A dead cat in the garage. Standing water in the bathtubs. It was bad enough to make any homebuyer run out the front door. But to Steve and Lynne Fisher, the condemned home looked like an opportunity—and a potential profit.
Booms and Busts
In 2005, the A&E network launched the popular reality and home remodeling series “Flip This House.” In the midst of the housing bubble, home values had appreciated 20 percent. When the series came to an end in 2009, the real estate market had collapsed and millions of homeowners found themselves underwater. Flipping homes was no longer a risk many were willing to take.
But with the recent improvements in the housing market and record-low interest rates, flipping homes is booming again. According to a 2013 survey by RealtyTrac, an online marketplace of foreclosed properties, the number of “flips” (where a home is bought and sold within six months) rose 16 percent from 2012.
A Family Business
The Fishers own SJ Fisher Construction, a full-scale construction company in Excelsior. Since 1988, the husband-and-wife team has remodeled commercial and residential spaces. They also renovate and sell homes on the side.
In an industry that’s sometimes stigmatized for cutting corners and misleading buyers, the Fishers are set apart by a combination of perfectionism and practicality. Steve often chooses custom options, like cabinets, for his flips. “The price is a little more for the custom cabinets, but I have a reputation to uphold,” he says. “We’re holding it to a little more of a standard than a lot of people do for flipping houses.”
Tips from the Pros
On TV, the house is bought, remodeled and sold in a 42-minute episode. In reality, it’s not that easy. “It’s been challenging to balance everything,” says Lynne. “To try to enjoy life, finance it and work other jobs.”
But if you think you’re up for the challenge, here are the Fishers’ top tips for flipping houses.
Location, Location, Location
For Lynne, location is the most important factor for a successful house flip. Research the schools in the area and the neighborhood’s amenities. Flippers also need to know the value of other houses in the area. If you’re trying to sell a $600,000 home in a neighborhood of $250,000 homes, you’re going to run into problems.
Know Your Buyer
“Try not to let your personal opinion get involved,” recommends Lynne. Flippers should choose colors and designs that will appeal to a range of homebuyers. Adding features that your target homebuyers want, like an open kitchen and great-room floor plan for a single-family home, can help your property stand out.
More Than a Coat of Paint
Successful flippers look past the standing water in the outdated bathroom and see a home’s potential. “We always try to buy the dumpiest house we can find,” says Lynne. To make a profit, “you need something that needs more than cute improvements, like paint,” she adds. “You need something that needs structural improvements. Updating the kitchen is probably the most valuable, as well as updating the bathrooms. And it’s always nice to add square footage.”
For more information: SJ Fisher Construction 70 Florence Drive Excelsior 952.474.6976.