what to fix, what to leave

Hi, I am about to close on my first fixer property. I was hoping to draw on your combined experiences to help me decide what to fix, what to leave. My goal is to rent this house after living there for about 9 mths or so. It’s a Chicago suburb, split level, 3/1.5 w/ partial finished basement, fenced yard. Rent should be anywhere from 1300 to 1500 dollars. Depending on how well the renting of my current home goes, I may just opt to sell it and go hide under a rock somewhere :slight_smile: By the way I paid 169k and it’s prob worth about 200K after cosmetic repairs–new kit/bath,flooring.
Is it worth it to work on landscaping–tree trimming, pulling old hedges out? Can aluminum siding be painted and look good? How much should it cost to recarpet/vinyl tile this space (`1800 sq ft)? Anyone know an inexpensive source for carpet? (S and S mills?) The current fence is chainlink and poss fixable. Does it make sense to put a privacy fence up? The baths have to be redone we prob can save the toilets, mirrors–all else prob needs to go. Should we go for tile or vinyl shower surrounds? For the most part we are the labor, but I’m estimating 15K in repairs. Any suggestions welcomed and thanks in advance.

Howdy Debtslavdvm:

On a rental you need to make the landscape look OK. Trimming trees and cutting overgrown shrubs will make it look good. Removing dead shrubs is a must. You can trim hugh overgrown shrubs way down and make them look good in a few months.

Title or similar products are necessary in the price range you are in. Plastic is cheaper and looks even cheaper.

The chain link fence will be OK if all the neighbors are chain.

You should be able to get carpet for $1.6 per foot.

Try power washing the siding first and see how it looks. You should wash before painting anyway. Paint it if it is ugly.


So you can paint over alumninum?
With tile should I limit it to tub area (currently nasty! vinyl surround) or do you think we should use tile on floors of kit/bath, maybe even a backsplash in kit. Ceramic tile is a heated topic in my house right now!
I’ve read the post for the property ladder and saw the marathon yesterday. I really don’t want to be an idiot like some of those people :smiley: So thanks for the help

P.S. do you have a good method for tracking your expenses for a rehab. Any of this stuff tax deductible?

Howdy Debtslavdvm:

You can track expenses with a pencil and notebook or excel since you more than likely have a computer. Use debit cards or credit cards to help you remember where the cash went. You should get releases too when you pay contractors especially when paying in cash.

I have painted vinyl siding with no problems. I think aluminum is OK to paint too. Double check with a paint store to see about any special prep work needed.

I love ceramic tile. If you do it yourself it is about the same as vinyl and plastic. If it is just a rent house I would not get too fancy.

I was almost going to be on that show. My HML told me about it and I was too greedy to share it with other rehabbers I know and they did not have enough to shoot here in Austin. I could have helped and been on TV That would have been cool but I may have made a fool of myself too. Who knows.

RE; Painting aluminum siding. You will first need to power wash really good with a cleanser (sorry, can not think of the name of it) to get the oxidation off. It can be painted after a good drying.


i just joined (and just moved to austin). i have a couple of rent homes in nacogdoches, tx and am looking to flip and/or rent here in austin as well.

i know you probably don’t really want to give me all your secrets, but have you had any luck anywhere (or with any kind of home) here in austin? it’s just looking like + cash flow will be difficult (unless >20% down).




I am in the chicago area as well! Good luck with your investment. I agree with everyone else the tile is the way to go try HOBO (Home Owners Building Outlet?) They have great deals on stuff like that. Another way is to use inexpensive tile and add a few nicer ones as accents. As for the other items for the bathroom, Ebay can often be a good resource. Hope this help! ;D

If you would like to network further feel free to contact me directly.


Ted, somehow I doubt you’d have made a fraction of some of those mistakes. I’d like to think even I have the good sense to measure first. ;D

Hey Mark, Have you had better luck with a particular brand of paint such as Dutch boy or Behr? when it comes to painting alum siding?

And Mobetta I love HOBO!!!
Planning to get the bath/kit cabinets, anything else we can there. I just hope what I like is still in stock by the time I get back to actually buy. I’m in bolingbrook (off 55 south) where are you?


I would never recommend Dutch Boy for anything!

I have been painting for about 30+ years )I must be getting old!)…here’s my take:

If you want the new paint to stick (i.e., DON’T WANT TO REPAINT IN A YEAR!), put time into your prep work. Make sure all peeling, alligatoring, etc. is scraped. Make sure any "chalking, mold, mildew., etc. is removed. A good power-washing will remove most of this. Then, prime with a good primer. Good primer is HARD to apply – it is sticky and doesn’t flow like top coat. Then, spend few extra dollars a gallon and get good paint. I, personally, like Benjamin Moore. Even their “industrial” line is better than most other brands, I have also had great ‘luck’ with Sears Weatherbeater (get the highest number of “guarantee” years that you can!). Sears has a lot of paint sales!

I painted aluminum siding in Utah and the last time I looked it was still like the day I painted it and the paint was 8 years old!

My two cents.


nice summary kd!

he is right it is all about the prep work.

I have had pretty good luck with Sherwin Williams.

I have heard that the higher-end lines of Sherwin Williams are excellent but have not used them personally. The builder of my private residence (one of the premier builders in my region) swears by Sherwin Williams…


Regarding the question about what to fix, my rule of thumb is:

ALWAYS FIX ANYTHING THAT WILL GET WORSE FROM NEGLECT. Always remove anything that is rotten. Always seal and paint where needed. Always fix a roof if it leaks. Fix even the tiniest plumbing leaks IMMEDIATELY. Always caulk cracked mortar lines, etc.

It sounds ridiculous to mention - completely obvious - but I am always surprised at the neglect I see when I’m evaluating rental property. Stuff that would have cost a few bucks to fix five years ago costs hundreds or thousands now.

Hi Keith

Are you from the Shrevport area of La? I’m from Alexandria, moved up here 6 years ago after grad school.

Hi debtslavdvm,

I live in Bossier City, work in Shreveport…moved here a little over a year ago from the DC area…