Home renovation

HGTV’s Mina Starsiak Hawk talks risky business and home improvement tips

What are the must-have items a home should have when someone is looking for one that can be profitably remodeled?

I think that’s such a broad answer depending on what you’re looking for. I think the easy answer most people want is that the house has good bones. The foundation is stable, the roof is good, the frame is good. It just needs new flooring, new paint and maybe an update in the kitchen and bathroom.

This is obviously ideal because these are really just aesthetic elements, but they are the ones that everyone is competing for. So, depending on your openness to risk in a bigger project, you might have more success getting a property that has some of those bigger things you’ll need to fix.

What advice, if any, can you give to buyers looking to buy a repairer in an up-and-coming neighborhood?

Oh my, a very, very thorough home inspection, but even with that, there are things they can’t check. I had someone in our neighborhood buy a house, and the first winter they found out there was no insulation in the walls, because your inspector isn’t going to drill a hole in your exterior wall to check the insulation. They can’t do that. So things like that.

I always think it’s worth checking out the big items. So call on a foundation specialist, a roofer. And, I always suggest people pay that $250 and look at the sewer line, because it’s $250 for peace of mind. Because if it’s not right, usually once you start digging into things that are old, they start falling apart. So if you’re digging in the yard, if you’re doing landscaping, it’s very possible that your sewer line, if it’s original, will collapse or split, if you run over tree roots who enter it. So if there is already damage, you will know about it and ideally you can negotiate it when buying instead of spending $5,000 to $25,000 to replace your sewer line.

When renovating homes in smaller neighborhoods, it’s only natural that you need to cut costs in order to make a profit. What are some ways you can do this while still achieving unforgettable results?

We mix a lot of materials, so a lot of the land in the areas we work in is very long and skinny, which means the houses are very long and skinny, and they’re also very close together. So the sides of the houses that you don’t really see. The front, of course, that’s all.

Curb appeal is the first impact, so most of the time we’ll do a dutch lap vinyl siding on the side and then mix our materials on the front and do a combination of shake or plank and batten and really get a lot of visual interest there and spend a bit more money, while also saving a bit on cladding on the sides of the house since that’s not something that’s really going to be part of the facade of the house, just purely by where they sit on the lot.