Can YOU Flip This House? What it Takes for Successful DIY Couples
I purchased my first home when I was 20 years old, and we paid $37,000 for it. It was a little 2 bedroom 1 bath cape cod with a basement and a unfinished walk-up attic space. It was Pepto Bismol pink with purple shutters on wood windows that had about 10 layers of paint. There were hardwood floors under the dog pee stained carpets and apparently it had been vacant so long that the roaches finally died of starvation, or freezing, or maybe the exterminator finally worked, it’s hard to say. I was SO excited…I figured we’d have the whole thing re-done in 2 weeks…seriously.
2 YEARS later, we sold the house for $65,600…almost doubling our money. A LOT of sweat equity went into that first project, and I learned a lot about the man that I was engaged to marry. I was young, and inexperienced, but I had a vision, and energy.
You need to have a LOT of vision and ENERGY to be a DIYer. The whole project took about 18 months to complete, and when we finally finished the upstairs master bedroom it was just about time to put the house on the market and sell it. We did a lot of things right, and a lot of things wrong. Surprisingly, we did get married, and ended up spending 22 years married, and lived through 8 other “flip” houses.
What made us successful?
First off, we were willing to do anything.
We had a lot of friends and family that were willing to help back in those days. The days before kids, and toddlers, and other grown up things. The days when a friend with a pick up truck was willing to help you move all day for a case of beer and a pizza.
My ex-husband was the 7th of 9 kids, and they all lived in the area. When it came time to paint the outside of the house (tan instead of pink), we just loaded up the cooler with beer and fed them pizzas until the project was complete.
Learn to paint
We saved a TON of money by painting ourselves. Here’s a tip: if you are just starting out and you want to get the most bang for your buck…learn to paint! Painting is the cheapest way to improve your home’s value in my opinion. Most of the cost is in the labor.
I say “learn” to paint, some people have that talent and some do not. It turns out that I DO NOT have the painting gene, it skipped me entirely. My Mom, she can paint, she was a teacher, she tried, and tried to teach me to paint. Finally, years later, both she and my ex-husband completely banned me from anything to do with painting (I wasn’t even allowed to paint on a swatch to test the color…who knew I could mess up a whole project with my swatch painting project).
You have to be able to know each other’s strengths and weaknesses
Just as my weakness was painting, my ex-husband’s weakness was “finishing” the project. He was great at starting and got lots of things going…and nothing finished.
I learned after several arguments, and angry days that if I just picked up a hammer or paint brush and suggested that I was going to do it myself, he would spring into action (he knew that was WAY beyond my scope of capabilities).
Let me tell you those first 2 years, there were plenty of days coming home, when I would expect so much to be done. The reality is you’re tired when you come home from work! You are tired of living with your kitchen torn apart, tired of having no furniture in your living room, tired from having no bathroom, or closet…and mostly…you are tired of having no MONEY!
Top 8 Tips
1. Make sure that the person that you decide to renovate a house with is in line with your expectations and timelines.
2. Make sure that you both have a vision of what the end result is.
3. Set up a timeline that you want to hit and work together to try and make it happen.
4. Plan your weekends that are “work” weekends on projects and remember to take time off, too.
5. FINISH one project before you start another.
6. Don’t start a project that you don’t have the time or the money to finish.
7. IF you can afford it, hire professionals to do the tedious specialty work like installing new kitchen cabinets and re-finishing hardwood floors.
8. To save money, on renovating a bathroom or other room that needs to be gutted, do the demo yourselves. Pay the pros to come in and put it back together.
I’m not sure what’s worse…being a couple, or doing it on your own. When it’s only you, it’s tough to motivate yourself after a long day of work, and late nights painting and scraping. You start to loath coming home, you start to wonder if you should just sell it and get out, go get an apartment and live an easy life. That’s when it’s best to hire a pro, or a helper to help you get the big things done.
The biggest thing to remember…
It’s only a paint color, not life or death. Don’t let it ruin your relationship. Put yourself in the other person’s shoes. If one of you is working all day and they are the only expert painter in the house, maybe you make dinner, and have a glass of wine waiting when they finish edging the bathroom paint trim!
Maybe like me, you are just the expert shopper, planner, cleaner, and big picture person. Go ahead and clean and prep the walls, get things set up to go.
Make life easier on each other. Work as a team! The reward is you sell for top dollar and your sweat equity pays off! Work your way up the ladder until you own your biggest dream house.
If you have questions, and want expert advice on whether this house is a “make it or break it” home renovation for your relationship, call me. I’ll give you my best projections.