Help me rebuild my flooded house with an eye towards selling it.
September 16, 2016 7:28 AM   Subscribe

I own a house in Louisiana that was heavily damaged in the recent flooding, and was gutted to the studs. Now I've got to start making decisions about putting it back together, and the intention is to immediately put it on the market to sell. I am overwhelmed by the thought of picking ALL THE THINGS, and I don't know where to start. Any advice or resources are welcome!

Long story short, I co-own a home that took over 4 feet of water and now we've got to start making decisions about everything from flooring to wall color to cabinets and bathroom fixtures. The intention is to put it up for sale as soon as possible and hopefully at least break even on the price. The amount we are willing to put into the house to fix it is driven wholly by the flood insurance settlement, but there are still a zillion decisions to make and I don't know where to start.

I've enlisted the help of a realtor family member who will ultimately be listing the house for me, but I can't expect her to handle everything for me. The contractor has been great so far, but is starting to ask questions that I can't answer. For example, the bathtubs originally had beautiful tile surrounds, and he suggested we think about installing tub surrounds to save some cash. I'm concerned about finding a good middle ground between going too "cheap" for the neighborhood versus investing in higher finishes that won't give me a good return when the house is sold. I also don't know the first thing about coordinating colors, fixtures, ect. across the whole house.

Other relevant details:
- The house is a mid-1970's, single story, 4 bedroom 2.5 bath house. It had been completely remodeled when we purchased it, with granite counters, stainless appliances, wood floors, jacuzzi tub etc. Not a McMansion but was definitely updated/modernized.
- The neighborhood is older but is/was desirable due to a high-end private high school being located in the neighborhood.
- We have no idea what the flood is going to do to the value of the home. Non-flooded homes (of which there are not many) are already on the market at inflated prices. It required flood insurance when we bought it (thank god) and I would imagine that cost may increase.

So, given that this is an insurance claim for a house I don't plan to live in, how can I do this in a way that is both cost effective and smart? Where do I even begin? Any and all advice appreciated!
posted by tryniti to Home & Garden (8 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
Does the house have a basement? I know a lot in LA don't, but if it did, don't refinish it, a pretty basement will raise suspicion over what it's covering up.

But, as far as that goes: don't do repairs that look like it's just slapped on to cover up mold or other damage, put some effort into it to show the house was cared for, and not patched up to be flipped.
posted by AzraelBrown at 7:35 AM on September 16, 2016

Cost effective might be to go to Home Depot and buy the most affordable, generic, neutral stuff for say the bathroom and kitchen and then put a little more money into the decorative accents.

Can you look at the listings for non-flooded houses online and study what they have?

Reality TV is kind of fake, but you could put your feet up and stream a couple of episodes of Flip or Flop. (They are in CA and I am in CA, what "shows well" in LA might be different.)
posted by puddledork at 7:49 AM on September 16, 2016

This is what general contractors and interior designers do. (Which one you go with for your design mostly has to do with how much custom design vs. standard parts you want.) For a whole-house renovation you want to be working with a good GC to begin with, and it's their job to, among other things, walk you through the design process, pick sensible defaults for stuff like trim and door profiles, give you options and allowances for things like plumbing fixtures and countertops where you'll definitely want to have input, direct you to suppliers and showrooms where you can be guided through the selection process, and stage everything out in a sensible schedule so that you don't have to panic.

I work for a GC (not in your area) and this is a huge part of my job. It's totally common for homeowners to have a lot of anxiety about their selections, and you want to work with a professional who can shepherd you through the process effectively. We have default selections for most items (so that if a customer is happy with a house that just looks kind of blandly like all the other recently-remodeled houses in their area, they don't have to do much) and can offer advice about most others. We are most effective though when the homeowner doesn't want to do anything too crazy and just wants something contemporary and practical.

If you want to get a little fancier/more conceptual/more custom, then you'll want to hire an interior designer as well. They have more expertise in that area and can work more intensively with you to come up with truly individual designs that suit you as a person and which will (if you want it) stand out and look really unique. For higher-end/more-complex projects (which a whole-house reno doesn't necessarily have to be, mind you) they're really the way to go IMO. They will liase with your GC to make sure that everything stays coordinated.

