The first step to ensuring a quick and efficient house flip is to know your market and purchase a home that has the potential to generate a profit. If the list of necessary renovations runs on for too long, you may end up investing more in the house than you will be able to recover by selling. Research the other houses in the neighborhood, when they last sold, and for how much. If possible, find out if those homes were updated, and what renovations were done. This information will give you a rough idea of how much return you can see on your investment. Of course, timing plays a role, so if the home you have your eye on requires several month’s work, you may want to reconsider your decision.
If you are able to make a home purchase with cash only, timing has less of an impact since you will not be paying interest on a loan. Make sure that you have enough cash for all of your intended renovations as well. If cash is not an option, you will want to minimize your risk by purchasing a home with a combined purchase price, interest payments, and renovation budget that is below the expected list price of the home.
Once you’ve made a purchase, it’s time to renovate! The most important places to invest include: curb appeal, kitchens, and bathrooms. Let’s break these down one at a time.
Starting inside, the focus of your interior renovations will be the kitchen and the bathroom and almost nothing else. A fresh coat of paint for the remainder of the house should suffice, although your architect and engineer can advise on some cheap layout tweaks or structural upgrades that can add incredible value to the home. You will want to make sure the flooring is adequate - clean or replace carpeting and/or sand and refinish hardwood floors, but the work outside the kitchen and bathrooms should stop there for a quick and efficient flip.
In purchasing your home, you will have noted the condition of the kitchen and bathroom. Hopefully there is something salvageable, like the tile in the bathroom or the cabinets in the kitchen. If the cabinets are in good shape, and the layout of the kitchen makes sense, a fresh coat of paint and some upgraded hardware will make the kitchen feel like new. Areas of the kitchen that may require special trades or licensed contractors include the lighting and the plumbing. Everyone loves recessed lights, and if the home you’ve purchased does not already have them, you will certainly want to install them. Hire a professional electrician for this. Make sure any bathroom lighting upgrades are included in their work as well so that they are not making multiple trips - critical for a quick and efficient job.
Once you have your lighting taken care of, get your plumbing refreshed. Flexible, braided water lines are an essential upgrade to prevent future flooding. You do not need a plumber to do this work, but you may want their assistance in planning sizing, location, and lengths of lines. If you are not making significant changes to the layout of the kitchen or bathroom, this work will move much quicker. If there is any wasted space in the kitchen or bathroom, you will want to utilize it, but if not, try not to let your own personal preference weigh too heavily in your design decisions - remember you are trying to appeal to the maximum number of potential buyers.
As you move on from lighting and plumbing in the kitchen, you will want to replace any outdated appliances, upgrade the sink, flooring, paint, and add a tile backsplash. Go with timeless designs and neutral colors. Someone in your life with a well-decorated home may be able to provide input at this stage. If you have the budget, and the existing kitchen is small and not salvageable, consider a more extensive redesign. Opening the kitchen into the dining or living area, increasing counter space, or just adding some new appliances can be worth your while. Look to your design professionals for advice on what to do here.
The bathroom is a space that can feel quite small with inefficient design. Think about your typical buyer - will they be a couple? A single person? A family with children? If the home you are flipping only has one bathroom, you will want to make it as functional as possible and install two sinks and try to separate the toilet area from the sink and shower area with a pocket door or some other privacy method if space allows. Big ticket items in the bathroom are the toilet and shower. If you want to tile the whole shower, you can really drive cost up. Think about a faux tile that can look timeless and beautiful without the cost. Once you have all of your base items in, the hardware and fixtures can add a touch of flair and make the room feel classier. For homes with 2 or more bedrooms, having multiple bathrooms becomes very important. Consider adding a bath or half bath if you have more than twice as many bedrooms as bathrooms.
Let’s move outside. The future homeowner’s first impression of a home is hard to overcome if it’s a bad one. When a potential buyer arrives, they will “judge the book by it’s cover,” and if the cover is outdated, unappealing, messy, or damaged, that will be a difficult judgement to move past once inside the home. You should have a home inspection when you purchase the home, and this will tell you if there is any damage to be repaired on the exterior of the home. If there is dry rot, start there. Dry rot is not only unappealing to a potential buyer, it can also threaten the structural stability of the home. Before getting started with this work, you may want to check with a structural specialist like Design Everest to get a professional opinion on any critical areas. While some of this work may be DIY, critical areas may be best left to a professional.
The next steps are painting and landscaping. You may also want to dress up the exterior of the home by adding shutters or replacing the front door. Painting is also a job that can be done on your own without any special trades or licensed contractors (unless the home was built before 1978 in which case you may be dealing with lead-based paint), but it is a job that requires more finesse than something like dry rot repair. Take into consideration the height of your home and the risk you are willing to take on for this flip. A fall while painting could really ruin the whole experience! Once you’ve made a decision on paint, consider exterior finishes like doors and shutters. Windows are another option to consider, but are often quite expensive and may not add enough value.
Once you have repaired all your dry rot, a fresh coat of paint, and finishing touches on the home, it’s time to freshen up the landscaping! A little pop of color can go a long way, but don’t overdo it. You want all of your upgrades and renovation work to appeal to the largest number of buyers possible, so keep your color palette as neutral as possible, and refer to popular design shows for landscaping ideas that are timeless. Don’t plant anything that requires a lot of work to upkeep. Especially in California, design drought tolerant landscaping! A pseudo riverbed with succulents for interest will be low maintenance and environmentally friendly - something any potential buyer can get behind!
In summary, to achieve a quick and efficient flip, start with a smart investment. Focus renovation work on three areas: curb appeal, the kitchen, and bathrooms. Do not add too many personal touches, and make the design decisions as neutral as possible to appeal to as many buyers as possible. Consult with professionals before you get started on any major renovations to ensure you are not missing any critical items in the area of structural stability, plumbing, and electrical. Good luck!
How Design Everest Can Help
Design Everest has a team of highly experienced engineers, including structural, civil and MEP, with specialized knowledge specific to home renovation and construction, and we would be an excellent resource not only in this step of the process, but in coordinating with the other specialists involved in your project as well, and taking your project all the way to an approved building permit. Call us at (877) 704-6765 for a FREE consultation and quote.
*Note: The content published above was made in collaboration with members of Design Everest.
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