8 Clever Ways to Save Big Bucks on Your Next Fix & Flip

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In my last article, I talked about ways to shake up your design templates, mainly aimed at fix and flip investors. Of course, the landlords care somewhat, the wholesalers couldn’t care less, and note investors can just go to the next blog article now. Last week’s focus was on design inspiration — or where to go to fill your head full of the ideas everyone wants. I did forget to tell you to do your homework, but I’m assuming that you all went out and stuffed your heads full of design ideas by now, right? I mean, they were FREE resources! Now that you have the inspiration, let’s talk about implementation — on a budget.

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8 Clever Ways to Save Big Bucks on Your Next Fix & Flip

Amazon

I’ve used and abused my Amazon.com account for years now. Prime membership? Of course. Order at least one thing a week?  Certainly! Order a ton of cheap snacks and beverages to my Disney hotel room for a week long trip, including a virtual pallet of 24 Monster Energy drinks? Have you met me? Absolutely!

One thing I didn’t realize they had was items that work for the real estate side of my life. My current rehab on the market (which is hotter than the sun itself) has all of its kitchen cabinet hardware, fire alarms, carbon monoxide detectors, and stove vent hood from Amazon. Home Depot and Lowes wanted $5 per cabinet handle for satin nickel, and I got a pack of 25 for $30 from Amazon.

They showed up two days later and were great quality. I don’t know if you are keeping track at home, but that is a HUGE savings.  The vent hood was $150 at the local big box home improvement store and cost $79 for something similar. They don’t have everything (I couldn’t find the hinges I was looking for), but next remodel I have, I’ll check on everything from door knobs to light fixtures and compare prices and likely save a ton of money.

design-flips

Related: Breaking News: Newbie Flipper Makes Disturbing Discovery That It’s Not Like on TV

Build.com

Three to four reputable fix and flip investors I know kept talking to me about this site, and of course it took me a little time to actually check it out. Holy moly! This place is design central for the cheapo. That’s me! After discovering the actual brand of the specialty custom hinges that went on my last 1960s kitchen, I found them on build.com for $1.50 each. I’m already looking at their large selection of lighting, bath fixtures, and everything in between for my next project.

Google

Like I said before, if you are thinking of copying popular design on the cheap, someone out there has thought of it and put out a blog or video about how to do it. Case in point, when I was looking for a shiplap look without the cost. A quick Google search led me to a blog where a nice lady detailed buying 5mm plywood, cutting it into 6 inch strips, and nailing them to the wall with nickels for spacers. Then paint the whole thing white, and the average person wouldn’t know if you paid $1,000 or $100 for that trendy look! I’m looking to do a bit of this exact same thing on my own house. Thanks, Google, for connecting me to my fellow frugal people!

Big Box Clearance and Sales

Your local Lowes, Home Depot, and Menards (whatever that is, I’m on the West coast) are frequently making room for new inventory and styles, while getting rid of returned scratched and dented stuff. Stuff like what? Pretty much everything from lighting to appliances and everything in between. If you can hunt and peck through their frequent clearance items or get to know the appliance department, you can score the look you want for much less. Couple that with yearly sales — where I’ve known fix and flippers who pick up 4-5 entire sets of appliances on a Black Friday blowout — then warehouse the appliances for future jobs. Retail prices are for suckers!

Laminate

Right up there with vinyl flooring, laminate countertops have the same stigma of always being in a 1960s kitchen that looks terrible. Nobody actually uses this dinosaur of a material still, right? Wrong! Like all methods and technology, it eventually got much better. The finishes, the edges, and the patterns have come so far, that for the price, we have been laminating all the houses we get!

It’s half the price of granite, and we are still getting the same top-end price in neighborhoods under median price (and a few over). From a business and cheapo perspective, it just makes sense to put in a great laminate instead of dropping the money on a solid stone surface. I see laminate in spec homes of $1 million dollars or more (albeit in the laundry room, but still). I hear rumors of investors starting to use vinyl plank flooring on flip projects. Maybe vinyl will see a redemption soon and we will all be using it.

