Not syncing up their schedules almost spelled financial disaster for the renovating exes when they decided to go all-in on a fixer-upper—sight unseen—in this week’s appropriately titled episode, “Bursting at the Seams.” While the house they attempt to remodel is overflowing with junk, the title also seems to be an apt metaphor for the state of their relationship.
The fireworks start when Tarek is out of town and finds out about a home in La Mirada, CA, in need of some TLC. It reads like a killer deal: three bedrooms, two baths, and 1,100 square feet of space. The list price is $400,000, while the comps are in the high $400,000s. Tarek calls Christina and asks her to check out the house because it’s bound to sell quickly at that price.
Not so fast, Tarek! Christina says she’s out of town as well, on a girls’ trip in San Diego.
“Now that we’re divorced and have separate personal lives, balancing business can be tricky,” Christina says. “I had no idea that Tarek was out of town, and suddenly he calls me and tells me that I have to drop everything to go and check on a house? I’m not OK with that.”
Tarek is not pleased either. “Apparently Christina hanging with her friends is more important than us making a living,” he says. “If we don’t jump on this house now, someone else is going to.” Yikes.
Their solution? Buy the house sight unseen—warts, vermin, junk, and all.
His is not the only bid; however, as luck would have it, he ends up getting the home for $420,000. But the excitement from winning the house fades when they pull up and see a huge van with flat tires in the driveway.
Uh oh, this might not have been such a wise purchase after all. It’ll cost a pretty penny to have the van hauled off. On top of that, Tarek estimates that renovating the house will cost them $65,000.
And the worst is yet to come: Tarek and Christina still have to deal with this rotten, junk-packed home and attempt to make a profit. Read on to learn from their mistakes and pick up a few tips for your own (hopefully less-challenging) renovation projects.
You should always phone a friend
Yes, both Christina and Tarek are out of town. But couldn’t they have at least called a friend, colleague, or assistant to snap and text a few photos of the house, to give them an idea of what they would be getting into?
When they arrive, the place stinks to high heaven, the interior is filled with junk practically to the ceiling, and the backyard is filled with tall weeds. They had to pay $1,200 just to haul the trash away!
We know this is TV, where editing and meddling happens behind the scenes, but a lot of trouble could have been avoided if they’d just asked someone else to do a little research.
Structure always trumps design
The garage floor is also covered with so much junk that Tarek and Christina don’t notice huge cracks in it on first inspection.
Contractor Israel “Izzy” Battres tells Tarek it’s going to cost a whopping $8,000 to pour a new garage floor—an expense that will eat into their overall renovation budget. But where will they pull the extra cash from?
“You know what the first thing to go is? Design!” Christina quips, pouting.
She lobbies to cut the budget somewhere else. But Tarek reminds her that fixing structural issues should always be the No. 1 priority—and Christina reluctantly agrees.
Get creative for a bigger kitchen
“This is one of the smallest kitchens we’ve ever done,” says Christina, and there’s absolutely no room to expand.
To open the space up, they remove the wall between the kitchen and the family room and extend the countertop into a peninsula, which juts into the other room by a few feet. This simple design change makes a world of difference and provides more counter and storage space.
Swatch your wallpaper
Tarek wants to paint an accent wall, Christina wants to apply wallpaper, and neither one is willing to budge. Christina estimates wallpapering will cost about $500 more than painting, but Tarek vetoes all of the options she shows him. He asks for paint samples to match the color scheme she has planned, but then decides they’re too ugly. Tarek approves the wallpaper, playing right into Christina’s hand.
But when the wallpaper she’s selected is hung, they realize it has such a subtle pattern that the wall looks plain white—like a simple coat of paint.
The lesson? When selecting wallpaper, affix a swatch to the wall and take several steps back so you’ll get a better idea of how it will look when it’s hung. If it achieves a similar effect as paint would—and if budget is an issue—go with paint, a much cheaper option for your walls.
Also, don’t get cute trying to trick your partner into something he’s not comfortable with.
Is it a flip or a flop?
Although Tarek and Christina budgeted $65,000 for the renovation, they end up spending $79,900. With the added expenses of staging and fees, they’re going to have to sell it for $530,000 to break even.
Tarek says they should go for broke and put it on the market for $589,900, and Christina reluctantly agrees.
Orange County’s hot housing market might be to blame, but a bidding war ensues and they sell the house for $605,000. After factoring in closing costs, they wind up making a $75,000 profit, an impressive feat considering all that could have gone wrong.