Last Updated on March 4, 2020 by Mark Ferguson
I fix up a lot of houses whether they are my personal house, my rental properties or my fix and flips. When I fix up a house I don’t mean I do the work myself; I have a contractor do it for me. The most difficult part about fixing up a home is finding a great contractor and estimating how much the repairs will be. Estimating the costs of repairs is not easy to do, but this article will give an idea of what repairs will cost. Repair costs will vary based on the quality of products used, how much labor costs are in your area and the contractor you use.
Why buy something that needs work?
Almost all the houses I buy need work and some need a lot of work. I would love to buy houses that are in great condition, but I want to buy houses that are a great deal. To get a great deal you usually have to buy houses that need some type of repairs, because there are fewer buyers who will buy those homes. When a house needs a lot of repairs, most buyers may not be able to get a loan on that house. The fewer buyers for a house the better deal you can get. It also takes cash to make repairs on a house, which further reduces the number of people who can buy houses that need work. Many people don’t want to hassle with making repairs or finding a contractor to make the repairs, which further reduces the buyers for homes that need work.
Even if you buy a house that is in great shape it will need work at some point. The fixtures may become outdated, the interior or exterior may need paint and things eventually break.
Below is a video on a house we flipped and how much it cost to fix up:
How much does it cost to paint?
When I fix up a house I always paint the house and replace the floor coverings, unless those items were just done. The cost to paint a house has increased a lot in the last few years because the cost of paint has increased and labor has increased as well. My costs to paint the interior of a house are about $1.50 to $2.00 a square foot. For a 1,500 square foot house, it costs about $2,200 to paint the interior. That includes painting the trim white and the walls a different color like beige or gray.
The exterior of a house costs more to paint because the paint is more expensive, more prep work is needed and the weather has to be nice. Painting the exterior of a house can run $3.00 a square foot or more depending on the complexity and condition of the house. If a home has peeling paint it will cost much more to scrape and prepare the surface for new paint. If a house has lead-based paint, the costs can be much more due to the preparation and clean up work needed to dispose of the old paint. Your contractor or painter must be certified to remove lead-based paint or they can face huge fines from the government.
How much does flooring cost?
When I replace the flooring I almost always use carpet for the living areas and vinyl or tile for the kitchens and bathrooms. If a house has hardwood I will re-finish the hardwood, but I don’t add or replace hardwood because of the cost. It will cost three times as much as carpet to install hardwood floors. For me to replace the carpet in a 1,500 square foot house it will cost about $3,000 to $3,500 installed. Vinyl or tile will cost another $500 to $1,000 for the kitchen and baths. These costs are for middle of the road materials that look nice and will last, but do not cost a fortune.
If a house already has hardwood I will do my best to re-finish it, because refinishing is cheaper than installing new carpet. I also like the look of hardwood floors and buyers love them. I can re-finish a 1,500 square foot house that is mostly hardwood for about $2,000.
We will also use laminate or vinyl plank flooring now that the quality has improved and it lasts if installed correctly.
How much are light fixtures?
Another great update to a house is replacing the light and plumbing fixtures. A house with brand new lights, door handles, and faucets that all match, can transform a home. I like to use antique bronze, but we have also used brushed nickel. Light fixtures are as cheap as 2 for $20 for a basic bedroom and bathroom lights. A nice chandelier can be bought for under $150 as well as a nice ceiling fan. Door handles are $20 or less depending on the style and faucets run from $35 to $150. For an entire house, you can replace the lights, door handles and faucets for about $1,200 installed.
How much are appliances?
Another way to make a house look great is by adding new appliances. We put stainless steel appliances in our houses; I can get a stove for $500 to $600, a dishwasher for $300 and microwave for $250. I usually do not buy a fridge for my flips and for my rentals I may buy used appliances off Craigslist. Appliances make a huge difference in the look of a kitchen even if the cabinets are dated.
How much are cosmetic repairs?
