business

Restoring a House vs. Flipping a House

When we tell people what we do for a living, the easiest thing people seem understand these days is "oh okay. so you are house flippers". While it is true, we do try to turn properties quickly to minimize holding costs and get onto the next project, we DO NOT consider ourselves house flippers... at least not the version of "flipping" represented by cheap construction or quick fixes that show well in staged real estate photos or at first glance during a crowded open house. We prefer to use the term restoration rather than flipping. 

When we choose a home to restore, we are not only choosing a home that we believe will add value to the neighborhood, we are also making a decision to impact another person or family's life. It's no secret that a person's home is usually the largest investment they make in their lives. We do not take that fact lightly. It is far beyond numbers and profit for us. The greatest reward for us is seeing the transformation of a dilapidated property into a desirable home for someone else. 

Restoring homes is an art and passion for us. It's stressful, risky and physically taxing. But every day, we wake up knowing that another home will be better because of what we put into it. The fact that someone wants to then PAY us money for our art and passion... that is the icing on the cake that allows us to go do it again! 

Here are some things that we strive to do that are different than the average "flipper": 

  • Ensure ALL infrastructure and systems are up to code and working properly. That includes replacing dated electrical, inefficient furnaces, old water heaters, cracked windows, etc. 
  • Choose materials that aren't too trendy. We don't want to pick finishes that the home buyer may be wooed by at the Open House but then tire of them after a few years and feel they need to rip it out again. 
  • Add custom touches and craftsmanship throughout the home. We love details that you can tell didn't just come right off a shelf. Extra thought to mill work, trims, hand-made pieces do end up costing us more to build sometimes, but it's a fair trade-off knowing that the end result will give identity and character to a home. 
  • Be transparent about what we know about the home. Custom homeowner guide books are delivered with every project. From the tradespeople that worked on the project to the paint colors used, we want the buyer to have access to everything they need to maintain the home to a high standard. 
  • We only do projects that when they are done, we would live in ourselves. The running joke at our house right now... "Dang! These projects are nicer than where we live!" We are so proud of the work we do, and we hope our buyers will be just as proud to own them. 

Starting a Home Business with your Spouse

The first thing to get out there up front: We do NOT have it all figured out! We don't think we do and we know it's going to take a long time for us to sort out ways to be successful and not drive each other completely nuts in the process. 

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When Nate and I first started discussing going into business together, we didn’t talk about business at all. We were more interested in figuring out a lifestyle that would allow us to have more time together and each do something we loved. Coincidence or fate, it turns out we both love Real Estate and all things Home. 

Since we started dating 12 years ago, we've been doing some project related to home. I remember Nate building bookcases into those silly "a la 2000's" TV niches at the apartment we first lived in together. We knew we would have to remove them at the end of our lease, but we couldn't help ourselves. We were always trying to find ways to improve our surroundings.

So in between the weekend projects, we both worked our corporate jobs. We had good jobs, but neither of us ever felt 100% fulfilled at the end of the day. For years, we felt there had to be a better employment option. In 2013 after a series of unfulfilling corporate ladder promises, we still weren't quite ready to sell off all our possessions and move to Thailand. However, the push to figure out "what's next" kept getting more important. 

After flipping the 2 homes we lived in and helping with a family member's renovation, we decided to expand the idea and test our skills on a separate property from our own. Without overthinking too much, we scrounged up the money to buy another house and try out this hair-brained idea. To our surprise it worked! So, after 6+ years of agonizing over what we might do together as a business, an opportunity was suddenly in front of us. We hate the term "flip" and all its low-quality, profit scheming connotations. We knew we could make a better type of flip; something that would appeal to someone looking for more than just a roof.

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Home Restoration has turned out to be a perfect combination of both of our skill sets. Nate loves woodworking, building, analyzing, and numbers. I love interior design and real estate. Between the two of us, we always manage to figure things out and feed off the other one's knowledge. Sounds like we have everything all worked out, right? WRONG! 

We were husband and wife first. We are business partners forever second. Sometimes the line is a bit blurry. 

What we have learned so far: 

NO WINNING TEAMS: What has become apparent is that there CANNOT be "a better approach" or a "winner" when it comes to a solving an issue, whether it's a financial or design challenge, we must hear the other one out and not declare a victor. We HAVE to be on the same team. We are on SAME team in marriage, so must be in business as well. We disagree all the time, but the end goal is the same for both of us: to have an end product we are both proud of. We have to trust that as a team we are both after a single goal, not to beat each other in an argument. 

COMMUNICATE YOUR LIMITS: We both love our jobs, so it is extremely difficult to shut it down at the end of the day. It's not uncommon that we will talk about business from the minute we wake up until the minute we go to bed. Constant planning, coordination, and design discussions all day long. The running joke is that our hot tub is our conference room since much of our next day planning happens there. However, if one of us declares... "I need a break", we have to respect the boundary. This is something we need to work on. We have to maintain a relationship outside of work. A planned dinner or date where "no work-talk is allowed" has become mandatory. 

DEFINING ROLES: This might be the single most important thing we have learned so far. Even though our end goals are the same, we both a sense of pride in what each of us contributes to the business. I handle the permitting, design, procurement, and sales. Nate manages the job site, sub-contractors, and the construction schedule. We have to trust that the other has their role covered. Overlap or stepping on the other's toes gets redundant and nagging. 

BUSINESS DURING THE DAY: It's easier to express emotion and distaste to your spouse than it would be to a "normal" co-worker, so this can make it seem OK to do so. The fact is that even though we have an emotional connection to each other, we have to maintain professionalism in order to stay efficient during the work day. If something bothered us during the day, it's become a better habit to discuss after work hours, once the pressure of the day has subsided. Don't get me wrong... the occasional mid-day smooch is still ok in this work manual. 

AFTER HOURS: We got married because we found the other person interesting and each person brought something different to the table. These days, since so much of our free time is filled with things related to the business, we must remind ourselves to have interests separate from each other AND separate from the business; that way we still have new things to talk about after hours. 

We were husband and wife first. We are business partners forever second.