Fix and Flip: Should You Touch the Staircase?

House flipping investors can only afford to spend so much on acquisitions and renovations if they hope to make money. Where renovations are concerned, mechanical and structural issues must be addressed. Anything aesthetic is optional. For example, let us talk staircases. Is it in a house flipper’s best interests to address an old and worn out staircase, or should it be left alone?

Flipping really took off as a moneymaking venture during the early 2000s. Spurred on by good prices and a robust housing market, investors figured out how to turn uninspiring properties into homes people wanted to buy. Though house flipping is not as prolific today, there are still plenty of investors doing it. And all these years later, the number one concern remains constant: how much to spend on renovations.

Aesthetics Are Important

Again, structural and mechanical issues cannot be ignored. An investor cannot sell a house that is not structurally sound. The same goes for a house with flawed mechanicals. And yet, aesthetics are also important. Why? Because buyers are not likely to spend money on homes they find aesthetically displeasing. Realtors generally recommend staging a house prior to sale for this very reason.

Staging is all about presenting a good aesthetic. It is about giving potential buyers something pleasing to look at. As such real estate investors specializing in house flipping have to consider a finished property’s aesthetic appeal.

There is no doubt that a well-designed custom staircase can improve the aesthetics of a home dramatically. Bear in mind that a typical central staircase is a focal point. In many homes, the staircase is one of the first things you see upon entry through the front door.

It might be worth it for some investors to put money into older staircases in order to improve the overall aesthetic of the home. In such cases, it is often a question of how much money to allocate to the stairs.

Addressing Tired Balustrades

It is possible to really spruce up an old staircase without having to replace it entirely. One option is to address tired balustrades. If you’re not familiar with the terminology, a balustrade is the entire combination of spindles (or balusters), handrail, and newel posts.

According to The Iron Spindle out of Atlanta, Georgia, the decision to replace wood spindles with wrought iron can do wonders for a staircase. Wrought iron spindles are fairly inexpensive and pretty easy to install. Replacing the entire balustrade is obviously more expensive, but not necessarily prohibitively expensive depending on the investor’s budget.

Applying a New Finish

Whether balustrades are addressed or not, applying a new finish can drastically improve a staircase as well. You strip away the old finish to remove everything down to the bare wood. You fill in imperfections with an appropriate filler material, then sand and refinish.

Refinished steps do for staircases what a fresh coat of paint does for the walls. A good finish brings an old staircase alive. It makes a staircase look new, fresh, and inviting.

Total Staircase Replacement

Replacing a staircase totally is not the norm for fix and flip projects. There is too much money involved. However, an investor may not have a choice if a property’s staircase is structurally unsound. Just like a damaged foundation or a leaky roof, an unsound staircase has to be addressed. Oftentimes that means total replacement.

The question of whether or not to address the staircase in fix and flip situations often comes down to money. Investors have to walk that fine line between improvements that will increase resale price and those that only increase costs.

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