If you do all the work mentioned above and the rest of your home is in decent shape, it will make a huge difference in the look and feel. I almost always do all the repairs I discussed on every fix and flip. With my rentals, I usually do most of those repairs, but if a house is in decent condition I can get away with less. Here are the total costs for a cosmetic upgrade on a 1,500 square foot house:
New interior paint: $2,200
New floor coverings: $4,500
New fixtures: $1,200
New appliances: $1,300
Total cost: $9,200
When you fix up a home it almost always costs more than you think so be prepared to spend more than what you calculate. It is very rare that I ever spend less than $10,000 on any house that I fix up because there are usually many little things that need to be repaired as well. Drywall holes, outlet covers, landscaping, and many more things will increase the costs. It is also rare that I do not have more major repairs to complete.
How much are major repairs?
The repairs on my flips and rentals vary from basic cosmetics to a massive remodel. Here are other common repairs we make on houses and the cost.
- Kitchens: It is not as expensive as you might think to replace a kitchen. I can replace a basic kitchen including cabinets, countertops and sink for $2,500 in materials or less. After adding the labor you can replace a kitchen for well under $5,000.
- Baths: Baths can be gut jobs or a simple vanity replacement. For a full gut job, I can usually get the job done for less than $3,000. To replace a vanity, toilet and bath surround it can be done for less than $1,000.
- Roof: I have a great roofer who will replace the roof on a 1,500 square foot house for around $6,000.
- Electrical: Electric repairs can vary a great deal based on what needs to be done. Minor repairs can be a couple of hundred dollars or major rewiring jobs can be $5,000. It is important to get any electrical concerns checked out to see how serious they are.
- Plumbing: Plumbing is similar to electrical. A minor job can be very cheap, but to re-plumb, a house can cost $5,000 or more.
- Sewer: Sewer lines can be very expensive to replace. Luckily I have never had to replace one, but to replace a line can be $3,000 to $10,000.
- Foundation: Most foundation repairs are not fun to deal with. There are many issues from settling, water leakage, grading issues or structural problems. If you have water problems in the basement or crawl space it could be a major foundation issue that is $10,000 or more or a simple grading issue that some dirt work will fix.
- Windows: We end up replacing a lot of windows because we buy older houses all the time. For basic vinyl windows, I am usually charged about $300 a window by my contractors for material and install.
- Doors: We also replace a lot of interior doors. Six-panel white doors make a home look very nice. Doors are usually $100 to $150 per door installed.
- Stucco and siding: I rarely replace the siding on a home, but I have on occasion. I am putting brand new stucco on a fix and flip that is costing about $8,500 for a 1,250 square foot house. Replacing wood siding is cheaper, but you then have to paint the wood siding. You can still re-side and paint a house for less than stucco in most cases.
- Drywall/Sheetrock: With old houses, I see a lot of plaster and bad drywall. Brand new drywall makes an old house look so much better than uneven crumbling plaster. On a recent flip, a drywall specialist charged about $3,000 to do the walls and ceilings in three rooms that totaled about 500 square feet.
- Furnace/hot water heater: I had a brand new forced air furnace system installed for about $5,000 this year. To replace just the furnace is about $2,500 and a hot water heater about $800.
How much do I spend on my remodels?
On my most recent fix and flip that is about to be put up for sale, I spent about $18,000 on the remodel. That included interior and exterior paint, new carpet, new doors, new trim, some electrical work, some new drywall, trash out, landscaping work and many little fixes. On a flip that is about to have the work started, I will spend over $50,000 on the repairs. That house needs new plumbing, new electric, new paint everywhere, siding work, new windows, new doors, new drywall, new baths, new kitchen, new floors, new fixtures, new trim and more.
Where do I buy materials to fix up my houses?
I shop at Home Depot for most materials including fixtures, doors, windows, door handles, kitchens, baths, and all the little stuff. I have a pro account with Home Depot, which gets me huge discounts on the materials we buy for flips and rentals.
Repairing a house does not cost $50,000 or $100,000 for basic cosmetic repairs. I see kitchen remodels on television that cost $50,000 and I can’t believe my eyes and ears! Even if you use high-end materials like granite counters and custom cabinets you should not spend $50,000 on a kitchen unless it is in a million-dollar home. Repairs can add up quickly on remodels and I always expect about $5,000 more in costs that I plan to spend due to unknowns. Find a great contractor, make sure that contractor does their work and shop around for the best prices to keep your costs down. Remember these costs are what I pay to fix up homes in my area. If you live in an expensive town, your costs may be significantly higher.