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Remodel Tips for House Flipping

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Paint From Ralph Lauren Home

(c) Ralph Lauren Home
Updated September 27, 2011
Is the term "house flipping" a thing of the past? It came to symbolize an era of ill-gained profits and subsequent collapse of the real estate market.

Alas, no. Whenever a house is flimsily remodeled--barely enough to pass the "smell test" from the buyers and inspector, but not good enough to last long-term--it is considered a bad house-flip.

Good House-Flip vs. Bad House-Flip?

But when you remove certain unsavory elements from the equation, it returns to what it has always been: buying, fixing, and selling of homes for a profit. I think that as long as any less-than-stellar remodels are clear and obvious, it is not a dishonest house-flip.

Using defective Chinese drywall because you got it for $.99 per sheet will make this a bad house-flip. Installing a plain-and-ugly (but working!) 10 year-old Kenmore range you picked up at Habitat For Humanity ReStore for $55 does not make this a bad house-flip. As long as the range works--and works for a reasonable duration--it's pretty obvious to everyone what it is: an ugly decade-old range.

So, here are some renovation tips for house-flipping that help you build some equity into the house and return profits, while remaining ethical.

1. Strip Away Carpet and Expose Hardwood Or...

Yes, the trend of hardwood does have sticking power: it's still around. So, if you flip up a corner of carpet on your flipper and discover solid hardwood flooring, you're in luck. Remove the carpet and sand the floors. Don't have hardwood underneath? Install engineered wood flooring or, as a last-ditch attempt, wood-look laminate flooring.

2. Beef Up Your Kitchen Lighting

Two things: more and better. Best thing of all is that it doesn't have to cost a lot. Dim lighting in the kitchen not only does little to show off your new remodels--it's depressing. Either increase the bulb wattage of existing fixtures (safely and within manufacturers' specifications) or add new, brighter lighting. Pendant lighting will always be popular within the kitchen because it brings the light source closer to the work surface (and no, not all pendant lighting looks like it came from "The Jetsons." It comes in a wide range of styles).

3. Refinish or Reface Kitchen Cabinets

Taking a tip from that classic real estate agent adage about location, I am telling you: kitchen, kitchen, kitchen. Think of it. At open houses, the agents tend to hang out in the kitchen. Buyers start in the kitchen, loop around the house, and end up in the kitchen again. This on top of homeowners' perennial love for kitchens means that you should concentrate on this key area. Cabinets can comprise 50% or more of your kitchen's wall space, so make it look good. Short of dropping tens of thousands on new cabinets, reface existing cabinets or, if you do want new cabinets, strike a balance between attractive and rock-bottom cheap with IKEA cabinets.

4. Refresh Your Exterior Paint

All that talk about curb appeal is 100% spot-on. Fair or not, psychologists have found that it's human nature to assign superior qualities to a person with a beautiful face. It works the same way with your house: if its facade (or face) is stunning, potential buyers will be far more forgiving of deficiencies within the house--to a point. Exterior paint cannot make up for sagging floors and broken windows, but it will soften the edges of poor interior paint or outdated appliances.

5. Forget About These House-Flip Remodels

  • Slab Granite: Not only does the cost of slab granite prohibit installation in a house-flip, but designers say it's a fad that is long gone.
  • Piano Finish: Piano finish flooring, a super high-gloss finish, does not appeal to a broad range of home-buyers. Stick to conventional lower-gloss finishes.
  • Plank Flooring: Wide-plank wood flooring is beautiful stuff, but like piano-finish flooring, it's not a look that has grabbed the attention of the general public.

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