My first flip! (with pictures)

37 Replies

Hey everyone, Brandon suggested I post a little about my first rehab that I just started working on. So here goes! Please comment with any design/rehab ideas or on the bolded questions in the picture captions below.

The house:

10 min from downtown Cleveland, near Lake Erie

2600 sq ft.

4 bed/2 bath, located on a street with 1 home rehabbed recently and another in progress, ~10 houses from train tracks (not loud)

Already has updated windows, vinyl siding, half of the driveway is new, boiler replaced 3 yrs ago, newer hot water tank, roof ~5 yrs old, has a few cool stained glass windows and cove ceilings on first floor, butler's pantry, all ceilings 9.5', 2 car garage with workshop, solid foundation, finished attic, close to the city and the neighborhood is quiet for being so close to the city.

The numbers:

Purchase price: $59,000

Budget for repairs: $45,000

Cushion: $7000 (~15%)

ARV (after closing costs) (from realtor): $130,000

ARV (before closing costs) (from bank): $165,000

Repairs include total rewire updating to code, 4 mini-split A/C units, drywall repair entire house, install 2nd garage door, gut and update kitchen/2x bath (ceramic tile floor/tub surround), new light fixtures (entire house), carpet allowance for entire house (just in case), refinish hardwoods 1st floor, install mini-sump in basement to divert water to drain, paint, knocking out a wall in the kitchen.



If I uploaded too many photos, let me know, I tried to capture all the things I knew would be updated.


Front porch pillars need base replaced:

Front door and hardware to be refinished with new storm door:

2 car garage, will add 2nd door, don't mind Pops mowing:

Kitchen a little small, will gut and update, add an island, note 2nd staircase on left that will be removed:

Rest of kitchen:

Butler's pantry:

Wallpaper everywhere! Bay windows on left is living room. Note cool little seating in dining room, will be refinished:

Another view of dining room showing Butler's pantry door. I could use some advice on what do with that little display area, I really have no idea on what to do with it yet!

"Parlor" area next to living room, I really like the stained glass windows in this room, any advice on how to make the fireplace usable for cheap? The depth in the fireplace is ~4" so there isn't much room.

Another stained glass window:

Showing the colors:

"Common area" on 2nd floor. The are 2 rooms to either side of this photo next to the bathroom

Yuck. Will be totally gutted and updated with ceramic floors and ceramic surround:

First room with bay windows:

2nd room with bay windows:

Other 2 rooms on 2nd floor look like this:

"Finished" attic, bathroom straight ahead one room to either side of bathroom:

Cool little turret area in one of the rooms on the 3rd floor:

Disconnected 3rd floor bathroom, will be gutted and updated with refinished clawfoot tub from 2nd floor and ceramic tile floor:

Other room on 3rd floor, will replace baseboard:

Beautiful house!

I think leave it as is and just flip it to some hipsters for $250K ;)


how much will the quad-zone mini-split AC be in Cleveland?

i take it floors and ceilings have no room for ductwork, so you're going with that. how do people feel about mini-splits in your area?

Nice, looks like a lot of potential there, I'm anxious to see the finished project!

keep us posted on this rehab :)

Nice house. You really got a good deal. :)

How long does it take in average to sell a home in cleveland?

Thanks everyone!


You can't really see them too great in the pictures above, but I really wanted to try and save the cove ceilings on the first floor, I think it gives a lot of character (a long with the stained glass) to the first floor. According to my HVAC guy, it would've been next to impossible to get air to the 2nd floor without messing up the ceilings, not to mention the issue of getting cold air all the way up to the third floor. I'm not sure on how people feel about them, they aren't very common so I'm trying something a little new. I got a really good price on 4 units, $6900 installed, so I couldn't really pass it up... but, if you take a look at the next set of pictures, I'm wondering if I should have because I have 4 ugly A/C condensers sitting outside now : (


I think it really depends on the price point and the neighborhood, I've seen houses sell in a few days and I've seen them sitting for >120 days. I there are any local realtors from the Cleveland area on this thread feel free to chime in on the average days on market!

