Rehabbing A House

A house rehab involves restoring a distressed home and improving it where possible. It is a very rewarding experience fraught with potential hidden costs. Our family has decades of house rehabbing experience that I would like to share with you on We recently purchased a 150 year old home in need of a rehab and will show you many common problems and fixes, but first...

Most Recent House Rehab Guides

Rehabbing a house takes time, effort, patience and some resources. For some jobs a rehab will also require experience so you will need to decide if you do some steps yourself or if you leave them to a professional contractor.

Rehabbing a House - Checklist

  • Have a professional inspector evaluate the property
  • Create a checklist of work to be done and prioritize by home need
  • Develop a realistic rehab budget for each step and stick to it
  • Hire a qualified contractor for technical work (plumbing, electrical, heating and A/C)
  • Obtain necessary construction and demolition permits before starting a house rehab
  • Start with a good cleanup of the job site, remove debris before trade work begins
  • Rehab the outside of a house first including siding, windows and eaves (the shell)
  • Finish every home improvement task before starting another and keep your invoices

What Is A House Rehab?

A house rehab is simply restoring and refreshing it to make it more appealing. The reasons why someone might want to undertake a house rehand, however, vary greatly. House flipping usually involves a certain amount of house rehabilitation but a house flipper is primarily interested in turning a short term profit by making cost-effective repairs and re-selling the property. A real estate investor may focus on the value of appreciation over a longer period of time and will be happy to rent the property and let tennants cover any costs or mortgages. A live-in owner will want to keep the house in good shape because they don't intend to sell it. A house rehab will vary in cost depending on the reasons for the rehab and the extent of the work required.

How Much Does A House Rehab Cost?

I get asked about costs a lot and my best answer is that it always costs more than you think it will if you don't follow the checklist above. A qualified home inspector is critical in evaluating the condition of any home before you make a buying decision. When you get a comprehensive home inspection report you can begin to get a better idea on what it will cost to do your house rehab. There is no way to know what the exact total cost will be in advance but some steps, like staging a house or dripping faucet repair, are more predictable. If that faucet has been dripping a long time it might have caused rotten floor joists that have not yet been detected yet which will raise the price.

A typical rehab costs anywhere from $15,000 to $70,000 but the variables always need to be evaluated independently, for each house, every time. If you're looking to buy and flip houses and want to know which houses are in your price range it's a good idea to talk to a financial lender first, before you start looking. The lender will help you narrow down your range and will help you set a budget on renovations. Next, a real estate agent can help you find potential properties in that price range. I can't stress enough how important it is to have an experienced agent and inspector on your team to help you invest on a house that is within your price range.

Potential material costs that are very common in a house rehab are the price of kitchen and bathroom countertops, appliance replacements, painting and flooring. Associated labor costs will increase the project's total price if you need an expert to complete each step. The initial purchase price of the house is a fixed cost. Lender's fees and loan interest will raise the price further, as will staging and obtaining the proper permits, if required. When all of the rehabbing tasks are done you will also have selling costs which might rise if it takes a while to find a buyer or if you settle for less than you planned.

The cost of not performing due dilligence and having an expert perform an inspection can be extreme. Don't skip these steps to try and save a dollar because it will almost always end up costing you more.

How Long Does It Take To Rehab A Home?

In my experience it commonly takes from six weeks to six months to fully rehab a home. Many factors play a critical role in the rehab timeframe but I find that if you allow yourself two seasons to complete the work you will have plenty of time to complete the work. Perhaps you need to replace the roof but it's wintertime or you want to find foundation leaks but it's a hot dry summer, these and many other factors can increase the project length so give yourself some extra time during the planning stages.

Selling a home on the other hand is more highly market dependent. This is where having a good real estate agent can play a key role in your planned house rehab. Ask the agent how long it typically takes to sell a home in your area and be specific in comparing houses. Sometimes a six bedroom house will sit on the market longer because everyone is looking for three bedroom homes.

Tip: consider square footage in comparison to the immediate neighboring houses. It's not ideal to have the largest house in area where people are looking for bargains because the costs will likely be higher than the immediate neighbors. The opposite is often true as well, the smallest house in an upper-scale neighborhood may be a hard sell as well.

Key steps in rehabing a home each take time but many of them can be completed before you make a financial commitment to a property. A financial lender will help set your budget, a real estate agent will help locate potential properties, a property inspector will tell you the condition of the home, contractors can bid on the work to be done etc. Other than the cost of the home inspector these steps are usually free to perform. As a buyer you are not typically commited to buying a property until you make an offer so spend all the time you need in researching and evaluating each property independently.

What to rehab first? Inside vs outside

This question is common and the answer is thankfully simple, always start on the outside of a home. The outside of a home, or the shell, is the first thing a buyer sees and it's the protection for everything inside. Make sure the shell is dry and secure and that the house has nice curb appeal. Next focus on the inside where people are likely to spend the most time, the kitchen and bathrooms.

Money spent in the basement does not have the same return on investment that money spent in the kitchen does but don't overspend expecting a full return on expensive rehab costs. The exception to these general guidelines is critical repairs. If the basement is collapsing or flooding then that is a critical repair which must be made promptly and it take priority. Tip: Finish each step of your rehab plan before benning the next. You don't want to have too many ongoing unfinished jobs at once if you can avoid it.

Some good advice for first time house rehabbers

Your first house will be challenging since you lack experience so ask for any advice you can from more experienced rehabbers. Some good questions that we will be showing you how to do in our rehab project include:

  • How To Finish A Basement
  • How To Finish An Attic
  • How To Fix Garage Door Sensors
  • How To Flip A House
  • How To Install A Replacement Window
  • How To Install Carpet On Concrete
  • How To Repaint A Deck
  • How To Replace A Shower
  • How To Unlock A Deadbolt

Start out small, take your time until you have the tools, connections and help required for larger projects and look for project houses that offer a high return on investment. Leave extra room in your rehab budget and in your projected completion time because unforseen delays can cause both to be different than expected.

Please bookmark the site because we'll be discussing our project house and showing you more about land develpoment, real estate analysis, real estate comps and more over the comming months. Off the top of my head I'll also have guides and tools such as a septic tank size calculator to use and some guides on subdividing land, knowing what does black mold smell like and a great discussion about hacker houses, stay tuned!

Common house rehab mistakes to avoid

Mistakes will eventually happen, these are very common. Forgetting property insurance can be costly if unforseen damage occurs during renovations. Failing to do full market research of the community the house is located in and performing the wrong upgrades. Offering too much to buy a property and ending up short on resources to complete a rehab and not knowing when to walk away before unexpected losses rise higher than can be recovered from are the top four rehabbing mistakes, in my opinion. A close fifth mistake is trying to do work yourself that you are not experienced at but that require technical knowledge and permits such as electrical or plumbing work.

Avoiding common mistakes will put you ahead of the game and you've already done well in using the internet to find others who have tackled the same issues you are facing. Welcome to

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