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‘Good Bones’ Reveals Which Renovations Always Pay Off—and Which Ones Won’t

Good Bones


On “Good Bones,” stars Mina Starsiak Hawk and Karen Laine typically turn a profit on the homes they renovate in Indianapolis. Yet in the latest episode, they walk away with a loss. What gives?

In the episode “Budget-Busting Basic Bombshell,” Starsiak Hawk buys a 1906 home for $140,000—a high price for fixer-uppers in the area. But she is unpleasantly surprised to find the house needs $30,000 in foundation fixes and another $30,000 for new siding.

After these revelations, Starsiak Hawk realized there’s no way she’ll make a profit.

“We are definitely in the red on this one, and I’m for sure going to be losing some money,” she says.

This means her team will need to stick to their strictest budget ever, choosing only the renovations that will attract large swaths of buyers and command a better sales price.

Read on for a look at which upgrades nearly always boast a return on investment—and which ones probably won’t. It’s a smart guide for all budget-conscious homeowners trying to spruce up their abode on a shoestring, too.

A white house appeals to the most buyers

Before: This run-down home needed new siding and landscaping.


Originally, Starsiak Hawk plans to keep the siding on this old house, but she soon finds out that it will cost just as much to repair it as it would to replace it. She spends a small fortune on new siding and, since she’s already over budget, chooses to paint the siding a classic white, since this neutral hue appeals to the broadest pool of buyers.

new exterior
After: This new exterior looks fresh.


She also decides to skip adding sod to save money.

“It’s the middle of a cold Indiana spring, and sod is not going to do well,” Starsiak Hawk says. “This way, I’m not wasting money I don’t have to.”

Invest in revamping the entryway

This entryway now has personality.


Starsiak Hawk wants to make the interiors look great, but she knows they don’t have a big budget.

“We are drowning in overages, so we really need to make some budget-friendly choices that are also buyer-friendly,” she says. “So we can sell it fast.”

One way she does that is by revamping the entryway to make a great first impression.

“We have an amazing opportunity in this entryway, which we don’t usually get,” the HGTV star says. “So I think it’s a good place for some low-cost accents like wallpaper. We can probably find a remnant piece of stone for the bench, and it’ll give a really big ‘wow’ factor but not a huge budget hit.”

They add a small amount of wallpaper, along with some paneling, then they purchase a leftover marble piece for just $400. In the end, this entryway feature is warm, welcoming, and cost-effective.


Watch: The Hosts of ‘Unsellable Houses’ Reveal the Design Trends Still Going Strong Today


No cash for a gas fireplace? Add an electric one instead

living room
Before: This living room needed work.


Cory Miller, the team’s project manager, wants the living room to have a fireplace. But from the beginning, Starsiak Hawk is adamant that they can’t afford one.

“We don’t need a fireplace in this house,” she says. “It’s going to cost thousands of dollars, and the neighborhood’s just not there. We’re not going to see a return on the investment.”

But designer MJ Coyle likes Miller’s idea and finds a fireplace he knows he can fit into the design budget. It’s an electric fireplace (which gives off heat but doesn’t require a gas line) with a retro style.

basic but beautiful design
After: This home has a simple yet beautiful design.


When the fireplace is installed, Coyle loves the look and Starsiak Hawk does, too.

“The midcentury vibe of this fireplace is the perfect accent to our basic bombshell design scheme,” Coyle says.

Add a kitchen island, even if it’s a small one

old kitchen
Before: This kitchen was always small and tight.


While the kitchen is a relatively small space, Starsiak Hawk knows there’s room for a long, thin island. And although a custom island will eat into their budget, everyone agrees it’s money well-spent to make the kitchen more functional and attract buyers.

To make this island extra useful, when the team cuts out a spot in the butcher block top for a sink, they save this extra piece of wood.

“We’re going to take this cutout where the sink fits, and we’re going to make a design in the top of it,” Laine says.

skinny island
After: This kitchen is now functional with plenty of prep space.


A machine carves lines into this piece of wood, turning it into a cutting board that fits perfectly over the sink, so homeowners can have maximum prep space. It’s a smart use of materials that will definitely impress buyers.

sink cover
A potential homebuyer removes the sink cover.


Reuse leftover materials

black backsplash
This black backsplash tile was left over from another project.


Starsiak Hawk is able to find some budget-friendly white cabinets, but she’s not sure what to do about the backsplash. She could make a statement with some brand-new tile, but she also has some black tile left over from a past project.

“When there are leftovers from one project to the next, heck yeah, I’m going to shop from my own reserve to save money, especially on this house,” Starsiak Hawk says.

It’s a great example of how to use whatever’s handy. Money-conscious renovators could use extra tile from a kitchen to decorate a small bathroom or use extra living room wallpaper to make a closet pop. It’s way better than letting extra materials go to waste.

Does this home finally sell?

Starsiak Hawk buys this house for $140,000, and while she plans to spend $220,000 on the renovation, it ends up costing $280,000. She’s invested a total of $420,000 and is able to find a buyer at only $429,000.

“Unfortunately, after closing costs and fees, we’re going to take a little bit of a loss on this,” Starsiak Hawk says. “It’s a tough blow, but it’s definitely something I’m wary of when we’re doing really risky houses like this. Definitely not a sustainable way to run the business, so I just need to make sure the next couple of homes we do are slam-dunks and we can make up for our loss.”

The post ‘Good Bones’ Reveals Which Renovations Always Pay Off—and Which Ones Won’t appeared first on Real Estate News & Insights |®.

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