New Again Houses Founder Gives 10 Fixer Tips
“You know you are living a lot of people’s dream, right?” I tell Matt Lavinder on the phone. Lavinder is the founder and president of New Again Houses, a company turned franchisor that buys old homes and repairs them for today’s buyers.
“I’m not sure I think of it that way,” he laughs.
So maybe his job isn’t always a trip to the glacier, but who hasn’t dreamed of buying a decrepit old house for a song, fixing it with a patch here, new light fixtures there and a new coat of paint, and sell it for a small fee?
In my many imagined home renovations, I tear up walls, raise ceilings, replace light fixtures, change floors, install moldings and Poof! take the place of the dream house landfill. Never in my daydreams do I encounter dry rot, black mold, broken pipes or snake dens, and my taste for improvement never exceeds my budget.
But the risk of these real possibilities is why I, and probably you, remain chair fins and live vicariously through people like Lavinder.
Since starting his business in 2008 in Bristol, Tennessee, he has returned over 300 homes locally. Two years ago he tapped that experience into a franchise for others who want to use his repair and rollover formula. New Again Houses now has 21 franchises in 11 states.
“We provide capital, technology, training and an ecosystem to enable franchise owners to return one home per month to their area,” he said. About half of franchises that complete their first full year are on track to meet that number. Because money is often a limiting factor for the fins, working with a franchise helps them achieve a scale that they otherwise might not be able to.
This historic Bristol, Tennessee home was starting to show its age before the New Again Houses team began renovations. (Courtesy of New Again Houses)
Lavinder’s number-based model begins with buying homes in probate, often taking them out of the hands of heirs who have a home they don’t know what to do with. “We don’t buy anything in the market,” he said.
He also has a guy: “We love bread and butter houses, not large, high-risk custom projects, but workforce housing,” he said. The typical repairman is a ranch style, built in the ’70s, and around 1,300 square feet, with no owner updates and a lot of deferred maintenance. Not to be confused with “affordable housing” (code of public subsidies), the work houses are intended for working and working families. “This for me is great.”
The average selling price of one of his renovated homes is $ 170,000. From there, he aims to make at least $ 25,000 all at once.
The process begins by assessing the scope of the work, then using company software to “turn the flip into a math problem,” Lavinder said. “The process is very data driven. We take the emotion out of the analysis.”
That part of the emotion is why I would be terrible at this.
While every flip is different, the method of turning a modest home into something the buyer wants today is the same. Here are 10 steps Lavinder and his project manager, Annie Elliott, say every pinball machine should follow:
◼️ Pick the right house. Lavinder will move away from properties that are poorly constructed or “under-designed”. For example, a house where the joists are spaced 24 inches apart instead of 18 inches tells you that the builder took shortcuts. Groundwater problems and wet foundations are another red flag. “We spend a lot of time in crawlspaces looking for irreparable problems.” They also avoid homes in bad neighborhoods – another problem they can’t get over.
◼️ Start with the invisible. Evaluate the systems: electricity, plumbing, heating and roofing. Figure out what needs to be repaired or replaced and what those big ticket items will cost. Then work backwards to set your budget, starting with a realistic final sale price, which can’t be more than the neighborhood will support.
◼️ Plan it 100%. “Too often people make 80% of the decisions about what they will and won’t do, and think they’ll decide the rest on the fly,” Lavinder said. Instead, spend more time early on to plan it 100%. So don’t change your mind.
◼️ Get good estimates. Having a specific plan will help you get accurate prices from workers. Take the steps to secure and validate the costs.
◼️ Collect what you can. Part of it is instinctive, Elliot said. “A lot of times you just know what needs to be left and what needs to go. If it’s disgusting, doesn’t work, or is damaged by water, it goes. The decision becomes more difficult when something is in good shape, but you just don’t like it.
◼️ Prepare your entrepreneur for success. To do this, make sure you have a complete design of the project and do not modify it during construction.
◼️ Make sure: While some decisions are line calls, others are not. Refinish wood floors and remove old rugs and bathroom tiles. “It’s just cleaner not to move on it,” Elliot said. Always paint and landscape.
◼️ The biggest price-performance ratio: Beyond painting in neutral tones and landscaping, other movements that give great results include moving or widening doors to improve flow, and bringing in light by replacing old ones. light fixtures and adding new ones, and adding decks, porches and patios to extend usable living. space. Exterior shutters are also an easy and inexpensive way to add character and curb appeal.
◼️ Beware of social media. “HGTV and Pinterest have in some ways made our job more difficult,” Elliot said. “Buyers come with these expectations and wonder why they can’t have a navy island with a quartz countertop. I would love to make every Pinterest home worthy, but it’s not practical. ”
◼️ Know how the pandemic has affected the market. Buyers today value square footage more than they did a year ago, Lavinder said. Where in the past we would have hesitated to finish a basement, it is now an easier decision. “We don’t take risks. For us, it’s all about math.”
Marni Jameson is the author of six books on home and lifestyle, including “Downsizing the Blended Home – When Two Households Become One”.