Thursday, May 24, 2007

Ready to Rent

Recently, I posted that we were getting ready to rent one of our properties in Hemet. It's a half duplex that is part of 55+ community and we've owned it for three years. Before this last renter we did some extensive remodeling. New carpets, added cabinets to the kitchen, repainted the interiors, replaced the faucets in the kitchen and bathroom, removed the popcorn from the ceilings, and replaced the shower door with a rod and curtain. This cost about $4,000 and when we were looking at the idea of to rent or sell this along with the other factors of the current real estate market did play a part in our decision to keep the property and get it ready to rent again.

Of course, the first thing to do once you've made this decision is to find a contractor to do the work. We decided against using the previous contractor when we discovered that he'd used substandard paint (it washed off) on the kitchen cabinets. We had three options. Use the local yellow pages and interview/get bids for the work we wanted to do, ask a local realtor for a reference, or go with the recommendation of our landscaper to use his brother.

Well, the local yellow pages, hmmm. Lets not start there. The realtor however hooks us up immediately with his contractor, a man who's worked in the area for 8 years and done a lot of work for the realtor. So when were done describing the various things we'd like to do to increase the rentability of the property. His bid is $6700. Oh yeah, did I mention that we were looking to find some tax write-off benefits from this? But still, that seems a bit high for replacing the fascia around the front of the house, repainting the front door and replacing its handles/locks/hinges, for tiling the dining area and bathroom, for resurfacing the kitchen sink and bathtub, for sanding and repainting the kitchen cabinets, for replacing the bathroom mirror and medicine cabinet, and for putting in a handicap ramp for the front entrance. At least he's bonded.

Meanwhile, the landscaper's brother turns out to be part of a crew that does all sorts of remodeling tasks. One does resurfacing, another flooring, a third specializes in painting. But I'm pretty sure none of them are bonded or licensed. The landscaper has already done his job and his fees seemed quite reasonable and the work was done efficiently and well.

Right now I'm thinking back to my meeting with both. The contractor met with us, took down the info, and the next day gave us bid but no breakdown. We had meanwhile gone to Lowe's and Home Depot to cost out the parts which came to about $2500, leaving $4000 of his bid for labor. The landscaper has not been asked to bid but while we were talking with him about the work we wanted done, he pointed out that his experience with renters and rentals (over a fifteen year period) made him aware of how little the renters really cared about these places. He cautioned us to keep that in mind so that we didn't go overboard spending on cosmetic repairs. He seems honest.

Where does that leave us? We need to do more research that's for sure.

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