Agent Talk: Kate Fulford on Portland House Flipping

House flipping? What is it? In general, house flipping is the process of purchasing a house and selling it for profit. The profit comes from price appreciation through a hot market or from capital investments in the home through repairs and sometimes both.

This is where the logistics can get tough. You want to be able to know what the value of the house you’re purchasing, how much you’re going need to spend on renovations and have a very good understanding of the current real estate market and future trends. If a miscalculation occurs or a project takes longer than anticipated, it can cause a lot of headaches and potentially a financial loss.

This October, Kate Fulford, successfully sold a Portland house she “flipped”. The stylish, farmhouse sold for $569,000 in the Brooklyn neighborhood. We chatted about what she learned, how she conceptualizes house flipping, the Portland real estate market and where she finds her inspiration.

Think: What got you interested in house flipping?

Kate: I’ve always been interested in home design and really enjoyed working on and designing a new bathroom in my own home a few years ago. But I was getting so disenchanted by some of the flips I toured with buyers. They seemed to be the cheapest, most generic solution. I believe that a space contributes to your mood and happiness — so I decided I wanted to “flip” (I prefer “makeover”) a house that would make someone’s eyes light up. Something different, yet classic — and definitely with a shot of color!

Where did you get your home inspiration from?

I am obsessed with Pinterest — so I find a lot of ideas online. I am also inspired by fashion catalogs and magazines for colors.  Finally, I just love looking at other peoples homes and shops — [I’ve] always have been a “shopper” and always will be!

Color is one of my greatest loves. Sometimes a color enters my head and I can’t stop craving it.  Suddenly I want my home and wardrobe to be injected with this color. And sometimes I paint cabinets this color!  Right now, it’s rich, intense forest green (which is funny because I usually like brighter colors). But in my world, it must be combined with brushed gold.

What sorts of things do Portland house flippers need to keep in mind when looking for houses to renovate?

For me, I knew I wanted a “Cream Puff” — which is a term to describe a cosmetic fixer. If I can walk in a home and immediately visualize how I can improve it and make it fabulous – then that’s a great contender. If I walk in and I’m flummoxed and have no idea what to do, that’s when I walk away.

What problems did you run into when working on this last home?

I was lucky to have only a couple of surprises with this home. One was electrical: the ceiling fan I wanted to replace was hardwired into the ceiling — and not hooked up to the switch. So, we had to cute a hole into the ceiling and have it re-wired and patched. The second issue was the deck. I knew the boards looked pretty bad — but some were rotted through in some spots, so I decided to replace all of them. Then we found that the joists were rotted too. I’m really glad we decided to make it right though.

What role did the Portland housing market play in your decision to start home flipping?

Oddly it didn’t play a huge role for me. Obviously, I want to make a profit from my work – but this is primarily a creative endeavor for me.

How did you decide to pick the house?

I found this first makeover through a wholesaler. I had been searching for a house n the MLS, through various wholesalers, and even sending letters to neighbors. When I saw this house, I saw that it appeared to be in great condition – nice dry basement, the roof was clean, the exterior looked quite nice. I liked that there is a  ton of light and pretty original floors with spacious rooms. The neighborhood is nice and close-in, which I know buyers like.

I could easily visualize how I could improve the home as well. I was invited to an open house in a half-hour window and had to submit my offer by 5:00 pm that evening! This is a situation where you have to make a quick decision!

Any advice for Portlanders thinking of house flipping?

– Make sure you get a good deal when you BUY the house.

– Have great, reliable contractors lined up.

– Add at least 10% to your cost estimate

– Give your homes a little personality

Can you walk me through the process of what you did: what came first, second, third, last?

1.  Demo!

2.  Measure for countertops (these take a long time to order + can drive your entire schedule)

3.  Paint

4.  Electric/plumbing

5. Deck** (but could have been worked on at any point)

6.  Countertops/shelves/hardware

7.  Appliances

8.  Backsplash

9.  Landscaping

What are 3 things you wish you had known before starting?

1.  I wish I had better researched what requires a permit (I didn’t realize that you need a permit to change a light fixture, for example)

2.  To always check and make sure that contractors have picked up materials (especially on a 3 day weekend!)

3.  Best paint to use for cabinets!!

I imagine every project will include new lessons learned.

And what is the best paint for cabinets?

According to sources: Benjamin Moore Advance is the best paint for cabinetry.

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