The Ultimate House Flipping Playbook

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We have been a little quiet over here on the #FlippinBrushy, so I figured it was time to check in to share some progress. Nick has finished demo, drywalling, and onto electrical and tile work, and I’ve been busy taking measurements and ordering materials.

It’s a crazy (sometimes disorienting) ride hopping between interior design projects and flipping houses. Execution of the two could not be more different.

Interior design requires a completely different type of skill to thoughtfully create livable interiors that complement lifestyle and preferences. The process involves close collaboration with the client and various trades, including the builder and architect.

The majority of house flippers are not designers. House flipping is a science. The skill and effort that is rewarded in designing a flip for the masses comes from following trends and then making the most calculated material selections. Admittedly, this part can be hard for me. I definitely do not “agree” with some of the materials I choose. If you’ve ever watched home renovation or real estate shows, at some point you’ve heard the line “that paint color is awful so I’m going to have to pass on this house”. Flippers cannot afford to eliminate any portion of their buying pool over miscalculations, or from getting too bold in their selections…. like paint color…. so we shoot for minimum friction when choosing materials.

We are by no means experts at house flipping, but between past/current flips, interior design work, home DIY projects, and trial and error we have a solid list of “standard” materials and selections that keep us on track and running as smoothly as possible. And now the disclaimer: these selections are based on our market here in Austin and in our price bracket. Depending on your ARV (discussed in this post) and your market, you may want to go more budget friendly on your selections, or maybe lean more traditional versus modern depending on buyer preferences in your area. Think of this as your starting point, a baseline, for you to compile your own House Flipping playbook.

Flooring

If you read my first post on #FlippinBrushy here, you know that installing new flooring is essential for any rehab project. In rare cases, you may be able to patch, sand and stain a floor that is decent condition. We know from selling real estate in Austin that new buyers want hardwood flooring and no carpet. Sometimes young families are okay with carpet in the bedrooms, but no one has ever complained about hardwood flooring throughout. You can save some money on LVP flooring if you go with the thinner planks (measured in millimeters). However, even with a perfect installation of thin LVP, the floor has the feeling of vinyl underfoot–just flimsy. Only if you go with the thicker LVP (around 30 mm) only the most discerning buyers would be able detect that the floor is LVP vs. hardwood. At #FlippinBrushy, with approximately 1500 square feet of hardwood flooring, we would save about $1000 going with the thickest LVP versus hardwood.

Ceiling Fans

I personally do not like ceiling fans (at all) but given I’m in the minority especially here in the Texas climate: insert foot in mouth. For interior design clients that request ceiling fans, we always go with a clean and sleek ceiling fan without lights. For the flip houses, ceiling fans with lights tend to be more affordable for whatever reason than fans without lights…plus they give buyers the option of using the light versus recessed lighting.

This simple $99 ceiling fan from Home Depot is an MVP. With a 42″ width, I like to use this fan in small to medium sized bedrooms.

For larger spaces the Home Decorators Collection has some decent looking fans. We have used this fan in both black and white finishes.

Interior Paint

For interior design clients, we spend hours and days analyzing the amount of natural and artificial light that fills a space, and how different colors play off fixed and furnished elements. Choosing paint, especially white paint can be extremely difficult, period. I would argue white is in fact the most complex shade because it can take on crazy undertones. What we do know though, is that neutral paint sells houses and I pretty much always go for white. Here is how some of my favorite white paints stack up.

White paint will often take on faint yellow, red, or pink undertones, but Polar Bear by Behr is a unicorn in the world of white paint because it is balanced yet also feels crisp and clean. The RGB values for Behr 2075 Polar Bear are 248, 245, 239, the LRV (light reflectance value) is 91.17 and the HEX code is #F8F5EF. If you’re not familiar, the hex color code is a 6-symbol code that express a color value from 0 to 255. The LRV stands for light reflectance value goes from 0 to 100 and measures how much light a paint reflects so does it reflect a lot of light making the room feel more expansive, or does it absorb light for a more moody vibe.

You can really go down a rabbit hole and get all scientific with the HEX codes and LRV, but in a vacuum, the easiest way to identify the hidden undertones of paint is to hold the paint chip against a sheet of white printer paper. I never choose a paint color based on the LRV, instead listening to my gut on whether color feels warmer versus cooler, clean versus muddy. I have used all of my favorite whites in various projects. For our flips, I tend to go with my easy neutral Behr Polar Bear to avoid clashing palettes and unexpected pops of color.

Cabinetry

For previous flips, the kitchen cabinetry has been in decent enough shape that we’ve been able to sand and repaint existing cabinetry. This time around, #FlippinBrushy kitchen is a total gut job.

