“I sell vacation homes,” said Burns with a smile. “What’s not to love?”
The Thurstons, newlyweds from Meriden, Conn., were searching for the ideal shoreline fixer-upper within their budget — and planning their wedding — when they contacted Burns.
They told him they were looking for a “smallish house” they’d be able to rent out during the busy summer months and use for family gatherings in the off-season.
Next week, an entire nation can watch as the three share their happy-ending story on HGTV’s popular Sunday night show, “Beachfront Bargain Hunt.”
The filming of the episode took place over four days last spring and will begin airing on Sunday.
The weekly television show typically follows a family for three episodes and chronicles the transformation from beach house to dream house — on a budget.
“We’ll follow them on the house hunt as we discover some of the most surprisingly affordable beachfront locales that prove you don’t need to be a millionaire to live right on the beach,” says HGTV.
Catherine, a Wallingford, Conn., native who spent many a childhood summer vacationing in Misquamicut, told HGTV producers “there’s no better place to relax and unwind after a busy week than along the shores of Westerly.”
“My family always rented on Crandall Avenue,” said Thurston, who works in commercial insurance. “We wanted to find something in the same area.”
Andrea, a buyer-planner for Carlton Industries in Hamden, Conn., said as much as she loved the idea of owning a beach house, she wasn’t so sure they’d be able to find a property within their budget of $375,000.
But Burns was confident they could find something to their liking and showed them several places along the shoreline. When he showed them the house on Winnapaug Road, they all agreed they’d found the perfect place.
In January 2016, the Thurstons bought the house for $320,000 and proceeded to gut and remodel their new vacation home.
“I was pleasantly surprised about the affordability of owning a beach home in the Misquamicut area,” said Andrea.
“And the location is great... walking distance from the beach and within the Misquamicut Fire District,” added Catherine. And then there was the wrap-around deck and the beautiful backyard, she added.
The back of the Thurston’s summer house looks out upon The Winnapaug Farm Preserve, which consists of roughly 40 acres full of corn and hay, woods, freshwater wetlands and salt marsh, and the Audubon Society of Rhode Island’s Lathrop Preserve.
“It had belonged to the same family for more than 20 years,” said Burns, noting that the house was in good shape fundamentally so didn’t require too much work. But the Thurstons enjoyed putting down new floors, installing new cabinets, updating the lighting and making more sleeping spaces.
They can squeeze in up to 10 people if need be, said Catherine, who has a large extended family. Six people can fit quite comfortably.
“Catherine has a very good eye,” said Burns last week as he showed the attractive two-bedoom beach house decorated in watercolor shades of blue and white.
The HGTV show is a bit of a retrospective look at the whole process, said Burns, who recommended the Thurstons’ story to the network. He knew their upbeat, bubbly, expressive personalities would work well on television, he said.
“It was a unique and fun thing to be a part of,” he said of the process, “and it’s going to showcase Westerly to a national audience.”
But Westerly doesn’t need too much more attention, said the real estate agent, noting a recent influx of vacation-home buyers from Massachusetts in addition to the traditional New York and Connecticut buyers.
“I think Misquamicut has become an alternative to Cape Cod,” said Burns. “Misquamicut is one of the best beach values left.” But perhaps for not too much longer.
“There is relatively little on the market,” he said. “It’s a sellers’ market right now and that drives prices up.”
Burns, who also appears in “Beachfront Bargain Hunt,” hopes people who tune in won’t think he’s given away any local secrets.
“I showed Catherine and Andrea some clamming places on the pond,” he explained, “but they didn’t film that part.”
They did film him showing a handful of freshly harvested clams, however, and a few shots of the three of them paddleboarding on Winnapaug Pond. Whether the clips stay in the show remains to be seen, he said.
Andrea, an upstate New York native who never spent much time near the ocean as a child, said owning a beach house is “literally a dream come true.”
“I’m looking forward to raising our children in Misquamicut and eventually... hopefully sooner rather than later... retiring there with my wife, Catherine,” she said.