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Fixer Upper…We fix old houses.

Ask and you shall receive, our potential homeowners are asking for an older home that needs a little work and boy do Chip and Joanna deliver on this one! As usual, we find our couple showing their clients 3 homes and renovating the one they picked.

Even though the first house they show is old, it’s been the victim of a modest “big box” renovation as witnessed by the laminate floors and monotone paint scheme.  This “no frills” renovation has left home one without much of it’s original wood work and it’s possible all the moldings were salvaged to help pay for these updates.  If you didn’t have money for renovations, this would probably be a decent value but if you’re tearing it all out, may as well start with something else.

House 2 is beat down but has all the character in the world and Joanna (as do we) loves the windows, doors and the screened porch this home offers.  Like house 1, house 3 has been neutered over the years with a big box renovation and has lost most of it’s original woodwork that makes these older homes so appealing.  Again, if you aren’t renovating, probably a decent value but if you want to start all over, you may as well find a home that offers what we all want in an older home…character.

The clients pick the one house that makes the most sense for renovating…house 2.  One thing that immediately  concerns us though is that the rehab budget doesn’t initially include HVAC , plumbing, electrical, insulation, roofing or foundation work.  When Chip makes his initial run through the attic, you can actually see the knob and tube wiring and the complete lack of insulation so this needed to be factored in from the beginning….of course they knew this going into the deal but hey, it’s TV and they need a little drama!  No insulation in the attic almost certainly means no insulation anywhere else so this, in our minds, would be a large line item on the renovation budget.  Is it possible that in Waco the climate is mild enough not to require energy efficiency measures?  Possibly so but not where we live…plan accordingly!

Of course the house immediately needs a new roof and a complete HVAC system which could be a budget buster but nobody seems too concerned as they only paid 35K for the house.  A 65k renovation budget should go a long way if the home is otherwise sound.  Notice the laminate flooring that has been glued down over the 100 year old oak floors…who would do this?  Also, the trees that are right up against the foundation will often be a problem and again was more than likely a line item in their original budget.  Luckily, they had the funds to remove the trees but just be aware that large plants of any kind will often have already caused foundation issues…budget for it!  And while windows are almost always a good thing, they can be expensive to repair or replace.  On this house, it could have easily cost 7 or 8 grand to replace or restore all those windows.  Living in North Carolina, insulation and windows would have been one of our highest priorities as the money you would have eventually wasted on high power bills would have paid for these upgrades.

Chip can come across as a clown but at the end of the day, he can make things happen.  On second thought….Chip is a clown but the concrete counter-tops he poured turned out very nice as does everything else he touches.  Joanna’s sense of style in combination with Chips skill always produces a really nice finished project and we admire how well this two work together!  The house looks incredible and we’re glad it was saved!



Flip or Flop – Freeway Flip

Tarek and Christina are in Anaheim today, working with this what appears to be a charming ranch which is parked right next to the freeway! This can make for a tough flip but the house has a nice pool, great curb appeal and I’ll assume a good price!

One of the first things they noticed is the dual pane windows that a previous owner saw fit to install.  This is a renovation touchdown!  It isn’t unusual to find multi-pane windows in high noise areas and we’ve actually heard of airport authorities buying them for homeowners so they can get runway additions approved.fof12

The house has the typically chopped up floorplan and the home was also added on to at some point but a permit search shows that the addition was approved by their local municipality.  Take note:  This is how you make money in real estate.   By re-configuring the floorplan and moving a bathroom they were able to take previously undeclared open space and create a master suite out of it.  This allows them to increase the number of bedrooms reported on the appraisal which instantly increases not only the appraisal value of the home, but a buyers motivation to buy it.

But as cute as the house is, it held some dirty secrets.  Some really bad termite damage, knob and tube wiring and a leaky roof drove the reno over budget.  But Christina saved the day with some fairly daring design choices…who would have thought that black trim would turn out so well!  The pool area turned out to be a huge plus but as is often the case, the concrete surround had been painted and they had a difficult time getting fresh paint to stick to it.  Dropping another $2k for sandblasting didn’t solve the problem as the concrete had originally been stained but how would you ever know this…that’s $2k down the tubes but these are the chances you take.

Their efforts paid off here as the house eventually sold for 30k over list!  Time to find another house to flip…

Flip or Flop – Custom Craftsman…

Today, a friend reaches out to Tarek and Christina looking to partner up on a craftsman-style home in a historic area of Santa Ana.  This house is absolutely hideous but a complete electrical overhaul and a tasteful remodel that pays tribute to the original design of the home transforms trash to treasure.

Thankfully, these guys are pros and knew instinctively what to do with this home but it never hurts to be lucky either!  This was never more true than refinishing the original floors although they originally wanted to use a high end laminate to cover them up.  This is understandable on a house this old as you’ll often find that the floors are too worn and have been sanded too many times to be salvaged.  They were brave to refinish the floors themselves as this is a recipe for disaster as sanding floors is all about technique especially in a home this old.  It’s very easy to “gouge” the floors with your average drum sander, especially if you’re working with the softer materials like pine but in the end, it worked out.fof1

We also liked the wainscotting because it’s fairly affordable, fairly easy to work with and looks great!

