Getting Started With Real Estate Investing – Part 5

by Mr. Cheap

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To start at the beginning – please see part 1 of this series.

Should I hire a contractor?

I talked to various friends and family and scoured the web looking for the best way to find contractors. I found so many horror stories about contractors gone out of control, that I was almost as stressed out about hiring contractors as I was about trying the work on my own (and actually wasted a week and a half flip flopping between the two ideas). I had intentionally avoided taking on any work during this period (the theory was originally so that I could do the work myself, but in the end it turned out just to be so I could supervise the work myself).

Deciding which renovation to do first

Since I figured getting the walls painted before getting the new floors put in made sense, I decided to start with that. I got a recommendation from a friend and my girlfriends father recommended getting a painter through Sears. In the end the prices were the same, except that the recommended guy was going to take 3 weeks (and the painter was going to come in with a crew and do it in 3 days) and the Sears job came with a 1 year guarantee. Easy decision, I hired the Sears guy.

Renovation gone bad?

The Sears guy actually recommend a flooring man to me, and I got the guy in to do my floors after the painting was finished. Initially the paint was peeling, and I was freaking out that the whole $1800 job was going to come down in strips, but the painter assured me that that was normal and that they’d come in to do touch-up (which they did) and that it’d be good after it had dried for a month (which is was – live and learn).

For the flooring I went with Ikea laminate (TUNDRA, maple effect). The costs seemed to keep jumping up on me (I was quoted $1 / sq. ft. for installation, but then it turned out quarter round and baseboards were extra. Picking up the wood ended up being another extra ($50 for 2 of his friends and a truck) and another $50 to get their help to bring it up to my condo. He offered to redo the tiling instead of laminate in the kitchen, and for some reason I had to pay twice for this area (I’d already paid to have the laminate installed there, then when were were doing tiles instead, I had to pay $1 / sq. ft. AGAIN, so the tiles cost me $2 / sq ft.).

In the end I got about 800 sq. ft. of flooring done (700 sq. ft. of laminate, and 100 sq. ft. of ceramic tiles) for $4000 ($2000 labour, $2000 materials) which I was quite happy with. I called one place that quoted me $2.50 / sq. ft. for the work (which may have included quarter round and baseboards, I’m not sure) and I got Empire Today to come in and give me a quote (which the guy told me it would be a minimum of $10K for their cheapest laminate – no thanks!).

It’s quite funny, as before I did this job I couldn’t care less about “home improvements” and the general state of my living environment. Since I’ve done this, I’ve actually developed an eye for things that are roughly done around peoples houses or in restaurants and certainly appreciate a nicely done living space in good repair. I also enjoy watching the reno shows on HGTV (although I still prefer the Real Estate hunting / haggling shows).

I’m putting in an offer on another “fixer-upper” condo, and the work I had done on this unit definitely has improved my ability to estimate costs of renovations (I hope, otherwise I might be in trouble! :-) ). Its amazing the wide array of skills you develop just buying and fixing up a small 1000 sq. ft. living space.

My girlfriends father, an electrician, was good enough to help me replace a few of the light fixtures (they were pretty awful) and all of the electrical outlets (the painters messed them up by getting paint in them – I guess they couldn’t be bothered to cover them).

With the space glowing and fresh (and nicely smelling of fresh paint) I showed the place off to my local friends and sent pictures to my family and distance friends. Now I just needed to find someone to pay me rent every month!

(continue to part 6).

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