Fixer upper in Carlsbad by the Beach

5395 El Arbol is a 3 bedroom, 2 bathroom, 1492 SF home built in 1957.

This fixer upper in Carlsbad is just a few blocks from the beach. Along with primarily cosmetic upgrades, this home can be immensely improved by renovating the kitchen as shown here. The dining room is moved to the adjacent space, to allow for a luxurious, eat-in kitchen. The design is prepared exclusively for this home by Design Build North County.

Buyers, please contact Ted Borlenghi to arrange for a viewing and to begin customizing your home improvements. Call 858-692-5478 or visit

Do you want to live by the beach? Really close to the beach? This 3 bedroom, 2 bath home is ready for your customizations. As you see, the living space is cramped and the kitchen is closed off. There's a bonus room near the kitchen that is underutilized.

Preparing to sell a home that is not in top notch shape

There are several approaches to selling a home that is not as attractive as others in the neighborhood. Firstly, let me acknowledge that perhaps the home was fantastic and built with the current styles when you first bought it, but as decades pass, so do the trends... and it doesn't even have to take decades for a trend to become obsolete. Along with the passing of time has come the accumulation of stuff... furniture, trinkets, etc. And if you're a hoarder, woah that's a whole other ball game. So when you come to the point of considering listing your home, it can feel totally overwhelming when you try to reconcile that you'd like to make the place show well but there is a great deal of clutter.

Let's say you decide to walk the renovation route yourself. These are the top concerns that will cause the decision to be difficult: (1) What kind of improvements should you make? Almost all home buyers are looking for three important qualities: an open plan, a nice eat-in kitchen, and a great master bath. There are other things too that will help make the sale, like flooring, but that leads us to the next concern... (2) Can I get this renovation done while I live in the home? Daunting if not impossible, especially if you're updating the kitchen, master bath and flooring. Not to mention all the clutter that we discussed already. And so you think to yourself, I think I should do it because I bet I can make more money when the home sells. That's a tough call. In order to fetch top dollar, you'd really need to hit the ball out of the park with your renovation, and if you want to save money by living in it at the same time, frustration and anxiety mounts when the slightest construction issue alters the schedule or budget. Then, you need to hope that the design decisions that you've made (or are you hiring a designer who will eat into the budget as well) are perfect for those next few families who happen to be looking to buy a home in your neighborhood during that time of the year.

Here's your solution: Don't do the home improvements, and save yourself a massive headache. How can you still aim to fetch a higher price tag for an as-is fixer? Choose a realtor that can provide a vision of what the home can become to the buyers. That's where I come in. With a bachelor's and master's degree in the field of architecture, along with a great deal of real world experience, I can use 3D modeling tools on the computer to provide a vision of what the home's improvements can be. Whether it's a kitchen, bathroom, opening some walls, or adding an addition (or ADU), the home will tell me what needs to be improved, and I will model it. Then, when buyers come along, they not only see the home, but they see what it can become. Utilizing the 203k loan program, the improvements can be built immediately after escrow closes, before they move in. This drives up the sale price of the home because the buyers don't just see an outdated house; they see a house with clear potential. Plus, they'll absolutely love the fact that they get to choose all the finishes, thereby creating for themselves a customized home.

If you choose a regular realtor who only has the home to show and not the possibilities too using 3D imagery, then the family buyers will recede quickly, which will leave you with the investor buyers only. They will try to be enticing by offering all cash and a quick close, but they also will low-ball you because it's the only way their flipping business model can work. Besides, an all cash offer doesn't mean you'd be getting more money at the end. Whether it's their cash or the bank's, the price tag is the price tag. Finally, if you say no to the low-ball flippers, hoping that the right buyer will come along and pay what you want, then you'll find yourself with a home on the market for 30, 60, 90 plus days... and that does not look good on the listing. Anything active for more than 21 days in a hot market is viewed as an undesirable property. 

If you want to know what I think the price tag would be for your home, just make contact and we can take those steps together.


The 203k Upgrade

The 203k loan program is an FHA backed loan that is designed to allow a home buyer to renovate a home as they are buying it.

Let's say you found a home in a neighborhood that you love, but something about it just isn't right. Perhaps it's outdated in the kitchen, bathrooms, flooring or windows (or all of the above). Or maybe the kitchen isn't big enough or it needs an extra bedroom. With the FHA 203k loan program, you can make all these upgrades when you buy the home.

Instead of getting a loan for the house and then needing a second loan for improvements at a higher interest rate, the 203k loan provides for the construction funds along with the home purchase funds. This way you only have one loan at a low interest rate for a custom renovated home. Why buy a fixed-up home from a flipper who renovated it for the center of the bell curve when you can choose your own finishes to align with your style?

At Design Build North County, we have the architectural design and construction experience to make a shabby home your dream home.

How committed should one be before becoming fully committed?

There are two levels of commitment to working with us. The first commitment is one in which we generate detailed designs for you to review. This only comes once we've engaged in some conversations about your project, and have likely already met. If the project is small, like a kitchen or small addition, it may qualify for a free conceptual model before any commitment at all. The detailed designs that follow will change based on your feedback, and this first phase of the commitment will continue until you are satisfied with the design.

At that point, satisfaction that is, you enter into your second commitment. This one is for the actual construction. At this point, you are totally satisfied with the direction of the project and the architecture. Now it becomes time to get the necessary permits then begin construction. We'll want to be ahead of the ball and begin thinking more specifically about what your finish material selections are. We'll walk you through the process and recommend various material palettes.

Once construction begins, we remain in close contact so that as questions arise we can answer them immediately. Your satisfaction is our goal.

The importance of the price being right.

Clients are savvy. Especially ones that are willing to spend tens of thousands, if not hundreds of thousands, of dollars on a remodel. Let's face it. They're homeowners, and homeowners have earned a lot of money to afford their home, especially in North County. Chances are it took brains to earn that money...the same brains that can ascertain whether or not they are getting a good price for a product or service.

My past experience with a major design build firm in San Diego has shown me that the bigger the firm, the more overhead it has, and that overhead is relayed directly to the project cost. So yes, the firm may have a great reputation, but it doesn't mean the client needs to pay the price for it. Does the firm pay for expensive advertising? If so, it's not the firm paying for it, it's the client.

That's how Design Build North County was formed... On the basis that homeowners are savvy and excited about their project. We want to help make that project come to life, not leave you with a bad taste in your mouth because your dream is now looking either too expensive or the company is taking advantage of your desire to remodel.

So make the calculated decision to work with us: A team with a lot of industry experience that also respects your pocketbook. No money is spent until you like the way things are going. Your bank account will love you for it.