Josh and Lizzie Parra met in State College before moving to Boston. Now, the couple has returned to Centre County and is making a mark in the home remodel and design industry as Parra Design & Build.
In Boston for 12 years, the Parras worked in real estate with developers that would buy family homes in South Boston that had been passed down through generations; the developers would then replace the older homes with brand-new, luxury condos that came with a high price tag.
“We were working with them ... and we were like, ‘This is really cool and could totally work in Happy Valley where there are so many houses that have not been remodeled at all since they were built in the ‘50s, ‘60s and ‘70s,’ ” Lizzie Parra said.
The couple moved back to the area in 2016.
“Our plan was to flip homes and bring some of the style that we saw in Boston, like the quartz countertops and the decorative trim and beautiful hardwood floors ... to State College,” Lizzie Parra said.
However, the couple’s plan to flip houses resulted in a demand for their design skills. After each flip they completed, Parra Design received requests from design clients who wanted to keep their own homes, but wanted the same style the Parras brought to the homes they were flipping. Now, the couple has flipped several properties in Centre County and worked on designs for around a dozen homes, many of which are completing full-home redesigns in lengthy phases. Parra Design does most of its work in the State College area, but has recently been dabbling in Philipsburg as well.
“(Philispburg) is a really great place for real estate investors to buy a place, hold onto it for 10 years while they’re renting it, and then if they were to sell it, their capital gains tax is wiped out. That’s a huge opportunity,” Lizzie Parra said. She and Josh are also on the revitalization committee for Philipsburg and “see its great potential as a commuter town.”
For homeowners interested in a remodeling project, the Parras not only offer their keen design eye, but also their project management skills.
“A lot of our design clients have the motivation to fix up their places, but they’re kind of paralyzed by all the choices they need to make (and) a lot of contractors need to be managed and you have to pick through them and find out who does quality work,” Lizzie Parra said. “We’re able to really provide a service to homeowners to not only help them with making design choices but help them project manage from start to finish, as we do site visits and make sure everything is happening in a timely manner and well.”
Making a remodel fun for clients is also part of the goal.
“Having a designer and/or project manager takes the stress out of the equation,” Lizzie Parra said. “We help with the planning, we gather bids for the work, we help narrow down design selections, we manage the contractors, we make sure the whole job moves along quickly and correctly. Most days I have to tell our design clients, ‘Don’t worry, we got this!’ And we do!”
The Parra Design & Build design process includes a consultation, sourcing the right vendors for the project, picking various design elements and almost-daily site visits. After a project is completed, the Parras conduct followups to ensure all parts of the redesign were completed properly. For those clients redesigning their entire homes, it would then be time to move on to the next portion of their property.
Looking to remodel your home in the near future? Below, Lizzie Parra offers some advice.
1. Keep your home’s future in mind.
“Are you planning on living here until you die or are you planning on reselling in five to 10 years or immediately? That really completely dictates the way you approach a remodel. If you’re planning on staying in (the home) forever, we don’t have to keep resale value in mind as much. You can put in an $80,000 kitchen, your dream kitchen, and not have to worry about it, but if you are thinking about selling it in a reasonable amount of time, you want to make sure you can get a return on your investment.”
She added: “Something that we’ve learned in selling our flips is that no one really cares what a home looks like if the big ticket items haven’t been tended to. Smart buyers want newer windows, newer roofs, an efficient HVAC system (most want AC), a dry basement with solid foundation and no plumbing or electric problems. In other words, don’t put lipstick on a pig!”
2. Splurge on lighting.
“Feature light fixtures are a great design tool. Restoration Hardware and West Elm have some amazing high-quality fixtures that are such statement pieces. People so often just run to a box store and buy something trendy and affordable. We encourage our clients to splurge a bit on light fixtures because they are the jewelry of the home.”
3. Rethink your bathroom situation.
“We see a lot of older homes with multiple acrylic-surround bathtubs (and) showers. We always advise clients that they really only need one tub in the home (for resale, buyers love a bathtub for bathing kids). Master tubs (and) showers can be converted to a large, tiled shower surround. We also advise clients to remove the acrylic surrounds and install a new tub with tile above, and bring the tile all the way to the ceiling. Maybe do a glass door instead of a curtain.”
4. Get references.
“You need to get references when hiring on contractors or designers. You really need to ask them for previous clients from a few years ago. You want to make sure that people are still happy with the work several years down the road, that things aren’t leaking, shorting out or breaking.”