4 tips for the thrifty home flipper

    1

    You wouldn’t know it to look at me, but I am super cheap. I cut the mold off cheese and feed it to my kids (the cheese, not the mold). I squirrel away lightly used paper towels in a pile next to the kitchen sink so I can reuse them later to wipe the floors. My wedding gown was made with yards and yards of Shantung silk and hand-sewn with hundreds of seed pearls and cost $200. Resale shop.

    My tightwad habits may be slightly pathetic, but in this first-ever house-flip project I’ve undertaken, they’re proving to be an asset. I’m trying to find just the right touches to make this house dazzle — without losing my shirt on every single item.

    So, would-be flippers, here’s this month’s first piece of advice: Figure out where you can splurge and where you can save. I found Kenneth Ludwig sconces at a consignment shop in Oak Park and scored a crystal Pottery Barn light fixture at ReUse Depot in Maywood. With these nice finishes, I can buy the $2.29 Home Depot tile for the master bath and the room is still going to shine. It’s the home-decor equivalent of dressing up a cute shift from Target with the diamond pendant you found at an estate sale.

    Of course, all of this is completely premature. I’m not even close to the razzle-dazzle stage. In fact, the opposite. A couple of weeks ago, I spent five hours shoveling construction debris into heavy black contractor bags, dragging them down the hall and hurling them out a second-story window into the backyard below.

    Which leads me to another takeaway: Don’t toss your kids’ little red wagon.They may have outgrown it, but you’re going to need it. I used my kiddos’ old Radio Flyer to wheel trash bags out to the alley. We’re talking easily 600 pounds of detritus — chunks of drywall, attic insulation, lath and plaster, wire mesh, scraps of wood and metal conduit, sawdust, nails.

    Why is this happening? Why am I filling contractor bags with a quarter-ton of refuse on a Saturday night?

    It’s happening because I am the general. I am the very model of a modern flipper general. I do have a great contractor, he’s thorough and responsible, but he’s not overseeing the whole project. I am. It’s that cheap streak of mine. My contractor has finished Phase One, The Demo, and he’s waiting to return for Phase Two, The Drywall. In the interval, my mechanical guys — HVAC expert, electrician, plumber — are in the house and the work that the laborers were handling has fallen to me.

    Other recent goings-on: The architect drew plans for a huge, 5-foot-tall window in the kitchen. The aperture has been cut and framed in, but the windows haven’t been installed yet, so there was a gaping hole in an exterior wall. My plumber wouldn’t bring in the copper pipes until the building was secured — turns out breaking into construction sites and stealing copper is a thing — but I was loath to ask my contractor to come out for 15 minutes of work sealing up a window. I fretted for a day, lost a half night of sleep, then thought, “Oh, for God’s sake, I can do this.”

    Next tip: Don’t shy away from taking a hands-on approach. I borrowed a neighbor’s screw gun, guilted my 16-year-old son into joining me, and together the two of us lifted a 46-pound sheet of plywood over the window opening and screwed it to the frame. Then we took a selfie, which my son made me swear not to post on Facebook.

    That’s the irony of this house-flipping situation: I’m the general, but I’m not handy — cheap but not handy. I wouldn’t know a socket from a ratchet, a bolt from a screw. In that sense, I’m at a truly remarkable disadvantage. But I’m starting to believe that flipping a house is not so much about nuts and bolts as it is about relationships — relationships with lenders and real estate agents, electricians and laborers.

    That’s why it’s critical that you insist on strong partnerships. Renovating and ultimately flipping a home is a joint enterprise. When someone I’m doing business with talks down to me, whether it’s because I’m a woman, because I’m of a certain age or because it’s apparent I have no idea what I’m doing, that guy — or gal — is history. Listen to your inner Aretha Franklin: Require R-E-S-P-E-C-T.

    Trackback from your site.

    Leave a Reply

    About our blog

    Our agents write often to give you the latest insights on owning a home or property in the Chattanooga area.

    Testimonials

    Carolyn Limerick had answers to all our questions and was highly professional. She dotted all the “i’s” and crossed all the “t’s.” We would recommend Carolyn to our best friends. Carolyn Limerick is partner with Barry & Diane Evans | Evans & Friends
    John & Deborah