Income Property Flips to Sell

See how some motivated home sellers renovated a kitchen and bathroom in less than three weeks. 



Photography by Daniel Collopy

Photography by Daniel Collopy

For years, Josh Crosby and Amy Swift-Crosby held on to the Santa Monica, Calif., townhouse Josh bought in 2004, when he was still a bachelor. It served them well as income property while they raised their two daughters in the Venice, Calif., home they'd bought together, and built their own businesses.

Remodeling an Income Property

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After a few years, the couple had grown tired of being landlords. Moreover, both of their businesses were flourishing: The Indo-Row workout Josh had developed was taking off, and Smarty, the educational and community-building organization Amy had created for entrepreneurs, was thriving. Both businesses would benefit from the cash the sale of the townhouse could provide.

So the couple decided to put the townhouse on the market. There was just one problem: Because their renter was still living there, they couldn't make the repairs the townhouse would need to attract the right buyer. But when the renter unexpectedly moved out, they saw it as the perfect opportunity to fix the place up. They immediately called home renovation expert Laurie March.

March's first words of advice to the couple: Don't overinvest, and don't overdesign. "When you invest money in a house before you put it on the market, you don't want to overdo it," March said. "You're not designing for yourself. You want to take everything back to a clean, classic place, make it a clean start for the new buyer."

After walking through the property, March decided to focus on two areas: the kitchen and bathrooms. The spaces were original to the townhouse, which was built in 1981, and made the place look and feel dated.

Before and After: Remodeling to Sell

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Market-Ready Updates

Buyers want to move into a space that requires little to no work up front. Homeowners' Josh Crosby and Amy Swift-Crosby gave this townhouse a crisp 'wow' factor with white and light gray hues.

Buyer's Beware

The original kitchen was firmly planted in the 1980's, from glossy white 4" x 4" tile countertops to black grout lines and appliances. It did nothing to convince buyers to make an offer.

Cost-Effective Countertops

With a tight budget and timeline, homeowners went with butcher block as an in-stock countertop alternative to replace the dated white tile.

Spruce Up the Sink

A large, single-basin, stainless steel sink from Ikea is an affordable update, maximizing the impact of this refreshed kitchen.

Expert Advice

Realtor Kelly Sutherland advised homeowners to replace the aging white appliances with a stainless steel refrigerator, dishwasher, microwave and range. These updates meet the expectation for many buyers in the Santa Monica, California neighborhood.

Quick Fixes

This two-tiered countertop was awkward and inefficient. For a quick, inexpensive fix, a standard depth countertop was installed with extra butcher block, solving the quirky issue and creating additional storage for wine bottles.

Modern Edge

Dated veneer countertops were replaced with butcher block, and light gray cabinets and walls brighten the space. The faux brass trim on the mirror panels is sprayed with a dark gray matte paint. Brushed chrome drawer pulls and hinges modernize the multipurpose space.

Make a Good First Impression

The living room was important in helping buyers form a great first impression. A fresh coat of light gray paint complemented the wood floors and made the space feel larger. Staging with textures, like the shag rug and faux fur blankets, gives the room a luxurious and neutral look for the open house.

Bookcase Appeal

When staging a bookcase, remove all personal photos. Neutral art, books, and plants used sparingly can show off a bookcase to its' advantage.

Visualize Potential

The dining room is staged with a six person dining table, to show buyers how to use the open concept space. Two arches are painted white, which connects the rooms visually. Neutral colored chairs and art create a calming feel, allowing buyers to see potential.

From Dated to Upgraded

While this bathroom was a good size, the peach colored tile was dated and grungy. For an affordable face lift, a tub refinisher recoated the 4" x 4" shower tile in a custom gray finish.

Cut Out Clutter

When you are staging a bathroom for an open house, always remove personal care items from the vanity and shower. Set out fresh, clean towels that match, and add a plant or flower for a spa-like feeling.

Starting in the Kitchen

Crosby and Swift-Crosby hired a friend, Todd Mallis, as the main contractor for the renovation. He and March first surveyed the kitchen to see what could stay. The cabinets were in good shape but needed a facelift to give the room a more modern look. With just a fresh coat of paint (white for the ones on top, light gray for the ones on the bottom) and brushed silver hardware, they were ready to go.









March chose butcherblock countertops and white subway tile for the backsplash, to give the kitchen a modern feel. To complete the look, Mallis installed a new sink from Ikea with a tall, sleek U-shaped faucet, along with all new stainless steel appliances.

A small carpeted room adjacent to the kitchen also got some much-needed attention. March and Mallis transformed it into extra storage space, with built-in shelving for wine bottles and dishes.

Next Up: Bathrooms

March went to work on the bathrooms. Both the guest and master were filled with peach-colored tile that looked "really dated," she said. But tearing out and replacing the tile would have been too expensive to make sense, so instead she decided to have the tile refinished in a custom-mixed light gray shade.

She also replaced the creaky, dated vanity with a sleek gray vanity for a more modern look.









Is this Townhouse Buyer-Ready?

Three weeks later, with the renovations complete, Crosby and Swift-Crosby put the townhouse back on the market. And although potential buyers came through and raved about the updated kitchen and bathrooms, the couple still wasn't getting any offers.

That's when March brought in Connie Tebyani of Platinum Home Staging. Tebyani walked through the townhouse with March , and Josh and Amy's realtor, Kelly Sutherland, and discussed why she thought the place wasn't selling.

"People were still confused," March said. "The place has this open floor plan, and it was hard to tell how you might live in the space."

So Tebyani furnished and decorated the townhouse, sticking with a grey and white color scheme with a few green and blue accent pieces, to reinforce the beachy feel afforded by the home’s coastal location. She also kept the furnishings clean and modern, to appeal to the type of person Sutherland thought would buy the place: a young, newly married couple, or a young single person.

The plan worked: Within two weeks, the townhouse sold, giving Josh and Amy's businesses a welcome infusion of cash.

"People don't want to have to remodel a place they just bought; it's intimidating," March said. "This renovation was a total success."

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Income Property Flips to Sell

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