“First Time Flippers” is train-wreck reality TV at its finest: The DIY Network show, which recently aired its Season 5 premiere, features real-life rookie house flippers as they fumble their way through. The results? Well, let’s just let the actions of Liz and Ray speak for themselves.
In the “Don’t Quit on a Sand Pit” episode, this St. Petersburg, FL, couple, who have a 3-year-old and a 6-month-old, decide they want to start flipping as a “family business.” So Liz goes out and buys a fixer-upper for $200,000, and Ray promptly quits his full-time job. That’s mistake No. 1.
“If it goes well, we go on to the next one,” says Liz. “If it doesn’t go well, we’re kind of screwed because this is our income.” Uh-oh.
So how much experience do they have renovating homes?
“We’re not qualified,” Liz admits. “The most I’ve done in my life is paint. The most Ray has done in his life is probably nothing—maybe fix a faucet.”
But lack of experience doesn’t faze them. They gleefully show up for the demo, armed with little more than a sledgehammer and crowbar. Oh, the lessons they learn! Check out this list in case you’re tempted to try house flipping yourself and desperately need a reality check.
Lesson No. 1: Never use a crowbar on glass
The couple want to remove an entire wall, so when potential buyers first walk in, they’ll see the water out back. This is a good idea, as the house is nicely located on a waterway. But part of the wall is a sliding glass door, and Ray tries unsuccessfully to rip it out with his bare hands. “Gimme the crowbar,” he then cries, trying to pop out the frame. Of course, the glass shatters in huge shards everywhere.
Lesson No. 2: Never use a husband as a ladder
Ray and Liz didn’t think to bring a ladder with them, so Ray hoists Liz to the ceiling so she can pop through an opening and take a picture of the attic beams with her cellphone. What could go wrong? Thankfully, nobody breaks anything, but we’re on the edge of our seats the whole time, and for all that, Liz is unable to get a decent photo. But Ray does get a good goose in.
Lesson No. 3: Wear protective gear
While demoing the kitchen cabinets, Ray and Liz start swinging with only gloves to protect them from flying debris. That’s right—no goggles, no helmets. The result: Ray swings his sledgehammer straight into Liz’s head!
“I think I need to go to the emergency room,” she says. But there will be no ambulances in the house today; they have too much work to do.
Lesson No. 4: Turn off the water and power
Ray rips out the dishwasher, without shutting off the water or power supply, and a puddle of water collects on the floor. While standing in it and with wet gloves, he takes a screwdriver to disconnect the electrical wires. Yes, sparks fly and the experience is literally shocking.
Lesson No. 5: Read the instructions
Ray slices open a bag of tile grout and randomly dumps it in a bucket and puts it under an outdoor faucet to add water.
“Don’t you think you should read the instructions first?” asks Liz.
“No, I got this,” says Ray, even though he’s never done it before.
Of course it ends up taking a ridiculous amount of time to install the floor tile, because they’re completely winging it.
Lesson No. 6: Measure before you start landscaping
From the very beginning, Liz has envisioned creating a big sand pit in the grassy backyard. “This is Florida, and it would be nice to have coffee in the morning, and watch ducks on the water,” she reasons.
So without measuring, Ray picks a random spot and spray-paints a big circle in the grass. When they start to dig it out (Liz using a hand spade), they find that the grass is too tough to remove. They spray-paint another circle over the dead grass, which is easier to remove. “This doesn’t look too round,” Ray mutters. Ya think?
Lesson No. 7: Use a wheelbarrow already
Liz gets tired of digging with the hand spade, so Ray tells her to start schlepping the bricks to line the sand pit into the backyard. With no wheelbarrow in sight, she starts carrying the bricks, one in each hand, to the backyard.
“This is hard,” she complains. So Ray throws down his shovel and hefts the bricks himself, an armload at a time, which still takes an absurdly long time.
Lesson No. 8: When all else fails, call in the pros
After grabbing random kitchen cabinets and loosely nailing them to the wall, Liz and Ray discover that they’ve put the cabinets in the wrong places. Finally, Ray agrees to have professionals install the cabinets, because this is one of the most important features of the home.
So how does it all end up?
Ready for a shock? Believe it or not, the house ends up looking surprisingly good—especially the kitchen, where professional help was called in. Ray and Liz are beyond pleased. Because they’d done so much of the reno work themselves, they were able to bring it in under their $35,000 reno budget, spending only $27,000.
“We’re definitely flipping another house!” they declare proudly.
Not so fast, Liz and Ray. With comps in the area at $275,000 to $300,000, they decide to put their renovated house on the market for $300,000. By the time their show airs, they still haven’t received an offer, which just proves that even when a house looks good, flipping is a gamble rather than a sure thing.
New episodes of “First Time Flippers” air Saturdays at 9 p.m. on DIY.
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