In your case, where your goal is to immediately sell the place, I would just let the general contractor handle the design and I'd lean heavily on them to help you make choices that will have broad appeal to potential buyers. If you're selling the house, you generally don't want to pour money into interesting/unusual design choices that a buyer might hate anyway. You want to figure that your buyer is eventually going to replace the kitchen, bathrooms, maybe the floors, etc. with stuff that suits them better; you just want to give them a sort of blank slate that they can live happily with for a number of years while they save up for new cabinets or whatever. Think neutral colors, mid-grade fixtures that look kinda boring, that sort of thing. A good general contractor can get you there, easily.
posted by Anticipation Of A New Lover's Arrival, The at 7:51 AM on September 16, 2016 [1 favorite]

What will the insurance pay for? Contractor-grade generic fixtures and appliances, or a bit better? Vinyl laminate or wood floors? Put the most money into the obvious elements - kitchen and bath. Mid-range is worth the extra cost if it's covered. Go to an open house or 3 and see what's currently popular in colors and other options.

If you have a great rug, loveseat, side and coffee tables and lamps to stage the living room, use them. Basket of lemons in the kitchen, some fresh flowers. Scented soaps and stacks of fresh towels in the baths.

Designer color choices. Kitchens, bathrooms. Home Depot and Lowes have staff who can help you choose everything. Take in some pictures and choose the line of fixtures that is the right price point and looks similar to a beautiful room in a magazine/ webpage.
posted by theora55 at 8:17 AM on September 16, 2016

Is the insurance settlement a cash settlement? On the "blank slate" idea - I think it might also be worthwhile to consider whether you want to consider the value of your settlement + selling the house "barebones" such that the framing is redone and ready to go, general electrical and plumbing, maybe some future flood mitigation, but nothing else is installed. No drywall, no tiling, none of that.

This would limit it to a specific kind of buyer who is interested in taking up the issues you're now overwhelmed by, such that they can customize the home to their liking, but this might mitigate some risk on your part in that you know exactly what you're getting from this and don't have to risk investing money and time picking out all of the pieces on the front end and hope that you recoup that investment from a specific kind of buyer that likes the choices you made.

Certainly if I was in a position of looking to buy a home that I know now is at risk of flooding and has previously flooded, I would be extremely suspicious of buying a house that looks flipped to me for fear of problems that aren't properly mitigated. A bare bones house would open it all up for inspection and mitigate some of those concerns for me, while also allowing me to customize the home to my liking.
posted by Karaage at 8:23 AM on September 16, 2016 [13 favorites]

I am not sure that the best course of action is to pick these finishes and rebuild. It might make sense to clean it up, leave it as studs, etc and sell it for a lower price and keep the insurance settlement in cash. A buyer might wish to want to make these decisions themselves and would buy the house for less and spend their own cash.
posted by AugustWest at 8:24 AM on September 16, 2016 [1 favorite]

If you decide to build it out, then pick a color palette and stick with it throughout the house. A good palette will have 4 neutrals (2 light/1 mid/1 dark) and 1 accent color. This will greatly narrow the number of choices you need to make in things like tile, paint and rugs. You only look at things within the palette. It will also give the house a sense of harmony.

You are looking for neutrals on the big items (walls, trim, counters) and accent colors on the staging pieces (pillows, picture frames). You do want some red/orange/bright accents which make the online photos pop. When things are too neutral, people think the house looks like a rental/unmemorable.

Don't try to peanut-butter spread the money evenly. Pick things that are showy and spend a bit more - a great stove (or even vent hood) or a really nice sink elevates the whole feel of a kitchen with generally mid-range applicances.
posted by 26.2 at 11:35 AM on September 16, 2016

Have a chat with your realtor friend and ask what she advises. She will probably have insight both into whether your case is a "get it done and closed on" situation, or whether you'll need to consider deeper curb appeal issues. (This situation is a classic HGTV scenario!) She can probably advise you on what the recent flooding has done to the housing market and whether that should have an impact on your approach.

Whatever you do, I'd definitely go with standard, easy, matchable everything. If you're basically gut renovating to sell, you might want to put in nicer or higher quality work as necessary to move the house, but there's no reason not to pick white or beige everything, ultra classic fixtures, basic flooring, materials widely available from local resources, etc. Keep it simple. Very few people don't buy a house because they were looking for something with magenta carpeting.
posted by Sara C. at 12:10 PM on September 16, 2016

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