House Flipper Speaks – Ode to the Cat House

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House Flipper Speaks – Ode to the Cat House

We are in the final stages of renovating a nice brick home. This home is on a cul-de-sac in a nice, established neighborhood in our town. I just wanted to pause and extol the virtues of this cathouse and so many like it that we fix and sell.

Now get your minds out of the gutter – I am singing the praises of the humble house cat and its fanatical owners and defenders everywhere.

I’m sure that many of you have seen “Flip this House” and the glamour of buying and selling homes for a large profit. It’s what I do every day, but I want to tell you the rest of the story…

The owners of the “Cathouse” owned seven cats and three dogs and let them have the run of the house. The litter box was a pair of urine soaked piles of towels on the floor. They were covered with old and new cat and dog excrement. The occupants moved out and left us enough stuff (junk) to fill three, huge 20-yard construction dumpsters. We carried out everything from beds and bed linens to couches, a TV and books. We also swept and vacuumed up enough pet hair to fill a couple of trash bags.

The house was in reasonably good shape on the inside (no major repairs), except for cat hair and the all-pervasive smell of cat urine. One of the things that the TV probably won’t tell you is that one of the biggest reasons for buying a house cheaply is that the owners have let their pets ruin it on the inside.

People who will live in this kind of mess often run into financial issues and then they can’t afford to fix up the property and put it for sale. When I walk into a prospective seller’s house and I am hit with the stink of pets I know that I will probably buy this house for 50-60% of its possible market value. In the case of the current cathouse, I figured a low-to-medium finished market value and then offered 70% because no major repairs were needed.

Here is the anatomy of the deal.

Finished Value of the 1600 sq. ft house – $96,000 to $104,000.

My offer – accepted at $67,000.

Bank loan based on work to be done – $76,800.

We received funds for renovation of $9800 at closing.

Renovation needed – Outside painted (house and garage), soffits repaired and some wood replaced. The roof was re-shingled; we spent 3 days of cutting back trees and overgrowth. The entry door light and the light above the stove were replaced. We installed new living room carpet. We mopped the floors with soap twice, vinegar once and bleach water once. Then we had the house professionally cleaned. It was at this point that we finally got the pet smell out. The entire inside of the house was repainted in antique white. The hardwood floors have been sanded and stained and are waiting to be varnished. The large deck on the rear of the house had some bad wood, which was replaced and will be painted as soon as weather permits.

We also replaced the overhead garage door with a new steel one. The final piece of the puzzle is to install four foundation piers to stabilize the south end of the house in two places. One is in and I will resume working on the rest when it stops raining.

Total renovation costs will be about $13,000, mostly for labor. Materials on this project were around $3000.

The house will shortly be put for sale at a price point of $99,700. The sale creates a potential profit of nearly $20,000.

The Moral of the Cathouse??? – Pets in the house = profits in Steve and Jodi’s pocket.

Now before I get a bunch of hate mail let me say that I have nothing against pets. We have a dog and have had cats, chickens, guineas and even raised a couple of pigs. People who house train their pets and send them out to go potty or let them live outside will have no problems with pet odor.

There are some common characteristics of many houses that we buy from private individuals. Here are a few:

Pet Odor – the owners are pet lovers who have let the pets rule the house and potty anywhere and everywhere. Eventually their noses get immune to the stink.

Coins and Change all over – The same type of people who have no regard for their home and possessions often have no regard for coins. It is not uncommon to pick up $2-$3 in pennies and coins just left on the floor. We often find jars of change or pennies. The old saying mind your P’s (pennies) and Q’s (quarters) and your dollars will take care of themselves is very true today. There is a reason that these people are selling a house at 65% of its market value.

Loads of cleaners and candles – The house is filthy dirty and there is nearly always an abundance of cleaning supplies. We carry hundreds of dollars worth of cleaner home from these places.

Long Live the humble house cat!

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