General Rehabbing Tips

One of the things that makes real estate so exciting is that every project is different, and you can expect to learn something new in every deal. Following are some points that will provide you a foundation of knowledge and help prepare you to cope with the surprises.

Open a contractor's account at your local paint store, home improvement store, and building supply center. You'll be eligible for discounts, and in many establishments you'll get faster service by being able to check out at a special contractors-only register.

Don't buy based on price alone, whether you're choosing a contractor or buying materials. The cheapest price may not always offer the best deal. Of course, the highest price doesn't necessarily mean the highest quality. Do a cost-benefit comparison so you can make a good decision. And when you find a product or brand that works, stick with it—it's impossible to assign a dollar value to the peace of mind from knowing what to expect in a rehab situation.

If you must rent equipment to get a job done, try to rent it on a Saturday because many equipment rental businesses allow you to rent through Sundays for free.

Remember that creativity and a nontraditional approach can often mean big savings and bigger profits on a rehab job. Years ago, I was fixing up a house in which the kitchen counters were in decent shape, except for one large burn mark next to the stove, where someone had obviously moved a hot pot off a burner and put it on the unprotected counter. Rather than replace the countertop at a cost of $200 to $300, I found an attractive 12" x 12" piece of tile for about $1 and glued it over the burn mark, creating a custom hot pad next to the stove that gave the kitchen a designer look. This is the kind of thinking that starts you quickly on the road to riches.

Any house needing fix-up is going to need cleaning. You don't have to use a lot of fancy, expensive cleaning products. Straight bleach takes care of removing mold and mildew from tile grout. White vinegar applied full strength removes grease from kitchen cabinets (then go over them with Murphy's Oil Soap to bring back their shine). Remember, the goal is to make the house look and smell clean, and that can be accomplished with basic cleaning supplies. If you notice an odor in the house, do your best to find the source and remove it; especially if the house has been vacant, there's an excellent chance the odor is coming from a decomposing wild animal. A product called OdoBan is readily available in most stores that sell household supplies and does a great job at disinfecting and killing odors.

Just about every rehab job is going to include paint, so rely on the following painting tips to make the project easier and more profitable. First, use top-of-the-line paint, which is self-priming and saves you money in both materials and labor in the long run. Before you buy paint, check to see if the old paint is latex or oil. You can paint oil over latex but not latex over oil. One way to tell if the paint is oil or latex is to test it with Goof Off; if the paint melts, it's latex. If you're painting a flaky, chalky surface, add Emulsa Bond (by Flood) to latex paint to make it stick.

To prep the house before painting, mask the surfaces you don't want to paint with the tape available in the paint department of home improvement stores. To cover door hinges and knobs, paint them with contact cement, then peel off the dried cement when you're finished. Don't use plastic drop cloths; paint spills won't dry, and you'll risk stepping in them and tracking paint around the house. Use drop cloths that will absorb spills.

If you hire a painter, tell him to let you know halfway through the job if he's going to have enough paint—that way, you'll have time to buy the additional paint before he runs out and has to stop working.

Dollars and Sense

When rehabbing, consider buying the materials yourself and hiring labor only. That way you can take advantage of any contractor's discounts that might be available from the suppliers and you won't be paying a materials markup to the workers you hire.

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