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Water damage restoration - renovation pays off

Water damage restoration - renovation pays off

Renovating a water-damaged property has given a new investor a key insight into her future as a successful property flipper, writes Joanna Mathers.

By: Joanna Mathers

30 April 2024

Diana Levinzon has been an investor for less than a year, but she’s already completed six flips and is working on her seventh. And her motivation for investing in property is simple – creating wealth for her family.

“Both my husband and I work full time in government jobs,” she says. “We have a toddler and we realised that property investing was the only way we could really get ahead.”

Levinzon knew she had the capacity to be hands-on with renovation work and had the ability to turn around flips in a short time, but she needed to partner with people who had the funds to back the work.

Through contacts, she discovered just the right person; someone who was keen to start investing and had the money, but wanted someone else to manage the process as they lived in a different city. A good friendship formed and Levinzon started working with real estate agents to find homes that could be transformed into lucrative wealth creating opportunities.

By November last year she’d turned around two successful flips and had three more on the go – one in Wainuiomata, one in Christchurch, and a three-bedroom, 1907 home in the Wellington suburb of Melrose.

It’s this house that Levinzon considers the most notable (and dramatic) renovation of her short flipping career.

New floors have been covered with SPC flooring; a vinyl wood-look plank.

The Risk Factor

A lot of flippers pulled out of the market late last year. Interest rates were high, and the market was muted (in fact, she had been getting advice that it probably wasn’t the best time to flip). “But I didn’t let that advice affect me too much. I like to take risks.”

The Melrose house was as problematic as the market. Although it had an amazing view of the harbour, and great bones, it had a considerable amount of water damage.

All the floors were uneven, the walls on the bottom level where damp, and the water pressure was terrible. All-in-all it was a saturated disaster zone.

If it had been in a liveable state, Levinzon says that property would have sold for around $850,000. But at auction she was able to secure the home for just $557,000.

The house had been tenanted previously but was empty when she purchased. They set to work immediately on the renovation after settlement in late November, and it was revealed the flooring wouldn’t comply with building standards because it was placed straight on top of the ground.

And they soon found the cause of the leak. After moving “tonnes of dirt” and 100 years of rubbish from under the house, it was discovered an old mains pipe was leaking badly, leading to water in the home and considerable damage. The fix was relatively simple – the pipe was capped, and water reconnected from an external pipe.

The downstairs bathroom was replaced with a new vanity and other fittings installed.

After the dirt was removed new floors in the downstairs area were restored and the upper floors levelled; the upstairs floors had been full of borer. The entire second storey was cleaned and a new SPC flooring laid: a vinyl plank with a waterproof core that gives an attractive look to floors.

The damp walls downstairs were also attributed to be a combination of cladding flashings not being correctly installed letting water inside, and the leak making its way down.

The kitchen was completely transformed by local company Ladd Joinery, who created a luxe cooking hub. The kitchen used to be a mishmash of styles and extremely dated – it’s now one of the high points of the home.
The kitchen Reno before and after shots.

The Makeover

The home was a “diamond in the rough” and as such was always going to benefit from an extreme makeover. To this end the kitchen (which had been a weird mishmash of styles) was re-designed and built by local company Ladd Joinery, who did a wonderful job creating a luxe dining cooking hub.

They also found builders called R-Squared Construction on Builderscrack. “These are two young guys who specialise in this type of work and made this house an absolute work of art. The pair of them we deem a godsend,” says Levinzon.

One of the bedrooms after new carpet and paint job.

The upstairs bathroom was in “OK” condition, so it was left as is, but the downstairs bathroom needed replacing. They used a local plumber (Zip Plumbing in Lower Hutt) for a new vanity and other bathroom fittings to create a beautiful space. The house had an old shed filled with rubbish, which was repurposed as a laundry during the renovation.

All up the renovation cost over $200,000. It was a large reno and a risky one, but the results were spectacular. The home sold by negotiation within two weeks of listing in February – at $1.018 million.

The process taught Levinzon some important lessons. “Number one, I’m too much of a risk taker!” she says.

“But it taught me the power of moving quickly and the importance of due diligence, especially if the house has any problems. We got in multiple builders, a plumber and spoke to industry professionals about the water damage below.”

It’s a great example of how partnering together for renovations can be an excellent way to get into property investment – and how risk often comes with reward.