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10 Insider Secrets to Reduce the Cost of Your Flip House Renovation

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This article is part of Bob Vila’s Guide to House Flipping in 2022, a month-long series dedicated to showing you the best places to flip, crucial steps to choosing a property, upgrades and repairs that need to be done, and surprising ways to cut your costs to make the most of your house flipping sale . Each week we bring you fresh insights mixed with Bob’s tried-and-true advice, our tried-and-true shopping guides, and the inside track to the right professionals to get your flip to the finish line.

Unlike a renovation for a personal residence, a house flip requires a certain approach. Having a house that appeals to the widest range of buyers at the lowest possible cost is a fine art. It involves not only knowing what surfaces and appliances to use, but how much to buy them for, when to repair rather than replace, and why doing it yourself to save money isn’t always the best policy.

RELATED: How Much Does Home Renovation Cost? Home remodeling and renovation costs explained

1. Buy in bulk or discontinued items at a discount.

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Home flippers who renovate multiple homes at once often use the same finish on all their projects and participate in warehouse sales to buy in bulk at a lower price. Negotiating cheaper prices for discontinued items at thrift stores is also a way to save money. However, this process also has risks as design styles change and if you buy too much of an item you can be stuck with it.

2. Consider doing certain projects yourself.

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If you’re only flipping one house at a time, consider taking on a few projects yourself. Painting, landscaping and staining are jobs most beginners can do. But if you’re flipping multiple houses, the best use of your time is looking for the next deal rather than focusing on saving money on one.

3. Buy high-end, lightly used appliances.

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A home with high-end industrial appliances like Viking, Thermador and Miele always adds high-voltage glamor to a kitchen and often justifies asking for a higher price. In reality, lightly used appliances can cost the same as brand new standard. Still, once they’ve been buffed to a shiny finish and all worn parts have been replaced, most buyers won’t ask questions or worry. Big, shiny premium appliances make listing photos and descriptions pop and add a wow factor when buyers first step into a kitchen. Look for deals on these on Craigslist, Facebook Marketplace, and elsewhere.

RELATED: Worth It: 8 Renovations That Will Pay You Back

4. Repair existing windows instead of replacing them.

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It is usually much cheaper to repair a window than to replace it. If a spring or pane breaks, they can be bought for a few dollars and replaced in minutes. Thorough cleaning of windows and painting of trim will make them look new.

RELATED: What’s the Difference: Renovating vs. Remodeling?

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5. Overcoat existing wooden floors.

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Flip TV shows always show a hidden wood floor reveal. But even if you pull up the existing carpet to find original hardwood floors, that doesn’t necessarily mean they’ll be right for your house remodel. Mixing and matching wood stain to achieve a modern look after a light sanding can take your floors from dull to beautiful at minimal cost.

6. Glaze and renew your bathtub and tiles.

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Can’t wait to show off your bathroom and be done with those avocado tiles and dirty bathtub? Think again. Instead of demoing and replacing, consider hiring a professional to restore. Expect to pay between $800 to $1200 to hire a contractor to fix all the chips, cracks and rust in your disco-era tub, shower and wall tiles. A proper glaze job lasts 10-15 years and is 75 percent cheaper than replacing it. A professional can complete the job in 2-4 hours, with the tub ready for use in 48 hours, so your renovation can proceed quickly. What’s more, you are not limited to just one color. Consider having the bullnose (trim tiles) glazed black to offset the white tiles below and add a sophisticated look to your inexpensive renovation.

RELATED: 13 Renovation Lessons You Don’t Want to Learn the Hard Way

7. Refinish kitchen cabinets or replace front panels.

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Kitchen cabinet refinishing is a tried and trusted way to save money on a home renovation. But if the design of the home’s existing closets screams mullets, leg warmers and acid-washed jeans, give them a facelift. Replace the fronts with new stylish designs and modern hardware. You get a smart new kitchen cabinet in a few hours for a fraction of the cost of installing them all new.

8. Make an extra bedroom out of an attic.

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If you have the ceiling height, make a bedroom. Lofts, especially those in older homes with a staircase, are great places to create another living space. Framing, insulation and slab tilting under the rafters can create an extra cozy bedroom, play area or office. It is usually relatively easy to install a mini-split ductless unit to regulate the temperature. Advertising a flip with an extra bedroom or dedicated home office is a big plus that more than pays for itself in the ad price.

RELATED: Under the eaves: 21 arresting loft spaces

9. Use gravel on the outside or repair the concrete.

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If you’re running out of money and running out of cash, don’t worry, there are still creative ways to tackle that cracked driveway to increase curb appeal. If it’s asphalt, hiring a specialist to repair the cracks and seal it will do wonders. For concrete, consider power washing the dirt away, patching the cracks and spraying on the stain, followed by a final seal. It is a relatively simple process that you can do yourself if you want to save more money. If the driveway is beyond repair, removing it and replacing it with gravel over a weed blocking barrier will look good in pictures and is cheap and easy to do.

10. Get your real estate license to save on commissions.

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It is wise to get your real estate license if you are flipping several properties or even a few expensive ones. It costs about $500 to purchase an online course that prepares you to take your agent’s test. Once you have the license, you’ll save a fortune on sales commissions. Also, friends, family, and other flippers may ask you to list their homes, giving you extra income.