Mission Style – classic curves and stucco walls – hand-painted ceramic tiles – there are a lot of things to love about an older home – even if it needs renovation. If you’re about to take the plunge and start rehabbing one, there are some steps that you must know. Before you start looking at swatches and paint samples, this is what you need to do:
Get a professional inspection.
Nothing will bring the reality like a home inspection by a qualified professional. Since California doesn’t require home inspectors to be licensed, it’s important that you check their credentials. Your real estate agent will be a good source for a referral. A certification from the California Real Estate Inspectors Association is an excellent qualification.
Your inspector will evaluate everything from structure to plumbing and heating systems. Don’t even think of starting the renovation process without consulting one.
Choose your contractors with care
Once you’ve passed the inspection – hurrah!- you’ll want to screen your contractors with diligence. Find ones who are experienced with old homes. They’ll be able to save you money in the long run. There’s nothing like ripping out 25 feet of pipe when only the sink needed to be replaced. Ask about their portfolio of previous projects – an experienced home rehabbing contractor will be glad to share theirs.
Be ready to learn and build some sweat equity,
There are a lot of renovation projects that you can take on yourself. Things like painting, adding trim and hanging cabinets are within the skill sets of many homeowners. Since a good part of a successful home renovation is being onsite to supervise the contractors, why not pick up some new skills? There’s nothing like the satisfaction of seeing a room you painted, or the thrill of mastering a nail gun. You’ll remember it long after the work crews have cleaned up and gone.
Be realistic about your budget.
With the help of the competent home inspector you hired at the beginning (nudge, nudge), you’ll have a clear vision of what needs to be done first. If you’re moving into the rainy season, roofing repairs are going to be a non-negotiable priority. Make sure you get multiple bids for each critical project, and then add on an additional 20% of your total budget as a reserve. That 20% will provide you with a cash cushion that can mean the difference between a house that you can live in from the outset, and an expensive money pit.
Don’t be afraid to window shop
One of the best sources of ideas for remodeling your older home is from – yes, other older homes! Hit up open houses in neighborhoods similar to yours, and see how those owners handled issues you’ll be addressing. Often, the sales sheet will list what has been done, and even the contractor who handled the work. You’ll get a notebook full of good ideas, and also some ideas of real DON’TS for your rehabbing project.
It’s easy to fall in love with an older home, but do it with your eyes open. Choose the right professionals to advise you upon and to implement your renovation needs. Be ready to put on the safety glasses and drive some nails. Take a deep breath and be realistic about your budget and priorities, And, take a break from the reconstruction chaos, and go out for some inspiration. This way, you’ll still love your house – and yourself – when it’s all done.