Renovating a Rental House - What You Need to Do First

I just became a renovator. Maybe I watched too many DIY shows on the TV. You know the ones? The ones that look horrible in the before picture and then magically turn into something spectacular in the 30 minutes the show was on. How hard can this be?

I purchased a "fixer upper" for an investment, since the stock market tanked and I wanted something else to try to make some money. I took my money clutched in my hands, and put it down on a semi detached in small town Ontario.

With my small budget stretched to the max, I ended up with something that needed a lot of renovating.  I had been around tools before, but this was a little daunting.

With the nightmare of going back and forth with offers, and then finally agreeing on a price, I got the keys last week, drove madly to the house, opened the door, and breathed in that "stale dead something rotting" smell you get from old carpets, and had a panic attack.

I pulled myself together and decided to make a checklist of first things first.  I got some valuable information from my insurance agent where I hold this rental house insurance and got started there.  Her recommendations were:  SECURITY and AIR QUALITY first.



Electronic Air Cleaner - Invest in Clean Air While You Renovate

When I first walked into my house the air was not good.  The house didn't have any water leaks luckily enough but the old carpets had a disgusting smell and the windows had been nailed shut for security.  This was a foreclosure so not much care was taken when the former owner moved out.  

If you are planning on doing a lot of the renovations yourself, then you need to invest in good quality masks, especially when pulling up old carpet, and an electronic air cleaner, such as the one above.  These machines are powerful and clean the air quickly.  

You may just want to get stuck in and get ripping out the old, but take care of your health and the health of any workers you hire.  Supply masks and get those windows open and get the air clean especially in the beginning stages.  This is not a wasted investment as it can stay in use after you are done, as many new building materials can create odours in a house as well.


Security System - User Friendly and Wireless so You Can Check From Anywhere

If you are not living in this house, then you need a security system.  You don't have to hire a company but that is an option, but you can also install your very own.  Get one that you can check from anywhere.  

If you have just purchased the house and are renovating it, then intruders may be watching also knowing that you will be having building supplies, appliances, and more delivered.  This can make your house a sitting duck.

Introduce yourself to the neighbours, and give them your phone number in case they notice anything.  Neighbours can be a great source of information about the house too.  So be nice and considerate of your neighbourhood.  

Installing a security system, can let you know if someone is trying to break in, or if there is a fire, anything you can do to protect your investment.  Most insurance companies tend to have a higher deductible for empty houses.  Ours was 5000.00, so I didn't want to take the chance.

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Outdoor Motion Lighting - Light Up the Driveway and Porch

Installing motion detecting lighting outdoors is another good investment.  We had ours light up the driveway and porch.  You don't have to purchase ugly ones, you can get ones that suit the house such as the one above.  

Most intruders want darkness to lurk about your house and see what is inside.  You could also put some lights in the house on timers, so that it will confuse intruders who can't decide if someone is home or not.

You need to do your best to put intruders off, by confusing them.  

Keep Old Curtains or Cover with Newspaper

You don't want it obvious that you have a load of lumber or flooring or new appliances sitting in middle of living room for all to see.  I kept the old curtains up until I was ready to do the walls.  It gave me a sense of security at the end of the day when we left that no one was going to be looking in the house.  


Take Care of Security and Air Quality and Safety First

Once you have all your safety systems in place, and quality air happening, then you can get started on your plans.  Here is the rest of my story:

The thrill of the hunt and becoming a renovator were exciting, and I got what I wanted and paid what I thought was a fair price, and now as I stood inside the door and looked at every room that needs "something". I got my pad of paper to start a list, and I literally didn't know where to start!

It was cleared out, it had not been lived in for awhile. It was a "power of sale" and the previous owners, dealing with their own losses, just didn't have the heart to keep the property up anymore. I looked at the living room ceiling at the large hole, that had been cut at one time to repair and replace some plumbing under the upstairs bathroom, and the back patio door held closed with a stick.

The water had been shut off and drained (it is on town water) so was curious why, when I realized the bank that took ownership wanted little expense, and so turned the heat down to 50 degrees, so guess they figured the water pipes just might be affected, so drained them.

After I checked out each room, I forgot to write things down on my list and just kept staring at each room. My creative side was in "overload"



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I went outside and crossed the street so I could see the roof. This house was built in 1972, and so was most of the neighborhood. A few neighbors were watching me, and the older one down the street, living in a similar cookie cutter house, tells me the furnace in there is 37 years old, and keeps on trucking! Amazing, I thought. I took my list and crossed off the cans of paint and wrote "FURNACE".

So, my life as a renovator has just begun, and today, with the help of my family, have started demolition. It is actually hard to come up with a list for all the eager helpers, without everyone bumping into each other. We started with the carpets OUT, (dressed like spacemen of course, did not want to breathe anything foreign) and moved on to stripping stick on tile, which is on top of more stick on tile, which is upon linoleum!


I hope they remain this energetic!. I myself, as the official renovator, am on shopping duty. (It is a hard job but someone has to do it!) armed with my lists, I am spending money, but trying not too spend too much, it is a fine line! I am now eating sleeping and thinking about my renovation project. I am getting a headache, maybe I should look at the stock market again!.