We were however, a little concerned about the use of “current listings” for comparibles at the end of the show.  Using properties that haven’t been sold yet to establish a retail value is tricky business and if the numbers are the least bit tight (as they usually are) we can’t recommend doing it.  But hey, it’s TV and sometimes, they’re just aren’t enough completed comps to make an accurate comparison…just be careful!

They made money and the house looked great…what more could you ask for!

Love It or List It…..The Century Old Farmhouse

This is trouble!  We’re still in the Durham area but this time we find Hillary and David helping a couple who inherited a farmhouse on 4 acres of land.  The house has sentimental value for him but she’s expecting and can’t wrap her mind around the amount of work this property needs to be brought back into the 21st century.  The house has potential but it hasn’t seen any renovations in decades which spells disaster for Hillary’s budget.lili

As expected, the house needs all of the mechanicals as well as structural upgrades and half the budget went for these items alone.  While Hillary had some great vision about how the home should be done, she never had the funds to get past the functional updates the home needed.  After rebuilding the subfloor, the plumbing and the electrical system, Hillary only had enough left in the budget for the kitchen and living area which insured the rest of the dated home wasn’t touched.

With a substantial $400k home purchase budget, it was David for the easy win…

Hillary 2, David 1


Centipede Portable Work Station

UntitledWe found this little jewel on an end cap at Lowe’s and thought for a second it held promise.  However, we’ve used similar setups in the past and it’s our opinion that this product is often “under foot”, meaning we’ve found the large number of legs (which are all the way out at the edge of the “table”) easy to trip over and often in the way.


For general use, we prefer the “Bluehawk” folding metal saw horse but other folding or stationary options will work well too although these have proven to be very durable and a good value.  More compact than the Centipede, the Bluehawks are easy to store and travel with, are height adjustable, durable and they carry plenty of weight.  They’re also cheaper than the Centipede by a long shot and you can find them at all the big box stores.


The future of Solar…

Having lived through the Cell Phone and Personal Computer era, many of us are very hopeful that Solar will eventually take a more useful, affordable role in our everyday lives.  Many doubt the viability of solar, but many doubted the viability of the cell phone and the personal computer too…

This is a long read and while it is basically opinion but, if nothing else, it’s interesting…

The Future of Solar


Love It or List It…Sight Unseen

This episode, “Sight Unseen” finds us back in Durham where Hillary and David are working with a young couple who just had to live in one of the trendier downtown neighborhoods.  As the market is tight in this area, the couple bid sight unseen to buy their home and now regret it!

Fortunately, the house appears to be less than 20 years old, is built on a crawl space and the yard has a lot of potential but unfortunately, the floor plan is a mess and the house needs a complete cosmetic makeover.

As is usually the case, the couple can’t agree on the future of their home.  She likes it and feels it can be all they need it to be and he thinks it’s a disaster.  But both agree that the location is exactly what they need and from what we can tell, they actually got a pretty good deal on the home despite its short comings.

When we catch up with Hillary and David, we find that the house is currently worth $195k, they have a home purchase budget of $225k and Hillary has a $40k rehab budget…these are thin numbers if you’re expecting big change.

Hillary finds that her plans are limited by the location of the fireplace and the HVAC return but she cleverly made plans to use what little floor space she has to greatly improve the usefulness and flow of the home.  Even though her budget took a hit due to some minor foundation issues, she delivered here.lili

Poor David discovered quickly that the couple have probably one of the most affordable homes in the neighborhood, forcing him to retreat to the suburbs to hit as many points on the couple’s checklist as possible.  In the end, he wound up with a typical suburban home that offers plenty of living space but not much in the way of style or convenience.

In the end, Hillary scores a win here!  Her sense of style and here keen eye for using every square inch of the homes available floor space coupled with the homes overall solid condition made all the difference.

What struck us is Hillary’s use  of square footage. She expanded the kitchen by exchanging a fairly tall window for a shorter one which gave her the wall space needed to extend the countertop…this isn’t too hard to do on a house with lap siding but a brick home would be a lot more work.  Instead of buying new cabinets, the crew refinished the old ones and made their own open shelving over the extended counter-top. Hillary then reused the window they removed from the kitchen and installed it in the master bedroom for added bling that took this job over the top.  The Jack and Jill bathroom modification for the master bath created much need space in an area where there was none.  These are the habits of a true professional and one reason we really encourage you to watch this show on a regular basis.

Nice job Hillary!

Hillary 2, David 0

Lighting the way

We typically don’t like our government telling us what to do but sometimes, they get it right.  One prime example of this is the pollution control standards they used to make the auto industry clean up their act back in the early 1970s.  This forced the auto industry to get better at using fossil fuels and because of it, our cars are more economical, longer lasting and perform better while our air has gotten cleaner despite having more cars on the road!

Another prime example of government intervention actually being good for us is the Energy Independence and Security Act in 2007.  Legislated to get us away from the inefficient incandescent light bulbs into more effective alternatives, the results have been overwhelmingly positive and not so harmful to our wallets!

LEDSLighting the Way…