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Editor’s column | A master of the art of the flip

Real estate investor Justin Pierce in the kitchen of his newly renovated house in Temple Hills. (John McDonnell/THE WASHINGTON POST)

Regular readers of this blog are familiar with Justin Pierce, who for the past six months has been chronicling his experiences converting his tiny rundown investment property in Temple Hills into a larger modernized house that would be nice enough to attract a buyer.

Pierce has shared his many setbacks — being forced to modify his plan to put a second floor onto the house because of a building code and numerous conflicts with contractors he’d hired.

Now the work is complete, and our cover story this week by Scott Sowers focuses on the finished product — and offers a window into the world of real estate investing.

While people who flip houses for  living aren’t always held in the highest esteem, experts say they have played a role in spurring the recovery of the housing market. This line of work is not for everyone: The profits can be high — but the losses can be, too.

“You have to factor for the unknown,” Pierce says in the story. “There are always surprises, some good and some bad.”

Our photo gallery illustrates the transformation of the 1940s-era rambler from a small cottage — with worn out siding and roof shingles — into a two-story house with hardwood floors, granite countertops and stainless steel appliances.

The original house had only two bedrooms on one level. You had to walk through the master bedroom to get to the bathroom, the story says. Also there was no stairway inside the house to get to the basement, so you had to go outside to gain access to the lower level. Pierce fixed those inconveniences.

Over the past few months, Pierce’s transparency in sharing his struggles has gotten him hammered on occasion by readers. His last post on Oct. 23 about his conflict with a contractor over their differing interpretation of “builder grade” materials generated lots of criticism. Pierce says his definition of builder grade was medium quality, while the contractor considered it to be “the cheapest thing you can find.”

Most readers sided with the contractor.

“You would think if you have flipped 10 homes he would understand the terms by now,” wrote one reader identified as agarnett1000.

Pierce often responded to the feedback, saying the comments helped him.

In fact, he says, he modified his rear addition based on comments that the idea to put it on piers with an open area underneath would be ugly. After evaluating the responses, he opted to close it in.

Here are Pierce’s other blogposts in case you missed them:

Setback may push Temple Hills renovation beyond Oct. 1 deadline

Crews make up for lost time in pop-top project

With plan approved, race is on to reconstruct house for fall sale

Pop-top renovation becomes pop-back plan

Gone are the low lying fruit of real estate investing






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Kathy Orton · November 8, 2013

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