Back to the Nest: House-Flipping in the Glass City

. March 26, 2019.
Before photos by Mary Wyar, after photos by Courtney Probert
Before photos by Mary Wyar, after photos by Courtney Probert

Lindsey Mahoney was working as a senior director of media planning for an ad company in Denver when she discovered her love for flipping houses. After she and her husband, Chris, bought their first home there, then quickly did three live-in renovations, establishing a pattern of buying, spending two years renovating then flipping the home and turning a profit each time. All this while Mahoney was working full-time, at times doing much of the renovation work herself, until her second child was born.

Building Bluebird

“By our third home renovation, I knew I wanted to do this full-time,” Mahoney said. “I realized that, if I’m still so passionate about this after taking care of my kids — when they go to bed I keep working at it — this [house flipping] was something we needed to explore.”

Her experiences in real estate investing may have begun in Denver, but now she is making a name for herself in Toledo. Working as an agent for Howard Hanna, she has two investment properties— one rental and another that is soon to hit the market after recent renovations are complete.

“My family’s here in Toledo, and it’s an important time in my kids’ lives to be around their family,” she explains. “I really wanted to start this business, but I couldn’t figure out how to do it [in Denver] because it’s so expensive. Going from two salaries to essentially one…it was tough to make it work.”

She’s certainly making it work in Toledo. With a thriving website— buildingbluebird.com— and a podcast, From the Nest, co-hosted by her husband Chris, the couple is well on their way to becoming Toledo’s own Chip and Joanna Gaines. Both of them do the demolition, but she focuses most on design elements. “I would say I’m the project manager,” Mahoney says. Arranging cabinet, floor, and countertop installations through Home Depot, she hires subcontractors, plumbers, electricians, and outsources other work due to required expertise or time constraints. It’s all about sticking to a deadline and making sure the profit from the flip is worth the time and money.

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Rebuilding education

For Mahoney, the passion is not only about her personal real estate investments, but also about educating others on investing, home renovation projects and design to empower folks to get started. That’s where her blog and podcast come in. With before and after photos, how-to guides, and engaging conversations with her husband, she easily inspires enthusiasm for long-neglected projects. The two naturally convey educational information. “It’s just the two of us cracking open a beer and talking about the topics,” she says. Examples of podcasts include topics ranging from “Analyzing Our Income Property” to “10 Simple DIYs To Make Your House More Energy Efficient.” Find the podcasts on Spotify and other streaming services and she also includes show notes on her blog. “If we can be your friends on your way to work for 20 to 25 minutes and make you laugh with our back-and-forth banter, that’s great.”

A large part of Mahoney’s mission is to motivate others, and to use her own expertise to help them along the way. For instance, she highlights “bite-sized projects”, like organizing/revamping a laundry room, encouraging readers and listeners to join similar eight-day challenges. Her approach to renovating and design is to work incrementally, a process she adopted to complete live-in flips. “Fixing one room makes you want to complete another one and continue piece-by-piece until you’re done,” she says.

The Drummond House

Mahoney’s motto for her business is “creating function for the modern family,” meaning that she wants homes to reflect how people live today. There is no need to have a separate formal sitting room and a more casual living room, or to keep a dining room that will just gather dust and junk mail. Make your space what you want it to be. That’s what she has done with a house on Drummond Rd. in the Old Orchard neighborhood, an impressive flip that we visited mid-renovation, which has since been completed.

Before and after of the upstairs bathroom.

Before and after of the upstairs bathroom.

Built in the 1950s, The Drummond House, Mahoney’s first Toledo flip-to-sell home, maintains much of the mid century aesthetic, with pink tiles in the bathroom, atomic style lights on the original medicine cabinet, and glass door knobs on all the doors throughout the home. She keeps these features, as long as they are in good condition. After all, those features appeal to people that are interested in an older home. “It depends on the neighborhood, I think,” Mahoney points out. “With this house, I know people really appreciate original features. This vintage bathroom’s tiles are in great shape, so I don’t have to do anything to it.”

She is, however, modernizing other aspects of the home by opening up the kitchen, adding a shiplap accent wall, and taking out door frames to create more seamless living spaces. In essence, Mahoney’s approach is to combine elements that work with the architecture of the home with attributes that best reflect the life of modern families, like hers.

Kitchen before

Kitchen before

Kitchen after

Kitchen after

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“With every space that I do, I always try to show how a space could be used, creating a function for it so people don’t walk in and have to ask, ‘How would we use this?’ I want to break stereotypes about [how rooms should function] because so many people claim they don’t have enough space.” The answer is often that there is enough space, it is just not being used in the right way.

Mahoney currently has one rental property that she and her husband renovated, but she hopes to eventually have “50 doors,” along with perhaps some Airbnb properties in the Old West End.

“I hope that [my success] encourage(s) more women to do this work because [the field] is so male-focused and dominated. I’m hoping that more women feel empowered to do this.”

Front room before

Front room before

Front room after

Front room after