Flipped Out – Toronto Sun “Let’s Renovate” article

Perhaps you’ve done this too — you’re watching one of the many house-flipping shows on TV and say, “I should do that.” 

For most people, that’s where it ends. For me, my husband Derek, his brother Rob and Rob’s friend, it went all the way.

After losing several bidding wars, we finally found the imperfect older home we wanted in a city 90 minutes away from Toronto in the Niagara region. It was ours for a fraction of its value on power of sale, sight unseen. We had an agent we trusted close the deal.

ramshackle, filthy kitchen with doors hanging open and cupboards in two tones of mint green
Main floor kitchen “before”

The three-storey house was a duplex that had been converted back to a single family home. Although it was in rough shape inside, it had, as they say, good bones. Other renovators were working on homes in the neighbourhood, which bode well for resale.

Two adults and six kids were the last occupants and by the look of it, the children ran wild. Knee-high knife or screwdriver holes were poked through drywall. Small toys and candy wrappers littered the floors. One room, including the ceiling and the high baseboards, was sloppily painted in shiny purple. The main floor kitchen was beyond filthy. The garage was bursting with bags of garbage that never made it to the curb and became a rodent buffet. Critters had entered through a dinner-plate sized hole in the roof. For reasons unknown, all of the ductwork in the basement had been dismantled. The electrical panels were twisted messes of wires attached to unlabeled switches. The home’s horrors went on.

It didn’t need a full gutting, but it required extensive repairs to every square centimetre. We created a budget that doubled our investment and vowed to stick to it if we hoped to make a profit on resale.
The house needed so much that we had to make hard decisions. Its windows were old and some were coming away from their frames but the $30,000 cost for full replacements was out of range. Rob and the window guy chose the six worst and replaced them. The roof shingles were worn, but patching would have to do, along with fixing the garage roof once we emptied its horrible contents into a giant, rented dumpster.

We did catch some good luck, finding laminate flooring on an amazing sale and happening upon an entire oak kitchen in a Habitat ReStore for just $1,200. Still, some attempts to save money ended up costing more in funding and in lost time. Rob enlisted a family friend to help with painting, but his abilities fell far short of professional. We had to hire someone to redo his handiwork after our contractor complained. The men spent a few weekends on site finishing up odds and ends, and their efforts paid off. With neutral paint on the walls, finished floors and pristine cleanliness throughout, the reno ended with more positives than negatives.

Pristine white cupboards and a granite-look counter top erase all memories of the previous kitchen's mess
Main floor kitchen “after”

In addition to stretching our budget several thousand past its limit, our February deadline got pushed to March, and then to April. Prospective tenants were mercifully easy to find and they loved the units. But tenants sometimes lie, and so do their references. A couple of weeks into their stay, one tenant was arrested and had done some damage to the unit. We’ve also had to lower the price on the house, which is still for sale, with no serious bites yet. If it doesn’t sell, we’ll hold on until we can make back some of our budget overflow and try again. Conclusion: It looks fun on TV but a house flip loses its charm when the inevitable overspending comes out of your own pocket.

1 thought on “Flipped Out – Toronto Sun “Let’s Renovate” article”

  1. House renos aren’t for the faint of heart and doing it yourself may sound good, but workmenship quality can be spotty at best and all to often requiring a redo. It can also be a matter of, do you have the right tools to do the job and most people won’t and this can add significant costs to a reno if you have to buy them. Thumbs up, the job is done.

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