Tile/Flooring Supplier

Not only can these fine folks tell you what is trending right now, but my new tile/carpet supply store show me a cheaper options for what I want with no hesitation. They work with several fix and flip investors and tell me exactly what those guys/gals are using, the pricing, and of course how much is in stock. Another opportunity is when they have overstock on tile that they need to move and would make a deal on. The more I get to know this company, the more chances I’ll have to jump on something for cheaper than the average investor.

house-flipping

Building Recycle Stores

In my area (Colorado), there are a handful of stores that sell recycled building materials. From tubs to doorknobs to entire kitchen cabinet sets, they have a ton to choose from. On a smaller rehab, I look through their selection to see what they have since it’s pretty darn cheap. On a recent project, I picked up a 48” cabinet to use as a “wall island” in a kitchen. With paint and a new countertop, this solution was cheaper than the big box stores and easier than the hassle of Craigslist. Speaking of which…

Craigslist

Oh, Craig, your list can be both awesome and infuriating at the same time. Good deals? Sure! Flaky people everywhere?   Craigslisting (I claim this as a verb now) is an art form, and if you are good at it, you won’t have any issues shopping for mulch, cabinet hardware, doors, tubs or any other items off of it.

Related: 7 Things I Desperately Wish I Had Known When I Started Flipping Houses

From entire kitchens to free mulch, an amazing deal can be had here if you can negotiate it or act quickly. When landscaping my last project, I was surprised to see companies posting about free mulch, complete with drop off in the driveway. Free? That’s the right price!

Don’t underestimate the power of SELLING on Craigslist as well. A seller who had just renovated their bathroom gave me this idea just a few months ago. When he does a renovation, he will sell the kitchen/bath cabinets, the sinks, and even the toilets. Yep, people buy used toilets on Craigslist — at $20-30 a pop! If you do the math, the new one you will put in will cost $80 or so. Selling the old one for $30 means for a little bit of work, you could be effectively buying your brand new toilet for $50 net.

I immediately put up some ’60s bathroom fixtures, a yellow sink and matching yellow toilet, and the pink toilet from the other bathroom. For the cost of a picture and 5 minutes to post it, I sold the yellow items in a week or so. Money is money, and it’s better than just throwing them in a dumpster. Try this on your next project, as long as they are in OK condition, someone out there will buy them!

There you have it — 6 ways to punch your budget right in the mouth and send it home crying. In a red hot market, it’s easy to get away with laminate countertops. Nobody cares! When you have 40 showings in 2-3 days and then have 8 offers, you will get full price for your stone lookalike product. When the market shifts, your frugal activities will pay off in making tighter deals work by saving on your rehab budget. Keep an eye on the happenings in your market. When there is more competition, you might have to shift back to an older standard like granite or higher end appliances. So freshen up your design, make sure that your materials don’t break the budget, and get out there and flip some houses!

How do YOU keep your flipping budget on track?

Let me know your tricks and tips with a comment!

About Author

Anson Young

Anson is a full time real estate investor and part time adventure-taker. He is a wholesaler and flipper currently who daydreams of landlording. Anson lives in Colorado with his wife and son (who join him on the aforementioned adventures), he plays in a band and is way too into cold showers.

22 Comments

  1. Luc Boiron

    These are great ideas. Amazon and the like just aren’t the same in Canada, but i can definitely see that I wasted some potential revenue by not selling things on craigslist before demo.

    Why would I pay my contractor to remove the kitchen cabinets and dispose of them if someone would pay me for that pleasure?

    I think I will set up a “renovation sale” for one day before reno starts next time, and use it as a way to get rid of stuff in the house that can be reused.

  2. Richard Adams

    Anson Young! Great stuff! I live in NJ and built my own home in 2006 (started in 2004)! I saved about $150K on my Queen Anne Victorian Home. I used ever on-line site I could find to save money to build my wife her DREAM HOME! I also used a little trick my father showed me when I was 14 and he was building a home in Florida! Building material AUCTIONS! Here are a few examples: Trex decking 68 cents a foot, 50 gal. gas hot water heater $50, 4-toto toilets $120 each, Maxx Pearl corner base tub (therapeutic message tub) $500! The list goes on and on Brother! I finally flipped my first home and made about $43K!

