Never Say Never
When we first started investing in real estate our mentors always said: keep it simple especially when it comes to fix-n-flips. They wanted us to focus on cosmetic repairs such as flooring, paint and finishing. This would allow us to be able to get in, do the repairs and move onto the next project quite quickly. In theory this sounds like a fantastic strategy, however, what we found is that in our particular market, most of the houses needing repair were in excess of 70 – 80 years old or more.
Needless to say, these houses needed far more than just cosmetic repairs. We soon found ourselves facing foundation issues, structural issues and new roofs not to mention new electrical and plumbing. Hot water heaters, furnaces and air conditioners were also common issues to deal with. Basically everything we were told to avoid was now exactly what we were dealing with.
Fortunately we picked a neighbourhood that was being rejuvenated by several investors. It was an up and coming area showing significant signs of improvement in what was otherwise older rundown houses destined for ruin. New businesses were moving into the neighbourhood offering trendy lifestyles for younger families.
Research showed us that while we could have done cosmetic repairs, the returns were not as promising and the neighbourhood would have been left with a nice looking house but no long term benefits. By doing a full renovation, we were able to improve the life expectancy of the house, offer modern conveniences and attract higher end returns.
One of the nice things working with older houses is that life styles back then were much simpler. In many cases we discovered that we could easily reclaim wasted space in the house. In one case we were able to open up the attic space and add a full ensuite bathroom. In another example we were able to move a wall back by four feet adding more space to the master bedroom. In yet another example, we created a large kids playroom. The possibilities are endless.
On the main floor, with careful planning, most of our renovations focused on open concept designs. Yes we did need to install additional support beams to facilitate the changes but the outcome was well worth the expense. Older houses usually had only one bathroom, hard to imagine in today’s modern world. Adding an additional bathroom or even an additional half bathroom added tremendous value to the house.
With a little imagination and listening to the local market trends, the possibilities to do a great renovation were endless. All of our projects included new appliances, modern conveniences and space to raise a family. Of course no renovation would be complete without looking after the curb appeal including landscaping and new shrubs.
When we first started doing major renovations, it was scary to say the least. Not knowing what to expect, would there be a major repair that we did not account for, what else could go wrong. These are all things that kept us awake at night. What we found is that working through the issues one at a time, we were able to effectively deal with them.
Looking back at the experience, we did some amazing renovations. The transformation from some very ugly unliveable houses to something of great beauty is highly rewarding. We were successful in helping to improve the neighbourhoods and create a safer environment for others to enjoy, live and work.
We used to say that we would never do extreme fix-n-flips. Now we say, why not. When it comes to fix-n-flips, now we like the uglier the better and are not afraid of doing the extreme renovations.It just goes to show that by stepping out of the ordinary, you can accomplish anything you set your mind to.