FRANKLIN, Tenn. (WKRN) – When a mansion in Franklin, Tennessee caught fire online for being physically on fire in its Zillow listing, Mike Thakur and his family saw potential.
The home, a 25-year-old mansion nestled in the hills of Williamson County, caught fire amid renovations and was largely destroyed in the subsequent blaze.
The Zillow listing went viral when the previous owners used a photo of the home with flames erupting from the roof as part of the listing with the caption, “TRAGIC TOTAL LOSS by FIRE, of a CLASSIC MANSION!!! Sold As is!!”
But while a significant portion of the home was burned to the ground and the rest were affected by smoke damage, Thakur saw the property and thought his family could use the bones to make their new family home.
The family was thinking of moving to Tennessee from their Houston, Texas, home after visiting previously and falling in love with the area.
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“We toyed with the idea of building a home for ourselves, so we always knew that, whatever we did next, we wanted the ability to make it our own and not just live with the decisions of what other folks had made. You can try and remodel, but it can be a little harder,” Thakur told Nexstar’s WKRN.
There is plenty of potential in the home, Thakur said.
“Just driving up to the property, it’s got a real presence. It sits high up on a hill with these big ole columns that are very fitting for this middle Tennessee area. It just looks like a great house when you drive up,” he said. “It’s that kind of dream home idea that we could live in something magnificent.”
When they first came to see the home, it was still largely blocked by fire crews after extinguishing the flames. The family wasn’t able to fully enter the home, but they took some peeks inside where they could and saw how much work had previously been put into the home before the fire.
“Somebody’s put so much thought and care into it, and we thought we can salvage these pieces and bring some of the old houses back but still kind of make it a new, modern twist version of that,” Thakur said.
Demolition is ongoing for all the parts that can’t be salvaged. Construction crews with Sage Construction in Nolensville will spend about two weeks tearing down molded insulation, ripping out smoke-damaged drywall and flooring and sweeping out soot and ash-covered debris. Then, Thakur will work with architects to see what needs to be completely removed and what can be reutilized in the new version of the home.
“Our goal is we really want to be in the house by Thanksgiving as a family, or at least by Christmas. That’s kind of our mental goal. I don’t know that anybody else thinks that’s possible, but that’s what Mikey says,” he added.
Renovations of the home won’t fully restore the home back to exactly how it was; rather, Thakur and his family will transform the home into their personal family home. Ideally, he told WKRN, the home would have a little bit more of an open plan, or be more “free-flowing” than it previously was. The basement will have a studio for Thakur to film YouTube videos and a gym.
“We’re a pretty together family, so we like to be able to hang out,” he said, noting that the kitchen area will be an important one.
While he likes a clean, minimalist design, one more ornate feature that he’s thinking of keeping is the wrought iron staircase railing. Moving up the staircase, one side of the railing is a single piece of iron and was joint in place, according to Thakur. But design choices are a long ways away, especially given the state of some areas of the home.
Thakur said he was most struck when they initially saw the charred remains of the closet where fire investigators believe the blaze began.
“When you drive up to the house, you see this corner and it’s just not there. It’s just gone. You come into the house, and you stand there, and everything’s black. All the wood is charred and singed,” he said. “I think that’s the piece that stands out most for me is just how severe that damage was. Then you flip that and compare it to the other half of the house that the fire didn’t even get there and touch it. It’s almost crazy that this much of the house still remains when that much of it just disappeared.”
Thakur has also been documenting the sale and renovation process on his YouTube channel. YouTube is what he calls a “hobby,” and he primarily makes tech reviews on his main channel, but he created a side channel specifically to document the Franklin house project.
While he and his oldest son, who works for him full time, were looking at the home, they decided to go ahead and invite people to “come along for the ride.”
“Why don’t we see if anybody’s interested and see if they want to tag along,” he asked himself. “Maybe we’ll get some great ideas. Maybe we’ll get some help if we get stuck with an idea of how to do something. If we get lucky, maybe somebody will help us figure out how to pay for some windows as well. We just thought it could be neat.”
His first video about the house, “I Bought A Burned Down Mansion,” has over 38,000 views so far, and his channel has nearly 5,600 subscribers. But while the online following is nice, Thakur has been most impressed with the people in his new neighborhood who have offered their assistance and welcomed him into the area.
“We’ve had a lot of folks who have been really, really nice just in the local area,” he said. “Lots of folks welcoming us to the neighborhood, saying it was great to see the house get bought. We’ve had some folks reach out to see if we want some help, and we’ve met some contractors and things through that, which has been great.”
In fact, Thakur told WKRN, his current construction team doing demolition work was one he came into contact with because of his initial video.
“The thing that’s blown us away the most has been how friendly Nashville and Franklin have been towards us. It’s really been a blessing,” he said.
To follow along on Thakur’s home remodel journey, you can follow him on YouTube here.