House “flipper” Nik Boone thought he knew what kind of commitment he was signing up for last year when he agreed to pay just $231,000 for a grandiose, 3,420-square-foot home in one of Bakersfield’s most desirable neighborhoods.
But life is full of lessons, especially when you’re trying to renovate a neglected classic that, over the years, has devolved into an eyesore, if not an actual nuisance.
One surprise arose after another: The home’s occupants initially refused to vacate. Water and gas lines needed to be dug up and replaced. It turned out all the plumbing and wiring had to be redone.
Several abandoned vehicles had to be hauled from the backyard. It took Boone’s work crew weeks to clear out all the trash. In one of the bathrooms, a car muffler had been installed in place of toilet plumbing.
“A-plus for creativity,” quipped Boone, owner of Bakersfield’s Ascend Real Estate & Property Management.
Alas, the worst was yet to come. During an overhaul that took the better part of a year, the local real estate market started to slip — and it kept slipping until Boone felt he had no choice but to knock $100,000 off the price. Now he wonders if he’ll have to mark it down further.
Was it all worth it? Boone said he thought it was, if only for the experience he racked up modernizing a two-story home built in 1916.
“It’s just such a vast improvement from what it was,” said homeowner John Birch, who for 42 years has lived next door to the corner house at 2524 18th St. “It’s a real gem, because it has all the modern conveniences. Nik did a great job in maintaining the historic aspects of the house from the early 20th century.”
More than that, the fights in the front yard, people coming and going at all hours, law enforcement paying regular visits — that’s all stopped, said Andrew Diaz, who has lived across the street for about three years.
“It’s a lot quieter, and that’s what the neighborhood should look like,” he said. “Whatever it sells for, it’s got to be better than the way it was.”
After Boone and his company closed on the purchase on Dec. 10, 2021, it took him weeks to take full possession. That’s because friends of friends of the family who had owned it for decades resisted moving out.
It was midwinter by the time Ascend finally got a good look at what all needed to be done. To start with, the air conditioner and heater had to be replaced, along with the water heater.
Boone, coming off a series of four unprofitable “flips” completed just in time for a market slide early in the pandemic, budgeted for $300,000 in repairs. He figured it would pencil out because similar homes nearby had gone for $850,000, which was his initial list price.
“When I bought the house, the market was on fire,” Boone said.
He hired an engineer to remove several walls allowing him to open up the interior. The plan was to preserve the home’s grand staircase and fireplace while putting in all-new fixtures. And that’s what he did.
“We did a really great job of keeping it a very classy, downtown Westchester house. I wanted to give it a modern feel with a classic home,” he said. “There isn’t anything in the house that isn’t brand-new.”
Every day he came in to oversee the work his crew was doing. But that didn’t stop his costs from spiraling out of control: Repairs eventually surpassed $400,000, meaning that, for months now, he’s been carrying more than $630,000 in debt related to this one property.
One unexpected challenge related to the ducts. The house came with floor vents that Boone wanted moved to the ceiling. That proved harder than planned because of the limited space to work with between the first and second floors.
“I learned a lot,” he said. “It was the first time flipping a house over 100 years old. I definitely learned a lot.”
A little more than a month ago, Ascend hosted a grand opening that attracted more than 100 people. Boone said all the comments were positive, including from a visitor who had lived in the house in the 1960s and ’70s. The former resident pointed out remembered details like where an arm had been broken and where past painting jobs had taken place.
Potential buyers have expressed interest, he said, but there’s always been a hitch. One who wanted to buy first had to sell a house elsewhere. Another was considering moving in from another city but remains undecided about making the transition to Bakersfield.
“We have a lot of people kicking the tires but nothing’s solidified,” Boone said.
Meanwhile, he and his crew are working on a remodel nearby on 20th Street, the main difference being that he’s a contractor on the job instead of an investor.
“Profits aside, I think it was a really, really cool project,” he said. “It was really fun and I enjoyed it. … I think it turned out gorgeous.”
“It took a while for them to get it done, but they got it done and it looks great,” he said.
But will it sell for $750,000? Birch said he’s optimistic it will.
He spoke with Boone off and on during the renovation and said he shared the initial price estimate. “It just seemed like close to $850,000 was very realistic.” he said.
“I would imagine that Nik would be disappointed” with the timing, Birch added. “But the right person will come along.”