0
Design + Decor Home Real Estate

Flipping Detroit: Meet Keith Bynum and Evan Thomas of HGTV’s Bargain Block

March 1, 2022

Get to know the duo behind HGTV’s ‘Bargain Block’ and Nine Design + Homes, who are revitalizing the city house by house.

BY JACLYN TROP

In January 2017, Keith Bynum spent his 30th birthday on a redeye from Denver to Detroit, but he wasn’t coming here to party — he was coming to flip houses. “I was randomly following this house-flipper on Instagram, and one day he posted a story saying that he was flying to Detroit,” he says. “Then he posted that he had purchased 10 houses and had a revenue stream of more than $1 million. I thought, ‘Hmm. Interesting.’”

Bynum saw 12 houses, placed offers on two, and bought one.

Now, five years later, he and his partner, Evan Thomas (who’s not the Instagram house-flipper mentioned above), are renovating their way through the Motor City — and doing it for television. The charismatic duo, who live on the city’s west side, star on HGTV’s “Bargain Block,” which follows the couple while they flip houses in Detroit. The nine-episode series debuted in April 2021 to feature Bynum as designer and Thomas as carpenter as they transform ramshackle plots in Northwest Detroit into stylish starter homes. The show racked up more than 20 million viewers in its first season — what Loren Ruch, the senior vice president for programming and development at HGTV, classifies as “a hit” — and will return for a second season this summer.

Meet Keith Bynum and Evan Thomas of HGTV's Bargain Block

“Their love for Detroit is palpable,” Ruch says. “It’s rewarding to see the home buyers who purchase their properties find happiness in the new homes and experience a sense of community in a city that has a rich and diverse history.”

Working and living together for the last nine years has given the twosome plenty of time to develop a relationship and a rapport that translate to the small screen. Bynum likes to push boundaries, describing his style as “eclectic, guilt-free luxury.” Thomas then tones down Bynum’s vision and helps bring it to life.

Meet Keith Bynum and Evan Thomas of HGTV's Bargain BlockJason Keen / Getty Images Courtesy of HGTV

Keith and Evan taping and painting at the bathroom of the Greenview home in season 1 of HGTV’s Bargain Block.

Bynum and Thomas met in 2013 in Colorado, where they lived at the time. “I got on Match.com one day, and Evan was the only other gay guy there,” recalls Bynum, 35, the fairer of the pair, with blue eyes and a quick smile. “I don’t remember who winked at whom.” Adds Thomas, 34, the taller and slightly more serious of the two, “It was the only Match date either of us went on.”

Thomas, originally from South Dakota, was completing his doctorate in physics at Colorado University – Boulder. Bynum, a Texas native with an MBA in Entrepreneurial Development, had just sold a successful home décor company with three retail locations.

They joined forces flipping houses in Denver — Bynum even landed an episode on HGTV’s “Tiny Paradise,” a show featuring small homes in idyllic locations — until that Instagram house-flipper put Detroit on Bynum’s radar.

Meet Keith Bynum and Evan Thomas of HGTV's Bargain Block

MALL BUDGET, BIG STYLE Since moving to Detroit in 2017, Bynum and Thomas have renovated nearly 30 houses — for less than $45,000 apiece.

After packing up their life in Colorado, they moved into a “cute brick house that looked really nice on the out-side,” Bynum recalls. They purchased the property, south of the Eight Mile Road and Livernois Avenue juncture, for $12,000.

But when they entered, they were greeted by roach bodies piled six inches deep in the kitchen and a faulty plumbing system. “I was standing in the dining room with two suitcases and a dog, just crying,” Bynum says. “We ended up living in an Airbnb for two weeks.” Embarking on a “massive learning curve,” they got the home in livable shape within a month and sold it soon after for $64,000.

Meanwhile, HGTV came knocking with a new, budget-oriented concept. “They knew that we were flipping houses here, so they were kind of into that,” says Thomas. “What they were really interested in is that we were on such a small budget and still making a decent design impact.”

Thus, “Bargain Block” was born. The pair have since flipped nearly 30 houses in Detroit proper — including a farmhouse and a schoolhouse — showcasing their eye for thrifting and penchant for handmade design. They have also designed a handful of homes for clients in the suburbs.

Meet Keith Bynum and Evan Thomas of HGTV's Bargain Block

A look at the complete living room at the ranch house, as seen on HGTV’s Bargain Block.

Bynum and Thomas buy low, renovate on a budget, and sell … low, to first-time buyers looking to spend less than $100,000 on a starter home. They renovate the houses for less than $45,000 apiece — at least, that was their budget for the show’s first season — with accessory and furniture finds from local thrift stores including Restore in Farmington Hills. They also use low-cost materials, such as the poured concrete countertops that Bynum proclaims in one episode “hit price, style, and function.” In the upcoming season, “Bargain Block” fans can expect to see the duo “with a lot of the same fundamentals that [they] have come to know and love, but with new, fresh elements and elevated design,” says Emily Mayo, who works with the pair.

Meet Keith Bynum and Evan Thomas of HGTV's Bargain Block

An exterior front before shot of the Dormer House, as seen on HGTV’s Bargain Block, and the after (below)

Meet Keith Bynum and Evan Thomas of HGTV's Bargain Block

When it comes to their renovation efforts, Bynum and Thomas decided to zero in on two Detroit neighborhoods, on the west side between Six and Eight Mile roads, after noticing the stark difference in real estate prices above Eight Mile. “The same houses that sell for $200,000 on the Ferndale side were going for $1,000 on the south side,” Thomas says. “You don’t have that anywhere else in the country.”

