Tracy Flaherty knows a thing or two about remodeling. From Arizona to Seattle and Utah, the Phoenix resident has been building and styling her own homes and helping friends with their properties for the better part of 25 years.
“I got a lot of accolades for my style,” Flaherty says. “Everybody always asked me why I am not doing this professionally, but I put it off because I was launching my kids.”
Having five children in five years, including triplets, can make even the most ardent dreamer tap the brakes. But with “the kids” now ages 21 to 25, Flaherty has time to focus on styling forever homes.
HGTV’s hits like “Flip or Flop” and “Fixer to Fabulous” make the business of turning dated homes into marketable classics look easy. Historically, a strong market and low interest rates add incentives for investors and buyers. But experts say flipping for profit is harder than it looks.
Flaherty, who has a degree in marketing and worked in the tech industry in the 1980s and early 1990s, always had an eye for interior design.
“I didn’t start out doing this to flip homes.
I have a passion for remodeling. In the last few years, it’s become more of a profession,” she says.
Her most recent project is a 16,000-square-foot Truckee, Calif., estate once owned by a local entrepreneur that features a six-bedroom main house and a one-bedroom guest house.
Located in Juniper Hills, a gated community about 30 minutes from Lake Tahoe, the 20-acre estate has a unique history. Claudia Tatum, a Southland entrepreneur who established numerous retail businesses in Truckee — many named for her grandchildren — bought the property in 1999 for $190,000 and partially developed the family ranch before her death in 2011.
The estate was then sold to investors in 2012 for $1 million. It was remodeled and listed in 2014 for $11.4 million but didn’t sell. By the time Flaherty toured the home in 2019, the mountain ranch had been on and off the market several times.
“When I saw this house, I knew it could be amazing with the right design touches,” she said. “The home had good bones.”
Flaherty offered $4.9 million, which included $200,000 in furnishings, and closed the deal that summer.
Over the next year, she transformed the home, embracing a holistic approach that would allow the new owners to enjoy the space inside and out. The property was christened Rebel Ranch — a nod to being an outlier from nearby Martis Camp and not on Lake Tahoe.
Truckee-based Tahoe Mountain Realty agent JB Benna says he was blown away by how quickly Flaherty turned the property around.
“Construction can move slowly in mountain towns like Truckee, and within a year, it was like a whole new property,” Benna said.
Flaherty says she likes a modern, relaxed aesthetic that friends and family refer to as “comfortable elegance.” She says, “Raising four boys and one girl taught me that if something’s not comfortable, who cares what it is to look at.”
The home features a wine cellar, a media room, a floor to ceiling custom library, and a living room with a two-story stone fireplace. Much like the famed family barn at Martis Camp, Rebel Ranch has a red barn next to a sandy white beach, a private pond and a volleyball court.
Finding contractors in mountain areas is a challenge, but Flaherty hired local craftsman Zach Bierwolf to remodel the guest house. Bierwolf also created several unique pieces, including a bunk room with six custom beds and a 16-foot dining table that features a split pine tree from the property shown under glass.
Her advice for people who want to rehab their own homes is to understand that there will be challenges.
“Don’t go crazy. Don’t feel like you have to have designer names on all the fixtures,” she said. “You have to have common sense about remodeling.”
And do your homework. When Flaherty found a wallpaper she loved had a minimum purchase of $5,000, she looked on eBay and found just enough of the pattern to complete the job for $800.
“Take some time to do your research and shop around because a lot of times, you can make a big impact without spending all the money,” she explains.
Benna says there can be a stigma when working with a property familiar to local agents and brokers.
“You have to show a much improved and beautiful property to justify pricing the home at $2 million above what it was recently purchased for,” he said. “We had to get the marketing just right.”
Benna, who studied cinematography at USC and has a marketing background, said his team spent weeks getting the right light for the photography and 3D virtual tour used in the marketing campaign.
“We spent 50 hours editing over 900 photos to get the perfect images and built a custom website with animation to showcase the high-end sense of design and amazing interiors,” he adds.
Flaherty says Tahoe Mountain Realty’s marketing effort was a big part of getting the house sold.
And sell it they did. After an $800,000 renovation, Flaherty’s Rebel Ranch hit the market on Oct. 21 for $7.25 million. They had an offer within five days and closed for $6.9 million on Nov. 20, just in time for the Thanksgiving holiday.
Moving forward, Flaherty is on the lookout for her next project.
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