Spring Renovation Special: Lipstick Renovations When Flipping a Condo

Small improvements can really pay off in fast-moving market, says real estate investment expert Frank O'Brien

April 18, 2016

investment reno
A modern but inexpensive new backsplash, new coating for your countertop and freshly painted cabinets can do wonders for an outdated kitchen

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Westcoast Condominium

As a condominium investor planning a buy-fix-flip strategy, keep in mind that the whole idea is to not spend a lot of money on renovations and improvements. Don’t fall in love with the place, but do apply “lipstick” renovations to make others fall in love with it.

Lipstick renovations are those subtle improvements that can be done inexpensively but which can make a dramatic difference in the market value.

Condominiums and townhomes are especially susceptible to lipstick renovations because of the uniform way the majority of projects are designed and finished. Unlike with detached houses, you don’t have to worry about landscaping, painting an exterior, doing roof repairs, or replacing windows to increase curb appeal.

Also, let’s be honest here: in Metro Vancouver’s white-hot condominium market you have a much better chance of selling your investment faster and for more money than anywhere else in Canada. A study by the Conference Board of Canada showed that the average price of a resale home in Metro Vancouver increased by 25.6 per cent in 2015, nearly twice as high as second-place Toronto and four times higher than the average in 28 cities surveyed. On Vancouver’s East Side, for example, the benchmark price of a resale condo has increased nearly seven per cent in the past three months according to real estate board statistics. Also, the average Vancouver condo apartment is selling in less than 20 days, with townhomes selling in an average of 13 days, and multiple offers are common.

In such a fast-moving market, lipstick renovations go a long way.

Getting Down to the Nitty-Gritty

After cleaning, the first thing that you should do when fixing up your condo is paint.

There are many things that can be painted rather than replaced, which can save you a ton of money. For example, older kitchen cabinets that are in good condition but don't look nice can be updated with a coat of paint. Even heat registers can be spray-painted rather than replaced.

There are new paint products created to redo countertops, and paint that can be used to cover an old bathtub. Spend some time in the paint area at your local hardware store, and the products that can be used to improve items that you thought you’d have to replace might surprise you.

If you are a serial flipper, buy white paint by the gallon. Look for larger buckets of paint that can stretch further – they are usually cheaper per gallon, saving you money. You can add tint to small batches of it, which will allow you to get different colours out of one bucket of white paint.

Other lipstick improvements include adding a new kitchen backsplash with low-cost and attractive subway tiles. To improve a bathroom, shop for drop-in vanities, fancy lights and ceramic tiles. All of these are fairly inexpensive but make a dramatic difference.

The whole concept is to aim for a wow factor that will make your condo stand out and sell fast so you can move onto to your next investment.

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