On “Flip or Flop,” Tarek and Christina El Moussa are used to seeing houses in sad states of disrepair, but the home they flip in the latest episode is a doozy.
“This house is a disaster!” exclaims Christina. “There’s rust coming out of the faucets, burn marks on the walls, the carpets are rotting, even the outside is falling apart.”
In the episode titled “Rock Bottom Flip,” the El Moussas have somehow decided to buy a three-bedroom, two-bath, 1,500-square-foot home in Whittier, CA. Why this place caught their eye is hard to say. The house is filled with junk—as well as dark wood paneling, pink shag carpeting, a stone fireplace, gold-veined mirrors, and other ’70s relics reminiscent of the “Brady Bunch” house (and not in a good way). All of it will absolutely have to go.
The asking price is $450,000, but Tarek knows he’s going to have to negotiate the price down if they want to make a profit, so he begins at $385,000.
“Hopefully they’re not going to be offended,” he says of the sellers.
They’re not—but they don’t accept the lowball offer, either. After a little haggling, they decide to sell the house to Christina and Tarek for $400,000, and the renovation begins.
Contractor Israel Battras estimates it will take upward of $80,000 to get this house in prime condition. Which begs the question: Can Tarek and Christina turn it shiny and new without breaking the bank?
The stress of this flip could easily make tensions mount higher than usual for the pair, who are already on shaky ground due to their divorce. Sure, they’ve agreed to work together as business partners, but might this grueling renovation destroy that relationship, too?
As we watch this flip unfold, Tarek and Christina nonetheless get through it, together—and, in the process, share some great tips for rebooting a house to bring it beautifully into the 21st century. Here are some of the highlights and take-home lessons that might come in handy for your own abode.
Rusty water = galvanized plumbing
When you turn on a faucet (as Christina did) and brown, rusty sludge comes out, you know the plumbing is galvanized, and will probably have to be replaced.
“That’s why people don’t do galvanized plumbing anymore,” explains Battras, estimating that it will likely cost several thousand dollars to replace everything that has rusted through. But it’s an expense that must be borne for clean water.
Turn off the water and electricity before the demo!
Tarek should really know better! Apparently, everyone thought someone else had turned the water off, and while they’re working to demo the kitchen, a giant leak springs up. The workers and the entire kitchen are showered with gross, rusty water—good thing the old cabinets and flooring are all being replaced.
In hot climates, air conditioning is a must
This home has one broken air-conditioning unit hanging off the side of a window, and Tarek and Christina are aware that a house in this part of the state, far from shady canyons or ocean breezes, is pretty much unlivable without AC. Fortunately, a new unit that will work for this relatively small house costs only about $800.
A clever way to refinish the fireplace
That floor-to-ceiling rock fireplace is rather dated, yet a fireplace makes a nice focal point in a room, so Tarek and Christina don’t want to remove it completely. They tear out the rock and replace it with stucco, then place not one, not two, but three mantels on the fireplace, one above the other. Congratulations, Christina, on this unique design move. It really looks great.
Large tiles can make a small space seem bigger
The two bathrooms in the house are both diminutive, and while Tarek can steal a few feet from adjacent closets and hallways, there’s only so much room to expand. So Tarek opts to use what look like 12-by-18-inch tiles, placing them horizontally for a more expansive look.
Incidentally, rather than springing for marble, he uses faux marble-veined ceramic tile. He says he likes that look even better than real marble, probably because it appears less busy, which is important in a small bathroom.
Satin brass adds pop
Since the home is almost exclusively white and light gray, Christina selects satin brass hardware and fixtures for the kitchen and baths, even though they’re a tad more expensive. She feels they’ve overused the brushed nickel they usually install, and it’s time for some visual variation.
“It will add some bling that will really grab buyers’ attention,” Tarek adds.
When it’s OK to use wall-to-wall carpet
So many designers these days eschew wall-to-wall carpet everywhere in a home, but in a bedroom, where you want noise mitigated and perhaps some cushion for bare feet, it’s still acceptable, according to Tarek and Christina. And the potential buyers seem to agree.
“I like the way it gives it a soft feel,” says one mom as she tours the open house.
How to make a smaller master bedroom look larger
The trick is simple: Stage the bedroom with a smaller bed. A queen, or even a double, will do just fine. And don’t go overboard on the pillows or print bedspread. Solid, light colors work best, and give a more spacious impression.
So is it a flip or flop?
The neighborhood comps are in the mid-$500,000s, but with renovation, staging, and closing costs, Tarek and Christina’s break even point has ballooned to $510,000. Tarek opts to push the list price to $599,900.
Unfortunately, after the house spends a few weeks on the market, they reduce the price to $570,000, and that’s the offer they receive. Their $60,000 profit is less than they’d hoped for, but still not too shabby, given this home’s original shape.