The Rhythm of the Work
If you’re just getting started with rehabbing, the question of where to start the work and what order you do the work in can be confusing. You must do one thing, first of all, every single time all the time. Absolutely no exceptions. The other work has a certain order of progression. If you do things in the right order, then the rehab project will proceed easily and profitably. If you do things in the wrong order, it is going to cost you a lot of money and time, and you may find yourself tearing out the work that you have just done and re-doing it.
Timing is a big part of planning the project. The order in which you do things has a big impact on how long it will take you to complete the project, and what the ultimate quality of the product will be.
You can spend too much money on a rehab. It is nice to have the prettiest house in the neighborhood, but make sure it can still be afforded by the people who would want to live in that neighborhood.
Putting the money into the house is part of the process of adding value. Nobody knows better than I do about putting money and time into houses. The important part is to spend your dollars wisely.
Look at the house thoroughly when you buy it. KNOW what it is going to cost to bring the house to what is commonly known as a "good and marketable condition". That's the scope of the project
. Once you have decided what you are going to do and how much you can spend on the project, you can proceed. There is an order to rehabbing just as there is an order in building a house or a bridge. Certain tasks must be completed before other tasks. If you put the wrong one first, you may well end up tearing out some of the work you have already paid for or spent time doing. If you do it wrong and leave it, it diminishes the quality of the product and you have effectively shot yourself in the foot in the marketplace.
There are lots of ways to rehab a house, and some ways are better than others. Having to open up a wall to fix something that should have been fixed before the sheetrock was put up is a good example. Putting the new roof on before you fix the foundation is another. (It can cause little ripples in the shingles that make it look like a rock thrown into a still pond.
I've tried most of the ways of rehabbing a house. I've made some of the mistakes personally, and have seen thousands of investors make expensive mistakes. I would like to share with you from the bounty of those experiences, and offer what I've learned from them. Here then is the order in which I normally rehab a house.
1. Clear and Clean the Yard
Get rid of all shrubbery that is too close to the house. Make way for the work. Trim the trees back five feet from the roof so that the branches will not rub on the shingles when the wind blows.
Carpenters and painters work better if they don't arm wrestle holly bushes, and your buying public will want to see the beautiful product you are putting on the market. Keep the yard cut and the vegetation trimmed neatly so the house will look its best from the curb. This is where you start attracting potential buyers or renters to your property.
Always rectify any problems with the foundation before you begin work on the house itself. If you have any doubt about whether a house needs foundation work or not, ask the advice of a structural engineer, a licensed real estate inspector, or a foundation repair company.
Remember that everything in the house sits on the foundation. The foundation sits on the soil. If the soil shrinks or swells excessively, it makes the house unlevel. I talk about that all summer to investors who wonder why the foundation is falling and there are cracks in the brocks and the sheetrock.
When the foundation of the house is square and level, then everything that is built on top of it has a good chance of being square and level. The parts of the house depend on the foundation being right so the different pieces of the house will fit together correctly and perform their functions in the way they were designed to.
Framing that is square and level is stronger, safer and will last much longer that framing that is not. Sheetrock on the inside and siding of brick or masonry depends on the framing being square or the work will not look right. Have you ever seen a leaning wall on a house? Looks weird, doesn't it? It is not safe, and it is a demonstration of a crumbling asset.
Foundation repair re-levels and stabilizes the house. Whether it is pier and beam or slab on grade, most of the houses in Houston will want a little adjusting in their lifetime.
After the foundation, we will dry in the house and close it up against the weather. Roof replacement or repairs are in order now. This also means that you have to coordinate any repairs that will penetrate the roof such at furnace and water heater vents, new turbines, etc.
4. Closing the envelope
Closing the envelope of the building involves repairing broken windows, repairing holes in the siding, replacing missing doors and making all locks on doors and windows operable. If this rehab is to be a rental property there are special laws governing what kind of locks you have to have on the doors. Do all the exterior carpentry now.
5. Paint exterior
At this point, all the exterior repairs have been done and the exterior prepping, priming of new and bare wood, and painting can begin. Be sure to cover the sidewalks and driveways and protect the vegetation when you paint. You want the house to look its best, and a clean, fresh paint job just draws more attention to the property.
6. Interior trades work
Carpentry, electrical and plumbing work can begin at the same time. Encourage a lot of communication between the trades so that they will work together and figure out things like who has the right of way when both guys want to work in the same place at the same time. Coordinate scheduling for things like electrical or plumbing, trim out and flooring installation.
All interior carpentry that does not interfere with permitted trades is done now.
Heating, Ventilating and Air Conditioning. If the furnace or the evaporator coil is to be changed out, now is the time for it. Take that nasty old equipment out over the old carpet or the bare floors, not your pretty new flooring that you just paid a lot of money for.
Rough plumbing is done now (new supply lines, drains, etc go in now). If the work is permitted, all must be completed and inspected by the municipality before you can proceed with closing up the walls with sheetrock and adding any missing trim such as doors, baseboards, or any other trim to be painted. Any texturing will be done now.
8. Sheetrock repairs, paint prep, and interior painting
Begin putting the interior back together and getting it ready to paint. Make sure all the holes and cracks are filled, and that all of the preparation has been completed when you begin to pain. Plan your work and then work your plan. Put a fresh coat of paint on all previously painted surfaces, and remember that cabinets that are nice and white and shiny are very attractive to a used homebuyer. If you are putting in new paint grade cabinets, they go in before the paint. If they are new natural finish cabinets, they go in after the painting is finished.
9. Trim out
Time for light fixtures, cabinet knobs, new faucets and sinks, new locksets and other appointments if you like it. Those pretty white cabinet doors will really sparkle when you add an attractive new pull or handle to the fronts of them. They don’t have to cost a fortune but they do have to look nice and pretty. The place has to look like a model home. Make it special; it has to look better than it has ever looked so that your buyers will just not be able to resist writing you an earnest money check
Get that new carpet, wood flooring, ceramic flooring and linoleum down. If you choose carpet, a 1/2" 6 pound rebond pad is a little thicker and costs just a little more than regular pads, but it makes the carpet feel so much more luxurious when you walk on it. Be sure you bring the buyer's attention to it when they look at the house. That's one of the ways to sell the value of the house and overcome objections to the price of the property. Make sure your choice of flooring fits the profile of similar houses that are currently selling in the neighborhood
Clean bathrooms and kitchen. Clean all windows inside and out. Mop floors, vacuum carpet and clean up the yard again. It is time for the house to put its best foot forward and really shine in the eyes of the buyer.
12. Paint touch up
The people who hang the light fixtures and the people who put in the flooring and the people who do the make ready cleaning sometimes leave little handprints and dings on your new paint job. Make sure that the painter takes one last trip through the house to really polish the paint job. Make sure the lines are perfectly straight and everything inside and out looks the very best that it can. Give a close look to walls, ceilings, trim and cabinets too make sure your paint job is immaculate.
So, spend your rehab dollars, but spend them wisely. Don't waste them by making silly mistakes in doing the rehab that will only cost you money and opportunity in the market. Remember, clean fresh houses sell faster.
I’m Kevin Smith and I make house calls. I am a resource for investors. You can call me if you see something you don’t understand on a house, or if you get stuck in your rehab. My cell phone is 713-858-1330, and phone calls are free. I’ll see you out on the property.
Old Forge LLC
Licensed Real Estate Inspection Rehab Consulting
Cell Phone: 713-858-1330