We talk to Brett and Brittany Finnie of Outline Homes about what you should and shouldn't do when taking on home renovations
By Cory Schachtel | June 12, 2023
What’s the biggest mistake people make when renovating their homes?
From a construction standpoint probably some of the biggest mistakes that someone could make is not doing their homework on who they’re hiring. Find a company that has a good reputation and review their work, when possible. Things not done properly just equals problems down the road. We’re of the opinion that quality is essentially free, meaning that your upfront cost will be more, but if the work is done properly, it won’t cost you anything extra over the long term. Essentially, don’t cut corners on anything.
If someone is considering buying a 25+ year-old home, what’s a few things they should check or consider before putting down a deposit?
Take a tour of the neighbourhood. Grab a coffee one morning and take a walk around and look at the development (or lack of) that’s being done. Check with the City of Edmonton if there are any community renewal plans for updating light posts, sidewalks, drainage, parks, etc. Do most people on the block look after their homes? Are there any older commercial retail buildings in the neighbourhood? Are they vacant? These are potential locations for very cool shops that really help with gentrification and encourage community growth. Are there any community league meetings that you could attend? Most community leagues have a finger on the pulse of what’s happening in their neighbourhoods, and surrounding neighbourhoods as well! Before Brittany and I bought our home in a mature neighbourhood I went and chatted with the neighbours that were out working in their yard. I asked them what they liked and didn’t like about where they lived, and it gave me some great insight!
Are there any surprising advantages to buying an older home?
From a construction standpoint, yes there are! In addition to better quality building materials, people used a lot more of that material on older homes, as good-quality material was abundant and inexpensive. We come across homes with really thick foundations as concrete was inexpensive, and almost all of our homes are built with old-growth fir, which is exceptionally strong. Fir isn’t used on residential construction anymore as it would just be much too expensive. Another advantage is that the home has already withstood the test of time. Some of the homes we work on are over 100 years old and still standing strong.
Typically these older homes are located in mature neighbourhoods, with amazing trees and are surrounded by a lot of character homes too. They don’t look like a typical suburb or infill. Anything that’s typically built in mature neighbourhoods now is either a two-storey or three-storey home, but a lot of our homes and older homes are bungalows. Bungalows have fewer stairs and are exceptionally attractive once you start removing walls and modifying the layout. It’s a very sought after structure.
Aside from the initial purchase price, what are the surprising costs to flipping a home? Conversely, what are some ways people can save money?
Some of the surprising costs are: everything! Although some costs have come down, COVID saw material prices skyrocket, labour prices increase, and timelines stretched. When renovating a home it’s very important to set a realistic budget and timeline (and try to move out or not move in until the renovation is complete). Our approach for our clients is the same approach we take to our own flips: It’s not really about saving money, it’s about getting the best return for your money. Whether that’s a monetary return in the form of equity, or lifestyle return in the form of a feature of the home that is unique to you and that you or your family will love and enjoy forever.
If your budget doesn’t allow for everything you’d like to have in your home, be sure to let your contractor know so they can set up the next stage of the renovation before it happens to make things as easy as possible when your budget can allow it.
Bonus question: Is there a type of house (style, construction material, location) that is a nightmare to flip?
We haven’t come across any projects that have been a nightmare for us yet! We’re all very experienced in what we do so there’s not much that bothers us. The great thing about our business is that each home is unique and comes with its own unique features and style. Honestly, we say that typically the worst part of working on older homes is the demo just because they’re all built so well, and it takes a lot of effort to undo some of the work that was originally done!