PORT ORCHARD — Television programs about flipping homes — the art of snapping up downtrodden homes cheaply, rehabbing them and then selling the property for top dollar — are ratings winners on cable home-improvement channels.
One such show, “First Time Flippers” on the DIY Network, caught the attention of a Kitsap County couple earlier this year. The husband-and-wife team from Belfair allowed cameras to follow their four-month effort this winter and spring to rehabilitate a nearly uninhabitable Port Orchard home on Mitchell Avenue.
Kim Studerus, an attorney who left her job to work full time on the flip, and her husband Scott, a dentist whose practice has offices in Belfair and Gig Harbor, jumped in with their eyes wide open.
“We’ve always wanted to do this, but we had to find the right house,” Kim said. Although their search for that perfect property took just two months, the two weren’t in a hurry to find a suitable home. The place they found — a two-bedroom, one-bathroom, 950-square-foot rambler — was perfect for their initial foray into the business of flipping.
First, it was the right price. They purchased the bank-owned, foreclosed house for $105,000. What they received for the price was predictable: tarp-covered roof leaked like a sieve; the bathroom shower wall was plagued by dry rot; and the living room floor, covered by what Kim called a “hideous” floral carpet, sloped and was uneven.
Shortly after buying the property, the couple did a walk-through with Kim’s father, a contractor, who videotaped their inspection. He suggested they try to convince producers of a house-flip television program to chronicle their work. That afternoon, Scott applied online, then attached a one-minute video segment of their walk-through.
“That was on a Thursday,” Scott said, “and on a Monday morning, I got an email from a producer who wanted to do a Skype interview with us.”
The interview went well, and the couple was chosen to be featured in an episode of the show. But a condition of the agreement, Kim said, mandated they wait a couple of weeks to start so that filming arrangements could be set.
Within a few weeks, a producer and cameraman arrived from New York. The crew was assisted by a local production group that included a sound technician.
“They wanted to film before, during and after the work was completed,” Kim said. “They didn’t want it scripted and didn’t tell us what to do,” which, she said, some other flip shows do.
In all, the couple said the crew filmed a total of nine days over the course of the rehab. Crew members kept mostly out of the way, the couple said, and their shooting schedule ironically kept them on schedule.
“You really had to be ready when they showed up because they needed something to shoot,” Scott said of the crew. “That meant we couldn’t slack off and not get to, say, finishing the kitchen. They had to get their shots.”
While some shows feature emotional blow-ups between couples over issues as important as the overall design concept or as minor as the color of trim work, Scott and Kim said, their time working together was enlightening.
“Yes, we did work well together,” Scott said, “and that was worked into the storyline. Actually, we had the best time ever doing the show.”
It helped that the two focused on different aspects of the project. Kim, who devoted full days to the work, developed her project management skills by fine-tuning the interior design and selecting kitchen and bathroom fixtures and appliances.
Scott said his contribution was mostly limited to one area: “Kim does all the design work. I was just the labor, the guy with the sledgehammer.”
The couple wisely calculated what work they could successfully complete — and what work they weren’t qualified to carry out.
The downtrodden house needed lots of work. The couple said they gutted the kitchen and the bathroom down to the studs and removed a portion of the kitchen wall to open up space for the living room area.
“We never thought it’d be easy,” Kim said. “We’ve done a lot of remodeling and my dad’s a contractor, so we did the things we could do and not be a contractor. We had contractors do everything that contractors can do, such as the plumbing and electrical work.”
Kim said there was one job that she probably spent the most hours doing: painting. In the remodeling process, she also learned to set tile.
The process, which began in February and ended in June, finished on schedule. Unfortunately, the remodeling budget — which ended up topping $70,000 — didn’t hold firm. Kim’s father lent his expert opinion about the house’s condition before they purchased the property, she said, but there were unanticipated issues hidden behind walls and ceilings.
“You never really know what’s wrong until you start working on it,” Scott said. “There were no real problems, but we were realistic about what we’d be facing.”
Still, Kim said she wouldn’t change anything about the results.
“We had to go over budget, but I don’t think we’d ever change anything about what we did to the house. It was all needed.”
The good news for these first-time flippers is their house received a couple of purchase offers before finally selling at $235,000.
Their positive experience means the couple is open to taking on another flip — but just not right now. Their spare time will be devoted to their two children, Jillian and Houston — and keeping a lookout for the next diamond in the rough.
“First Time Flippers” on the DIY Network (channel 203 on Comcast, 115 on Wave, 230 on DirecTV and 111 on Dish Network) will feature the Port Orchard couple on an episode scheduled to run at 4:30 p.m. on Saturday, Aug. 5.