Now entering their fifth year in Detroit, Bynum and Thomas have established a relationship with the Detroit Land Bank Authority, which works with developers and community organizations to provide affordable housing and has helped the pair acquire properties. They’ve also built a social circle that expands with each house they renovate.

“We make an effort to talk to everybody we see,” Bynum says. “Having extra eyes on a house that’s under construction is always good, but we also talk with the neighbors about what they want to see in a house on their block.”

They enliven the neighborhood, says Detroit Realtor Shea Hicks Whitfield, a central character on “Bargain Block,” who met Bynum and Thomas when she was cast on the show. “We instantly clicked, and now they’re like my baby brothers,” she says. “We probably have way too much fun at work. It’s the most fun you can have in an abandoned house.”

Last year, Bynum and Thomas fortified their presence in the city with Nine Design + Homes, a retail store and showroom they opened on Grand River Avenue. “I have this weird habit of opening a retail store everywhere I go,” Bynum says. “It’s like a comfort blanket. That was one of my first priorities when we moved to Detroit.”

The 10,000-square-foot workshop and showroom reflect his passion for thrifting, with vintage-looking displays under a disco ball and a papier-mâché bird suspended from the ceiling. Customers are drawn by the chance to find pieces inspired by the show — and in some cases, that appeared on TV, especially Bynum’s cedar-slat art that he recreates for the shop. Bynum and Thomas also have plans to sell their own merchandise and expand the Nine Design brand. “It’s a nice, eclectic mix of things that I love,” Bynum says. “I find fun things that I love and put them together.”

 

You can catch Keith and Evan on Season 2 of Bargain Block on HGTV, debuting this summer 2022.  They will also be featured in Season 3 of HGTV’s Rock The Block airing Spring 2022.

Nine Design + Homes
21616 Grand River Ave., Detroit
Open on Fri + Sat from 11am-5pm and Sun -Th by appointment only
nine.homes

16 Comments

  • Barry
    March 7, 2022 at 10:46 AM

    These guys are fun to watch.

  • Lee Ann
    March 8, 2022 at 8:27 PM

    My new favorite show! Love these guys!

  • Judy
    March 28, 2022 at 11:07 PM

    I’ve been a fan of HGTV for years. Two things I wanted was a show to help renters design their spaces at a low cost. Also for a design show to come to Detroit. I love Bargain Block. Keith and Evan are GOD sent. Hopefully they’ll continue to the east side of Detroit. Love you guys

  • Barb
    March 30, 2022 at 11:55 AM

    I love the show and these guys are fun to watch!

  • LEAH
    April 5, 2022 at 2:43 PM

    Love this show – they can come to Tampa and decorate my house any time1

  • Carole
    May 31, 2022 at 4:09 PM

    Love this show. Its my favorite on HGTV.

  • Patricia
    June 7, 2022 at 1:19 PM

    My favorite design team .
    The talent they have is Amazing .
    I just need to know when they will be on , time and day ?
    I sure wish they would come to Kentucky .

  • sophia manos
    June 8, 2022 at 2:10 PM

    I enjoy seeing old, dilapidated homes brought back to life to be loved. Evan & Kevin are an unique pair. I can’t get enough of their work, love it.

    Thank you HGTV for always bringing us the best—Sophia

  • Tam
    June 15, 2022 at 5:23 PM

    Love that they are bringing life back to neighborhoods in Detroit! Getting young homeowners back in the these areas helps the city! I grew up in MI in the late 60s-late 70s. Trips to Detroit were a big deal and it was such a vibrant city. Glad they are focused on bringing that back through renovating neighborhoods in Detroit.

  • Marilyn
    June 15, 2022 at 6:25 PM

    I’ve been watching for a while and I love this show, my concern is they never mention pulling a permit for any of the work that they do or the time involved or the pitfalls of such. Surely these guys do pull permits for this work? Why do you never mentioned it in your episodes?

  • Susan Shaw
    June 21, 2022 at 12:07 PM

    So hope that the poor cat that was found in one of the houses featured early on in Season 2 was either adopted by someone doing the filming or taken to a shelter where it would be cared for and eventually placed in a loving home. B
    Love what these guys are doing, but we’re very disappointed in their apparent disregard for this poor creature.
    Would be lovely if there was some follow up and a happy ending for this abandoned animal.

  • Just Jade
    June 22, 2022 at 8:19 PM

    I’m in love with this show. Although I don’t always love the designs, some are little over the top for my tastes, I still love the concept. I wish more people would rejuvenate run down areas instead of putting up new houses. Such a great example for young people. Keep up all the great work, guys!

  • Eva Rolf
    July 7, 2022 at 12:59 AM

    Love this show. Keith is so creative. And Evan keeps it grounded. So inspirational. BIG FAN !!!!!

  • Dennis
    July 16, 2022 at 9:19 PM

    They never mention HVAC on this show and realtor fees aren’t mentioned in selling the house

    The Numbers aren’t realistic

  • Theresa
    July 28, 2022 at 9:52 AM

    I absolutely love their show, they are a joy to watch and their houses are wonderful. Keith and Evan have great talent and compliment each other. Please do not take them off the air. I also watch their re-runs. My favorite show by far.

  • Sue
    August 2, 2022 at 7:45 PM

    Bargain Block, is my favorite show on TV. This show makes me feel very happy! I love Keith, Evan, and Shea. What a fabulous team!! I wish they could come back to Denver, and redesign my home. Everytime I think one of Keith’s designs is over the top, the finished project completely blows my mind! Such talent! Evan is no slouch either, he seems to be able to fix anything. Plus, who doesn’t love Shea, the best real estate agent. Thank you guys for giving me nice dreams for my house.

Leave a Reply