This Couple Quit Their Jobs to Fix Up Homes (With Zero Renovation Experience)
Everything they learned along the way.
Updated Oct 11, 2018 2:39 PM
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Chris and Claudia Beiler’s design journey started with a proposal. “Chris asked me to marry him in the attic of his house,” recalls Claudia. But when he got down on one knee, he didn’t just ask her to spend the rest of her life with him: “He was like, ‘Hey, I think it’d be awesome if you married me… and we turned this attic into an apartment.” They were committed in more ways than one. Both born and raised in Lancaster, Pennsylvania, Chris and Claudia were longtime family friends before they became life partners and, eventually, business partners. With little to no personal experience renovating homes (he worked in solar design as an engineer, and she was a bus driver), the couple jumped in blind.
Their first-ever remodel left an impression. So much so that the pair decided to quit their jobs and pursue renovations full time. That’s when The Chris & Claude Co. was born. “There have been a few times where [we thought] it would be nice to simply be able to go to work and take orders from an employer, but 95 percent of the time, we are so grateful for the opportunity that we have been given,” shares Chris. “I think being entrepreneurs is in our DNA.”
Over the past four years, the pair have transformed countless row homes in Lancaster City—the majority of which they’ve purchased without ever seeing the interior. We recently caught up with Chris and Claudia to learn what it really means to buy, sell, and design homes with soul.
Calculate Your Budget—and Then Double It
Along with major structural problems that can result from water and termite damage, it’s often the finishing details (think light switch covers and extra paint supplies) that can set a budget back. “You look at the world of Pinterest and you go, ‘That’s what I want,’ but then you go and try to do it and all of a sudden there are all these costs that go into it,” adds Claudia.
Often catering to artists, photographers, and other creatives looking to settle down in the area, Chris and Claudia pull out more stops than the average house flipper. Swathing the bathroom in retro tiles, adding a swing in the bedroom, or stuccoing the fireplace comes at a price, but it’s totally worth it. “Our basic rule of thumb is to gut the house of all the old fixtures unless there’s something unique from the original house that we can keep,” she continues. “It adds up fast.”
Don’t DIY the Fundamentals
In an effort to spare their budget in the early days, Claudia and Chris took on almost all of the dirty work themselves. While they learned a lot about the inner workings of a home in the process, it’s one of Claudia’s biggest regrets looking back. “We wish we had pulled in more professionals with those earlier homes, instead of trying to do everything ourselves,” she says.
Focus on the Kitchen and Baths First
The kitchen and bathroom are the two rooms potential buyers care about the most, which is why the duo has made it their mission to go the extra mile with bold colors and contemporary finishes in each of these spaces. “Countertops and backsplashes, as well as farmhouse sinks and faucets sets, are the two things that really set a kitchen apart,” shares Chris. As for the bathroom, he notes that a glass shower surround can instantly elevate a space. Bright recessed lighting can also help transform a dated bathroom into a breezy oasis—no matter the size.
Expand Your Guest List
After renovating the tiny attic that would eventually serve as their first home, the couple was tight on cash and needed a way to make up for the money they spent adding an exterior staircase, a functioning kitchen, and a lofted bedroom. That’s when they discovered what was then a little-known website: Airbnb. “We would move home with our families for the weekend or go camping,” recalls Claudia. “We were kind of embarrassed about it, but we started to realize that we had created something that other people wanted and eventually our friends started asking us to help with their houses.”
Commit to Curb Appeal
In more than one case, Chris and Claudia have sold a home the same day it hit the market. Their secret? Curb appeal. “Nice landscaping and mulching will give you the most bang for your buck,” says Chris. “It’s not that expensive and they can really set your home apart in the neighborhood.”
Be Logical About Your Upgrades
While working on their Louise Avenue project, Claudia wanted to go big in the bathroom by keeping the existing maroon toilet and sink from the 1960s. Let’s just say, her bold dreams were quickly (and literally) flushed down the toilet: after the inspection, the new buyer wasn’t smitten with having a fussy plumbing system. “If it takes three gallons to flush a purple toilet and one gallon to flush a 2019 toilet, you should probably replace it,” Claudia says.
Stage Like You Mean It
Before Chris and Claudia ever stick a “for sale” sign in the yard, they add life to the space with furniture, art, and storied objects. Jute rugs, record players, and old books suddenly make the space feel a lot more personal and decidedly livable. “I read that only 10 percent of homebuyers are able to picture a house if it’s not staged, so I started scouring Goodwill, Facebook marketplace, and Craigslist,” shares Claudia. “That house sold the first day it was on the market.”