Flipping a house is a lot of work, and can yield a big profit. But not every project is guaranteed to be lucrative. So what’s the key to successfully making over a fixer-upper and selling it for a gain? Our series “What the Flip?” presents before and after photos to identify the smart construction and design decisions that ultimately helped make a house desirable to buyers.
There exist in the United States several neighborhoods known for their midcentury modern homes designed and built by famed architects and real estate developers. They include the subdivisions in Northern California developed by Joseph Eichler; Arapahoe Acres just south of Denver; and Palm Springs, CA, where architect William Krisel made his mark with post-and-beam construction.
For many homebuyers with an affinity for this building style, finding an original midcentury modern is like finding buried gold. The previous owners of this Woodland Hills, CA, ranch home designed by architect Charles Du Bois knew they had something special on their hands, but they also knew they had a lot of work ahead of them.
Built in 1962, this beauty was stuck firmly in the past—which is a good thing for buyers in search of time capsule homes. But the previous owners wanted to bring the home up to modern standards while retaining its vintage charm. After a nice little face-lift, the four-bedroom, three-bathroom home was sold for about $400,000 more than what the sellers paid for it the previous year.
Ready to dive into all the design details? We asked our panel of experts to compare the before and after photos and weigh in on the renovation choices that made the most difference when it came to selling the home. Here’s what they had to say.
The original front exterior of this house had major “Brady Bunch” vibes, but after the update, the drab brown was replaced with sleek black and white.
“The curb appeal of this home has definitely been amped up,” says Patricia Matus, a real estate agent with Century 21 Alliance Realty Group in New York’s Ulster County.
According to Matus, additional smart changes include reducing the height of breeze blocks, removing the front gate, and adding a walkway—all of it making the home more inviting.
The previous owners decided to streamline the landscaping by cleaning up the lawn and adding drought-tolerant plants.
“Less is more,” says Deb Cleveland, a professional house flipper. “It gives this home a clean, elegant look.”
A bit of a vintage vibe can be a good thing, but this room was taking things a bit too far. Still, the sellers set their focus on updating—not removing—that huge stone wall, arguably the most retro element of the room.
“The light whitewash on the fireplace stone wall really brightens up the focal point of this living room,” says Jennie Berger, co-owner of Property People.
Now, the fireplace gives a nod to the past and keeps the midcentury modern spirit alive.
The other focal points of the living room—the wooden feature wall and the chandelier—also do a lot to give this space a groovy edge.
Berger notes that the staging of the home is also doing its job here, with pops of bright color adding much-needed contrast to the muted tones throughout the house.
Before the updates, it was hard to get past that dingy blue carpet—as well as the fact that the dining space didn’t actually have much room for dining. And there are few things buyers dislike more than old carpet and an undefined space.
“Removing old paneling, adding a coat of fresh paint, and installing new floors and lighting really help create a singular purpose for this room,” says Berger. “Instead of being two small areas in one space, it is now one designated dining area.”
We’re just going to say it: The kitchen in the before photo makes us feel a little green around the gills. But now, the kitchen is a place where families could see themselves gathering.
“With everyone spending more time at home, light-filled rooms are becoming more important to buyers,” says Matus. “The reconfiguration of the kitchen to include a sliding glass door allows more natural light into the kitchen while giving easy access to the front patio.”
“Who wouldn’t want that kitchen?” asks real estate agent Betsy Ronel, with Compass in Westchester County, NY. “Kitchens sell homes, so clearly they invested their money in the right space.”
These days, buyers just want a bathroom space that feels like a spa. This one achieved that without having to give up any counter space or luxury amenities like the soaking tub and rain showerhead.
“The renovated bathroom has a much better use of space and incorporates so many things that add value to the home,” says Matus. It now has “a large soaking tub, large frameless shower, and double vanity with loads of storage. With so many buyers looking for move-in ready homes, this modern and fresh bathroom requires zero work.”
Even before the renovation, the backyard was spacious. But all that space needs a purpose, or else it starts to feel intimidating to potential buyers.
“Adding the low concrete wall and staging the backyard with colorful and quaint sitting spaces show the buyers how they can use this area when living there,” says Cleveland.