Part I: The Flip House by Amanda Forrest
Celebrity designer Amanda Forrest embarked on a journey to flip a house, a charming little bungalow located in Cambridge, Ontario. In a two-part series, the design expert shares her story of the highs and lows of house flipping and ultimately how she set the stage for the new owners.
I hadn’t planned on flipping a house. This little spark came to me via a real estate agent friend who had an inside track on a charming little family home that was hitting the market in the coming days.
My first thought was “No, too busy, too much money and it can’t be saved” and so on. But then, regardless of trying to talk myself out of this endeavor, my creative brain kept chiming in, “What if? It can’t be that hard. I could do it in eight weeks. I’m a pro.”
This convincing soon became having the interior reworked and re-decorated in my mind by 8 a.m. the next day. Forty-eight hours later, the house was mine and I began the “journey” of an eight week, 1,600 sq. ft. house flip on a $40,000 budget.
Why eight weeks? By my math, I would be on a slippery slope to cash flow problems if I kept the house more then 12 weeks, meaning any profit I stood to gain would be gobbled up by insurance fees and interest. So, eight weeks of work, four weeks to sell.
The house itself is charming. It’s a red brick single story home. It even has an arched front door, a separate garage and good head room to create a family room and bathroom in the basement.
How hard can this be?
I quickly began putting pen to paper on some design ideas, making notes of what obviously had to go, for instance the kitchen, main floor bath and disgusting basement catch-all room.
As you can see the word “charming” has now been replaced in my mind with the words “old,” “smelly,” “drafty,” “creaky,” “dirty.”
Nevertheless, I’m in to this now and I’ve convinced myself and the trades around me that this is a team effort and we are going to work on this together to turn it in to a gem of a family house. My reputation is on the line.
During a conversation with a co-worker I happened to mention that I was busy making plans for my new real estate baby and she said, “A Flip House! Really! This would make great TV.”
Ok, I get it, kind of interesting. I start assessing the pros and cons in my mind. No problem, I can do this with cameras in my face. I can work around crews of lighting and sound people. I will keep everyone on track while managing my other seven clients all while looking put together, stylish and in control.
Looking back on it now, I don’t know what I was thinking!
My first task was to begin prioritizing my money. How to make sure that I have all the key resale ingredients that today’s modern families are looking for while still making sure the overall heritage charm of the house was kept intact and my design stamp was evident. The main components that I broke down were:
- The Kitchen
- The Main Floor Bath
- The Basement Bath/Laundry
These were my top three rooms that had to lure in potential buyers.
I was competing with other homes on the market that where brighter, more spacious than mine so I needed to be sure that buyers would walk in to my home and feel a sense of quality, charm and space that was unexpected and alluring.
Once I tackled my cabinetry selection and trade estimating, I was left to make choices on my countertops, lighting, floors, interior doors and trim.
At first, there seemed to be resounding yes to stone countertops by those giving their unsolicited design opinions on the work site, with other popular items like better lighting and hardwood floors. All good options to include on a real estate brochure, but I’m on a budget so something had to give.
I went back to the drawing board to think about what would set my house a part from the rest of the houses in that range on the market. I looked through imagery online and assessed the pros and cons about old houses.
One constant design element that stood out was the interior finishings. I’m talking beautiful, solid baseboards, wide door casing, and detailed doors. The tone and feeling of the rooms in heritage homes was often set by the walls, ceiling and doors themselves. It was clear to me that these same elements were going to evoke positive feelings in my buyers, a feeling of quality and heritage that would envelop their family.
I decided that the charm of this house had to be retained and even played up. Now, it made perfect financial sense, the stone countertop idea was replaced with a plan for a nice laminate and I would add detailed mouldings to the house to play up its charm.
At first, it started with the idea of just adding some crown moulding. The existing crown was practically falling down anyway. From there I began looking for ways to further layer in more wall details.
This meant I would opt to keep the existing tub and purchase a pre-fab vanity, retain the original baseboards and oil the floors, rather than replacing the wood planks. Voila! Funds were freed up to start installing a gorgeous chair rail detail in the foyer, living room and dining room.
Film crews in tow, I was smack in the middle of a construction war zone.
It seemed this house flip had gone from charming and design planning to holes in the wall, trades tripping over each other, exposed pipes and even a minor plumbing back up in the basement half way in to my deadline and every day I fielded calls from contractors that were trying to keep up with my design ideas and the ever encroaching eight-week deadline.
By now, most did not want to smile on camera; they were head to the ground working, day and night. I am also working there more than I should be and I am starting to doubt my decision to take this on.
The house is now in shambles. Morale is low and the only spark that keeps me going is the idea that I can only go up from here.
Amanda Forrest creates custom home interiors for clients who value
a space that will stand the test of time and capture the homeowner’s essence.
Amanda has been a featured Prop Stylist for Benjamin Moore Paints,
Spa Life magazine and others. She is a Design Expert for the Marilyn Denis Show
airing daily on CTV and a regular style personality on The Loop.ca
Related Posts: Part II: The Flip House by Amanda Forrest