Prepping a New House

I put more effort into this house than I usually do between the time that we bought it and the time that we got it rented. The house was almost double what we’ve bought any other house for, and I wanted to be sure we could get the rent we wanted for it. Looking back, I probably didn’t need to make it as good as I did, and it’s definitely not perfect. If I were listing it for sale, I should have painted baseboards and taken doors off hinges and sprayed them instead of cleaning them.

In the past, I’ve had to paint a room or two. We may have needed to replace an appliance. But typically, we’re buying houses that have recently been flipped at 50% effort and are good enough for a renter. Two houses have been in poor shape that needed more TLC. One we had to replace the carpet, clean heavily, and paint nearly everything. Another house needed an easy wipe down, but required everything to be painted, down to the trim. And truly, had the owner paid a few thousand to get the place painted, they probably could have gotten 10k more on the house (but the owner didn’t even pay their electric bill, so that’s not surprising).

NEW HOUSE

The house we just purchased wasn’t prepped for sale. It was an off-market deal. We came to an agreement that they wouldn’t need to come back to town to clean, refinish a floor that the dogs ruined, or paint. As such, we got at least 10k off the price. They were going to list at $250k, and probably would have gotten competitive offers and going higher than list, and we got it for a net $240k. I then put 14 hours of effort into the house.

The owners had a bedroom dedicated to the dogs. They didn’t do significant damage, but they did enough. The closet doors needed to be repainted, the baseboards and windowsills needed to be sanded, cleaned, and repainted. The floor was damaged and we thought needed to be refinished. The walls were covered in slobber, dirt, and scuffs. That was the worst room of the house. The kitchen was covered in grossness, and I put a lot of elbow grease into that. I was going to hire a cleaner, but the bathrooms ended up not being so dirty, so I figured I could glove-up and get it done.

PAINT

The whole house needed to be painted. I picked my battles and painted all of the 2100 sf except for the kitchen (which is covered by cabinets and I didn’t want to cut into all that or move the fridge), one bedroom that had the least amount of scuffed walls, and the upstairs bathroom. I chose painting over cleaning the walls because I didn’t see the benefit of cleaning. I would have eliminated some dog slobber and a few scuffs, but it wouldn’t have gotten the two years worth of dirt and rubbing and splatter of whatever off the walls. So I kept a rag with me and wiped the dust off where I could see it, but I just painted over everything else because I thought that would be the most efficient use of my time.

I repainted the closet doors in the dog bedroom. In the hallway, I repainted the attic door and the floor molding. Most of the other floor molding needed to be wiped down, and in some rooms, I painted the wall paint along the top of the molding instead of getting the white paint out or cleaning it. All of the closets needed to be painted, but I wasn’t going to put that effort in just for it to likely get scuffed again.

REFINISHING THE FLOOR

Mr. ODA handled this and did awesome. We thought the floor needed refinishing in this one bedroom. We researched how to do it and everything. Then my mom mentioned “Rejuvenate” floor product. Mr. ODA looked at the floor and concluded it was the top coat that was roughed up, and that the stain and coloring was still there. He saw such a difference, that he actually used it on the rest of the hardwood flooring! It’s not perfect, but it was the most bang for our buck in the process to address something that definitely needed to be addressed.

CLEANING

I was going to hire a cleaner, but I ended up needing a break from the hand position of holding a brush one day. I started using some degreaser to get through the dirt. The kitchen was disgusting. It’s one thing to leave some debris behind because you didn’t do a final clean as you got out the door, but this was two years of food splatter caked onto the cabinets and backsplash. The refrigerator had been cleaned, but the freezer still had food and left over explosion remnants.

I’ve never cleaned an oven. I may have wiped a couple of things out after the initial mess got made, but have never had a dirty enough oven to need to really clean it. This was horrendous. I put 45 minutes worth of effort into. It’s not perfect, but it’s good enough. In the first picture, I had already cleaned two layers off the door and scrubbed half the bottom of the oven. Then the second picture is where I left it. I’m sad I didn’t get a true before picture to show just how awful it was. The right side of the first picture is actually the dirt that was in there and not the cleaner yet.

The bathrooms were pretty clean and just needed a wipe down. I swept the whole house and mopped the floors. I cleaned multiple windows because they were bad enough that I didn’t even want to look at them anymore.

YARD WORK

I don’t know if the people who flipped the house in 2019 didn’t fix up the yard, or if this mess was really just 2 years worth. The driveway was covered in mud and leaves. I swept it all up to be sure that there wasn’t any broken glass (there was glass in the yard) and to give the new people a fresh start of clean. I didn’t take a before picture, but you can tell where there had been piles of ick sitting in this picture. I filled the yard waste container with everything that was built up on the long driveway.

Before I could mow the yard, I had to pick up a lot of twigs that had dropped. There were a few big branches that I need to come back to, but I filled the fire pit with all the twigs that I got out of my way. The grass in the backyard is in good shape, and I was able to get it looking good with the mower. The front yard is lacking on grass. I laid some seed and hoped for the best, but hopefully it will be in good shape one day.

RANDOMS

The front bedroom light wouldn’t turn on. I went to replace the light bulb, and it’s all one unit, as in you can’t get to the light bulb! We had replaced some flush mount lights with fans in the kids’ bedrooms here, so I brought one of the lights to the house. Turns out, mounting brackets aren’t all created equal, and I couldn’t install the new/old light fixture. I bought a new light to install and got that done on my first attempt.

I had to wipe down the shiplap wall that goes down into the basement. It’s a pretty feature, but it was covered in more yuck. A few trim pieces weren’t painted well by the people who flipped the house, but I didn’t want to break out my different color white paint and fix it. Hopefully it’s small enough of an issue that you don’t notice too much. If it were me living there, it would drive me crazy.

The pantry had two shelves that were stained by cans. Instead of cleaning it or trying to repaint it white (over caked on debris with white paint that always requires 3 coats), I put contact paper over them. Is it necessary? No. Does it give a little extra step to make your tenants appreciate the house and want to take care of it? Yes.

The kitchen flip wasn’t done perfectly, and the caulking was cracked everywhere. I recaulked everything along the backsplash in the kitchen. Then I also caulked the bathroom tub, which really made a difference in making a clean, fresh look. There were a few pieces of shoe molding that came apart from the baseboard, so I caulked a few of those areas too.

SUMMARY

We spent under $300 and 14 hours worth of time. Two of those hours were spent showing the house to about 10 prospective tenants during an open house. The house looked in good shape when I handed it over to the new tenants. I’m hoping that they’ll love it like a home and take good care of it, since they saw the effort I put into it. It was definitely worth putting that effort in to save the 10k+ on the cost and to avoid anymore bidding wars in today’s crazy market.

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