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Why I LOVE a live-in flip

I am a married Nurse with two amazing kids under the age of 4. Ten years ago, I was like any other 22-year-old student; renting an apartment with a roommate. What I now call ‘paying someone else’s mortgage’. My now husband was a business student living with his parents and he convinced me to do the same. We lived with his parents for just 9 months until we saved enough money to buy our first investment property. This property was purchased in 2010 and we lived upstairs and rented out our basement apartment. We now own multiple properties and have an accepted offer on a multi-family building closing in early 2019. I could write a thousand blog posts about rental units, tenants, and mortgages.

But today I want to talk to you about my favourite style of real estate investing; the live-in flip.

In 2013, my father was approached by someone looking to sell his cottage on a lake and the deal was ‘too good to be true’. My husband and I viewed the cottage and made an offer right then and there. After the sale closed, we lived there with minimal insulation, outdated patch work for finishes, and sour smelling carpets for a little under a year.

During this time, we gathered materials as they went on sale and had jobs priced by different trades. The first renovation tackled was the exterior; including new windows, roof, doors, and insulation. A few months later, when I was pregnant with our first son, we began gutting the inside. It took us several weeks to finish the project – outsourcing some of the works as well as doing some ourselves.

When we were finished, we sold that home and with the profits we were able to invest in three more properties! Two of the best parts of live-in flip investing are the significant return as well as taking pride in living in a finished space that we created.

"You are crazy; I could not live in chaos like that!"

This is the most common phrase heard from friends and family. Most of my friends can’t comprehend buying a home with old floors, stinky bathrooms, light fixtures straight from the 70’s, and cupboards that are falling apart. My Husband and I, on the other hand, almost crave this style of living. All we see is potential and dollars to be made.

Yes - it can be frustrating to shower at a relative’s home while your bathroom is under renovation; inconvenient to sleep in the living room while you lay new floors and paint your master bedroom. But, there is no better feeling than when you take your first steamy shower in the bathroom that you helped create, or the smell of that fresh paint you applied in your new bedroom that completely transformed the space.

As you can probably tell, I love adding my own touch to a space. What better way to maximize this than to totally gut a room. I want to add the finishes that I love and knock down the walls that I deem ‘unnecessary’. After all is said and done, you can sit back, relax and enjoy your work until another great deal comes up.

“I want to buy a home that is already finished”

To this comment we say; ‘sure, go ahead and give your money away’. Why not live in an affordable run-down home until you have the money to renovate and know what spaces need the most attention? We now lay our own flooring and take on minor projects; we have more pride in our space knowing that we had a hand in the finished product. Then, when the time is right, we sell (or rent) the space, make money, and do it all over again.

“Don’t fall in love with a live-in flip”

This advice was given to me and it helps remind me of the end goal during these projects; to make the money. I like to envision how amazing the next flip will be.

No Timeline – Because you live there, you can spend the time to perfect things and sell it when the timing is right.

Tax Advantages - If you live in the home for longer than a year the gains are tax-free (this may change based on when and where you sell, it’s always best to confirm with your accountant beforehand).

Cheaper Materials – With a live-in flip, you can wait to find materials when they’re on sale. With traditional flip projects, you are paying a mortgage on an empty home; therefore you want it completed fast. Due to this strict timeline, you need to purchase labor and materials based on how fast it can happen. This typically means a higher price tag on materials.

Cheaper Labor– You are the ‘general contractor’ so you can save money by doing renovations in phases, bringing in the experts at the right time. You can often achieve better pricing by being flexible and having the contractor come in when it is convenient for them.

Learn New Skills– As mentioned above, my husband and I have gained a lot of knowledge from our live-in flip. There are skills we can now apply to future projects: floor installation, proper painting and staining techniques, and placing trim, to name a few.

Higher Sale Price – Since the property is your home, there is typically no urgency to sell. So, you can hold onto the building until the market is hot or the area develops more. For example, a new school or mall being built in the area will help get you top dollar.

Writing this blog has me excited to see what our next project will be. My hope is that it is a smelly, cheap, run down home for me to move my family into. Something that we can rip out the finishes and make it our own. We will enjoy it for a bit, then profit from someone willing to pay us to live in the chaos and do the ‘dirty work’. So, thank you to the people who are too afraid of the smelly homes for allowing me to continue to do what I love.

- Holly Ellis, another badass woman in real estate ;-)

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