Flipping Into a Functional Home
On the first home Brenna Brooks and her father, Barlow Brooks, worked on together, they did the contracting themselves and quickly realized it wasn’t a “sustainable business model for us,” Brenna says. She confessed that the first house taught her a lot about construction, but also about the way women are treated in the industry. “People assume because I’m a female I don’t know [anything about the process],” she says. “It taught me a lot. I had to be a lot more assertive. Older men [in construction assume] I don’t know what I’m talking about.”
Barlow Brooks, who Brenna says is “comfortably retired,” began the projects with his daughter as she attended a night-time MBA program. Brenna designed the project and lead sourcing and worked with Barlow to plan and execute the project with the client. The two have mostly concentrated on purchasing, upgrading, and reselling homes in the St. Matthews, Indian Hills, Highlands, and Middletown areas, 13 projects since 2012.
With her father’s retirement, Brenna is ready to begin her own business journey with Brenlow Properties. What gives her a leg up is being a realtor, too. “I do understand how houses are constructed and the potential concerns someone may have with a property,” she says. While real estate sales is currently her main focus, she has the desire to flip more properties into rentals and Airbnbs.
One of Brenna’s largest projects thus far was a home in the Rolling Fields subdivision. A 3-bedroom, 3-bathroom home, it sat vacant in the upscale neighborhood for 13 years. She and her father bought the property from another investor who did not have the time to finish the home after gutting it into an empty shell. “Given the area and standard for the area, (we knew) it needed to be really nice,” she says.
Brenna’s downstairs bathroom
Brenna’s living room.
The duo created two additions: a master suite with a large bathroom and walk-in closet in the back, as well as an office and full bathroom in the basement. They added a front door to the upper level of the home, a mudroom entryway to the garage, and even a doggie bedroom underneath the stairs. When completed, the project was a 4-bedroom, 4-and-a-half bathroom home with refinished floors, high quality finishes, new HVAC and water heater systems, and a new driveway. “We made it into a gorgeous family home for a young couple with two kids,” Brenna says.
Hometown heritage wall decor.
Downstairs spare bedroom.
Second spare bedroom and office.
One of their latest, and most memorable, projects was a mid-century modern ranch home in Middletown. The home was owned by a woman for 30-plus years but had most recently been occupied by renters. It was neglected and in “bad shape,” Brenna says, but it had potential at 4,000-square-feet on a 2-and-a-half-acre lot with a pool.
Before photo by Raegan Stremel. After photo by Erick Heick.
The house went on the market and sold in three days for the full asking price. In the future, Brenna said she would consider buying it back. “That was the hardest one to let go of,” she says.
She is pretty happy though, living in St. Matthews in a home she flipped with the help of her father.
Middletown Mid-Century home’s bathroom remodel. Photo by Erick Heick.
Middletown Mid-Century bathroom before. Photo by Raegan Stremel.
Brenna says she and her father were never in the flipping game as a main source of income. “It’s not how we paid the bills or put food on the table,” she says. So, when looking at a potential property, she suggests to be picky.
Location is everything, she says. Check into what is around the location, because that will determine the sellability. “You can change anything about the house for some amount of money, but you can’t change what’s around it,” she says.
Brenna also suggests being conscious of the quality of the flip. She asks herself, “Is this what I would do for my house?” If she puts her name on it, she wants to be sure it’s her idea of perfect. “There will be a family living there, so we ask, ‘Would we live in this house?’ If the answer wasn’t ‘yes,’ then we reevaluated our approach,” she says.
Another tip Brenna suggested was to make sure the home is functional. Good design, she says, isn’t just about looking good, it’s about being functional for the family who lives there. Considering functionality in the layout of the property is essential; it’s all about how the doors and drawers open, she says.