Interested in buying a fixer-upper? If so, there are things I recommend for rehabbing a property to make it a sound, long-term investment.
When you've got a property and it's vacant and you just purchased it, you want to create something that's going to provide you with long-term, hassle-free stable income as a rental. You always want to attract the best tenant base.
Tenants want houses that are safe, clean, functional and look nice.
- Start at the top. If the roof has a couple of useful years of life left, most homeowners will leave it alone – understandable, because new roofs cost a pretty penny. But old roofs tend to look ugly. A new roof can do a lot for curb appeal. Remember that a new roof with flashing, gutters and good shingles can give you 30 years of relief and no hassles. Since water always wins, rain-proof your roof and invest in topping your house with a leakproof lid.
- Think about windows. I don’t advise replacing windows, but I do recommend scraping and painting them. Many Detroit houses were built before 1978, when lead paint was widely used. Windows are the biggest source of lead in all old houses. When windows open and close, paint flakes off, and this presents a threat to tenants. I recommend scraping, painting or encapsulating windows to protect your tenants from lead issues.
- Make it look nice. Inside the house, do what it takes to make it look decent, top to bottom. Paint walls, spiff up the kitchen, outfit the kitchen floor with new tile, salvage bathroom tiles as much as possible and reglaze the bathtub.
- Secure the basement. Water always wins! Once you solidify your roof, take care of your basement, too. We put in new PVC plumbing, replacing old galvanized pipes, to provide resistance to freezing if the property goes vacant in winter. Make sure you shore up any leaks so you won’t have a water-filled basement. We like Dry Lok, waterproof paint for the basement.
- Update wiring. Electrical is important! Most houses have been updated at some point; make sure yours is! Replace circuits with circuit breakers. Rewire outlets to prevent fire or blown circuits.
- Attend to the grading. Part of ensuring a dry basement is making sure the grades of the landscape around the house are done right, sloping away from the house so water runs off and not into your basement.
- Don’t be cheap. You’ve heard plenty of contractor horror stories. Don’t give in to the temptation to save money by being a cheap landlord! Laying carpet without padding is a stupid move – not only does it feel terrible to walk on, it won’t last six months. Don’t paint a tub; glaze it. Don't put sticky tile down instead of ceramic – while it’s cheaper to install, it wears and peels. Unscrupulous homeowners give rental properties a bad reputation. There’s no reason you have to take advantage of tenants. Be a good homeowner – it will pay off in the long-run!