July/August 2019 Issue

"Renovation Rockstar"

Renovation Rockstar


by Kelli White

Most often, success happens as a result of failure. For Michele and Ken Van Der Veen, ups and downs eventually led them to a life full of happy homes. Renovating and selling an average of a dozen homes each year, the family's real estate company, iHeart Homes Corp, began in 2012 when the family was near rock bottom. With a lot of heart and hard work, they turned their fortune around and began what in their hearts, they always knew they were meant to do - renovate houses.

Michele and Ken began dating at 19 years old, and many of their date nights involved looking at model homes and dreaming of building their own someday. They did get that chance... along with providing well designed, renovated homes for other families. Their family business carried on to sons Austin (26), who handles the finances, and Landon (21), who does construction. Their daughter Victoria (24), started her real estate career as the agent for iHeart Homes Corp. "At family dinners we sit and talk about houses. We can't get away from it!" Michele said.

Just 45 minutes from Sacramento and two hours from San Francisco, the Van Der Veen's are in prime location in California - Historic Gold County. This Renovation Rockstar project is located in Sutter Creek, a town of about 2,000 people. It took six weeks to renovate and sold the first day on the market for full asking price. Time and money aside, what made this house a "Rockstar Renovation" was its aftereffect on the neighborhood. 

Michele explained that this home's former resident damaged the property extensively by breaking windows, putting holes in walls, and destroying gutters. "We see this a lot. Homes are left to children who stop making payments and the bank overtakes them. In the meantime, the near destroys the property and disrupts peace in the neighborhood." The Van Der Veen family is not only passionate about restoring houses and providing a home for someone else, but they are driven by the gratitude they've received from neighbors living near their projects.

"Our homes affect beyond the buyer," Michele said. "It's a healing process for neighbors walking through our open houses. On this particular home, the whole neighborhood was so grateful. This business is about investing in the community."


The business of house flipping begins by searching for properties and deciding what to do with them. Before the Van Der Veen's built iHeart Homes Corp, they built custom homes. At that time, Michele though there was no way they could renovate exist homes, but Ken envisioned they could. "Ken complements my view and knows how to fix a property and change it for the better. That's his comfort zone. For me, the emotional struggle to overcome what I imagine had happened in a house (like the punched walls) was the biggest obstacle."

The home in Sutter Creek presented another challenge: curb appeal. They height of the front deck present a displeasing aesthetic  but they worked through it. 

"We thrive on a challenge and function in chaos," Michele said. "I am still amazed we pulled it off!" They added flower boxes, shutters, and an exterior deck, and they increased the size of the front deck to add more exterior living areas on both sides of the home. The back area couldn't be accessed except through the garage, so they added French doors and a private outside dining area. "In all our homes, we stage everything outside when possible to create more living areas and make the property feel bigger without adding square footage," Michele said. 

An iHeart Homes house is a created living environment for the buyer. Michele, Ken and their crew want to present a home, not just a house. And they do that through attention to design and detail and with a passion for restoring peace in neighborhoods.

Michele Van Der Veen's Tips for Flips

With an interior design degree and a husband who studied business with an emphasis in real estate, the Van Der Veen duo was destined for house-flipping success. Michele shares a few tips she and Ken learned along the way.

1. Imagine problems before they happen

"Try to stand back and answer every question a buyer would ask. Address everything possible ahead of time.

2. Be mindful about money

"Beginning can be a financial struggle because you go through funds so fast. Pay attention to where every dollar is going."

3. Embrace yellow

"Often people get rid of this color but it's the first color our minds recall. I choose paint with a yellow tint to create warmth inside a home"