“Good Bones” stars Karen Laine and Mina Starsiak are clearly an impressive pair of house flippers, but everyone makes mistakes, right? That’s the takeaway from the latest episode, where a home the mother-daughter team buys ends up leaving a lot to be desired. And problems stack up like piles of spare shiplap!
For starters, the property description says the 1,400-square-foot, Victorian-style cottage has two bedrooms and one bath. But in reality, there’s only a half-bath with no shower or tub, because the previous owners used the place as an office for their countertop fabrication company (which also explains the episode’s title, “An Office Becomes a Home”).
“This house is tricky, tricky,” Starsiak tells her mom. “It’s not really functional as is for a home.”
Nonetheless, Laine and Starsiak pay $50,000 for the place, which is located in an “iffy” Indianapolis neighborhood. The area has great potential, but hasn’t started to rise yet. So this fixer-upper is something of a precarious balancing act. If they make the renovation and upgrades too fancy, Starsiak explains, there will be no comps in the neighborhood, and that will make it much harder to sell.
So they set out to bring the house up to their high standards without spending too much. If they can keep their renovation expenses to around $120,000 and sell it for $200,000, they stand to make a $25,000 profit, give or take.
Can they do it? Here’s how they give it a shot, and what we can all learn along the way.
Don’t kill the character
“We try to remain true to the character of the house, without being wed to the original design that does not work for the way people live now,” says Laine.
It’s a good motto to go by, especially when the original house has so much charm, like this one does. One of the features they retain is the look of the original fish-scale wood siding, even though they have to replace it.
“We try to re-create the original look, because the stuff that was there wasn’t really salvageable,” says Starsiak.
If you have to have a support column, make the best of it
The bane of any open floor plan is that one lone column in the middle of the room that’s necessary to support the ceiling. If you absolutely can’t get rid of it by installing a sturdy support beam overhead, at least make that column an attractive design element.
Laine and Starsiak go to great lengths to find a vintage, reclaimed column that adds character to the room without being an eyesore.
Find your dream stone
The women know that this home will be all about the stones: a unifying design element that will be used on the kitchen counters and island top, even on the fireplace exterior. Since our renovation heroes are on a budget, they won’t be using the Carrara marble they’re initially attracted to. Instead, they find their “dream stone”— a granite embedded with what looks like sparkly diamonds.
Try a rain garden
Laine suggests an interesting, eco-friendly way to amp up the landscaping in an area where the soil is always damp. She installs a rain garden, which is “basically a shallow hole that you dig in the ground and fill with water-loving plants.”
They dig a long ditch along the backyard fence, and install a new rain gutter on the house that empties into the rain garden. Then she fills it with plants that do best in damp soil, putting river rocks where the empty spaces are.
“It’s very environmentally friendly, and will collect most of the water from the roof that would usually go into the storm runoff system,” she says. Bonus: It’s also very stylish, beating a mucky mud hole by a country mile.
Frost the windows to obscure a bad view
Starsiak explains that when houses are built close together (as they are in this neighborhood), there’s typically not much of a view—all too often windows look out on old fences, telephone wires, trash cans, peeling walls, or worse. Yet you still want as much light as the windows allow in.
The answer? Frost the windows, so you get fresh light, but don’t have to look at your neighbor’s laundry hanging out to dry. They do this in the master bedroom, and it looks fabulous.
Hide the toilet
“You should not see the toilet when you walk into the bathroom,” insists Starsiak. She suggests building a discreet and fashionable privacy wall. Done!
If you can’t sell it for a profit, rent it out instead
Mother and daughter end up going over their reno budget by $10,000. While they made the place gorgeous, they still don’t think they can get much more than $180,000 to $200,000 for it. With a total investment of $180,000 in the place, plus closing costs and real estate agent fees, they could end up actually losing money if they sell right now.
So Laine and Starsiak take a deep breath and decide to hold on to the property for a year or two and rent it out, waiting for the market to develop more and catch up.
“Maybe we’re visionaries, maybe we’re ahead of the curve,” Starsiak says with a shrug. “I don’t know. Maybe we’re just dummies.”
New episodes air Tuesdays at 10 p.m./9c on HGTV.
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