@Eric Przybylski

I don't see them in any of the pics, but I know exactly what they look like as I almost installed them. The biggest problem I hear about them is the looks on the interior. I personally grew up with mini-splits in Europe, and they are nothing new, but an average family walking into a house will more likely then not be put-off by "that thing hanging on the wall". Sad but true. Where I live, central air is still king - even if much less efficient. My best advice moving forward is to really educate your realtor you'll be listing the place with about the efficiency benefits of mini-splits and how that was the only practical way to cool an old 3-story house, which is true. Educated realtor can then inform buyers about those benefits.

It's interesting that the HVAC guy installed 4 separate condensers outside (4 single zones) as opposed to one condenser (one quad-zone) with 4 air-handlers. They have limitations as to how far the can reach, maybe that's why. Each also requires a separate fuse, which in an old house is at a premium. Do you have or are you installing a new electrical panel?

Also, I take it these units are AC only, not heat-pumps, right? Heat pumps don't heat well with outside temperature below 20 degrees... What kind of heat does the house have?

3 weeks in!

Things finished:

  • Secondary stairway is gone and new header installed.
  • Rear porch jacked up and shimmed.
  • Demo completed for electricians on 2nd/3rd floors.
  • Found path for electricians homeruns.
  • All wallpaper removed on the first floor.
  • 4x mini-splits are installed... they are pretty ugly sitting on the driveway side of the house, I'm thinking about putting some landscaping and maybe a trellis or small fence in front of them to hide them. It's the first thing that's bothering me with the house, I don't want to be trying to sell this thing and be "That house with the ugly air conditioners"... so I have to find a way to make them less noticeable.

Things in progress:

  • Tuck pointing outside is half way done.
  • Electricians should be finished in the next week or two.

Next steps:

  • Start 3rd floor rooms, 3rd floor bathroom, basement, exterior items. Get these finished for next draw from bank.

Decisions to be made and challenges:

  • How to cover up A/C condensers outside?
  • Remove a section of wall from turret room to open it up and make it more noticeable and increase air flow? Or leave it more closed off to keep the "cozy feeling"?
  • Put refrigerator right next to entrance of kitchen where stairway was removed, or tuck it into the corner where the stairway used to be to open it up more? With an island being installed, I don't think that moving it to the corner will mess up the flow of the kitchen.
  • 3rd floor is almost all particle board. Unexpected expense and time needed to refinish entire 3rd floor. Insulation installed incorrectly from previous owner, will need to be reinsulated along rafters.
  • Things are taking longer than I expected, delays have been due to delayed start time (HVAC), incorrect A/C unit placement (HVAC), trouble finding homeruns for electricians (old house), scheduling issues.

Lessons Learned (so far!):

  • Next time I am going to get more specific instructions documented and penalties for missing deadlines. I am hesitant to promise a bonus for finishing early because I think that it would encourage short cuts. If possible, do not give down payment until work starts.
  • A/C units are ugly. Avoid covering the side of your house with them.


Showing mini-splits before the back unit was moved and downspouts installed.

Unit moved, downspouts installed (except for large unit).

Stairway removed, put refrigerator next to doorway or in corner?

Staircase again

2nd floor demo for electricians

New wires!

Showing one of the head units for the mini-splits

It turned out that 3/4 of the 3rd floor was actually particle board... so there goes my budget for drywall repair on this floor. This is why I built in a cushion!

More particle board

Dude, did I say it already? Gorgeous house and great progress

Cover the line-sets with PVC covers - google "mini-split line-set covers", has a good set

you don't have to order online, most HVAC supply houses and even Home Depot will sell simplified covers of that nature, probably made of sheet-metal

as far as covering the condensers, I'd build a 36-40inch cute picket fence out of cute wood or PVC with a cute door for servicing. And then plant cute shrubs or flowers all around. That way the moms considering the house won't be freaked out about their cute kids trying to take those things apart (:

I would even go a step further and force the issue on these mini-splits. Pick up some brochures about them at Home Depot, or wherever, and make sure your realtor later places them right next to their house-info flyers. Present it as the best thing moving forward!

Your buyers should feel good that they are getting an old 3-story charmer with modern conveniences and high-efficiency. They should feel ahead of the curve, I know I would.

