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Articles on Rehabbing Ugly Houses


Timing is a big part of planning.

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, what the ultimate quality of the product will be.

I talk a lot about product. It is the houses that we buy ugly and fix up that are the product that we bring to market. If we present a shabby product to the market, the market will not receive us as warmly as when we bring forth a product of quality and usefulness.

The lower end of the market is a house that is a junker, and it will never be much more than a junker. It is old, it has the problems of old houses. Bad plumbing, bad wiring, foundation problems and the wear of all the years and all the people who have lived there.

The upper end of that same market would be a house that is fixed up a lot better than all of the rest of the houses in the neighborhood. Can you see a trellised gazebo on the lawn of an economically challenged neighborhood? Sure. Money can put it there. Hopefully not your money.



Don’t spend too much money on your rehab.

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. A freshly painted house with a new roof (if it needs one) and some nice soft polished brass at the front door can be very inviting to a prospective buyer. That’s where you want to spend your money, in adding the value, not necessarily the money.

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.

Every dollar that you spend on fixing the house is a dollar less you will be walking away from the closing table with. Spend what you have to, but spend it 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.
Now the project needs a budget. Figure out how much it will cost to do what you want to do to the house Get competitive bids for expensive items such roofs and slabs. Write it all down and add it all up. Decide on the quality level of the product before you spend a nickel, and you will wind up spending fewer nickels to reach that condition we so lovingly refer to as “Marketable.”



Once you’ve finished your planning.

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 most of the mistakes personally. I would like to share with you from the bounty of my mistakes, and offer what I’ve learned from the experience.



The order in which I rehab a house.


1. Home Clear and clean the yard

2. Foundation

3. Roof

4. Doors, Windows, closing the envelope

5. Paint exterior

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, and coordinate scheduling for things like electrical or plumbing trim out and flooring installation.


8. Sheetrock repairs, paint prep and interior painting

9. Trim out

10. Flooring

11. Cleaning
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

So spend your rehab dollars, but spend them wisely. Don’t waste them by making silly mistakes that will only cost you money and opportunity in the market. Remember, clean fresh houses sell faster. Good luck, and I’ll see you out on the property.


By Kevin Smith
Forward Assist Inspections



Types of Properties to be Rehabbed

  • Flooded Houses

    • Floodwater damage

    • First Time Flooded

    • Repeated Flooding

    • Flood Zones

    • Rapid Moving vs. Sitting Water

  • Natural Disasters

    • Hurricanes

      • Falling debris, Trees, Branches
      • Blown
    • Hail – Snow – Sleet

    • Tornadoes

    • Earthquakes

  • Structural Damage

    • Foundation Problems

      • Causes of Settling
      • Cracked Slabs
      • Settled Piers
      • Sinkholes
    • Insect Damage

      • Termites
      • Carpenter Ants
      • Critters
    • Plumbing Damage

      • Sudden breakage
      • Long term leakage
    • Outside Structures Damaged

      • Swimming Pools
        • Popped out
        • Cracked
      • Garage, carport, storage shed
  • Environmental Hazards

    • Toxic Mold

    • Asbestos

    • Lead-based Paint

    • Industrial Waste

    • Landscape

  • Burned Houses

    • Burnouts

    • Burn Damage

    • Smoke Damage

    • Burned Attachments

  • Deffered Maintenance

    • Neglect

    • Natural Wear and Tear

    • Rental Properties

    • Probate Property

  • Vandalism

    • Mischievous Vandalism

    • Theft of Materials

    • Foreclosed Owners

  • Code Violations

    • Grandfathered-in vs. Required Replacement

    •  Electrical

      • Aluminum wiring
    • HOA Violations


Before The Rehab


  • Inspections and Evaluation

    • Choosing An Inspector

    • Appraisers

    • Surveyors

    • Making Estimates

    • Getting Estimates

  • Financing The Project

    • Purchase

    • General Contractor vs. Sub-Contractors

    • Materials

    • Labor

  • Title and Closing

    • 1

    • 2

    • 3

  • Contractors, Permits and Planning

    • 1

    • 2

    • 3


Beginning The Rehab

  • Where to start









  • How to do toxic mold remediation and restoration
    – some mold cleaning & repairing jobs can be affordable.




  • How to Repair Foundations
    – on leveling different types of foundations, repairing a foundation.





  • Preparing Your House to Sell 2: Final Detailing
    – everything should be really clean, make the house a home.



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