Today’s real estate market is tough for everyone—even reality TV stars.
At least, that’s the takeaway we glean from the second episode of Tarek and Heather Rae El Moussa‘s new show, “The Flipping El Moussas.”
In “The Flipping Delays,” the married flipping partners seem to be struggling straight out of the gate, having purchased a run-down, cockroach-infested, 1971 Spanish-style house in Long Beach, CA, for a whopping $1,090,000.
After surveying how much work they’ll have to do to this five-bedroom, 2.5-bathroom, 3,517-square-foot house, they estimate they’ll need just over $300,000 to renovate, as well as an additional $125,000 in selling and carrying costs.
Yet this plan threatens to unravel due to permitting problems, plus Heather Rae’s budget-busting urge to try “elevating” the home’s design. Along the way, they teach us plenty of what to do (and avoid) when renovating and selling a house.
Pop-up power ports are the nifty new thing
Tarek and Heather Rae often tour other flip projects for inspiration, and they find one on the market for $12 million that Tarek thought about buying for $4.4 million 2.5 years ago.
Rather than being bitter about the missed opportunity to make a killing, they find inspiration in the beautifully redesigned home, and there’s one kitchen feature that they’re particularly crazy about.
The kitchen has pop-up power ports built into the countertop—they rise with the flick of a switch.
“Chargers!” exclaims Heather. They contain both outlets for small appliances and chargers for digital devices. What will they think of next?
Watch: ‘Rock the Block’ Season 4 Stars Reveal the Home Trends That Are In and Out—and the New Room We All Need
Big homes need plenty of bathrooms
When the El Moussas show up at their new project for the first time, they note that four bedrooms upstairs share one bath, and there is only a powder room with a sink and a toilet downstairs.
They wisely decide to add another bath upstairs, redo the one that’s up there, and add a shower to the half-bath downstairs. That will mean using the plumbing and space from the adjacent wet bar, which they need to get rid of.
That’s OK, says contractor Israel “Izzy” Battres, noting that a house this size needs more bathrooms. And although a wet bar can be fun, buyers probably won’t miss it. When it comes to value, a shower always trumps a wet bar.
Never underestimate permit time lags
Six weeks after their first tour, Heather Rae and Tarek revisit the house, finding lots of debris in front indicating things have been torn out of the inside.
But when they walk in, it’s eerily quiet, there are huge holes in the floor where the foundation and footings should have been poured, and much of the original drywall that’s supposed to be ripped out is still standing.
“We should be way further along than this,” says Tarek, visibly miffed.
Calling Battres for an explanation, they learn that the city permits are taking longer than anticipated.
“This is costing $2,200 a week just sitting,” complains Tarek.
They end up losing at least 12 weeks because of permit hassles. While it’s probably tempting to just move ahead, Tarek won’t take that risk.
“Other people, no permits, they do the work, they finish the house in six weeks and they’re off,” he tells Heather Rae. “Because we do things the right way, we get penalized. We probably spend $1 million a year that we wouldn’t spend if we didn’t do it the right way. It just pisses me off.”
Smooth out exterior stucco
You’ve seen houses built in the ’70s and ’80s covered with an intentionally rough, sandpaper type of stucco. You’ve also seen that dirt eventually builds up in the crevices, and the house ends up looking old, dirty, and sad, unless it’s repainted every few years.
That’s the case with this house, so Tarek and Heather Rae decide to redo the exterior, applying smooth stucco all over. Not only does it modernize and improve the home’s look, but it also reduces maintenance.
“The stucco is done. It looks way better,” says Heather Rae, reporting in. Finally, something that went right and didn’t take too long.
Save thousands on a fireplace renovation
There’s a small, brick fireplace in the great room, and the original estimate to refinish it is $9,000. That seems awfully expensive to the El Moussas.
But Heather Rae puts her head together with the designer and comes up with a way to save $6,000—by skipping the expensive stone finish, drywalling the fireplace, and then plastering over it.
They add more style by putting an arch over the fireplace box and painting the inside black. They then place a rustic wood mantel above it.
It looks fabulous without being costly. Well done, Heather Rae!
Is the El Moussas’ second flip a flop?
Records show that they purchased the house in February 2022 and listed it 11 months later, in January 2023, for $1,699,000.
At the end of the show, Tarek concludes, “It sold super fast at $1,635,000. So we ended up with a total profit of $103,000.”
Yet based on our research, this listing is still active, with an offer pending. There’s no telling whether that’s the original offer Tarek mentioned or if that fell through and another took its place. Regardless, holding costs are likely still mounting.
It could take at least a month after the deal closes to reveal the actual sales price, and we suspect the El Moussas might still make a profit, but not as much as they’d anticipated when the show aired.
So ultimately, this will likely be chalked up as a success for the couple. But was it worth the time and money invested?