Flipper: New gold rush: buy, fix, sell


ADDRESS: 108 Park Lane West

NEIGHBORHOOD: Jefferson Park Avenue

ASKING: $399,900



SIZE: 1,800 fin. sq. ft., 900 unfin. sq. ft.

LAND: .25 acres

CURB APPEAL: 7 out of 10

LISTED BY: Rob Wilson of Keller Williams Realty, 220-2220

The newest incarnation of reality TV shows features people buying and selling houses. Nearly 20 such shows currently clutter the airwaves, including Flip This House on A&E and Flip That House on TLC. Both tell stories of folks who have joined today's version of the Gold Rush– flipping property.

In their dreams– and sometimes in reality– they buy cheap, renovate quickly, and resell for a profit.

This week's On the Block feature represents such an attempt– it was bought in December 2004 and renovated, and now, nine months later, it's up for sale for $150,000 more than the purchase price. Because the owners did what appears to be a quality renovation of a house that had great potential to begin with, this place could potentially offer a win-win– the right new owners might be as happy as the investors.

The 1930s two-story colonial revival has a simple rectangular shape with symmetrical windows on three sides and a centered gable extension on the back with asymmetrical windows. The white clapboard siding is interrupted only by a massive stone chimney centered under one side gable.

The stucco finish of the covered front porch is somewhat incongruous with the rest of the house, though it will be resistant to the constant threat of damp rot. The tongue-and-groove decking of the porch has seriously warped and cupped, but appears quite solid nevertheless, but it could deteriorate in the future because of water problems where the wood meets concrete and/or because of uneven settling of the foundation.

The pretty red front door opens onto a central hallway and staircase, with doors leading to the living room, a small dining room and bathroom, and a new kitchen with a closet-size breakfast nook. Throughout the house are narrow two-inch wide oak floors, all in good shape.

Upstairs, the largest of the three bedrooms was created by a previous owner who removed a wall– and in the process unfortunately left some conspicuous scarring on the oak floor. A new owner can easily arrange the furniture (and rugs) to hide these flaws. This larger bedroom has a private redone bathroom that makes efficient use of the space with handsome chrome fixtures, a pedestal sink, and a white-tile shower.

The upstairs hallway bathroom was redone in a pretty mix of white and blue, including blue tile floor, white tile shower, white faux-bead-board wainscotting, and blue paint on the walls.

The electrical system was upgraded with new wiring in the kitchen. New light fixtures throughout the house are quite handsome– a lot to say in today's lighting marketplace heavy on gargoyle-like monstrosities. Heat comes from a middle-age gas boiler that supplies the original radiators, which had been covered with metal covers for much of their lives and are therefore in amazingly good shape.

The full-height unfinished basement– with a clean, dry painted concrete floor– offers good storage space. A small shed in the large backyard provides more storage.

Though rather small, the kitchen is a highlight of the house thanks to the thoughtful renovation and abundant natural light from the three large windows. The countertops look like shimmering black granite, but they're actually a man-made rock aggregate complemented by a stainless steel dishwasher, refrigerator, Viking electric range, and inset sink. The miniature breakfast nook is a cozy spot for two, but a larger family would probably want to convert it into a pantry or more kitchen space.

The other highlight of the house is the living room, with a wall of built-in bookshelves at one end and a handsome large stone fireplace in the middle.

One reality show, Property Ladder, is hosted by a seasoned real estate developer who claims that to be successful, a house-flipper must put aside his or her own creative instincts (no doubt honed by watching Trading Spaces and Extreme Home Makeover) and keep the renovation as bland as possible to appeal to the widest possible audience.

Fortunately for the next owner of this house, these flippers have not followed that advice. In their renovation they 've made a number of tasteful and creative changes that may have significantly increased the value of what started as an unpolished gem.