@Alex Baev , I think the combo of providing fliers and handouts to the realtor and using the units as a selling point along with minimizing the appearance is the best way forward. The fliers from Home Depot is a really good idea though, I'm definitely going to use that one! I think the 3 turbo air units are heat pumps also. He used the 4 singles because he got a good deal on them, he said the normal price for the units alone would have been over $10,000 if we would have had to pay the normal price... who knows though? I didn't get a second opinion on the mini-splits (I probably should have).

The primary source of heat is actually radiant though, the previous owner replaced the boiler about 3 years ago, there was no way I could rip that shiny new boiler out lol

The updated panel has 100 amp service (from previous owner), and will be upgraded to 150 amp in the next couple of weeks.

@Eric Przybylski

$6,900 for 4 separate units sounds like a good deal, especially with labor - which In my area is about $1-1.2K per unit

ask your electrician this one thing:

By installing 4 separate condensers, you've essentially occupied between 80-120Amps of electric panel space. Each condenser has to be on separate breaker, and 110V condensers are usually placed on 20Amp breakers, whereas 220V condensers require 30Amp breakers each - I'm not sure what your units are. This is where a single compressor with 4 air-handlers (a 4-zone unit) would have been better, as it would still probably only take at most a one 30-40Amp breaker.

Now that you're here, consult your electrician before replacing the panel on whether a new 150Amp panel will be enough for the rest of the house, CONSIDERING you've used 80-120Amps for AC

A 200Amp panel may be necessary, but in older houses, a street access line may have to be upgraded as well

@Eric P.

So how is the buying/fix and flip market in Cleveland? Are the hedge funds buying all the homes? Can you still find good deals?

Like it! Looks like you are retaining all the character and adding the modern conveniences like AC and upgraded electric. I suggest a plant with year round greenery about 2 foot in front of the AC condensers and then a short PVC picker fence or lattice enclosure on them. Keeps those munchkins out of them and lattice is consistent with the look of the house. Frankly I am not sure you have to sell the mini splits just having AC in this kind of house should be a selling point. I would not put much into changing the interior look of the mini-split, it is unlikely a buyer who hates them is buying the house and in the end it is about your margin on the property. I don't know your area but I would say your competition isn't a new house with central air but another character house without any air or with window units. Educate the selling relator about the system but focus on having AC.

Thanks for the comments everyone.

@Alex Baev I talked to the electrician about it and he said the 150 we had initially planned on wasn't enough after adding the four separate units... he said he was already planning to upgrade it to 200 amp service for no additional charge. I think I may have found the best electrician in the state of Ohio, he's added so much extra stuff already and he's super easy to work with (and licensed). I talked to the HVAC guy again today and he said all 4 are heat pumps, and that 2 advantages of doing it this way is that there is more efficiency because you don't have to have the Freon stored in a reservoir if you are only cooling one or two areas and when using the heat pumps they are even more efficient than the radiant heat. I'm no HVAC guy but he seems to be telling the truth?

@Patricia Franciulli I see houses being rehabbed all the time, I know there are some community organizer types that have raised money from local governments and businesses to fix up certain neighborhoods. It would probably be hard to compete toe to toe with them as they are a non-profit and have the extra funding already in place. There is one out of state investor down the street rehabbing a house and another one was just totally updated and sold last year, but that one was owner occupied. If I had to guess I would say its mostly individuals doing the rehabs or smaller investors.

@Colleen F. Thanks! I'm trying to retain as much of the character that I can and where it makes sense to keep it. The secondary stairway was cool, likely a servants entrance to the upstairs, but was taking up roughly 20 sq ft of kitchen space, so it was better to see it go and have a nice sized kitchen. Believe it or not, a good number of older homes in the area have central air, I think its probably because there tended to be wealthier people that lived in them when forced air heat was starting to become more popular. I've come to terms with it a little more since I wrote that last post, now I've just got to find a way to maximize the positives of the A/C 'wall' and minimize the negatives, which is easier to do with the collective braintrust of BP : )

This post has been removed.

How is the flip progressing?

Id leave the 2nd bathroom floor wood. Rent some sanders, watch videos online. Stain it dark walnut or black, make sure to "water pop" it or use a conditioner if you like spending money. This will suck it into the grain and give it a less grainy, more even color, and cover up the stains. Poly and screen the heck out of it, and you will be amazed.

