He calls them "pigs' ears," after the porcine bits that are so tough we give them to dogs to chew on; as in the things you can't make a silk purse out of. But for Trent Fasnacht, 46, the houses everyone else dismisses as pigs' ears are just to his taste.
Fasnacht, who lives in Goose Creek with his wife, Diann, his 14-year-old stepson and his 7-year-old daughter, is a general contractor who is becoming known for buying the "worst house on the street, the ones that have been condemned, abandoned, torn up by a storm, a good house but one with issues," he says. "When I look at houses, people say, 'Don't buy that house, let me help you find a better house.' "
He says he's looked at hundreds of houses. The ones he buys are based on a "gut element," but he also stays practical about costs. "It's a numbers thing, too. Sometimes the math doesn't work to not make it a fool's errand."
Fasnacht was recently featured on the season premiere of "American Rehab" on the DIY Network (it will be rebroadcast at 7:30 tonight) for his current project, a 1906 Victorian in Summerville.
The television crew added some complication to the rehab, requesting that he start with the exterior so the cameras could get good shots, for instance, rather than starting on the interior as he likes to do. But, even with doing the house outside-in, Fasnacht is excited about the project.
"I know the neighbors are grateful and I know Miss Lizzie Williams is grateful because this was her home for 50 years, and she's glad we're saving it and not tearing it down to make two smaller properties," Fasnacht says, adding that Williams still lives in Summerville and has seen some of what he's done to the house.
He has already found damage from moisture, wood rot and bugs since he started the rehab in March. "I found more than I wanted, but not more than I expected."
The house, like many of its era, had additions through the years.
"The flow is not what it would be if you started from scratch, but I knew from past experience I can make foot traffic flow better from front to back," Fasnacht says. "The front porch and the turret catches your eye right away. I knew from past experience I can make the house better than it's ever been before. It's a cool house."
Fasnacht has already restored the front porch, recreating the tongue-and-groove technique that would have been used originally, and he used shingles he removed to add flair to a new arbor he had built.
Whenever possible, he uses labor and materials from South Carolina, and he says he'll probably turn over some old stones he found to the next owner. He already is resigned to the fact that even though he's falling in love with the house, he can't get attached enough to want to stay forever.
"We won't even personalize inside with colored paint," he says.
He typically spends a year of his life on each project, and says he can't help but be moved by what he finds.
"I gave Miss Lizzie some pictures we found in the attic that she didn't know were up there," Fasnacht says. "Some of the houses I do, there's so much debris and I find wedding pictures, diplomas, kids' art projects. I get to know families, not just from neighbors coming by with stories and memories, but from finding things in there.
"The first house I did in Moncks Corner, they had a dryer fire that went up to the attic, spread, and the ceiling caved in. When I get there, I see children's clothing was still folded on the couch."
When he's done, he wants Miss Lizzie to see it.
"It may be hard for her to see because it was her house for 50 years, but I want her to see it all finished," Fasnacht says. "I hope she likes it."