“Two Chicks and a Hammer” smartly sums up HGTV’s “Good Bones,” hosted by the mother-daughter team Karen E Laine and Mina Starsiak. That’s also the name of the duo’s Indianapolis-based home renovation business, launched in 2008.
The pair hunt down battered homes in bleaker Indianapolis neighborhoods, transforming them with an average budget of $180,000 — with help from some rough-and-ready demo teams.
The show has an odd couple appeal, contrasting Laine’s “hippie personality” (to quote Starsiak) with her daughter’s no-nonsense, methodical style.
“She’s the kid, and I’m the mom,” Starsiak said of her mother.
We reached the duo at their office near downtown Indianapolis.
The housing market in Indianapolis is booming: historic median prices, low interest rates. How’s that affecting you?
Starsiak: It’s all happening quickly. A house that used to cost $3,000 to $5,000 (three years ago) now costs $50,000 to $60,000. The buyer pool has grown pretty significantly — definitely more competition.
Here in L.A., we’re drooling over that “high” $60,000 figure. But let’s note that these homes are pretty beat up, right?
Starsiak: No bank will give buyers a loan for these houses —. they’re that bad. The homes we buy are cash-only projects because they’re so dilapidated. They’ve had drug use, homeless people — all kinds of problems.
On that point, you differentiate yourself from flippers. Why?
Laine: What we’re doing is rehabilitating neighborhoods, and we don’t buy the cheapest house; we buy the worst house. If we do a couple of homes in a neighborhood, suddenly we’ve made a difference. And a lot of times we’re working in fringe areas, and so we’re not making a lot of money.
Your show is known for bringing in some bad-boy demolition teams.
Starsiak: One of them is my brother, and whichever of his friends are home from college and not working their restaurant job. They’re just dumb 20-year-olds who like to break stuff, which is fine. The majority of them know what they’re doing.
There’s a great sub-note to your show that we love: women’s empowerment.
Laine: We bring the same qualities that confident males bring, and a knowledge base. We have a pretty keen design sense that a lot of contractors don’t have. Mina has the ability to get discounts out of anyone. And we can pretty much use all the equipment that the dudes can use.
Karen, what’s the best adjective to describe your daughter?
Starsiak: She always calls me burly, and she thinks it’s a compliment, but that’s like a big, oversized man. I’m 5 feet 2. I guess you can be burly inside too. Probably the most accurate and all-inclusive description would be stubborn and persistent.
Mina does run a tight ship. We love how you hand it back to people with your go-to line: “Zip it.”
Starsiak: I just wish that everyone would consult me on all the decisions they make and I’ll tell them if they’re right or wrong. I have a spreadsheet with line items for every single house, the order number, when it’s been checked into our warehouse.
Laine: Yeah, I don’t know how this happened to her. I raised her to be a free spirit, and she’s totally motivated and conservative. I’ve failed as a mother!
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