  3. Douglas Larson

    Great ideas. I love Amazon for fancy faucets, vessel sinks, kitchen knobs and door handles. I like the Habitat for Humanity restore for building materials, screws and even paint. Lots of donations from big warehouse companies end up there. I also donate old cabinets and fixtures to them for a tax write off and don’t have to deal with craigslist phone calls.

    I will definitely check out Build.com.
    Thanks again!

  4. Scott Schultz

    I do a big shopping on Ebay as well, there are tons of unique options and oddities on ebay, for one i needed a 36″ Vent Hood, Yea i could have ordered one at Menards for like $250, but i got it on ebay for $86 shipped to my door, or i could have got just the metal part and transferred over the blower and lighting for $36, I get light fixtures, faucets, all kinds of stuff on Ebay.

  5. Ronda Robb

    I LOVE this site! Thank you for this post. I am currently in the middle of a flip right now that my partner is doing but I am about to start renovations on a rental that I will be very involved in. So excited to do the designing on this one. It currently has a pink tub and pink sink. I was going to trash them and then I decided to go onto pinterest and see how others designed with a pink tub. Pinterest has been a God send for me to get ideas.
    I buy a lot from Habitat for my rentals. Their prices can not be beat. I have purchased quite a few light fixtures, given them the once over with oil rubbed bronze spray paint and they look like new. $10 for a fixture that would have cost 10 times that.
    I order from Amazon all the time for home and rentals but I haven’t thought to buy big items like vent hoods. I’ll have to check that out. I also will check out Build.com. Love getting new cheap sources.
    Here is a site I buy a lot of knobs from: http://www.dlawlesshardware.com/
    Prices are good. I used to redo furniture so I would order a lot from them. I also have been able to replace vintage knobs and rare pieces on ebay.

  6. Jerry W.

    Hey Anson thanks for the great ideas. I have my email on the sears list and usually buy one or 2 refrigerators when they are 30 to 40% off. They have free delivery as well. By the way Colorado has always seemed to me to be quite a distance from the West Coast, you must live in the far western side of Denver :).

  7. Carrie Alluri

    Great list Anson! My sister and I used Amazon a lot to redo her kitchen. It really helped to stay on budget. I am a big supporter of Habitat for Humanity so please check out their ReStores. Lots a great things you would never think they would have for rehabs.

  8. Be sure to check with your local water company before tossing or selling that old toilet. Many of them offer rebate programs if you buy a qualifying water-saving toilet. In my area you can get up to $100 per toilet. But you need to read the rules carefully. Many of them require that the old toilet be properly disposed of. Some water agencies also offer rebates for clothes washers and water-saving landscaping.

  9. Julie Marquez

    Great ideas! Where do you get your kitchen cabinets? I hear Ikea is a great place. Or Denver Cabinet Express?

    Costco also has some great prices on bathroom vanities and appliances and LED light bulbs.

    I’m all for plastic laminate counter tops for rentals (indestructible), but have never seen it in a flip. But I believe that it can be done, they have some great, textured/embossed finishes out there. I’ve seen a black laminate that looked just like a honed black granite.

    I see vinyl planks going in all over the place, but the more expensive ones. I’ve seen horrible wear from the stick down planks. It’s waterproof and durable and I think it’s a great trend. Do you do much carpet anymore? What about carpet tiles?

    • Anson Young

      Kitchen cabinets – Have used J&K here locally, good maple cabinets and good price as well!

      There are a ton in flips, anything below median home prices you will find it. Here in Denver, its not uncommon to see laminate in properties up to 350k or so. I’ve never had buyers complain, or not get my price (so far… knock on wood!).

      Not using vinyl planks for sure, I know some who do though. I do carpet in basements, usually.

  10. Sue Reynolds

    Just used Formica high-end laminate in a Calcutta marble. Eliminated the back splash and instead used a real Calcutta beveled subway tile as a 6″ backsplash. By doing a 6″ was able to use 12″ sheets cut in half. This, combined with keeping the very usable white cabinets was a real money-saver. The result is a knockout that was a HUGE hit. I have been in fix and flips a very long time and these sorts of creative design solutions are a critical part of quick sales…..especially in lower end homes. Design really counts.

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