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The ultimate fixer-upper: Spokane couple buys, renovates drug house

Couple restores house to help clean up neighborhood

SPOKANE, Wash. - It's a story that sounds like it's straight out of HGTV: a couple finds a run-down house, buys the lot for cheap, fixes it up, then passes it along to another family. That's exactly what happened this year in North Spokane, but to say Kathy and Phil Hale had their work cut out for them is an understatement.

"I noticed there was a lot of traffic here, of people coming and going, staying for 15 minutes or so and so I thought someone was terminally ill in the house and Phil corrected me and said, 'no, actually it's a drug house and they're here doing deals," said Kathy. "It brings a lot of crime and uncertainty to the neighborhood."

For two years, squatters were in and out of that drug house on East Crown and neighbors like Kathy and Phil just had to deal with it -- until they decided to do something about it. They ended up working with Spokane Police to track down the owner and buy the house sight unseen before fixing it up.

"We don't even know what it's looking like, what it looked like inside, we didn't know if the drug dealers were cooking inside, we didn't know any of that at the time we purchased it," said Phil.

While this wasn't their first fixer-upper, it'll probably be their toughest. In the year they lived in the house across the alley -- another house they fixed up -- they saw squatters come in and out everyday. Once they bought the lot for $25,000, it took two months to get those squatters out before they could even gut the place.

"We removed every piece of electrical, every piece of wiring in the house, all the plumbing, every ducting," the Hales said. "All the insulation."

Now, that drug house and all that came with it is gone. And Spokane police say Kathy and Phil not only fixed up this property, but the whole block too.

"Just that one drug house, squatter house, by her coming in and taking over and doing that, it cleans up the neighborhood, it cleans up probably two, three blocks around there," said senior patrol officer Keith Cler, who helped Kathy find the owner of the house.

Kathy and Phil say knowing that makes this investment -- coming in at nearly $200,000 -- worth every penny. They aren't done yet, either. Right now, they're working to fix up another house on the South Hill.


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