The Biggest Regret House Flippers Have About Fixing Up a Home

published Oct 23, 2022
We independently select these products—if you buy from one of our links, we may earn a commission. All prices were accurate at the time of publishing.
Post Image
Credit: AleksandarNakic/Getty Images

If you’re in the business of flipping homes, there are some projects that you know will make an impact on prospective buyers and others that will seriously drive up your ROI. But not every flip turns out to be a winning prospect, and often that’s because of something the flipper did — not the result of a bad choice of house. 

It also has nothing to do with flips that cut corners or potential issues with hurried projects. Even those with the best of intentions can fall prey to this mistake, and several flippers cited it as their top regret throughout their career.

The biggest flipper regret is putting too much money, time, energy, and design effort into a home, often surpassing what that home is realistically worth given the size and location. A jewel box of a home with all the premium finishes and upgrades is wonderful if it’s yours and it’s exactly what you want. But a buyer isn’t going to buy a $700,000 home at $450 per square foot when the comps down the street are going for $300,000 and $200 per square foot — no matter how gorgeous the marble and brass bathroom with a soaking tub and walk-in shower is.

Wesley Williams, owner of OC Real Estate LLC, made this exact mistake early in his career when he flipped a house that was too high-end for the neighborhood. Often, flippers think buyers want to see all of the luxe details, but if the upgrades feel at odds with the style of the house or the budget of the buyer, it’ll flop. Williams recalls one particular kitchen where he splurged when he should have saved, saying, “I should have done laminate counters instead of quartz, and all the other fixtures should have been a more standard quality.”

The same goes for investing too much time and money into specific design trends that could alienate certain buyers or make your flip seem out of place in its neighborhood. A modern farmhouse on a block of affordable mid-century homes may not attract the buyer you’re hoping will pay top dollar for your flip. “If you want to style your flip in a specific design trend, you absolutely can, but be sure it has traditional elements as well. Design trends will typically only appeal to a subset of people, and I always try to flip houses with the masses in mind,” says Lauren Noel of LoveRemodeled.com

Credit: Johner Images/Getty Images

“Certain features recuperate a huge percentage of their value in home equity,” says Rick Berres, a former house flipper who now owns a renovation company. He explains that certain renovations are almost always worth it, particularly if you’re tackling them yourself, such as replacing a garage door or doing minimalist curb appeal landscaping. But he veered too close to flipper failure when he let his own design vision and style run away from him.

“The biggest mistakes I made were changing things I would prefer in a home but that the average home buyer might not need. I love renovating bathrooms, and I would often go with too nice of a bathroom for the home,” says Berres. 

A modest home with two bedrooms and a builder-grade kitchen doesn’t need a lavish main bathroom and dressing room combo. What it needs is a practical, functional bathroom, and the space to add a small third bedroom. Where flippers go wrong is when they get wrapped up in flashy updates that will look amazing when they share the project to their Instagram page, but won’t actually add value to the potential buyer’s day-to-day life.

And, when it comes to numbers, Berres adds, “As you surpass the general home value in the quality of one room, it slowly depreciates the value of that renovation.” If a three-bedroom, two-bathroom home will be worth $250,000 post-flip, and you bought it for $125,000 but you’ve already sunk $75,000 into renovating the kitchen, how will you bring the rest of the house up to the same quality without dipping into the red?

Now, Berres says he’s learned the lesson: “I learned to view houses more objectively. I couldn’t renovate based on what I would want. I made much safer renovations that anybody would either like or feel comfortable changing easily.”