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You CAN Manage $1M of Home Renovations with Just One Person
In today’s video, Brad and Jeremy check in on the construction progress at a property in northwest D.C.
Jeremy is managing 17 projects, each in the ball park of $80-90,000 of work. As just one person, how does he manage all these home renovations and keep everything on track and in order?
Well for one thing, he runs a very tight ship with extremely detailed scopes.
Another factor is having a good rapport with contractors. You’ve got to know who to call and know whenever they say they’re going to do something, it gets done, and you don’t have to follow up on every single little detail of your requests. Obviously it takes a bit of time to develop those relationships but once you have them, they’re priceless.
How Do You Find Good Contractors?
It’s very important to find good contractors. Many of them think they can do everything because all they see is the initial contract of, “Hey, I’ve got $100,000 worth of work right here, and that can keep me busy for the next couple of months.” A lot of the contractors, not every one, but a lot of the contractors, have tunnel vision; they can only see what’s right in front of them. They don’t see the future and think forward about “this guy has a $100,000 job right now, but he might have a $200,000 job next, and keep me busy for the rest of the year.”
The way Jeremy has found good contractors in the past is by blanketing Craigslist with ads of what he’s looking for. He starts the initial vetting process with saying we need X, Y, and Z. If a contractor can’t even come back with a response that they can do X, Y, and Z, they’re automatically off the list – because obviously if they can’t look at and follow simple directions, he doesn’t want to pursue anything else.
It’s kind of like a job interview. If someone can’t fill out a resume and send it to you as you’ve asked, then there’s no way they’re going any further. It’s not that big a deal to him if they struggle with technology, but they have to at least know how to email and include attachments.
Another way he’s found good contractors is through word of mouth. Having been in the construction industry for so many years, he’s had a lot of opportunity to reach out and make different contacts.
What’s Happening at This Single Family House?
Jeremy explains that they’re making the bottom of this single family house, often referred to as an English basement, into a rental. The idea is that someone can buy this house and rent out the basement, and cover part of their mortgage. It’ll have its own separate electric, plumbing and HVAC systems in the basement level. The upper two levels will be the main house. This is a fairly common thing to do in D.C.
Because this house is in an historic district, there are restrictions around what they can and can’t do. The windows have to be a specific way. In fact, windows installed by the previous owner didn’t meet the right specifications and Express Homebuyers got fined by the historic district. Eventually that issue was resolved because we purchased as-is and now he can move forward with proper permitting.
It’s common to run into all kinds of delays and nightmares and fines. It’s all part of the process when you’re renovating a property and don’t necessarily know what you’re getting into.
In the Main House
Once inside, Jeremy and Brad look at the wide open space where there used to be a wall and a fireplace. They’ve added a coffered ceiling in the entrance way and the dining room. The trim work looks good. It was a lot of work putting all the trim inside the coffers and laying those out, and making sure it all works. A little chandelier will be installed later, along with new hardwood floors. There wasn’t any change to the overall square footage, but the place looks much larger because it’s more open now.
Of course there are many factors that go into the cost of these types of renovations. Jeremy speculates the retail price of this work would be somewhere between $8,000 and $10,000. But because of the volume of work Express Homebuyers does, he’s only paying half that.
In the kitchen, Jeremy explains how they’re installing an island in the kitchen, a wet bar area with an under-cabinet fridge, floor to ceiling cabinets and a hood that goes all the way to the ceiling with tile. In the backyard, there’s a patio with steps down to a garage. A garage in D.C. is virtually unheard of, so it’s quite a nice bonus.
They’ve tried to keep the original post and rail systems on the stairway to bring back some of the character of the house. If there’s brick in a house, and there wasn’t in this one, they’ll typically try to restore the brick.
Upstairs Jeremy and Brad note where the stackable washer and dryer will go. They walk through the master bedroom and bathroom, which is really just roughed in right now. There will be a sitting room off the master and two closets. There’s a hallway bathroom where the tile has already been installed, but it’s covered so when they spray paint the walls, the paint won’t get on the tiles.
There’s a second bedroom as well. And they added a closet. Up in the attic, they’re doing some structural work.
Down in the English Basement
To get to the basement, you have to go outside. There used to be access through the kitchen, but Jeremy chose to close that off because he knew that most likely the buyer is going to want to rent it out.
The plan is to install engineered hardwood flooring instead of carpet or regular hardwood because it’s going over concrete slab. An engineered floor is a hardwood product but it’s layered out of composite material as opposed to being a solid part of the material, like your typical ¾ inch hardwood floor is different than a 3/8 inch engineered hardwood. It has a similar look whenever it’s installed, the prefinished product, but it’s more versatile in this type of application.
You still have to fix the floor to make the finished product look correct. The engineered product is going to be the application to use on the actual concrete. If you were to put regular, they’ll glue it down. That glue acts as a vapor barrier to the actual product itself to not allow the moisture to come up. If you just put regular solid hardwood floor down on this, it would buckle in a matter of a couple of weeks or a couple of days. It depends on the moisture level.
Jeremy points out where the kitchen is going, which will also have a small island and a little breakfast area. Next to that is the living room. The two bedrooms will be in the back, and the bathroom behind the kitchen.
What are You Hoping to See on This Site Visit?
Jeremy’s checking to make sure that he’s at the right stage of the process, that there are guys working inside, that the job is continuing to move forward. There was an issue with the cabinets, so he wants to make sure everything worked out correctly – and it appears it has.
He’s also seeing a few things in need of changing. For example, the contractors were instructed to continue a portion of the ceiling over to a corner and they didn’t quite do that. Sometimes there are site conditions that require a decision in the field. It looks a little wonky, so that will get added to a list of items to discuss and eventually fix.
Cost & Time
This project was started in mid-November. The dollar amount of the renovation is $180,000, which seems like a lot! But consider the fact that they’re installing separate utilities and HVAC systems for the English basement and the main house, as well as fixing the patio, and costs start adding up.
And that’s a wrap. Watch the video to see the site walk-through, hear the whole conversation and get all the extra details.