Home > Rental Property > Rental Property Series: Renovating Our Rental Property

Rental Property Series: Renovating Our Rental Property

For the past two and a half weeks, we have been working double duty, doing renovations to get our first rental property ready for a tenant. If you missed the first post in this series, check it out here.

Brief Recap

We purchased this property on August 24, 2012 for $63,000, with 25% down. We didn’t get to take possession until the following Monday because the seller lived out of town and papers couldn’t be filed until then (lost weekend, bummer).

We plan on spending $3000-$5000 on renovations.

We hope to be done and have a renter by October 1.

We are using a property management company and are asking $750/mo for rent.

What We’ve Done So Far

The day after closing, we made a Herculean trip to Home Depot. It is an hour drive from where we live. We hoped to get almost everything at once to avoid a second trip. My husband and I both work full time, making us weekend warriors on this project. He is a teacher, and it would have been a little too easy if we’d been able to close during the summer when he had every day off. We really like challenges!

Weekend #1 Labor Day Weekend.

The extra day was helpful. Hubby tore out the nasty toilet, vanity, medicine cabinet, mint green shower panels, and took out the ancient counter tops. He scraped a million multicolored fish stickers from the bottom of the tub (what’s wrong with a plain old bath mat?) He put down tile flooring and grout in the bathroom.  He also worked to open a few of the windows that are stuck shut with years of paint, grime, and something sticky.  Then he picked up the junk from the backyard, turned the soil, planted grass, and we’ve been watering like crazy. Hubby’s total hours=19

I spend hours trying to disinfect and clean. I am amazed that the lady who used to live there didn’t burn the house down. Between the layers of grease on every kitchen surface, the poorly functioning gas stove and hood, the cat hair stuck in every vent, the nicotine residue on everything else, and the year’s worth of lint in the dryer vent, she was one bad match strike away from The Towering Inferno.  I know the poor lady was in bad health when she moved, but this house hasn’t been cleaned in a decade. It took three hours to clean the fridge. I have scrubbed the cabinets four times and the grime is only halfway off. I’ll just keep at it until it shines. I am not handy, but I can clean. I also painted the bathroom and tore the old cat pee carpet out of the closet floors. Luckily, that was the only carpet in the house, as the former owner put down laminate in most other areas. We got lucky there because there were about 5 bottles of animal urine smell remover in the closet. I can’t image if the whole place was carpeted. Kim’s total hours=13

Get Estimates!

Since we aren’t fans of electrocution, we are going to hire out the electrical work that needs to be done. The plugs in the bathroom and kitchen need to be changed into GCFI outlets. We need new baseboard heaters, and we have to install a hood over the stove. The former owner jury rigged this odd device to a former heat vent near the ceiling. Needless to say, it’s not very safe. We also have to move the light in the bathroom to above the mirror. Right now it is to the side, which is odd. We’ll also have the electrician install the new light fixtures we purchased. My husband could do this, but it will probably take a pro 20 minutes, while it would take him hours. I called three electricians to give their estimates. One came by, but never called me back with any numbers. One was $1220, not including the cost of the heaters. The last one was $850, heaters included. Guess which one we chose?  I was surprised that there could be $400 difference for the same amount of work.

We decided to hire a painter for the rest of the interior. It took almost a day to get the bathroom done. I had to do two coats of primer and two of paint because it was so dirty. I just don’t have time to do the whole house by October 1st.  We went through the whole find a painter thing with our residence a couple of years ago. The painter we used for the exterior of our house was $3000 less than the others, so I see no point in going through estimates again. He is reliable and does a good job. He quoted $1000.

We are going to have to replace the gas stove. I really wanted to do this locally rather than through Home Depot, but it saved $150 going with big orange. They only charge $24 to deliver from 50 miles away, while the store 1/3 of a mile across town charges $70. I don’t get the math, and no one was willing to work with me.

Take home point of the day: By getting estimates and checking prices, we were able to save $550.

We have had two potential renters come by to look at the place, but no bites yet. It still looks like a disaster zone, and I think people have a hard time seeing past the mess.  Our manager is confident she will find someone before the deadline. I hope so. I will give a full report of costs when we are done with renovations, but it looks to be closer to the $5K mark.  I just try to remember how much we are saving on labor. It isn’t fun to barely be able to walk at the end of the day, but you can do anything for a month.

If you like reading about rental properties, I found a great series at Planting Our Pennies to keep you entertained until my next update. I’ll post about our rental property in a couple of weeks. We should be close to done with renovations by then.

Have you ever done a remodel? Bonus points if anyone can name the star of The Towering Inferno with googling it!