I like your clawfoot tub plan, put a shower in there, and a built in linen cabinet if space.

Overall looks great man. I love old houses, and keeping as much of the features as you can. I may have missed it but, any plans for exterior color scheme?

Hey Eric, looks like you're doing a great job. Interested to know how things are going now? Any buzz in the market?

I finally found some time to post an update!

After the end of August it was time to start on 're' finishing the 3rd floor so I can get moved in to the house. I also had a 'drywall party' and invited some friends over for pizza and beer and to help haul our 28 sheets of drywall all the to 3rd floor, it actually worked out really well and we had it all done in less than 30 minutes.

Anyways, back to the old format.

Things finished:

Whole house electrical rough inspection and draw (from bank) completed

Kitchen ceiling lowered for cans

HVAC up and running (makes the hot days on the 3rd floor easier)

Opened up turret room.

3rd floor

Furring strips for angled ceiling installed

All insulation installed and up to date

98% of drywall installed

Decisions made:

Moving knee wall access door from room to hallway to increase usable wall space.

Installing ethernet and coax throughout house.

Going to paint flashing for large A/C unit the same color as the vinyl siding to hide it a little.

Going to do 2 bushes with picket fence in front of A/C units.

I want to open up 2 rooms on the 2nd floor to make a sweet master bedroom with 6 windows (2 sets of 3 bay windows) and a 12' long reach in closet, I was thinking of putting some cool looking doors on it to spice it up a little. I wanted to do a walk in closet but I don't really think there is the space. The final master bedroom size will be ~24x10 not including the closet.


When I pulled the base board in the room on the 3rd floor I found out that half of the studs for the knee wall weren't even nailed to the floor (!) so we gutted more walls and installed more drywall and insulation.

I've had to spend ~$1500 in material alone that I wasn't counting on, just for the 3rd floor drywall and insulation...

Learning how to mud and tape drywall. Nuff said.

Lessons learned:

Beware of things homeowners have done on their own, you never know what you're going to find!

Will be painting the flashing on the big unit the color of the siding so that it blends in better.

Lowered ceiling in kitchen, note wall built out in left corner, radiator will go here, refrigerator will go on the other side in same corner. Wall will be insulated with conductive material behind it to help direct heat. Above radiator will be storage, you can see this area in a later picture.

Recessed lighting for kitchen.

Put 2 cans in butler's pantry.

We're going to put a small tiffany style chandelier light above this stained glass window. I've seen them on craigslist for $50-150.

This is the storage area above the radiator and can be seen to the left of the stained glass window, above the 2x4 frame here will be shelves, below a door for a storage area.

Showing how we're doing 2 layers of insulation in the 3rd floor, rolled out above collar ties with R13 in between.

Showing Durovent for proper air flow and 2 layers of insulation again.

Reframing 3rd floor

Opened up turret room, has since been insulated and drywalled. This is one of my favorite rooms in the house and I'm really glad we opened it up and get to show off this room now.

@Shane Johnson : Thanks for the tips, it's hard to tell from the picture but the wood in the picture is actually the subfloor and needs replaced in certain sections. For the 3rd floor bathroom I would love to put a shower in but there isn't enough room, there are definitely plans for some type of linen closet or other small storage... maybe one of those knee wall built ins? If not, then maybe just some boxes in the wall to act like shelves to set things on.,,20187193,00.html

Wow, what an amazing house! Your project looks both super-fun and super-frustrating.

Would you be sacrificing a bedroom in order to enlarge the master? If so, I would think carefully before making that decision. In my area, a 4/2 will almost always sell for more than a 3/2 even if sq. footage is similar.

It sounds as if you're working hard to maintain the period feel of the house, nice work. I'm glad you're going to keep that clawfoot. I just hope you have some really strong friends to help you carry it up the stairs! Did you decide what to do with that built-in in the dining room? Can you strip it and refinish? I'd suggest posting a closer picture if you want more input.

Were you able to find a cheap solution to get the fireplace working again?

What made you decide to drop the ceilings in the kitchen?

If you get this whole project done for 45k, I'm going to be very impressed!

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