This Dayton couple bought crave-worthy historic fixer upper ‘as is.’ Then the coronavirus pandemic hit.

We catch up with the couple who bought the big blue St. Anne’s Hill Historic District house with no property inspections.

They say one should expect the unexpected when buying a house.

And Martha Conkel and Tung Nghiem knew 507 McLain St. in Dayton's St. Anne's Hill Historic District was anything but "move in ready" when they put a bid on it.

“I just thought there was no way we were going to get the house,” said Conkel, a medical interpreter who passed by the grand house frequently while going to help patients at Miami Valley Hospital and Children’s Medical Center. “I always thought it would be cool if someone fixed it up.”

>> Earlier: No inspection, no problem! Why a real estate agent says this grand Dayton house sold in a flash

Turns out those someones will be Conkel and Nghiem, and the biggest unexpected surprise had nothing to do with the house itself. Instead, it’s been the coronavirus pandemic.

Despite the uncertainty, the couple remain excited about their new home, as well as their wedding this September at The Brightside Music & Event Venue, 905 E. 3rd St. in downtown Dayton.

In fact, the house is a good distraction from the wedding, the self-described procrastinators said.

“We are still happy that we made the purchase,” Nghiem added. “We’d like to move in by September.”

The couple of two years were elated when their bid above the previous owner’s $79,900 asking price was accepted in January.

They were surprised it worked for good reason.

Despite clear flaws like missing walls and open ceilings, interest in the house was crazy high.

The three-bedroom, old-style house constructed in 1899 sold within days of being offered for sale “as is.”


It was featured by the national Facebook group "For The Love Of Old Houses" and other sites.

Nghiem, who was born in Vietnam, meet Conkel six years ago while he was studying accounting at Cedarville University and she was a Wright State student.

After buying the house and knowing there was so much work to be done on it, he decided to pursue his graduate degree from California State University, Fullerton online, staying here in Dayton instead of attending classes in the Golden State.

>> Local bakery to deliver free cupcakes to commemorate ‘quarantine birthdays’

He was in California when the bid was placed.

“It just looks like a mansion,” Nghiem, who saw the house’s listing on before the bid was placed, said. “It just looks like a castle.”

The couple set up the Instagram account @the.minnie.project to document the progress of the 2,700-square-foot blue house.

Their enthusiasm is clear in one of the first posts to the account:

“Recipe for an adventure: 

1. First home. 🏚 

2. Zero experience. 🤷🏻‍♀️🤷🏻 

3. Wedding planning. 🔔 

4. Pandemic. 🦠 

5. And lots of love for old houses. ❤️ When we saw the listing for this big blue house in our dream neighborhood, we put in an offer right away before even seeing it. Call us crazy but who wouldn’t want to own a historic home like this? 😍 We named her Wilhelmina, but we call her “Minnie” for short. We are so encouraged to have you join us as we take on this (not so) “Minnie” restoration. Lots of hard work and learning ahead, but we can’t wait to make and share memories with you all!”

Conkel, a fan of the St. Anne’s neighborhood and the Dayton Porchfest held there, said she loves the house’s location and was drawn to its unique qualities.


The exterior has been likened to a boat.

“It needs so much love,” the Dayton native said. “That’s the project we want to take on, bringing it back to its original (state).”

They've never taken on such a renovation challenge, but plan to do as much as they can with the help of her handy brother, Sam Conkel.

“We have zero experience,” Conkel said. “We’ve been watching a bunch of videos.”

The couple is now living with her parents in Dayton while working on the house.

Credit: Courtney of Joanne Cronin Irongate Inc.

Credit: Courtney of Joanne Cronin Irongate Inc.

Nghiem said he expects the process to be overwhelming at times, but there haven’t been that many major surprises thus far.

“Luckily the foundation is pretty good,” he said.

That said, the house does have its “weird” ticks, his bride-to-be said.

She and Nghiem have yet to research its history, but neighbors have said the house was split up into apartments during the Great Depression.

That explains the out-of-place holes in some of the floors.

“They put toilets in random places,” Conkel said.

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