“I quit my desk job to turn houses”

Photo: Getty Images

Three years ago, Caroline quit her job as a credit analyst to become a home leader. She borrowed money from the family to buy her first property.

Caroline (34) lives with Frank (35) and together they have a daughter, Louise (3).

“When I tell people at parties that I’m a homebody troublemaker, I usually get a response that it’s a beneficial form of investment. Somehow I understand this reaction, because I make money in the relatively short term by buying my own house, but I don’t see it as an investment for myself.

For me, house flipping isn’t an investment, it’s a business, because a lot has to happen before I realize the increase in value — or cash, as my friend would say. By the way, the tax authorities agree with me that this is a business, not an investment, because my turnover is almost halved.

office work

About three years ago I quit my regular job. As a credit analyst in a trucking company, I earned a good salary, €3,400 gross per month for a 32-hour work week, but especially after the birth of our daughter Louise I felt increasingly resistant to working an office day in and day out.

Perhaps it has to do with the fact that I had tasted more ‘freedom’ while on vacation: Once back on the shop floor I prepared financing requests for clients as usual and during that average workday I only left my desk to eat lunch in the company canteen. You made me simple. I wanted more freedom and more work with my hands. Because I really liked the latter, I discovered it a year ago.

Restoration House

My friend and I bought a house to renovate near Amersfoort. With our daughter on the way, our apartment became quite small and our budget wasn’t quite enough for a ready-to-move-in home. Now my handy boyfriend–he’s worked as an interior designer for years–and I found it challenging to completely strip this renovation house and give it new wall coverings, floors, kitchen, and bathroom.

“It was particularly hard physically, but mentally it was really good to be up to my ear with the manual labor.”

With the help of a handyman at things we couldn’t really do ourselves, like installing the electrics and turning the septic system, we renovated the entire house. So heavy, it completely swallowed up our free time. We worked all evenings and weekends. When I think back, that was hard. But especially physically, because mentally it felt really good to be up to my ear on the odd job. I totally enjoyed this physical work. It was very different from my usual nine-to-five job, and I found it very rewarding and satisfying to see things get better and better before my eyes.

house flipping

In that period the need arose to expand the DIY business and do it as a normal business, I think. Because once we lived in that beautiful renovated house and I went back to my employer every Monday through Thursday, I missed getting caught up in the DIY stuff. He joked to me about it: “I miss the hammer and the circular saw, who would have thought.” My friend listened and became more serious in his response that I should consider a career change.

I love the Instagram @fundamakeovers account. Posted on it are pictures of houses in rather poor condition, which sell for much more after a rigorous renovation and often within a year. Homes that buy for €200,000, for example, sell for an additional €2,000 after a major round of renovation. Strange isn’t it? My friend came up with a concrete plan to do the same.

“I lay awake with anxiety. What were we not thinking about?”

We had a large amount in our savings account—due in part to a few very generous gifts from his parents—and my dad also wanted to help us financially with the purchase of our first upper stabilizer. Thanks to the great luck of the dear family who helped us, we were able to buy our first folding house for 210 thousand euros. By then, I had quit my job and was terrified of all those big new steps. I lay awake with anxiety. What did we get ourselves? What did we think, will we suddenly become a smart home flipper?

Also read – Buying a home gets exciting: We’ve been offered 40,000 over asking price. Nerve racking’>

The first handyman house

We’ve been working on our first DIY home for almost eight months. Blood, sweat and tears. My part-time boyfriend, I’m as much as I can be. Meanwhile, Louise was of course in our lives and I also enjoyed her pure and alone for whole days. For this reason, but also because I still had a lot to learn, it took a long time before the house was back on the market. So I don’t seem impatient with plaster. So stupid, because you can still see every little mistake on such a tightly plastered wall. If something is really messy, it should be completely finished.

“The €167,500 profit seems huge, but there are still renewal costs and we have to pay income tax on the remaining amount.”

When our first DIY home sold for €377,500, we blew champagne. Incidentally, this profit of €167,500 seems like a lot, but about €80,000 is deducted from the renewal costs and we have to pay income tax on the rest. Although, of course, he will still earn good money in eight months.

Soon after, we put the profit, with some extra savings, into our next DIY apartment purchase, which costs €155,000. When we bought it it was not visible. That’s ideal, I know now, because the housing market is in hysterics and if something is in really bad shape, the necessary buyers have already walked out.

on your own

I remember being asked by a teacher at Louise’s daycare about the work I did. She always saw me in tough work clothes. It was the first time I said out loud that I was a house flipper and I felt so good.

On my own, by copying from my friend and spending hours on YouTube, I’ve learned a lot. Except for electricity, I really don’t dare. I learned to paint, plaster, tile, lay the floors and install the shower wall and sink myself. I’ve learned to plan and budget and can actually look at a broken-down space with more building insight.

“I learned to paint, plaster, and lay tiles, and I could lay the floors and install the shower wall and sink myself.”

During the renovation, I take into account what is good for sales: a herringbone floor, for example, is popular. Just like a black kitchen, preferably with a gold faucet, steel-look doors, and a patio or garden setting with a bespoke wooden lounge nook. I really feel like making a sculptural lounge sofa in our DIY Pinterest-worthy home by hanging a barbed wire filled with lights above it. It will definitely become a bestseller.

This article appears in Kek Mama 10-2022.

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