Categories: Home & Garden, People