Category Archives: renovations

How Green Home Renovations Can Help You Sell or Rent Your Home

We consider ourselves environmentally aware. For years we’ve been putting in  CFL lightbulbs, replacing water hogging toilets with low flush versions, buying high efficiency furnaces and using non-toxic paint. Most of these choices make sense for the environment and for our bottom line … but we’ve never actually written about it at Rev N You. So when Steve emailed with this article we jumped at the chance to share this information with you guys!! In this post you’re going to learn some really great ideas to consider if you’re renovating a rental property or even doing a flipper in order to maximize the rental value or resale value.  Let us know what you think!

by Steve Stillwater

In a tough real estate market, you need every possible incentive for someone to buy (or rent) your home, rather than another comparable home on the market. How can you create that advantage for your home over the other houses in your price range? Try some green home remodeling and home renovations.

Reports from housing markets all over North America indicate that green homes sell more quickly than those without energy-saving or water-saving benefits. The reason is easy to understand. The cost of living in these homes is lower for the buyer or tenant.

But there is a more subtle reason as well. Almost everyone wants to feel that they are doing something good for the environment. Living in a home with green lifestyle features satisfies that want and gives the buyer or renter an emotional reason to choose your home in addition to a financial one. Since virtually all purchases, especially homes, have an emotional trigger as well as a logical one, offering a home with green benefits is a sure-fire way to make your home stand out. This is especially true in a tough, competitive real estate market.

So, how can you differentiate your house as a greener alternative? Here are some easy-to-implement suggestions, which will also give you benefits that you can include in your promotional materials.

  1. Make sure you can promote the advantages of energy efficiency in your sales flyer. There are a lot of ways to improve the energy efficiency of your home. For example, replace any older appliances with Energy Star appliances that use less energy. The benefits in lower utility bills will be a plus for the buyer or renter.
  2. Wrap your water tank with insulation to reduce heat loss. You can buy all the insulation you need for about $20 or less. This one is inexpensive and easy.
  3. Seal drafts around windows and doors with weather stripping or caulk, and mention that this has been done in your promotional materials. Adding some insulation to the attic is also an inexpensive way to improve energy efficiency.
  4. Install compact fluorescent bulbs (CFLs) everywhere. Lighting accounts for about 10-20% of average home energy use, and CFLs use 75% less energy than standard incandescent bulbs and last up to 10 times longer. The out-of-pocket cost is minimal when you consider the value to your home, and CFLs are another benefit that will save the new occupant money. Make sure you mention this advantage in your promotional materials.
  5. Consider bamboo if you are putting in new flooring. Bamboo wears as well as hardwoods, has a beautiful appearance, and has the advantage of being widely recognized as a green building material.
  6. Use low VOC paints (VOC is an abbreviation for Volatile Organic Compounds, which are unpleasant to be around at best, and toxic at worst). Be sure to mention that they were used. Low VOC paints will reassure buyers who are health conscious.
  7. Solar panels are a huge selling point, and rebates and tax credits are offered as an incentive to defray the high up-front cost. The up front cost is still not trivial, however, and installation can take up to 3-4 months, including the planning and permitting. If you have time, solar panels are worth considering. If you are in a hurry to get your house on the market, this may not be a viable option.
  8. If installing solar panels is too costly or time-consuming to consider, a solar water heater may be a quicker, more cost-effective solution. Since about 15% of the typical home energy bill goes toward heating water, the savings for the new buyer will be meaningful, as well as a selling point for you.

Green remodeling is a great way to make your home stand above the others in a competitive marketplace. Green upgrades and features give your buyer both a financial incentive to consider your home and an emotional reason to desire owning your home. The latter may prove to be even more important.

Steve Stillwater promotes healthy, green lifestyles, with easy-to-implement ideas to use less energy and conserve resources. Living a greener lifestyle is a way of life for Steve, and he hopes that it will become a way of life for you as well. He writes regularly about practical tips and ideas for developing a green lifestyle at

Image Credit: © Norebbo |


Filed under Flipping, renovations

Thinking of Flipping Real Estate? Here’s a few things to consider…

Awhile back we shared the video diary of our rental property renovation project …  I was just clearing out some videos and found this little clip we hadn’t shared. It’s not that it’s a really exciting video – it’s not. That is probably why I didn’t include it in the video diary in the first place.

But, if you followed our project you might recall that we cut up a kitchen counter to make it fit in the bathroom and then cut a hole in it for the sink… only to find out the sink leaked. And then when we tried to find a new sink in that same size – they didn’t make them anymore! We were really stuck.

We learned quite a few lessons during that project. These lessons apply to any renovation project where time is of the essence – which is EVERY renovation project because every day costs you money!

