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‘It’s My Home’: A Surprising Peek at Heather El Moussa’s Past, Parents, and How This Impacts Tarek’s Latest Flip

Tarek and Heather Rae El Moussa discuss their latest flip.


Part of the fun of watching “The Flipping El Moussas” is learning more about reality TV’s hottest couple Tarek and Heather El Moussa. And the latest episode contains eye-opening details about Heather’s past.

In “Five Flipping Bears,” the El Moussas buy a vacation cabin in Big Bear, CA—which happens to be Heather’s hometown (and also means her parents are able to pop over for the big reveal).

Built in 1955, the two-bedroom, one-bath cabin measures 938 square feet and cost them $200,000. They originally anticipate spending $80,000 on the renovation, plus about $20,000 in selling costs, and hope to sell it for around $400,00—making a potential profit of $100,000.

But since the market is changing wildly every day, this project does not go as originally planned. Check out what happens, and get some sage advice on buying, renovating, or even just booking a remote little cabin in the woods.

Hire a specialist

Designer Peti Lau
Designer Peti Lau


“A good designer can be a great partner on a project,” says Tarek. “Because they can help you get to the finish line and they make sure the house looks perfect.”

After acknowledging they’ve never designed a small vacation rental, Heather and Tarek seek help. Heather scans the internet for good designers, and hits upon Peti Lau, whom they think will push them in new directions and make their cabin stand out while keeping costs low.

Consider photo ops

Tarek, Heather and her parents are impressed with the new interior.
Tarek, Heather, and her parents are impressed with the new interior.


Since so many vacationers are into posting photos of their experiences on social media and telling all their friends about it, they can be invaluable marketing tools for your rental property. Lau is aware of this.

“I really want to keep this vibe super neutral, with a sense of nature,” says Lau. “And also, because of vacation rentals, it needs to have a design element that’s super cool and fun, and the photos have to be amazing. So I’m calling this ‘modern rustica’. Very natural tones, an ode to California, a lot of beautiful, natural prints.”

Pine paneling doesn’t have to go

Living room with black paneling
Living room with black paneling

The knotty, honey-colored pinewood paneling on the walls looks terribly dated when Heather and Tarek first tour the home, but Lau thinks it adds to the cabin feel. She encourages them to keep it—but with a twist.

She suggests cutting some of the paneling down to wainscoting level, painting it, and adding wallpaper above. In the living room, she wants to leave it in place on the walls and paint it black. While we’re not totally sold on the color choice, retaining the wood paneling and refreshing it with paint seems like a great, relatively inexpensive option.

Make a small space feel cozy with dark colors

Bedroom done in dark colors
Bedroom done in dark colors

Lau goes against common wisdom by wanting to do the small bedrooms in dark colors—a plaid wallpaper as an accent wall, and darker blues and greens on the other walls.

But when she shows Tarek and Heather the color samples, Tarek says, “You don’t think that’s really dark?”

“It is dark, but it’s going to be really beautiful,” says Lau. “I like to do things where, when it’s a small space, I like to make it actually darker. It feels cozier.”

“I’ve never done it,” says Tarek. “But I’ll go outside the box and I’ll try it if you want.”

“Most people would have white walls, or off-colored walls,” explains Lau. “And so this dark gives a sense of feeling like you’re cocooning.”

Every vacation rental needs a sofa bed

Attractive sofa bed
Attractive sofa bed

The more people a property sleeps, the higher rental rates you can charge. So Tarek is very happy with the decision to include a sofa bed in the living room.

“Look at this couch right here,” he says, as he shows Heather’s parents through the finished cabin for the first time.  “Two can sleep here, two can sleep in that bedroom, and two can sleep in the other bedroom. So we can sleep six.”

Even though there’s only one bathroom, six guests will do just fine during a cozy winter weekend.

Parking space is a must

Little red cabin before renovation
Little red cabin before renovation


One of the first things Heather and Tarek notice about the cabin is that there’s no driveway or parking area.

“I don’t think I’d want to put [in] a driveway,” says Tarek. “That’s expensive.”

It’s obvious he’s never lived in the mountains before. Good thing Heather has.

“We can’t drive up on dirt, sweetie,” she responds. “I grew up in the mountains. It’s my home. It gets wet up there, it gets rainy and snowy and muddy. The last thing you want to do is pull up to your home and get out in mud. Hello?”

The estimate to build a parking pad for two is only $4,500—substantially less than Tarek thought.

Little black cabin after renovation
Little black cabin after renovation

Is Tarek and Heather El Moussa’s latest flip a flop?

When all is said and done, Tarek is very excited about this little cabin’s potential.

“If you compared this house to another flip up here, it’s totally different,” Tarek says. “The way we’re doing our houses, it’s as if a homeowner actually remodeled the houses, which means we’re taking care of the details, we’re pulling permits, we’re fixing electric, we’re fixing plumbing. So we’re delivering almost brand new houses, where other flippers, it’s lipstick on a pig.”

The reno ends up costing $50,000 above what they’d originally budgeted at $130,000. Combined with holding and selling costs, their break-even point would be $356,000.

He thinks they should put it on the market at $399,900. But Heather balks. She thinks that since they added so much designer charm, they should list it at $439,900. Tarek eventually caves.

“The moment we put this cozy little cabin on the market, it got a ton of attention from people looking to purchase a Big Bear vacation home,” Tarek reports at the end of the show. “We sold it for $411,000, giving us a profit of $55,000.”

Not so fast, Tarek.

We tracked down the listing, which shows that it’s been on the market for 98 days and counting, and is still sitting there at the original $439,900 asking price. Looks like that offer Tarek mentioned may have fallen through.

On top of that, we’re betting Tarek and Heather would have preferred to sell the the vacation rental cabin before recent blizzards stranded people in the San Bernardino Mountains for weeks and closed many of the roads leading up to resort areas.

Because of this, it may take a little time for buyers to come back to that market.

And since Tarek and Heather purchased it in May of 2022, the holding costs may be mounting…

The post ‘It’s My Home’: A Surprising Peek at Heather El Moussa’s Past, Parents, and How This Impacts Tarek’s Latest Flip appeared first on Real Estate News & Insights |®.

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