Flipping a house is a lot of work, and can yield a big profit. But not every project is guaranteed to be lucrative. So what’s the key to successfully making over a fixer-upper and selling it for a gain? Our new series “What the Flip?” presents before and after photos to identify the smart construction and design decisions that ultimately helped make a house desirable to buyers.
It’s been said that everything’s better in Boulder, CO—and if the housing market in the city is any indication, it’s true. Boulder has been one of the top housing markets in the country for several years, which means finding a house in the area can be a challenge, and finding a great deal on a house is nearly impossible.
So when these flippers found this four-bedroom, four-bathroom fixer-upper in the Newland neighborhood—one of Boulder’s most desired neighborhoods—they went for it, no matter how much work it needed.
And, as you will see in the before photos below, they certainly had their hands full. The house was built in 1910, and though it was full of architectural quirks that make the house unique, they also dated the home in a bad way.
But the hard work did pay off. Though the flippers paid a hefty price of $1,125,000 for the property in May 2019, they sold it just a year later for $2,124,000.
So how did they nearly double their money in a year’s time? We went to our experts to find out what renovation and design moves made the biggest impact—and how you can have the same success if you’re planning on updating your home.
Not every flip involves major changes—sometimes smaller updates prove to be better, saving both time and money while making a big impact.
Rachel Street, interior designer, real estate agent, and the TV host of the DIY Network show “Philly Revival,” says that’s what happened here.
“The original rooflines of this house are actually charming and offer the potential for a unique and modern home with just a few updates, the most obvious of which would be the color scheme,” she says. “By repainting the property gray and black and replacing the wavy paneling at the front and white posts with natural wood, it creates a more modern color scheme with a touch of warmth.”
The flippers took the same approach with the front landscape.
“The broken-up patio is replaced with sidewalk and stones, providing a clean updated aesthetic without breaking the bank,” Street adds.
The changes inside the home are just as impressive as the changes out front.
“The long, vertical windows made this beautiful lofted living room appear narrow and closed off, and the tan and green color scheme with acoustical tiles really left a lot to be desired aesthetically,” says Street. “By opening up the wall to the rear patio, the space feels instantly bigger and brighter—and the accordion door to the patio, while an expensive investment, is a complete game changer for the space that home buyers will appreciate.”
While the walls and windows are attention grabbers, they’re not the only major changes to happen in the living room.
“Carpeted living rooms immediately signal ‘way outdated’ to home buyers,” says Lucas Schelkens, a Palm Springs–based real estate agent and interior designer. “The wood floors, recessed lighting, and disappearing glass wall are all huge upgrades, both aesthetically and from a return-on-investment perspective.
“I also love that they took the time to wrap the beam in dark wood,” adds Schelkens. “That’s a detail many would have skipped. But it adds so much character that homeowners are hungry for.”
Russel Jones, founder of Property Workshop, says exactly what we’re all thinking when first seeing the old kitchen. “The cabinets in this tired-looking kitchen are overwhelming.”
And that’s certainly not the vibe you want to greet potential buyers with, which is why Jones notes that “this renovation will excite buyers.”
Schelkens agrees: “This kitchen successfully leaped 40 years into the present moment by going from enclosed to open and from pastel-toned to earth-hued,” he says.
“These custom-made finishes make this the kind of kitchen that will sell a home on its own,” he continues.
“Home buyers appreciate an open floor plan, and so this is an investment that will usually pay off,” adds Street.
There was a whole lot of “nope” happening in that pre-renovation basement den, but our experts agree that the flippers made good moves.
“Between the carpeting, wood paneling, and drop ceilings, the den had pretty much every dated design element out there,” says Schelkens. “The changes transformed a total buyer turnoff into a selling point, not just by giving the walls, floors, and ceiling beautiful and clean finishes, but also with the addition of the bar area. Right now, the more a home feels like a resort, the better for buyers who are itching for a vacation.”
Jones adds that the updated den now has a “cozy, movie night vibe,” which is especially appealing for families looking for fun activities to do while staying indoors.
“Nothing screams ‘renovate me’ more than a pink shag carpet,” says Street. “This bedroom renovation is simple but makes a world of difference. Switching the diagonal windows with taller, rectangular windows on the bottom makes the entire room appear taller.”
The windows aren’t the only part of the room that’s new, though.
“The new closet adds valuable storage space and gives a shapeless room definition,” adds Schelkens.
Now more than ever, having a backyard space to spend time in is extremely valuable to buyers. While the updates to this backyard were largely cosmetic, they make a world of difference and likely made this area of the house a prime selling point.
“While the two-tone green exterior with matching patio furniture is definitely a mood, modern-home buyers prefer a more neutral color scheme,” says Street. “The board and batten siding immediately looks more modern with just a coat of paint.”
One pricey investment that seems to really pay off? The bi-fold glass doors.
“Installing these doors that completely open the home to the outdoors isn’t cheap, but the ROI is definitely there,” says Schelkens. “Connecting indoors with the outdoors is on pretty much every buyer’s bucket list.”