'Flip or Flop': Tarek and Christina Uncover the Secrets of Selling a House in a Bad Location

Lisa Johnson Mandell

Tarek and Christina El Moussa have faced their fair share of challenges on "Flip or Flop." Many homes are in terrible condition—they've seen failing foundatioins and out-of-date interiors—but they always seem to overcome, with a savvy renovation concept and on-trend design choices.

But this time, on the episode called "Dark and Dingy," the house's condition isn't the hard part—it's the less than desirable neighborhood. How do you overcome that?

The property they've chosen to make over is a three-bedroom, two-bath, 1,200-square-foot home in Gardena, CA, a city in the South Bay region of Los Angeles County. The house itself is situated in an area with abandoned industrial buildings, graffiti, chain-link fences, and traffic (it is L.A. County, after all!). But the real kicker? It's on a busy thoroughfare.

"This is not the best location," Tarek says. "It's on a main street, and from [the front porch], I can hear lots of street noise."

Clearly, it will take more than a new open floor plan and a pretty kitchen backsplash to flip this place.

To make a profit in this one, we have to be cost-efficient—that's Flipping 101," he says.

But Christina has a different perspective.

"Tarek thinks [flipping a house in a location like this] doesn't justify spending money for higher-end design choices, but that's exactly what we need to get a buyer past this less desirable neighborhood," she says.

As Tarek and Christina go head-to-head trying to make this property into something buyers will love, they also give out some remarkable advice for rehabbing a home in an undesirable location. Here are some of their best tips.

Try to buy as low as possible

Because of the questionable location, Tarek manages to get the sellers to come down from their original $450,000 asking price to $420,000. Contractor Israel "Izzy" Battres estimates renovations will cost at least $70,000, so their all-in total is around $490,000. Surprisingly enough, comps in the neighborhood are around $580,000. Seeing what could be a $100,000-plus profit in store, Tarek rolls up his sleeves and gets to work.

Eliminate street noise

When Tarek and Christina walk into the house and close the front door behind them, they can still hear street noise, so the first order of the day is to install double-paned windows. They're more expensive, but they provide excellent sound buffering, so it's a cost they're willing to shell out for. Eliminating the street noise as much as possible will ultimately help sell the home.

Make it as spacious as possible

The key to making a small house feel larger is to improve the flow from room to room. Tarek thinks expanding the kitchen by making a wider pass-through door will be enough, but Christina wants to go all out and tear down the entire wall, putting in a big island to separate the kitchen from the great room.

"Too expensive," complains Tarek.

But Christina overrules him: "This kitchen is tiny!" she says. "If we're going to get top dollar for this place, I've got news for you: Size does matter!"

How can Tarek argue with that?

Add an accent ceiling

After knocking down the kitchen wall, the great room is now so wide open that Christina feels a little somethin' somethin' is needed to define the dining space. She accomplishes this by creating an accent ceiling over the dining area, using reclaimed wood. You wouldn't think this would make a big difference, but the buyers who come to the open house absolutely gush over it.

Always inspect the roof

From the outside, the roof appears to be in decent condition, and only needs a few patches. But once Battres climbs up there to inspect it, he finds there are four layers of roofing piled on top of each other.

"How many are allowed?" asks Christina.

"Two!" replies Battres, telling her that they'll have to rip everything off and put on a whole new roof.

It's an unanticipated expense, but Battres says the house will never be up to code unless they start from scratch.

Create a master suite

"By making the front bedroom a master suite, we'll get a huge return on the investment," says Tarek. They do this by eliminating the hallway entrance into the bathroom adjacent to the biggest bedroom in the house, and making that bathroom accessible only through the master bedroom.

Economize on bathroom tile

Christina has a brilliant idea for spending less on the bathroom tile: She lays the colorful tile vertically, rather than horizontally.

"Like a racing stripe," Battres says.

"Laying the tile in a unique pattern will have a big impact on design without spending a lot of money," she says.

Her design trick also makes the bathroom feel taller, more spacious, and modern.

Ditch the wrought-iron posts

Many homes built during the 1930s to the '50s—including this one—have front porch posts made of elaborately scrolled and painted wrought iron. They're one of the first exterior elements to go. Tarek opts to replace them with rustic wood posts, which bring the home into this decade.

Is it a flip or a flop?

Tarek and Christina go way over budget to make this poorly located mess livable. They spend closer to $90,000 than the predicted $70,000, and with closing costs, they have to make $540,000 on the house just to break even. We do not see a profit in their future.

But with new comps in the low $600,000 range, Tarek decides to go for it and lists the property at $624,900. Who is Christina to disagree?

Despite the busy location, even Tarek and Christina are blown away when they get an offer of $652,000—nearly $30,000 above their asking price—resulting in a profit of $112,000!

"We went design-heavy on this one, and it paid off," Christina says. "People love the look of the house!"

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