Here’s the top 3 lessons we learned:

  1. Plan your project before you begin. A big part of the planning project includes shopping for the items you’re going to need. For example, we could have saved ourselves a lot of hassle had we expanded our counter search beyond Home Depot, the local lumber yard, and custom kitchen stores (as you’ll hear in this video). We needed an item in stock because there wasn’t time to order, but had we spent a day of shopping FIRST we would have saved ourselves 1/2 days pay that we paid my brother to custom cut the kitchen counter to the size of a vanity counter top.
  2. Factor in travel time for product returns, exchanges and forgotten items. Even the best planned aspects of the project still resulted in an extra trip to the lumber yard or a quick run to Home Depot. This easily added in a day of work for the project. Home Depot was 15 minutes away … so every trip was at least an hour … and that’s if Home Depot staff were actually easy to find. The lumber yard was only about 10 minutes away but it was still a 40 minute trip.

  3. Get copies of the menus of the local delivery and take out places. Instead of stopping the whole crew to go for lunch, have a menu handy so you can take orders and pick up everyone’s food or have it delivered. Unless the property is right beside a Quizno’s you’ll find that meal breaks will really eat into your productive time. Doing this saved us hours over the course of the week.


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Filed under Flipping, investing, real estate, renovations

Rental Property Renovations – the diary continued

Sink in the Kitchen before the renovation

Sink in the Kitchen before the renovation

Well – yesterday actually marks the official completion of our rental property renovation project. We had to hire a professional to come in a finish the bathroom floors because we ran out of time … as with every remodeling project we’ve ever done it seemed that unexpected surprises lurked around every little corner in the house! Thankfully every challenge was resolved fairly easily with a bit of money and a bit more time. 😀

So here’s the wrap up videos…

Day 5 and 6 of the Rental Property Renovation Project

Day 7 and 8 of the Rental Property Renovation Project

Have you done a renovation project on a rental property? How did you decide what parts to upgrade? Did it come in on time and on budget? If so, how’d you do it? What size was your project? Tell us about it!!

We’re going to add up the final receipts and do a summary of the costs and the lessons learned in an upcoming post …  we know a lot of people are curious what we did this for. I can tell you that we’d budgeted about $5500 and I KNOW we are over that budget by at least $1000 … so stay tuned!

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Filed under investing, real estate, renovations, Video

Reader Mail: Upset about the article “The Motivated Seller You Don’t Want to Buy From”

Once in awhile, we get a really good email that is from someone who isn’t happy with what we said. I say once in awhile because we don’t get very many emails from people that aren’t happy with us (thank goodness!), and when we do it’s usually something very random and useless to us like “This is annoying content – I’m unsubscribing”.  Okay then!

Yesterday though, we received an email from someone who was a bit upset with my article on Monday called “The Motivated Seller You Don’t Want to Buy From“.  My first reaction was to write him and apologize profusely. I don’t want to offend or hurt anyone with my articles! And, I feel really bad when I do. Then, I thought about it and reread my article.  I will share my response to him below… first, here’s our reader’s email:

Hi there Julie,
I do really enjoy reading your articles but, I was a bit hurt by this one.  I am new to investing in real estate and I feel that flipping is a great way to get some start up capital for larger buy-rent-hold properties.  I am in the construction industry myself and run my own business.  When I reno a home I do it as if I were moving in.  I also do it in up and coming neighbourhoods I pick a unloved home and make it lovable again.  I guess all I am saying is that not all of us FLIPPERS are shady characters.  I love doing what I do and I am very good at it.  It is like anything out there…some people are good at what they do(and do a good job) and others, you are right are just in it for the cash and dont care how they do it.  Anyhow I do love your articles and hope you keep up the fantastic writing!
Just Venting,
So…here’s my response:

First of all, thank you for writing me and sharing your concerns. After I reread what I wrote, I have to admit that I did use a pretty wide brush to paint all “Flippers” as the same. That was definitely an error on my part. Not every property that gets fixed up and flipped will be done with lack of care and concern for quality.

What I should have made clear was to say that if there are things on the surface that look poorly done – then it’s nearly guaranteed that the things you CAN’T see are even worse. When the finishings and the work you CAN see is high quality, then the things you can’t see (like plumbing and electrical work) are more likely to have been done well.

If I was looking to buy a place to live in myself, I would be pleased to buy a home from someone who has done a buy, fix and flip, if the work was done well. When buying a property from someone who is passionate about the job they are doing (which, clearly you are!) and who is not going to cut corners to make a bigger profit, a renovated home can be better than a brand new home! Renovated homes can often be little gems full of character in fantastic areas that are established. And, they often sit on larger lots than new homes do!

