A Television Producer Flipped the Script on a Rundown Bungalow in Maryland

As a television and video producer, Janelle Harris excels at the basics of project management, such as setting objectives and scope, budgeting, scheduling, and ensuring that everyone gets paid and the equipment arrives on time.
Ms. Harris, 42, applied that same skill set to shepherding the just-finished, $550,000 renovation of a three-bedroom, one-bathroom, 1,200-square-foot rundown bungalow she bought in Takoma Park, Md., turning it into a five-bedroom, four-bathroom, 4,000-square-foot house.
“You can’t look backward—you have to be very solution-oriented and know how to deal with human error,” she says.
Her first step was picking the neighborhood. Takoma Park attracted her because, she says, it is a politically liberal town with historic houses and is small, quaint and quiet. She wanted to be within easy walking distance to the metro and downtown Takoma, somewhere she would never have to use a car.
Next she set her sights on a specific house; a small bungalow which was boarded up after a tree fell on it. It had gone to auction, but the owner, who had grown up there, was able to get it taken off the block. Ms. Harris contacted him directly and convinced him to sell it to her in April 2019. “I explained to him that we were a great family with great values,” she says. He didn’t want to sell to a developer that would put up a cookie-cutter house that would compromise the uniqueness or historic aesthetic of the neighborhood, she says. The price, $385,000, was good, but she knew the house needed a lot of work.

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