I have been intrigued with Ikea kitchen design for some time, so I was pretty confident we’d go that direction for #FlippinBrushy. I have heard and read great things about the collaboration between Ikea and Semi-Handmade. If you are not familiar with Semi Handmade, they have been around for about 10 years and built a business around pairing Ikea’s cabinet boxes with their handmade cabinet fronts. The result is “bespoke-looking” kitchens that feel high-end custom at a much more attainable price. On the Semi-Handmade website they claim that the estimated cost for a semi-handmade kitchen including cabinets, hardware, assembly, and installation will run somewhere between $7,000 to $16,000. We decided this was likely too much of a stretch likely beyond our budget for #FlippinBrushy. If we are working on a flip with a much higher ARV that commands a higher end kitchen remodel, we will definitely consider going this route in the future.

After ruling out Semi-Handmade I was equally curious about the experience and expense of an Ikea kitchen remodel. The first step was to schedule an in-home kitchen consultation where a rep from Ikea comes out to take pictures and measurements of the space. Within one week, the design is uploaded into your Ikea account. Here are some observations from going through the experience of in-home measurement, showroom consults, the 3D layout planner, and kitchen renovation estimates all from Ikea.

  • Ikea Makes A Major Kitchen Renovation Project Easy, and You Ultimately Pay for that Convenience

You are able to use the Ikea kitchen planner app to add in different components. Your other option is to schedule a free kitchen consultation in store. I decided I really needed to see all the options in person. There are a small handful of cabinetry front options and each design only comes in a limited number of finishes and colors. The most appealing part of the Ikea kitchen renovation for a flip is how easy it is to have them design, compile and deliver all the materials from cabinetry, to faucets, to counters, to knobs and pulls, and even appliances– a one stop shop. The Ikea associate was able to pull together an estimate for the entire kitchen in less than an hour. When you really break down the estimate there are certain items that are just not priced well. For instance quartz countertops are more expensive at Ikea than a comparable counter at Home Depot. I have heard Ikea has an annual countertop sale so TBD whether the sale pricing can beat the frequent countertop sales at Home Depot.

  • Ikea Cabinets with a soft close are better quality than Home Depot Hampton Bay

For this reason alone, I would consider going with Ikea for a future kitchen renovation, especially for a more high-end look using semi-handmade cabinet fronts.

  • Ikea DIY Assembly vs. Home Depot Ready to Hang Cabinets

One major difference that some people may not consider in “budget friendly” Ikea kitchens is the added time or expense of assembling the cabinets. Included in our Ikea estimate was nearly $2000 in labor. Home Depot on the other hand, delivers fully assembled cabinets, ready for mounting.

While I’d love to design an Ikea/Semi-handmade kitchen in the future, the numbers spoke for #FlippinBrushy and we couldn’t ignore the nearly $3K cost savings to go with Home Depot cabinetry. If you are at all considering an Ikea kitchen for your flip, I highly recommend taking advantage of the in home measuring services and the 3D layout planner. The measuring services are $75 which can be credited towards Ikea materials purchased. Either way, the itemized list comes in handy if you want to shop around.

As far as cabinetry in the bathroom goes, we are all in on floating vanities. If you haven’t already, be sure to check out my post on plans for the primary bath here, and a round up floating vanities at every price-point.

Hardware

One of the most commonly asked questions I get is “how do you mix metals”? I generally recommend mixing two to three metals that work together based on their undertones. For instance, nickel has warm undertones, so I would avoid mixing it with chrome versus brass. If I’m playing favorites, polished nickel will always have my heart, but right now, our market wants matte black and brass hardware.

The DIY flipper in me would say if you want to keep things simple, shoot for black metals and hardware as they are considered a neutral and will go with anything.

If you’ve ever shopped for hardware you have probably noticed that pulls and knobs come at EVERY price-point. There are so many affordable and on-trend hardware options on Amazon so I recommend starting there. I’m going with these brass pull and knob options for #FlippinBrushy kitchen, both available in matte black as well. And these knobs are so awesome too.

They remind me so much of the Rejuvenation knobs we have in our home office, just $20 less each.

There’s also always the question of knobs versus pulls–which to choose. In client’s homes as well as my own, I like to mix things up… In my kitchen I have a mixture of knobs, pulls, latches, and cap pulls.

To keep things simple in a flip, I like to use knobs on upper cabinets and smaller drawers, and pulls on larger drawers and lower cabinets. Again, there are no set design rules but this recipe in a flip works for me.

Mirrors

Mirrors are highly functional decor pieces for lightening up a room and creating the illusion of space. But why are they are so expensive? Outside of fun-house mirrors I find it very difficult to weigh the quality versus expense of so many mirrors. To me, it’s all in the frame as the thickness and material of the frame tends to elevate or cheapen the look of the mirror.

For flip houses, I go for thin-framed, preferably a thin black metal versus plastic framed mirrors, or even better, a frameless mirror.

Bonus points that frameless mirrors tend to be more budget friendly, so you can get more bang for your buck and focus on scale and shape. I usually source my mirrors from Amazon or Wayfair (even better if I can find an open-box deal!).

