Tarek and Christina El Moussa have seen a lot of dumps in their day, but nothing that comes close to the Long Beach cottage they buy in the latest episode of “Flip or Flop.”
In the episode appropriately titled “Junk Pile Flip,” they’re facing a 984-square-foot, two-bedroom, one-bath home that looked fine to buy at first glance. But it turns out to have so many problems, the recently divorced couple don’t have time to fight about their personal issues (which we guess is a plus). It’s all they can handle to work together on a house that looks like it could be their first “flop” of the season.
“My overall impression is, it’s a disaster,” says Tarek.
Can this contentious couple work together to turn the place around and make a profit? As they try, viewers can learn a lot of great tips and tricks on how to turn even a dump into something quite nice.
Character = value
The one thing this Long Beach bungalow has going for it is character. It’s unclear how old it is, but there’s some charming woodwork on the outside, a nice porch, stonework, and even fireplaces. At first, Christina says it looks like a haunted house, but she comes around.
“The good news is, we can make this really cute,” she says. “It has a lot of charm.”
Beware the overeager seller
The asking price on this crumbling cottage is $310,000, and comps in the neighborhood are $400,000 to $410,000, so there’s a chance of making a decent profit. Still, Christina and Tarek think it’s overpriced, so they offer $280,000—all cash, no negotiation—and the seller quickly accepts. Tarek says that makes him “a little nervous.”
Does the seller know something he doesn’t? Obviously, but by then it’s too late.
Small houses can be deceiving
You’d think that a house with less square footage would cost less to renovate, right? Tarek reasons that since this place measures just under 1,000 square feet, it will cost only $30,000 to $60,000 to renovate. Once the reno starts, however, he’s forced to eat his words. They have to rebuild the house from the ground up, and end up spending $110,000. Ouch!
“Small houses cost a lot of money sometimes,” laments Tarek.
Safe wiring is worth the expense
When they strip the house down to the studs and expose the wiring, they find that it’s almost entirely of the dangerous and dreaded knob and tube variety. The whole house will need to be rewired at an estimated cost of $5,000, according to the contractor.
When Tarek asks about the alternative, he’s told there’s no way to get around it, “unless you want the house to burn down.” Tarek gulps and pulls out his wallet.
A second bath adds mucho value
Tarek and Christina figure that if they move the washer and dryer into the fairly large kitchen and convert the laundry room into a new bath, it will cost them about $7,000. But, it will add an estimated $15,000 to $20,000 in value to the finished home, so they decide it’s worth it. Home buyers will pay a pretty penny to not have to wait for the loo!
Save cash with simple cabinets
With extra expenses piling up, Tarek and Christina realize they’re going to have to save money elsewhere, and they decide to do it on the cabinets. They go with what Christina calls “old faithful,” or simple white. They figure they’ll use fancier materials on the backsplash and countertop, as those are what the buyer will see first and most often.
Check property lines before doing any major landscaping
When Tarek and Christina walk into the backyard, they find an overgrown jungle.
“I’ve never seen anything like this,” declares Christina. There is a bizarre, whale-size hedge, tree, or vine (it’s impossible to tell) which seems to be climbing over the fence and engulfing the neighbors’ yard. Or maybe it originates next door. Who knows?
Tarek checks the property records to see if the neighbors might be partly responsible for removing it. It’s unclear how much they’re responsible for, but it’s crystal clear that the buzzing beehive they find nestled within these branches will have to be removed by the El Moussa team, at considerable cost.
So is this house a flip or flop?
Christina is floored when Tarek gives her the final expense breakdown. Although they’ve done wonders with the place and turned it into an adorable Craftsman cottage, with the renovation costs plus staging and closing costs, they’ll need to sell it at $410,000 just to break even. And that’s exactly where the comps come in—perhaps even a little lower.
“There’s little room for profit,” laments Tarek.
And yet he decides to aggressively price it at $449,9000. Christina is dubious, but defers to him. She seldom does that these days, but when it comes to profit margins, she knows he’s the expert.
Lo and behold, after two weeks on the market, they get multiple offers and sell it for $477,500! They end up making a $67,500 profit.
“We went from eyesore to bidding war,” crows Tarek. And even Christina can’t argue with that.