Archive for the ‘Renovations’ Category

To Flip or Not to Flip

Thursday, December 21st, 2006

You can watch the TV shows every evening on HGTV and TLC…the home flippers buying a house in need of work, spending a few weeks of time, a few thousand dollars and selling for a easy profit. Being a residential architect, I watch these shows strictly as entertainment. Its nice to think that it might be that easy. I am here to tell you that it is not.

I submitted a proposal to perform architectural services for a local “flip” about 1 year ago. During the interview, I was very honest about the amount of time and money it would take to complete the scope of work for this residence. I lost the job.

I occasionally drive by the project. It’s still under construction, and from the looks of the amount of work being performed, the cost is way more than I estimated. If in fact it is still a “flip”, there is very little chance that the owner is going to make any profit at all. My guess is that, with the current direction of the real estate market, they will lose thousands on their investment.

Its just not that easy.

If you are considering a “flip”, the current issue of Oprah at Home magazine has a great article (written by Suzie Orman) on the subject.

Other shows, like ABC’s Extreme Makeover Home Edition, are even more unrealistic. Unless you have few hundred thousand dollars in corporate sponsorships, a few hundred enthusiastic volunteer tradespeople and a very cooprerative building department, an event like Makeover is just not possible.

Television shows like these establish very unrealistic expectations for homeowners cosidering a renovation project. The average renovation project in Westchester County takes at least one full year from start to finish; about 4 to 6 months to design, at least 1 month for municipal review and about 6 to 8 months to build. Construction costs in the county start at $225 per square foot and quickly go up from there.

Major renovations take too much time, cost too much money and involve way too much risk. If you’re looking to “flip”, use the “4Re” rule. Stick to a house that can be Repainted, Refinished, Repaired and Re-sold. Paint the house inside and out. (Quick tip: Educate yourself well on home color or hire an architect to select the colors. Color will make or break you. Neutrals are NOT the answer.) Refinish the floors and woodwork. Repair anything that is visibly damaged or worn. Make sure the house is spotlessly clean and resell for a quick profit. Ten or 20 thousand dollars in a month or two is way better than risking big bucks on a unstable real estate market.