10 Insider Secrets for Reducing the Cost of Your Flip House Renovation

A house renovation can quickly spiral out of control if you're not careful. Here are a few insider tips to help you shave off costs to stay on budget and come out ahead.

By Jeff Vasishta | Published Sep 8, 2022 10:48 AM

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This article is part of Bob Vila’s Guide to House Flipping in 2022, a month-long series dedicated to showing you the best places for house flipping, crucial steps for selecting a property, must-do upgrades and repairs, and surprising ways to reduce your costs to get the most from your house flipping sales. Each week, we’ll bring you fresh insights mixed with Bob’s tried-and-true advice, our vetted shopping guides, and the inside track to the right professionals to get your flip to the finish line.

Unlike a renovation for a personal residence, a house flip requires a certain approach. Having a house that appeals to the broadest range of buyers for the least expense possible is a fine art. It involves not only knowing what finishes and appliances to use but how much to buy them for, when to repair instead of replace, and why doing work yourself to save money isn’t always the best policy.

RELATED: How Much Are Home Renovation Costs? Home Remodeling and Renovation Costs Explained

1. Buy in bulk or discontinued items for a discount.

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House flippers who renovate multiple homes simultaneously often use the same finishes on all their projects and attend warehouse sales to buy bulk for a lower cost. Negotiating cheaper rates for discontinued items at supply stores is also a way to save money. However, this process has risks, too, as design styles change, and if you buy too much of one item, you might get stuck with it.

2. Consider doing certain projects yourself.

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If you only flip one house at a time, you might want to consider taking on a few projects yourself. Painting, landscaping, and staining are jobs most novices can do. However, if you flip multiple houses, the best use of your time is looking for the next deal rather than focusing on saving money on one.

3. Buy high-end, lightly used appliances.

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A home with high-end industrial appliances such as Viking, Thermador, and Miele always adds high voltage glamor to a kitchen and often justifies asking for a higher price. In reality, lightly used appliances can cost the same as brand new standard ones. Still, when they have been shined to a gleaming finish and any worn-looking parts replaced, most buyers won’t ask questions or care. Big, shiny top-notch appliances make listing photos and descriptions pop and add a wow factor when buyers first enter a kitchen. Look for deals for these on Craigslist, Facebook Marketplace, and elsewhere.

RELATED: Worth It: 8 Renovations That Pay You Back

4. Repair existing windows rather than replacing them.

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It’s usually far less expensive to repair a window than replace it. If a spring or a pane of glass is broken, they can be purchased for a few dollars and replaced in minutes. Thoroughly cleaning windows and painting the trim will make them look new.

RELATED: What’s the Difference: Renovation vs. Remodel?

5. Refinish existing hardwood floors.

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Flip TV shows always showcase a hidden hardwood floor reveal. However, even if you pull up the existing carpet to find original hardwood floors, it doesn’t necessarily mean they will suit your house remodel. Mixing and matching wood stains to achieve a contemporary look after a light sanding can take your floors from drab to fab for minimal cost.

6. Reglaze and refinish your tub and tiles.

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Can’t wait to demo your bathroom and be done with those avocado tiles and the grimy bathtub? Think again. Rather than demoing and retiling, consider hiring a pro to reglaze. Expect to pay between $800 to $1200 to hire a contractor to fix all the chips, cracks, and rust in your disco-era tub, shower surround, and wall tiles. A proper glaze job lasts 10-15 years and is 75 percent cheaper than replacing it. A pro can complete the job in 2-4 hours, with the tub ready to use in 48 hours, allowing your renovation to proceed quickly. What’s more, you’re not restricted to just one color. Consider having the bullnose (trim tiles) glazed black to offset the white tiles below and add a high-end look to your low-cost renovation.

RELATED: 13 Renovation Lessons You Don’t Want to Learn the Hard Way

7. Refinish kitchen cabinets or replace front panels.

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Refinishing kitchen cabinets is a tried and trusted way to save money on a house renovation. However, if the design of the home’s existing cabinets screams mullets, leg warmers, and acid-washed jeans, give them a face-lift. Replace the fronts with new stylish designs and contemporary hardware. You’ll have chic new kitchen cabinetry in just a few hours at a fraction of the cost of installing them all new.

8. Make an extra bedroom out of an attic.

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If you’ve got the headroom, create a bedroom. Attics, especially those in older homes with a staircase, are great places to create another living space. Framing, insulating, and sheet rocking below the rafters can create an additional cozy bedroom, play area, or office. It’s usually relatively easy to install a mini-split ductless unit to regulate the temperature. Advertising a flip with an additional bedroom or dedicated home office is a huge plus that will more than pay for itself in the listing price.

RELATED: Under the Eaves: 21 Arresting Attic Rooms

9. Use gravel on the exterior or repair the concrete.

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If you’re coming to the end of your flip and money’s running low, don’t worry, there are still creative ways to deal with that cracked driveway to boost curb appeal. If it’s asphalt, hiring a specialist to repair the cracks and seal coat it will do wonders. For concrete, consider power washing away the grime, patching the cracks, and spraying on the stain, followed by a finishing seal. It’s a relatively simple process you can do yourself if you want to save more money. If the driveway is beyond repair, removing and replacing it with gravel over a weed blocker barrier will look great in photos and is inexpensive and easy to do.

10. Get your real estate license to save on commissions.

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Getting your real estate license is prudent if you flip multiple properties or even a few expensive ones. It costs around $500 to buy an online course that prepares you to take your agent’s test. Once you have the license, you’ll save a fortune on sales commissions. Moreover, friends, family, and fellow flippers might ask you to list their homes, earning you additional income.