From street appeal to a budget-friendly bathroom and kitchen renovation, we’ve listed the best things you should do in your house flip.
You’ve made the leap and bought a house to flip. Before this, you would have assessed what work the house needs according to your budget and time frame. Studying house sales in your area will guide your estimate on what the house might sell for, thereby suggesting the budget for the revamp work.
From demolition to plastering, paintwork to electrical work, now’s the fun part. It’s time to implement the plan.
With 14 house flips to her name, Ami Muir, who lives in Christchurch, says changing paint colours or upgrading paint gives the best bang for your buck out of all the priorities.
“Look beyond the walls too, such as door frames and on the doors themselves, especially if they’re made from wood. Painting is an easy way to add value.”
Handles and tapware in a consistent style throughout the home will give a streamlined look, but don’t choose price over quality, says Ami. “Replacing door handles and light switches is also an inexpensive procedure that makes a huge difference to the look of a house.”
Kitchens and bathrooms
Key rooms people focus on when buying a house are the kitchens and bathrooms, so make sure these are of a good standard. “People typically buy homes based on the kitchen and bathroom, so any work on these rooms (as long as you don’t go overboard) is money well spent,” Ami says.
Wellington house flippers Ana and Nigel Ochkas-Hulena say house buyers prefer a new bathroom, kitchen and carpet. “We know we’ll need to spend about $4500-$6000 on the kitchen, and $3500 on the bathroom,” says Nigel.
Is moving rooms and extending the footprint beneficial to a house flip?
Creating an extra bedroom will be worth your while if done well and if it is economical. “It comes down to budget,” Ami says. “Moving rooms is one of the more expensive things to do and something I wouldn’t attempt on a first flip. However, it’s almost always worth adding an extra bedroom if you’re not sacrificing too much to make it happen. It’s best if it’s an easy room swap. For example, converting a dining room or large laundry into a bedroom.”
But Ami advises that large-scale reconfigurations, such as moving a living area from the south to the north end of the house, must be considered in terms of cost versus end value. “There’s a rule – spend a dollar if you get three back, which is a good thing to consider. If I spent $5000 will it get me $15,000 at the other end? If yes, then it’s probably worth doing. Money spent on a kitchen will likely get you a return, but potentially reconfiguring the whole house to an ideal layout, might not.”
Ana and Nigel don’t usually extend with their flips because of the time and cost involved. They recently bought a 130sqm three-bedroom house, which they reconfigured, creating four bedrooms and two bathrooms. “Although we ripped out a wall and installed beams, we didn’t touch the footprint. We had to work with an architect and engineer in the council, though. But we only tend to make structural changes on houses in high-end areas.”
The couple’s low-end, low-buy, lower-sell area is Wainuiomata, which given they know this market best, is their preference. Here they avoid adding, removing or playing with the footprint of houses. “The key is to get in and out as quickly as we can and keep costs down so we can keep a lower sell price suited best to the buyers in this suburb.”
“We purchased a home in Fairfield, and homes in this suburb generally fetch a higher sell price,” Ana says. “We bought a property for $560,000, and an educated guess meant playing with the floor plan would pay off. The cost and time were greater, and dealing with the council, architects and engineers was more of a risk.” But the work paid off, the result being a four-bedroom and two-bathroom house from what was originally three bedrooms and one bathroom, which they sold for $1.2 million, their largest profit to date.
Tyge Dellar of Auckland’s Demo to Reno prefers to keep such structural work at bay. “I always stay away from that,” say Tyge. “If you start extending or trying to move the kitchen to the other end of the house, you’ll need plans to go through the council, which takes money and time. One key to successfully flipping is always wanting to buy and sell in the same market; turnaround must be quick.”
The last flip Tyge took on was a three-bedroom house in Glenfield, Auckland. Making it over, he transformed it from a closed-off interior with a kitchen, bathroom and laundry. It was opened up and given a nice indoor-outdoor flow. He replaced two of the decks and installed new flooring, a pergola, fencing and a gate while updating electrical and paintwork inside and outside.
Ami had a budget of $25,000 for her house flip. She made cosmetic changes, such as replacing the benchtop (but not the whole kitchen), taking down heavy red curtains and replacing them with sheer ready-made curtains, which she installed herself.
It was inexpensive to install the carpet and paint professionally; no walls were moved, so no builder was needed. “As soon as you bring builders in, the cost goes up a lot, not specifically due to the builder cost but all of the things that might be affected by the building work – plumbing, electrical, paint, plastering, flooring,” Ami says. “I would recommend with a first house flip to keep the building work to a minimum to get the hang of the easier work before moving up.”
The trick is finding a house nobody wants, Ami says, being able to see through the ugly things, as sometimes they are just cosmetic. “A house might have one red wall in a room,” she says, “which puts so many people off, yet it’s so easy to fix. It’s all about the overall impression. People might not know it was that red wall that put them off. If you can note those things and see that it’s the red wall, old handles and ugly vanity pulling it down, and add the cost up, you’ll see it’s sometimes quite inexpensive to fix.”
When to call in the professionals
Ana and Nigel complete as much work as possible without paying tradies, painting, installing and putting together kitchens and laying vinyl planks. “Sweat equity is how we make our profits,” Ana says. “We work with a plumber and an electrician who we have built up great working relationships.” The pair complete everything they can themselves, saving money and leaving the electricians
and plumber to do the things they can’t legally do.
Anything to do with moving walls, plumbing and electrical Ami recommends hiring professionals for. “There’s a lot you can do yourself – install a new kitchen, fix up the gardens, paint and change door handles. I outsource painting, but it is a great way to save money if you are happy to do it yourself. I would get a professional in to do flooring, but if you want to learn how to lay vinyl planks, that’s another great way to save money.”
It comes down to how competent you are, Tyge says, and how willing you are to get things going. Will it take longer if you do it yourself? “Weigh up the time to dollar value,” he says. “For electricals and plumbing, you need a certificate document by a qualified plumber and electrician at the end of the job. If the carpentry is non-structural, you can do it yourself if you are competent enough. It comes down to the individual.”
First impressions count, so put effort into the home’s exterior to ensure the street appeal is of a high standard for those viewing the property. “House flippers sometimes forget landscaping; they often do the inside but neglect the exterior,” Ami says. “But if you spend a little money outside ($2000-$5000), you can dramatically improve the first impression of a house.”
Typically, the exterior photo is the first photo to appear on the home’s online listing, Ami says, noting that if the house is looking good here, then more people will look at the listing, then the home. “It’s important to consider spending a little on landscaping if it makes it look low maintenance or more appealing.”
Text by Catherine Steel