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Old 12-31-2015, 10:30 AM
28,383 posts, read 67,903,744 times
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Originally Posted by imagardener View Post
We purchased a fixer-upper in 2015 and spent the first month clearing out horrible kitchen cabinets and appliances that were beyond cleaning/repainting. Then cleaned all the walls and floors and repainted walls and ceiling. I'm in Florida and this is a concrete block/stucco home.

Before buying we had inspections done, NOT by a home inspector because we've used them before and they are not good at spotting problems. We called individual tradespeople (plumber, roofer, HVAC etc) to get a quote on repair/replacement. Some didn't charge anything and some charge a minimum visit fee.

Roof was old but didn't need replacement (they said) and heavy rains after settlement showed no leaks, yay!

To answer your question: What to fix first: fix items that will cause damage if left undone: roof, windows, doors. Next fix insulation or leaks around foundation that critters can get in. Next fix heat/AC. Paint is the last thing to do, inside and out. Flooring is last too unless it is damaged and needs repair.

It sounds like you are buying a house. If this is the first time for you then this is the biggest frugal tip I can give you: Profit is made at the time you purchase the house, not when you sell. That means don't buy something and think it will appreciate in value, buy the worst house in the neighborhood at the lowest price and do not over-improve it.

I waited 3 years until I found the just-right fixer-upper to buy. Timing is important, fewer buyers to compete with means getting a lower purchase price accepted (for my area summer is slow RE season, for many areas between Thanksgiving and Christmas is slow season). I watched the online MLS like a hawk and looked at 20 properties over 3 years and also kept track of how much they sold for. This information can be gotten from a real estate agent but it is also available on the MLS if you know where to look.

Exterior: you don't need to fix it up until you want to sell or unless you are violating county/city codes. My neighbors next door to our home (not the fixer upper) I swear keep their house looking dumpy because they don't want their taxes to go up haha. Taxes here are based on s.footage so their plan is not a good one.

Other fixer-upper tips: Kitchen and bathrooms sell houses but the sales price is based on $ per square foot on what the comparable home sold for recently so do not over-improve. Getting a low price on renovations also keeps your cost down. Again getting these done in slow season is best and always get 2 to 3 quotes. We saved 30% on electrical repairs this way.

Our lucky day was getting a handyman who started tearing out kitchen the day after settlement. He had multiple skills and we paid him at the end of each day (his terms). Getting the right tradespeople can save you big money. If you have these skills it's money in your pocket but if you make more money in your job then hire people.

Good luck.

Honest response! There are some contractors that really are almost goofy in how they prefer to be paid, but if you find one that does good honest work then it is OK to go along with their "tin foil hat" theories of being paid in cash daily.

I would say that MOST shows on TV massively OVER IMPROVE the houses that they "fix up" and often this done to encourage folks to SPEND MONEY with the sponsors of the show -- the big box stores would not be happy if the shows had folks in overalls simply repainting dirty / ugly places and making fatter profits than some babe in yoga pants demanding high end finishes...

The other thing that is 100% true is that 99% of buyers have no clue if they are getting some high priced stuff or just ordinary stuff that is staged very well -- even if you want to rent out a place it is easier to get a premium on the lease when you post picture of the place staged like a magazine layout vs have a big empty box. Thus it is absolutely true that all things that make the place look good, inside and out, should happen so that it looks perfect for the listing IF your goal is either to sell or rent. If you want to live in a place that is a whole different story and then factors like how efficient the place is heated / cooled / insulated take on a whole different level of importance...
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Old 12-31-2015, 12:10 PM
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Originally Posted by chet everett View Post
Honest response! There are some contractors that really are almost goofy in how they prefer to be paid, but if you find one that does good honest work then it is OK to go along with their "tin foil hat" theories of being paid in cash daily.
There are two reasons why contractors are looking to be paid daily in cash. First, they know that many house flippers and many home owners talk a good talk about having the funds to pay for their remodel. However, once the work gets done, the homeowner or flipper refuses to pay. Under state statute, the contractor can have a mechanic's lien placed on the property BUT that does not collect the money.

Second, there are a number of contractors who work "under the table." In other words, they don't want to be paid by check or have any documentation of their work as they have no intentions of declaring the income on their federal or state income tax returns. In my business, we issued 1099s to all contractors where we made payments over $600 a year per IRS code. You would not believe the squawks that we received from several vendors.
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Old 12-31-2015, 01:17 PM
Location: Vallejo
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Living in it? Structural, mechanical (electrical/plumbing), aesthetics.
Flipping it? Paint interior/exterior, flooring, update kitchen bath.
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Old 12-31-2015, 01:28 PM
Location: Vallejo
13,437 posts, read 15,036,253 times
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Originally Posted by haggardhouseelf View Post
It really depends on the home and the sort of person you are. What I mean is... some people need things to look pretty, while others are OK with things not looking pretty so long as they are functional. That also determines how you map out the work that you will do to fix up the house.

When you bought your home you should have had a home inspection done. When we had ours done, it gave us a really good idea of things that were in good shape versus things that needed a little (or a lot) of TLC. That has helped us to priorities some of the work we've done.

We've had our home less than five years, and this is what we have done so far:
1. replaced roof
2. replaced gutters/downspouts
3. removed popcorn/acoustic ceiling and replaced and repainted ceilings.
4. removed all medium-size and large trees that were too close to the house, also removed stumps (this was very $$$, some of it we did ourselves, some of it we paid a professional to do)
5. replaced old 11 year-old water heater with hybrid energy efficient water heater
6. replaced fence
7. completely removed all lawn/grass and non-native plants/shrubs and vegetation; installed landscaping which is water-wise/drought-tolerant and very low maintenance. (Best thing we've done so far, IMO! We donated the lawn mower, we'll never need it again.)

