You’ll see me harp a lot about design issues in a blog about real estate flipping, but design is what makes or breaks a house when you’re selling it.
This may strike you as obvious, as it does me, but it’s not obvious to everyone. The wide proliferation of ugly spec houses throughout L.A. attests to that.
I know a team of developers who once showed me a high-end multi-million dollar house they were flipping in the Hollywood Hills. They bragged to me about the deals they got on materials and how they bought overstocked flooring, doors, hardware, vanities and fixtures at huge discounts off Craigslist and eBay. There was hardwood flooring of one color in the sunken living room, another kind of wood on the stairs to the dining area which had cheap-looking engineered flooring of another color. There were at least six different kinds of doors in the house – solid flush wood stained, solid flush wood painted, doors with clear glass panels, doors with frosted glass panels, louvered closet doors and mirrored closet doors. There was different door hardware in every room – some knobs, some levers, some chrome, some brass. There were even windows of aluminum, black anodized, and white vinyl clad. Outside they had aluminum railings, white light fixtures and a faux gold-leaf door. And some of their ideas were just plain asking for trouble – a faux-concrete finish over drywall in a shower? A large wood-framed window in another shower? Both disasters waiting to happen. The place was a mess. It looked like the showroom at a bad Expo Design Center. Think I’m exaggerating? I’m not. And these guys were both real estate agents who thought they knew their market. What they didn’t know was anything about design or the value of working with an architect.
The end result? Their house sat on the market for almost a year with repeated price reductions and eventually sold at a loss for about $450 per square foot. My smaller house directly across the street sold in 60 days with multiple offers at $1,200 per square foot. Those guys ended up hiring my architect for their next project.