What Rehabbing Houses Taught Me About Vulnerability


When I started selling homes as a real estate agent, I noticed a strange trend with the buyers I was showing houses to: People were willing to pay more for houses that looked pretty but lacked the important and expensive upgrades that were hidden behind the walls, such as good insulation, electrical system, and plumbing. Buyers had the ability to convince themselves to buy what looked pretty on the inside and neglect what’s on the inside or tell themselves that they will take care of those things later. 

This happens so much in the real estate business that many rehabbers have built a career on what they call “Lipstick Rehabs”. This is when you go into a house and make cosmetic updates that make the buyers fall in love. All it takes is a fresh coat of paint, newly finished floors, new modern fixtures, and stainless steel appliances. The problem with that is that eventually, the new homeowners have to start dealing with what’s hidden behind the makeup and many start falling out of love with what they thought they wanted. This trend of buyers going after what looks good from the outside taught me a great lesson; I did exactly the opposite of what others were doing.

The parallel of a house’s condition and the human soul has taught me a valuable lesson on vulnerability:

I am much more attracted to houses with broken and open walls and cracks that I can see. Why? Because everything i out in the open and  that’s when I am truly able to see what the house needs, and if I love the house despite seeing all its big flaws and issues, my love and confidence only grows, knowing that there are no surprises a the house goes through the restoration process.

Another great thing about investing in homes where all the flaws are exposed, is that they are too ugly and too scary to most people; the average human is unable to see the potential beyond the current condition so they walk away. With little to no demand, I get the advantage of getting the most rejected homes at the cheapest rates; knowing that I can remodel them above and beyond what a “lipstick rehabber” can, because I am going to restore it from the inside out rather than covering up the flaws and being in denial of what the house really needs.

I have often shown many of my friends and previous clients homes that were gutted, exposed, with all the flaws. Typically reactions are something like, “Wouldn’t you rather just buy a house in a better shape so you can just do some cosmetic work and sell quickly?” or “Is this really worth the risk?” What they don’t understand is that these “rough” houses offer no surprises, while the other houses that “look good” can often bring disappointment. I know what I’m getting into, I am choosing with my eyes wide open, and I am confident of my commitment, because I know I can see the home achieve its full potential.

There was a season in my own life where I felt so vulnerable and full of cracks in my own foundation.

I found myself connecting with a house I was remodeling on a particularly personal level. It was no longer an investment property. Instead, my own story mirrored the story of the house. The more I heard about how the house was considered hopeless, the more I fought for it, internally I knew that in doing so, I was also fighting for my own soul.

It was then that it hit me… All of us humans are houses that need work. Some of us need work more than others, but all of us have cracks in our foundation because of hurt, rotten walls that hinder us to love and be loved, and broken windows from words that have cut us. We all have foundation cracks that need to be healed, rotten walls around our hearts that need to be removed, and windows that need to be replaced with the truth of who we really are.

Those sorts of marks can mar our souls; whether they are out of hurt, fear, unbelief, rejection, or false beliefs, they leave each of us with one of two choices; we can either hide the brokenness and put on a fresh coat of paint to distract visitors from the issues behind the walls OR we can acknowledge those flaws,  be unashamed of others seeing them and let God, the ultimate investor, come in and replace what needs to be replaced and renew our minds and souls so we can live and love wholeheartedly. 

The rise of social media makes it easier to “lipstick rehab” ourselves efficiently and quickly. We post the highlights of our days while we tell the whole world that our lives are cute rehabbed homes with great friends and fun lives but what we are really doing is putting fresh coat of paint on molded walls.

Choose vulnerability….

One of the great things about embracing the journey of vulnerability is that it weeds out the wrong “investors.” Only true and faithful friends can see us through our exposed needs, believe in us where we are, and choose to cheer our heavenly rehabber as He restores us so that we are new and even better than we were before.

“Confess your sins to each other and pray for each other so that you may be healed.” James 5:16

What areas are you too afraid to let others, including yourself, see through? What are the walls that are hindering you from living with a full heart? How are you handling the broken cracks in your foundation? Are you covering them up or are you bringing them out so that they can be completely healed?