What is there to do when the final touches are put onto a home, when that last coat of paint has dried and the carefully chosen decor sits in its rightful place? For Ericka and Wes Birkett of Salmon Arm, that next step is simple: sell it, and start the whole process over from scratch.
The Birkett’s have turned their passion for home renovation into a lucrative hobby, fixing up four run-of-the-mill houses in just two years with intensive renovations and improvements. Their finished products have caught the attention of home buyers in the area and, somehow, they balance this all between work and keeping up with the schedules of four busy children.
They never intended to sell their first renovated house. The home improvements were something to add a personal touch to the place they were calling home. However, after noticing an up-swing in the real estate market, they felt the time was right to sell and put the profits towards a productive goal.
“The first one was kind of accidental,” Ericka notes with a laugh. “It was a foreclosure and we bought it, we did a few things to it, we did the roof and we did the landscaping and some flooring, paint, just cosmetic stuff. And then the market went way up and we were like ‘wow our house is worth this much!’ And then we decided to do it again. This is the fourth one in just over two years that we’ll be selling.”
This process, buying a house, putting it through substantial renovations and then selling, is known as home flipping. While it may sound like a straight-forward process it doesn’t come without its challenges, especially for a family of six.
“We really only have weekends to do this, that’s it,” Wes says. “Because we both work and the kids have activities. We just have to commit, say we’re going to do something this weekend and do it.”
Along with the time constraints amidst their busy schedules, they quickly found that completing substantial renovations on-time and on-budget is not as easy in practice as it is on paper.
“It’s not like it is on TV!” Ericka exclaims, “Where they go in and buy a house for next to nothing and fix it up for next to nothing.”
One thing that has constantly kept the Birkett’s on their toes is the fact they live in these houses while renovating and preparing to sell, meaning a constant string of packing, moving, rearranging and living in the midst of a construction zone.
“Last November to Christmas the kitchen table and all of the cabinets were in the living room, I had my stove and my fridge in the living room. It was a challenge, sometimes it’s definitely tricky,” Ericka says.
It can also lead to some impromptu construction work that lets the whole family get in on the fun, such as when their eldest son, Lucas, helped them make up their mind about whether or not to demolish a wall.
“Like when we took down the wall in the kitchen. Wes was at work and my oldest son he wanted to hammer something, so we let him hammer away, and then we’re like… I guess that wall is coming down, that’s that,” Ericka says.
Another inevitability of the home-flipping process is the constant relocation to different homes. While some may get quickly frustrated with the repeated moves, it actually seems to be something the Birkett’s enjoy. Especially their children, who like the fact they get to constantly re-design their perfect bedrooms.
“The kids are on board too,” Wes says. “They’re actually excited, they say ‘in my next room I’m going to do this, my next room is going to be blue’ or stuff like that.”
Ericka admits that, while she has no problem leaving the home itself, it’s harder to leave the people they meet along the way.
“I read a quote once that said home is a feeling not a place, it’s where you go not where you live,” she says. “But sometimes I have a harder time leaving the neighbors, and the kids always make friends around our new houses, I have a hard time with that, we’ve always had super good neighbors.”
-For some before-and-after photos of the Birkett’s renovations, check out the story on www.saobserver.net.