When James Colunga retired two years ago from the Texas Department of Public Safety, he traded his gun and badge for hammer and nails. James and his wife, Diana, have now turned a part-time interest in flipping houses into a full-time passion.
Colunga shared the intrigue in home renovation started not long after he and Diana began to date a little more seriously. It was at that time Diana first brought up the idea to invest in a couple project homes.
“I thought it was really funny when she proposed this deal about buying rental properties and we were still dating. We had been together and had loved each other at that point,” Colunga said. “We were not married, but we were buying properties together. We had 14 properties before we got married. We were business partners first, and then marriage came in with that.”
Their first project house was in Ennis in 2004. When more homes came on the market due to foreclosures, the duo decided to make additional investments. Eventually, their passion for restoration led them to renovate properties in Midlothian, Waxahachie, Forney, and the Bishop Arts District in Dallas.
“The first house we bought after he retired was a 1924 home in Bishop Arts. The gentleman that owned it had been there since the 1980’s. It was in excellent shape, but it was old,” Diana said. “We had six layers of kitchen floor in there.”
James recalled the day after he retired as a state trooper, he went to work gutting the house in Bishop Arts from top to bottom. The home had not been updated and retained a lot of its original hardwoods and windows. The renovation process took about four months.
The couple’s current project is in the 1600 block of Ferris Avenue in Waxahachie.
“Harold Dorsey built this house in 1955. They lived here his entire life — him and his wife. I think that he was retired Air Force and she taught piano lessons to a lot of people in Waxahachie. They built this house,” Diana said. “They were the only people that owned this house beside us.”
During the restoration process, the Colungas have gone through the electrical and plumbing systems, gutted most of the interior, and are expanding various areas of the interior. An intricate part of the renovation was fitting the house with an air conditioning system.
James explained the room had to be changed from flat to vaulted to accommodate the AC system in the attic. He noted the vaulted roof complements the mid-century architectural style of the structure.
James thinks they'll have the home wrapped up in about two months.
“My wife was a CFO in the finance with a multimillion-dollar company. Yet on the weekends, we did houses probably about 12 years straight, seven days a week. The only time that we took time off was for vacation,” James recalled. “Now we are retired, and we can do this when we want. Back then we would work our regular workweek as well.”
He added one of the best parts of these renovations is working alongside Diana and sharing ideas on the direction of the project.
Diana shared the completion of a project gives her a sense of pride knowing that “you have created something beautiful.”