My point was not to say that you should never buy from a flipper, nor was it to say that every flipper will do a crappy job on a renovation – my point was to say that a flipper is not likely to be the motivated seller a real estate investor is looking for.
As a real estate investor, you will find the best opportunities buried within problems. Motivated sellers have problems. They are  motivated because of their situation – and that situation is an opportunity for you to solve their problem and make a better deal because of it.

There are plenty of reasons someone might be motivated to sell their house: sickness, job loss, divorce, moving, and even too much debt, among other reasons. In these situations, you will find a motivated seller that NEEDS to sell, and will sell at a lower price just to solve their problem (or will give you better terms on the deal whether it be seller financing or longer due diligence periods etc.).

In MOST cases, someone who has purchased a property to fix and flip it, is not motivated for the reasons you want as an investor. They will NOT accept a lower price because they have costs to recover and profits to make. It doesn’t mean every fix it and flip it house is going to be a money pit – like the Toronto triplex we bought has been. It just means that as a real estate investor looking to maximize cashflow (which means minimizing the purchase price and then maximizing the rent and minimizing expenses each month), buying from a flipper is the least likely to produce the best deal. It also can result in buying a problematic property, if you aren’t careful.

I hope that makes sense – and I do apologize because I really did sensationalize the drama we went through with the triplex and blamed it on the flipper, and the poor quality of work he did. That did take away from the point of the article.

Thanks again for your email Blair. Your point was a very important one, and I am sure you weren’t the only one that I offended with the article – you were just the only one kind enough to point out my generalization. So, thank you! And thanks for continuing to be a Rev N You with Real Estate subscriber. We’re happy to have you as a reader.
Best Regards,

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Filed under Flipping, investing, real estate, renovations

Real Estate Renovations

Do you ever wonder what EXACTLY people are referring to when they refer to a house and say “the place just needs a bit of lipstick”, or “it’s just ugly but has good bones”? Well, we have a property in Nanaimo that fits that description. Our tenants are leaving and we’re getting ready to either sell it (nice timing, eh?) or rent it out to new tenants. When our realtor walked through, he said that it needed some touch ups to make it look better. I sent my Mom through the property – she is incredible at envisioning what a property can be with some simple changes – and she said all it really needed is to pull down the sunshine ceiling in the kitchen and some paint. And, she kindly offered, “your Dad can probably do the work”.

Well the only thing I love better than something being easy is something being easy and free. So, I got up at 5am on Saturday and boarded one of BC’s lovely ferries to go to Nanaimo for the day and help my Dad. With 6 hours of a work a few hundread dollars in materials we made a big difference. It’s all about the simple and cheap real estate renovations.

Check it out:

The Sunshine Ceiling in the Kitchen EXACTLY how it was when we arrived.

Who would put the wires on the outside of the ceiling? What a mess!

Who would put the wires on the outside of the ceiling? What a mess!


Ceiling needs painting...but otherwise...much better

Ceiling needs painting...but otherwise...much better

Simple changes make a big difference:

Old Hardware and New Hardware - Big Difference!

Old Hardware and New Hardware - Big Difference!

Once the painting is done, it will look much fresher and way more appealing. It’s tough to translate that into dollars directly, but I can assure you we are more likely to get new renters at the highest possible rental rates with it looking like that!

We’ve never bought properties to flip – we make changes like this to attract renters, get higher rents, or if we’re interested in selling the property, to increase the speed of the sale or increase the sale price. Knowing what simple changes can make a big difference can really help enhance the value of a property. Here’s a few ideas for low cost and low skill but high impact changes you can do yourself, from the outside in:

  • Simple yard maintenance like mowing the lawn, pulling out the weeds, raking leaves
  • Power washing the outside of the home to get it clean
  • Painting the window trims or the outside of the house
  • Inside of the house…change the hardware (as shown above) to update cabinets and cupboards
  • Fill holes in the walls
  • Paint!! ALWAYS makes a difference… stick to neutral colours
  • In the bathroom instead of replacing a counter top you can paint it. There are special paints you can use. We’ve done this and it’s such a cheap and effective way to cover up the 70’s purples or oranges
  • Replace light fixtures with more modern ones
  • Clean! With a fresh coat of paint and a good cleaning almost every place looks much better.

Want to learn more about real estate investing? Check out our website at

We’ve got a free Real Estate Investing Starter Tips Guide you will get along with our e-mail newsletter articles and tips.

Being able to spot the ugly houses that simply need a few light cosmetic changes can be tough. There are programs that can help you make sure you don’t waste your money on renovations. One book you can download to help you learn more is Renovating Real Estate for Profit. With steps to take to help you avoid making mistakes AND a money back guarantee, you can’t go wrong. Check it out here.


Filed under financing, investing, real estate, renovations