Cleophus Stepeney might have only just put the finishing renovation touches on the home he purchased from the Cuyahoga Land Bank late last summer, but he’s already looking for his next house. In fact, this is Cleophus’s second home that he bought and renovated through the Cuyahoga Land Bank’s Deed-in-Escrow program. He currently lives in the first fixer-upper that he acquired back in 2016 and carefully restored. When he found this four-bedroom, two-bath Colonial on Craven Avenue in Cleveland’s Mt. Pleasant neighborhood, he knew he wanted to make this an investment property.
Cleophus, 63, has called Cleveland home for nearly 30 years and has decades of experience in construction and renovation. “I’ve been learning by trial and error for over 45 years,” he says. His background and experience made him a perfect fit for the Deed-in-Escrow program, which offers buyers an opportunity to take neglected properties and bring them back to life. Houses come at a reduced purchase price but may require extensive renovations. The buyer agrees to renovate the home as required within a specified timeframe, and the deed to the home is held in escrow until renovations are complete.
Cleophus, who estimates he spent a total of $30,000 in materials and renovations to the property – making needed updates to plumbing and wiring, installing new windows and HVAC system, completely overhauling the kitchen and bathrooms, repairing porches, and even tuck-pointing the chimney. “Everything is pretty much new from top to bottom,” says Cleophus proudly. “At some point, someone tried to convert this house into a double, but it didn’t work. I turned it back into a nice, roomy single-family home.” Cleophus is ready to rent the house out but says that he’s taking his time to find the right fit. “I’m in no hurry,” he says. “It’s a really nice house, and I will rent it when I find the right tenant.”
“It was great working with Ian Ahern at the Cuyahoga Land Bank,” says Cleophus. “He was very helpful and explained the entire process – what needed to be done and the time frame it needed to be done in.” Cleophus has had such a positive experience working with the Cuyahoga Land Bank he recommends the Deed-in-Escrow program to many friends and family. “I tell them you’re going to have to work and get it done, but they are great to work with throughout the process. As long as you’re making progress, they’re on your side.”
Cleophus is looking forward to buying another house from the Land Bank soon. “I’ll take my time to find the right house, but I’ve got my eyes open,” he says.