About Kim Parr

Kim Parr is a private practice optometrist, freelance writer, and personal financial blogger. You can follow her journey to 20/20 financial vision at Eyes on the Dollar.


  1. As a reader who is also not a fan of electrocution, we have so much in common! 😉

    Our rental house also looked awful until the messes were cleaned. Luckily, I’d already secured a renter, but he was REALLY negative until the final week of work, when he said, “I can’t believe how great the place looks!” I thought people would be happy to see that there is a landlord who cares about the property. Instead it seems they just want to see results.

    • I did some major floor cleaning and trash removal today, and it is starting to look OK when you walk in. I think that will help. I hope so.

  2. Thanks for linking – I would love to hear more about your renovations. Good luck with everything – it’s been a great thing for us!

  3. I have never done a remodel, but am always fascinated by them on TV. Keep us posted-sounds super gross. Lucky you and your hubby are handy/hard workers

    • It’s getting much better now that the top layer is off. The floors look semi OK now and the cabinets are ready for paint. Hope it will look as good as new! I don’t know if we are that handy, but we are persistent.

  4. That sounds like an awful lot of work especially when you are doing after working full-time. But you can’t pass up buying a house at that low price and the end result will be well worth all of your hard work.

  5. Love the update. We close on our house in less than a month and can’t wait to get in there and start doing some work. We have a renter lined up for the basement studio for January 1st (she is moving up from Kansas at that time) so our timeline is a lot longer than yours as far as getting it ready. Plus we only have the studio apartment/bathroom to prepare not an entire house (at least for the renter, we have the whole house to do for US of course).

    GFCI outlets are one of the first things we will need to do, as well as blinds and changing the locks…gosh this post really has me thinking about all our projects.

    I’m sure you will find a renter soon, and I agree that they are probably just having trouble looking past the disaster zone. It’s a lot easier to look at the finished work than to have to imagine it when it’s done.

  6. I’ve never done a remodel myself. I would love to buy a rental property, but unfortunately I know nothing when it comes to home repair so it would not be worth the money. I imagine it will be a great feeling once your done and have a renter…knowing how all of your hard work paid off.

    • We are all self taught. When we bought our first house, we didn’t have money to do much, so if we wanted it done we had to do it ourselves. It also helps to have handy friends. My husband has learned tons from a friend who built most of his own house.

  7. I have five rental units spread across three buildings (two single-family homes and one three-unit). I used to do a lot of the work myself, but it took a lot longer (resulting in lost rental income potential) and I spent most days in a daze (interrupting my career … I’m self-employed and could make more money at my day job). So a few months ago I started hiring contractors to do everything, and it’s been awesome. If you buy a second rental house, and you can come up with the funds to outsource the repairs, try to budget to do that … I highly recommend it.

    • I’m kind of feeling that way about right now! If there were any structural things, we’d have to do that. I just feel bad hiring someone to clean and do things we know how to do. If we are able to continue our day jobs and do this in spare time, I’m OK for this one. I could not do it every month or we would burn out.

  8. Congrats, Kim! Your hard work definitely pay off in the long run. Are you going to hire a management company to manage your rental unit?

  9. That’s quite a bit of work you’re taking on, but I feel like the pay back will be great for you! Nice work hiring out the painting – I hate painting! You’re going to be a pro at this in no time!

    • I don’t mind painting, but don’t laugh, I have a shoulder problem from holding my right arm up all day doing eye exams. When you turn the dials to check prescriptions… Never knew optometry could cause work reated injuries. Anyway, if I paint for a long period of time, my right shoulder freezes and I can’t raise my arm. It takes about 3 trips to the chiropractor to fix it, costs $120. So see I am actually saving some money on chiropractor visits by hiring out the painting!

  10. Laura @ No More Spending

    I’ve done quite a bit of remodelling and hire our quite a bit of the work. I usually do the painting (although we hired that out last time!).

    It depends on time and capability for me.

    Good luck getting all the work done 🙂

  11. Wow, that sounds like a boatload of work but it will all be worth it once you’re done! I would have hired out the electrical work as well but I may have done the painting myself. It does take quite a bit of time but I may have been able to get away from work a few days to knock it out.

    I’d be shocked if you got a renter before most of the renovations are complete. It’s nearly impossible to look past the mess for most people. I just stumbled across the Planting our Pennies blog today and the post I read was awesome!

    • Yes, I’m enjoying the PoPs as well. You’re right about people’s narrow vision about seeing potential. I really want a renter by the first, but the place isn’t ready until the end of the month, we might just have to deal.

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