Tips from a Professional House Flipper
House rehab and flipper shows on TV demonstrate all that needs to be done to find and fix a house in 43 recorded minutes. Obviously, there is a bit more work behind-the-scenes work that takes a house from an outdated mess to a charmingly restored and renovated home. It is really as fun and simple as it seems?
House flipper, Cathy Travassos of Ct Properties Southcoast, tackles residential projects that range from small to medium in size. She became a flipping addict/professional after she renovated the home her grandfather had left her in 2005. Along the journey, she defined her mission as a revitalizer of older homes paying attention to re-purposing and restoring while updating it for today’s living. Artisans List asked her first hand to talk about what it is really like to do a project.
Artisans List: When you look at homes to possibly restore, what are the top five things that have to be checked off on your list that makes it a good rehab candidate?
- Location is my number one aspect when looking for a rehab project. This is something you always hear in the real estate world. Having a home that is in a desirable area tends to not only sell quicker, but for a higher price! A good location includes the overall appearance of the neighborhood as well as amenities such as schools, shopping and accessibility to highways and hospitals.
- Price is also extremely important. I always want to make sure there’s enough room in the budget to tackle everything that needs to be done including unknown items that are sure to crop up!
- The structural integrity of the house is another key element as a poorly structured home can run you into big dollars.
- The house must have at least 2 bedrooms. Most will say it should have 3 but the amount of interest I’ve received with 2 bedroom houses has been amazing. I had a 2 bedroom ranch with 766 sq. ft that I received 40 phone calls within 2 days of listing it and received multiple offers along with several letters from buyers explaining why I should sell it to them. There’s a lot of people starting out or downsizing so there’s a large pool of people for that size home. I wouldn’t venture into a one bedroom though!
- Lastly, the worst looking house in the neighborhood is something I tend to be drawn towards and typically scares others away! It’s always fulfilling to take an eyesore and turn it into a home someone wants to live in. The neighbors are also thrilled to have you there improving their area. I’ve gotten many thank yous over the years and it feels great to make such an impact!
AL: We all watch the before/after shows on TV, and they claim projects take 5 to 8 weeks sometimes. Being that materials have to be ordered and labor has to be scheduled, what do you feel is the ‘real’ average time it takes a normal flipper to restore/rehab a cottage project?
CT: I would say 12 to 16 weeks depending on the severity of the rehab. I always like to add lots of extras like crown molding, built-ins, etc. so that extends my time-frame. It also greatly depends on the contractors. When one falls behind, everyone falls behind! Mother Nature can play a big hand in that, as well. It’s best to go into a rehab knowing that unexpected things will crop up and your time frame will most likely change. In other words, don’t be hard on yourself when things don’t go according to plan. It’s all part of the process!
AL: Do you have any budgeting secrets on how to cost out a project?
CT: Know what materials you are planning on using from the start and know what buyers are looking for in the neighborhood where you are purchasing the home. Whenever possible, buy your own materials as contractors will tack on as much as 30%! Check your area for rebates on appliances, boilers, furnaces and insulation. If you can’t find anything on line, call your local plumber’s supply facility as they know what current rebates are available.
AL: Out of all of your projects to date, which one was your favorite? Why?
CT: I would have to say the bungalow makeover is my absolute favorite! This home had an interesting history! I learned the house had been moved back in the 40’s to its current location. Neighbors said one of the children that had been born in its original location still lived in town. Knowing this, I had to track him down and invite him over for a tour! He and his wife came by and seeing his excitement over the improvements was priceless! He shared a lot of the history with me. I even learned that he was able to watch his home being moved from his high school classroom, which was pretty impressive seeing it was done in the 40’s. The two of them are featured in the last photo of the home on my website and they also received the most interest on social media. Not only was I able to revive a lot of the charm in this home, but I was able to meet this wonderful couple.
AL: Which one was your worst house rehab project and what were the lesson learning pitfalls?
CT: The worst rehab I’ve had to date is a ranch I purchased right before the crash in 2008. Due to the timing, I had to hold on to the house for several years until the market turned around and I was able to sell it. I became a landlord even though that wasn’t the plan. Be extremely mindful of what the market is doing and what predictions are calling for so you don’t end up in that situation.
AL: What words of wisdom would you give to someone who was looking to do their first house rehab project?
CT: If you’re going to hire out your work, get several quotes. Most recommend 3 but I recommend 5 to 6. When contractors are busy, they will bid your job at a much higher price than usual as they don’t need the work. However, if you accept, they are more than willing to fit you in because of the premium price. Also, make sure when you decide on a contractor to get a detailed contract so you both know where the job begins and ends.