Tarek El Moussa and Christina Haack Miss the Way Things Used To Be

Flip or Flop

HGTV

From marriage to kids to divorce, Tarek El Moussa and Christina Haack have been through a lot together. Now, it seems these “Flip or Flop” stars wish things were the way they used to be—at least when it comes to their flips.

In the Season 12 episode “Back to the Basics,” Haack and El Moussa buy a run-down house in Norwalk, CA, for $430,000, hoping it’ll be a quick and easy flip—just like the ones they did when first starting out. However, they soon find that this house needs a lot more work than they anticipated. Between a new kitchen, renovated bathrooms, and a modern industrial style throughout, the project soon goes over their $120,000 renovation budget.

“We thought we were going into, like, a simple house, like back in the day,” Haack says. “And now it’s costing a fortune.”

Will their investment pay off? Read on to find out what they do, which might clue you in to a few upgrades you might want to try yourself.

Not everything needs to be fixed in a flip

house
Before: This Norwalk, CA, house was in fairly good condition.

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When El Moussa and Haack first see this flip, they like the look of the house but are troubled by the cracked driveway.

“The outside looks good, the roof looks good, the driveway looks bad,” El Moussa says.

These flippers give the exterior some fresh paint, using light gray on the stucco and a bluish-gray for the wood trim. Still, El Moussa seems to dread updating the pavement.

“This is a can of worms,” he says. “We start messing with this, we’re going to have to redo the whole driveway.”

painted house
After: With a fresh coat of paint, the house looks new and detracts from the cracked driveway, which is barely noticeable.

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Contractor Jeff Lawrence estimates the new driveway will cost $4,100, so El Moussa decides to skip the update.

“The market’s so hot, this house is going to sell whether we replace the driveway or not,” he says. “Let’s leave it.”

This cracked driveway may be an eyesore, but El Moussa and Haack believe a house doesn’t need to be perfect to hit the market.

Removing walls nearly always pays off

kitchen
Before: The kitchen was dark, dated, and small.

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While these HGTV stars decide to save money on the exterior, it’s a different story in the kitchen.

Haack persuades El Moussa to spend $25,000 to knock down the kitchen and laundry room walls, creating a huge living space. It’s a big change with a big price tag.

“It’s hard when we’ve been doing houses for so long, and you just see the potential,” she says.

Once the demo is done, it’s clear that removing the walls was the right choice, and it certainly shows how Haack and El Moussa have grown as flippers. While they used to be careful about the cost of upgrades, they’re now OK investing a little more.

“A couple of years ago, I would never have paid $25,000 to reconfigure a floor plan on a house like this,” El Moussa says.

“Oh, I’m well aware,” Haack says with a smile. “It’s going to look amazing.”

modern kitchen
After: Removing the walls may have cost $25,000, but this new floor plan is worth it.

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The kitchen ends up looking great, especially after Haack and El Moussa add new white-panel cabinets and a simple hexagonal backsplash tile.

“This is a pretty safe move,” Haack says of the elegant gray tile. “It has the industrial vibe—everyone likes a hex.”

gray backsplash
The hexagonal tile backsplash adds modern industrial style.

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Use two types of tile rather than just one

brick fireplace
This fireplace certainly needed an update.

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With a brand-new kitchen and an open layout, the living space has already cost Haack and El Moussa a fortune. Still, they know they also need to update the old brick fireplace, which El Moussa calls “sad.”

These flippers aren’t sure what to do with the tile selection. Haack presents El Moussa with a hexagonal tile to match the kitchen backsplash, plus a simpler 12-by-24-inch tile in light gray. El Moussa likes them both and comes up with a compromise.

“Maybe we can do half of them 12-by-24, and then we can do half the hexagon,” he says.

tile fireplace
After: The lighter hearth beautifully complements the hexagonal tile.

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The tile costs a total of $2,500, and in the end, the two styles make this fireplace twice as beautiful. The mix adds dimension to an otherwise unremarkable fireplace.

Keep things light and bright in a small bathroom

cramped bathroom
Tarek El Moussa and Christina Haack knew they’d need to completely renovate this main bathroom.

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Haack and El Moussa decide to continue the hexagon theme in the main bathroom, planning to use a dark gray tile for the shower floor and the walls. However, when El Moussa stops by the house to check on progress, he’s worried about the look of the shower.

The wood-tone bathroom floor is a little darker than he expected, and he realizes that the room isn’t very big.

“This is dark,” he says of the tile. “And if we do all the way to the ceiling, we do the side walls, it’s going to be like a dark cave in here.”

bathroom
After: El Moussa made the right choice when it came to the shower walls.

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They end up changing the plan, putting large white tiles on the side walls and leaving the hexagonal tile on the shower floor and back wall.

While dark shower tile can look moody and chic, a small bathroom needs some lighter tones to keep it feeling bright and open.

Don’t over-renovate a backyard

back patio
This back patio was a mess.

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When El Moussa and Haack tour this house for the first time, they note the junk in the backyard. Still, they’re happy that this yard is a good size. They remove the trash and do some small cosmetic updates, which make a big difference.

“The good thing about this is we did not spend a lot of money,” Haack says when the house is finished. “Just like the front yard, all we really did was paint, sod, get rid of a shed, and it looks like an entirely different space.”

back patio
After: The painted brick oven now looks new.

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While some flippers might have been tempted to add a pool, replace the patio cover, or demolish the brick oven, Haack and El Moussa give this space a beautiful makeover on the cheap.

Is this a flip or flop?

El Moussa and Haack buy this house for $430,000 and have an original renovation budget of $120,000. Of course, they go way over budget, spending $157,450. After setting aside $30,000 for closing costs and commission, this house has a break-even price of $617,450.

They list the house for $699,000 and receive an astounding 18 offers. They accept one for $790,000, which means they’ll make a stunning profit of $172,550 if the deal closes.

While this house wasn’t exactly the easy flip El Moussa and Haack thought it would be, their hard work and experience clearly paid off!

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