As far as size goes, shoot for a mirror that is approximately the width of the vanity or 2-4 inches narrower. Here is an awesome round, frameless mirror that I found on Amazon for #FlippinBrushy.

Frameless mirrors have been everywhere recently because they are so versatile, providing a clean and minimal look without the distraction of a frame. And just to prove it, here are some gorgeous bathrooms featuring frameless mirrors to inspire.

Frameless beauty from Rejuvenation for $399. Save this one as inspo and keep shopping for dupes ๐Ÿ˜‰

This $1500 mirror from Amber Interiors Shoppe looks a whole lot like my Amazon mirror, no?

I love everything about this beautifully designed bathroom by ABI Interiors (including those mirrors!)

Tools

It feels a little strange to add this in because where do we even start. Depending on what work you sub versus complete yourself, the scale of the project… there are just so many variables. But any DIYer learns quickly that the right tool can cut the effort and time to complete a job in half.

Here Nick compiled our “starter list” fully accepting that you (us included) will not have every tool you need for the project-. We regularly have to make the call on whether to buy versus rent tools from Home Depot or Lowe’s to complete one off jobs. For instance, a compound miter saw can cost anywhere between about $100 and $500. At Home Depot you can rent one for about $50 for four hours. Since you will use this saw quite a bit for everything from floor installation to all kinds of trim work, it’s probably worth the investment versus hourly rental.

  • electric circuit tester (voltometer)
  • flashlight
  • large level and small level (or laser level!)
  • power tools (drill, saws, nail gun, multi tool) 
  • screw drivers
  • hammers
  • imperial and metric wrench set
  • multi-tool (jamb saw)
  • measuring tapes
  • stud locator
  • chalk string
  • pry bar
  • magnet
  • wire stripper 
  • 4 foot step stool
  • 8 or 10 foot ladder
  • tapes (duct, blue, masking, electrical)
  • paint brushes, rollers, pans
  • gloves 
  • putty knife
  • straight edge cutting tool
  • steel wool
  • papertowels, shop towels
  •  garbage bags
  • magic eraser
Lighting

Just about every house I’ve owned and/or flipped has had poor lighting. Really, most homes suffer from lack of good lighting, although Nick showed a house to a client to a client this week with 40 canned lights–please do not do this, ha!

First, walk through the house and take inventory all the existing light fixtures (or light sources in the case of recessed lighting) and all the fixtures you’d like to add or replace. While I love a statement fixture here and there, I’m a big fan of recessed lighting in flips. I prefer the look of smaller scale recessed lighting.

For decorative lighting, my budget lighting list on Amazon is a good place to start. I update the list regularly with Amazon finds (and there are some GOOD ones). Generally, I like to use sconces in the primary bath, sconces or occasionally a pendant light in secondary bathrooms, a decorative fixture in the dining room,

Once you have installed all your lighting, go for bulbs in the neutral white range of 3,000 – 4,000 Kelvins. Nick will tell you, I am picky when it comes to lightbulbs, but trust me, you do not want that derelict hospital ward vibe from fluorescent bulbs.

Tile

There was a time when every new construction home and flip featured subway tile because it was in trending and inexpensive–music to any builder and flipper’s ears! While classic white ceramic subway tile will never completely go out of style, the standard brick pattern all white subway tile with white grout is in less demand because it’s overplayed and basic. If you are going with subway tile, consider using colored subway tile and different patterns like stacked bond or herringbone to elevate the look. Keep in mind that certain tile patterns may cost more than a basic brick pattern for installation, but depending on the size of the space and the material savings the numbers could make sense to create an accent wall moment.

If you’ve ruled out subway tile anyway, there are awesome options in that same $5-10/square foot price range anyway. Tilebar is my go to for tile shopping because the filters based on price, size, color and $1 samples with free shipping make it so easy. While we have had a great experience purchasing directly through Tilebar in the past, the same exact tile tends to be slightly more expensive than say, Home Depot. Wayfair also tends to be more pricey than Lowes and Home Depot. Often times the name of the tile is different between vendors. If you want to compare prices you will type in for example “Tilebar Curve fluted tile” (the name of the tile on their site) to return the same product at different retailers. You’ll see below that the same tile is called Mawr by Ivy Hill.

Tile and tile installation can eat up a big portion of your renovation budget so it requires careful selection. While mosaic tile is very pretty and popular, it tends to be more expensive for both materials and labor. Combining small tiles with larger plain tiles is more cost effective and less busy. I like to use mosaic tile on shower floors (or backsplash) and otherwise stick with larger format tiles for the main bathroom flooring and/or shower surround.

That’s about it. What else are you shopping for? Would you like a copy of my Template Flip Playbook? Let’s call it your second step in compiling your very own flip house playbook.

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