Next up: replacing windows, finishing/insulating garage, updating insulation (attic), installing ductless air conditioning and heating (we currently have no air conditioning (common for Pacific Northwest), and wall unit electric heat).

We originally wanted to replace the windows before the removal of the trees and replacing the 11-year old water heater... But the water heater was causing plumbing problems (it was eroding away inside and little bits were causing clogs) and the tree roots were causing draining issues as well as dropping limbs onto the house (they had not been planted in the right places and also had not been maintained properly)... Also one of the trees was infested with insects and their sticky poop was dripping all over our driveway and cars, creating a slippery gross mess... so we put off the windows and took care of those issues first. You have to be flexible and make adjustments to your list sometimes. Life happens.

You just have to really sit down and consider your home, make a list of everything that needs doing... and then begin to prioritize based on urgency, or also things like... "How long can I live with it this way?" You might also consider... will doing this save you money, time, or trouble in the long-run?

Our neighbors on both sides recently updated their windows and it has made a huge improvement to how their homes look and feel, and lowered their utility bills. I cannot wait to get our windows done!
When you get to it, be aware that the majority of window replacements now they just built the new window frame over the existing one to save a few bucks. You lose about 1 1/2" of window on side. Might be worth it to you to spent more money to have the windows reframed.
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Old 12-31-2015, 01:50 PM
Location: Oxygen Ln. AZ
9,321 posts, read 16,131,214 times
Reputation: 5685
Originally Posted by ciceropolo View Post
Building envelope:
Roof, Siding, Foundation, Windows, Doors, Insulation (as determined for climate), check for proper grading / drainage on the topography - though I would not buy anything without these things being assessed as best and closely as possible. To limit excesss 'fixing up', unless the location was simply worth more and it was a tear down situation.
Plumbing / Electrical / HVAC

Most everything else is cosmetic
This post above is what we considered most important as well when we bought our shack in Sun City. We replaced the envelope...windows, doors siding insulation and roof. Bought a new AC. We poured our own concrete countertops and just put down our new wood floor.
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Old 01-04-2016, 10:48 AM
3,263 posts, read 2,838,518 times
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The absolute first thing I would do (if I was going to live there or work on the house) is bleach the bathroom and kitchen. Then other living spaces.

That said, the important thing is that the house is weather-tight (fix roof, doors and windows), rodent- and bug-free (fix holes, cracks, etc), and water-tight (fix foundation). Addressing those issues will ensure that any of your other projects won't get damaged by weather, pests or water.
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Old 01-04-2016, 03:37 PM
Location: Las Vegas
13,432 posts, read 24,199,022 times
Reputation: 24745
The house I'm working on now is my third remodel. Here's how I do it.

1) safety/habitability issues. This would include leaks. Things that will cause further damage if not repaired now.

2) Next, all the electrical/plumbing. This comes next because it's quite possible you may have to tear things out to access the problem. Like put holes in drywall, etc.

3) Then work from the top down. I always do the floors last.
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Old 01-13-2016, 06:13 PM
5,945 posts, read 12,717,149 times
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Originally Posted by metamorphosis View Post
The absolute first thing I would do (if I was going to live there or work on the house) is bleach the bathroom and kitchen. Then other living spaces.
Actually, yes. A thorough deep-clean of every room, nook, and cranny is the first thing you should do.

Reading your post reminded me of when we first got the keys to our home. The previous owners were a busy young couple with two very young kids. Apparently they didn't like to clean, or they didn't know how? We thought the kitchen sink was a dark charcoal color. I have seen some sinks like that, so it didn't really stand out to me as being weird or anything. When I began scrubbing the heck out of the kitchen prior to us moving in, the sink changed colors! It's now the bright and shiny stainless steel color it is intended to be! I have never seen a sink so dirty in my life!
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Old 01-14-2016, 07:05 PM
Location: Tennessee at last!
1,870 posts, read 1,719,956 times
Reputation: 3714
I bought a fixer upper house with a 3 year time frame until I move into it when I retire. This is the priority I have:

Done on the first trip:

1. All electrical ;issues; (not cosmetic)--I do not want to house to burn up.
2. All leaking plumbing, no cosmetic stuff.
3. Trees etc. removed from the rain gutter
4. Started working on the garage door leak when it rains issue, from the outside
5. Removed bushed along the foundation that were taller than the house roof, way over grown.
6. Sealed raw outside wood on deck
7. Fixed all outside door locks so the house could be secure.

Next year on various trips:

8. Replaced rusted garage door, sealed to frame, still leaks at heavy rains, weather did not let us do the floor seal on any trip yet.
9, Removed all other foundation bushes - all were over grown
10. Removed large trees leaning towards house
11. Replaced falling bedroom wall with drywall and painted.
12. Removed all interior doors and reset them plum so they open and close
13. Put in ceiling fans
14. Patched / finished ceilings so they have one texture per room (some had part of room swirled, part smooth, part popcorn)
15. Painted kitchen, hall, one bath, one bedroom
16. Fixed more plumbing issues, replaced a faucet in kitchen.
17. Refinished bathroom cabinets.
18. Installed security system

Still have a major bathroom remodel, painting everything, 2 more bedrooms to redrywall, tons more stuff to do! BUT the house is livable now.
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