Tarek El Moussa and Christina Anstead are expert house flippers and real estate pros, but even these two ran into hard times in 2020.
Last year, fans who tuned in to their hit series “Flip or Flop” or El Moussa’s solo show, “Flipping 101 With Tarek El Moussa,” heard plenty about how COVID-19 had thrown a wrench into their plans. Some renovations were delayed, while others abruptly changed course to accommodate new realities like working from home. The pandemic also put the pressure on to flip homes faster and with more safety precautions than ever.
It was a steep learning curve, but these house flippers learned a lot last year—and have tons to teach the rest of us on how to buy, sell, or renovate a house during a pandemic and beyond. Here we highlight some of their hard-won lessons and the pearls of wisdom within these stories for your own abode, too.
Have extra space? A guest suite is a great idea
COVID-19 curveball: In the “Flip or Flop” episode “Stiff Competition,” El Moussa and Anstead bought a house with an oddly large second living area. So what did they do with all that extra space?
Since the pandemic had placed a premium on “close yet separate” living quarters where families could quarantine apart from one another if necessary (say, if someone got sick), they converted this bonus space into a guest suite with a bedroom, living space, full bathroom, and even a separate entrance.
Take-home lesson: Guesthouses, in-law suites, and other living arrangements that allow some separate-but-togetherness for extended family and friends have always been a smart idea. However, the pandemic has further prioritized this feature, since it’s not just about giving people privacy; it’s also about keeping people safe in a pandemic. This upgrade is sure to remain a hot commodity well into 2021, so if you’ve got the space, consider this a great investment in your property.
A home office is a must, and doesn’t need its own room
COVID-19 curveball: In an episode of “Flipping 101” titled “Bad Energy BoHo,” El Moussa helped a couple renovate a house. Yet once COVID-19 hit midrenovation, they were forced to finish up in record time.
And with people suddenly working from home, El Moussa knew a home office was a must—yet with no time or space to build a separate room, they did the next best thing: They plunked down a desk in a far corner of the living room. It wasn’t as private as a dedicated workspace, but buyers were nonetheless drawn to this feature, proving that any office is better than none.
Take-home lesson: Not all households have room for a dedicated office, but don’t give up! A workspace can be carved out in some surprising places, from living rooms to garages and beyond.
For a fast upgrade, never underestimate the power of paint
COVID-19 curveball: In the “Flip or Flop” episode “Busy Flip,” El Moussa and Anstead pondered how to upgrade a fireplace. While they typically loved covering this feature in bold, patterned tile, they also knew this upgrade would take a lot of time. Plus, since the pandemic had buyers flooding this suburban market, they’d have to flip fast to fetch a high offer.
That’s when El Moussa came up with a shortcut: They decided to simply paint the fireplace instead.
“This fireplace is actually in really good condition,” El Moussa told Anstead. “What if we just blasted the entire thing a bright white, see how it comes out?”
This solution not only saved time, but also $2,000 in tiling costs.
Take-home lesson: Sometimes it pays to take your sweet time renovating a house. But in a pandemic, if buyer demand is high, it may pay instead to just slap on a coat of paint and get your listing up, pronto!
While house flippers, owners, and sellers should never cut corners in terms of renovating safely, quick cosmetic shortcuts (like paint rather than intricate tilework) can save time and money and help you sell a house when the market is hot.
Fruit trees provide food and beauty in a backyard
COVID-19 curveball: In the “Flip or Flop” episode “Better Be Quick,” Anstead and El Moussa wanted to give their latest flip a great quarantine yard. With so many people stuck at home, flashy outdoor amenities had become all the rage. They knew that a pool, outdoor kitchen, or fire pit could make the next owner’s quarantine seem a little easier.
Still, Anstead also saw value in something that wouldn’t take them any time to renovate at all: the yard’s orange and avocado trees.
“We have a full, really awesome avocado tree out there. This is actually a big selling feature,” Anstead pointed out.
In the end, El Moussa and Anstead decided to keep the trees. After a simple pruning, the backyard looked like the perfect oasis, even without a pool or other posh features.
Take-home lesson: With so many people spending more time at home, backyards with pools and outdoor kitchens have become more popular than ever. But never forget that trees—particularly trees that bear fruit you can eat—have their own special allure for anyone who wants to grow their own food. (Victory garden, anyone?)
Building shade for outdoor seating is a worthy investment
COVID-19 curveball: While green space was a must-have in 2020, outdoor sitting areas were also in high demand. And so, in the “Flip or Flop” episode “Back House Flip,” El Moussa and Anstead tried to create a comfy back patio, and pondered adding a pergola to create some shade.
While they worked hard to make the yard and patio look beautiful, they decided that adding a pergola was too expensive. This was a big mistake. Without a pergola, the patio was too hot under the California sun.
“The tile looks really nice,” Anstead said when she walked out to the backyard, but “it would definitely be nicer if I was in the shade right now.”
Take-home lesson: Whether it be a front porch or a bench on the back deck, homeowners like having somewhere to hang out and enjoy some fresh air, in COVID-19 times or not. Still, sitting spaces need to be comfortable and well-designed if people are going to spend their time there. Spending a little extra money on a backyard covering can be a great investment—a lesson El Moussa and Anstead are sure to apply to future flips.