Written by: 
Meredith Moriak Wright
Photography by: 
Michael Clements

Patience, persistence and the ability to envision what's possible were key for Zach Palmer ('13) and Lauren Scally ('12) when purchasing a Denton investment property rife with history, charm and potential. Partners in love and business, they constantly scour listings in search of  well-loved homes in need of major renovations that can either be flipped or rented. A 2015 listing for three houses built from the 1920s to the 1970s, a swimming pool and a pool house located on two acres off Country Club Road was one the couple kept coming back to.

"The property was overgrown, and the homes had been vacant for a long time. But we knew it was somewhere we could plant our roots," says Scally, a recreation and leisure studies alum. She is the duo's design guru and a licensed real estate agent who manages their eight rental properties. Renovation and construction tasks fall to Palmer, who owns Palmer Roofing.

It wasn't until after falling in love with the property that the couple began to learn stories about the main house and its owners -- the late Mildred Brock Parker ('40, '70 M.A.) and her college sweetheart, Walt Parker ('40, '47 M.Ed.). Walt, a well-known Denton resident, was a UNT Hall of Fame running back, served five terms as a state representative and worked 25 years at UNT and the UNT System as vice president and later vice chancellor of governmental affairs.

"Walt Parker is a Denton legend, and we've learned so many things about the home," Scally says. "The pecky cypress wood used throughout the house was gifted by millionaire wildcatter Rex Cauble ('74) and the intricate front door was made in Europe in the 1960s."

The pair renovated the property's two smaller homes and converted the pool house into a third, fully-functional rental home, while retaining as many original materials and fixtures as possible.

"We try our best not to use anything new. We go to estate sales, auctions, garage sales, salvage yards and have driven across the state for the perfect fixtures, tiles, shiplap, trim," Scally says. "There's something special about preserving the history and charm of each home."

Transforming a home from drab to fab is what she lives for.

"I love designing a space, reconfiguring and problem solving," she says. "It's invigorating to take a room, house or space and completely transform it."

Balancing renovation projects while running a roofing company and as landlords has both tested and taught the couple.

"We learned quickly that it's important to have a schedule for every renovation and to stick to it, otherwise it becomes wasteful. Now, we map each renovation from beginning to end to complete tasks in the most logical order and keep the project profitable and on schedule," says Palmer, who studied real estate, business and alternative dispute resolution while earning a Bachelor of Applied Arts and Sciences.

It was John Baen, professor of real estate in the College of Business, who gave Palmer the confidence to follow his entrepreneurial path to a career in construction and renovation.

"Dr. Baen's lectures motivated me, and his passion for real estate was contagious. It made me want to go out and do things, rather than just think about them. He taught me so much about real estate deals and how to think outside the box," Palmer says. "Because of him, I think about things differently and am not scared of going against the norm."

Scally credits Palmer with an innate ability to take a little money and turn it into more, with their rental properties funding growth for their roofing and renovation businesses.

"Not only does he have smart business sense, but he's an insanely hard worker. He works with the crews on every aspect of our projects," says Scally, who hopes the couple's hard work will continue to bring success, and enable them to branch out into commercial construction and development.

Until then, Scally will continue to look at every building with an open mind and imagine a new way to give it life.

"My dream is to become a developer," she says. "I hope we get to the point where we can imagine something new, inspired by something old."

Continue reading