Flipping Houses

How to Quickly Estimate a Rehab: 10 Items to Note on a Property’s Exterior

Expertise: Landlording & Rental Properties, Real Estate Investing Basics, Flipping Houses, Business Management, Personal Development, Mortgages & Creative Financing, Real Estate News & Commentary
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Being able to quickly and accurately estimate a rehab is one of the skills every real estate investor should have. When a potential deal comes along, you have to be able to move quickly with your analysis because someone else is often right on your tail. Many times you will need to go to the property, estimate the necessary repairs and work up an offer in less than 24 hours, as true deals will not stay on the market long.

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The trick therefore is to be quick, but also not to miss anything. And the key to not missing anything is to have a checklist listing the major components you need to take a look at. My checklist has evolved over the years from many sources and use in the field. Today it is a simple spreadsheet listing the components outlined below with a box to check if it needs repair or not. Next to that box is a space for a price estimate and then another box for a comment or two.

Yes No Cost Comments

That’s it. Simple. When completed, I just add up the listed repair cost estimates and I have a total rehab cost.

In this post I want to go over the items on my checklist that I examine when looking at the outside of a property. You can then use them to create your own checklist that works for you. This list is geared toward single family properties, but it could be easily modified to fit any type of property, and I have used it for various property types.

Related: How to Accurately Estimate Expenses on a Rental Property in 3 Easy Steps

10 Items to Note on a Potential Rehab’s Exterior

The Situation

The first thing I look at when going to a property is its situation. What is the condition of other properties around it? What is the street-scape like? Is the property the largest or smallest in the neighborhood? These are not necessarily things I can fix, but they do help when I am trying to comp or price the property later on.

The Foundation

Take a walk all the way around the property while looking at the foundation from the ground to about two or three feet above it. Do you notice any cracking? If so, how large and how much? Small cracks in older homes may be nothing more than some natural settling, while large ones may mean trouble. If you see large cracks, make a note to look inside for other cracks in walls or floors. Take a look also for water and for the path of water. Is water collecting near the foundation, or is it directed away from the structure? Foundation issues can run into the thousands of dollars and can be a deal killer, so look closely. On the other hand, if foundation issues are fixable, they can make a good deal possible. If unsure, seek professional advice or estimate very high.


The Roof

Take another walk around and now take a look up. Do this as a separate step so you do not miss anything. Look at the shingles. Are they in decent shape? How about the wood around them? Is anything rotten? Look closely at the number of layers on the roof. In other words, is there layer upon layer of shingles? If so, a tear off may be necessary. Smaller roof replacements will likely run you about $5,000, while the largest homes can be $10,000 or more. Most tend to fall somewhere in between those numbers.

The Exterior

Walk around for a third time. The obvious question here is about the paint job. Does it need one? Also take a look at the materials. Is it made of brick, wood, stucco, or siding? Wood obviously rots. Siding falls away and stucco cracks. Do you see anything that needs to be replaced? Poke around a little. Does the wood give? Does a crack get bigger or peel away? If so, look for water damage or even worse, evidence of termites.

The Windows

Check out each and every window. Are they painted shut? Are they old, single-pane windows? If so, you may need to replace them. Are there storm windows in place? If no, you may want to install some. Replacement windows can run between $120 to over $200 or more per window depending on the style and type needed.


First, make sure the unit has not been stolen. Then estimate the age. If it is an older unit, you may want to consider replacement. If not, you may want to install a cage or other security device to ensure it does not disappear. HVAC equipment is getting pricier and pricier with government mandates, so keep current with rising costs.

Exterior Yard/Landscaping

Take a general look around at the yard and the landscaping. Does the yard slope away from the property like it should, or when it rains is the runoff going to run into the basement? Try to estimate where the sewer and water lines are located and look for depressions in the ground or unusually green or wet areas. If you see any of these, you may have a leaking water line or collapsed sewer line. Investigate further. Are there tree limbs that need cutting? Bushes that need trimming? Would a bit of landscaping enhance the place? Landscaping and the labor for it can add up quickly, so be sure to budget for it.


Decks and Fencing

Is there a fence or deck? If so, does it need to be repaired or replaced? If not, should one be put in to enhance value and appeal?

Related: How to Estimate Rehab Costs with No Construction Background

Utility Meters

Make sure they are in place and on. If they are locked off, you should ask yourself why and budget a bit higher for repairs to get them unlocked and on.


Of course, there can be a myriad of other items you notice when looking at the exterior of a property that you might want to comment on, such as driveway condition or sheds. I just use a catch-all “other” category for those types of things.

Use your checklist every time you inspect a property. In fact, carry some blank ones with you at all times because you never know. Also, take your time with your inspection, even if owner or others are present. Getting distracted and missing something could cost you thousands of dollars.

Next time we will take a poke around the inside.

Investors: What would you add to this list?

Leave a comment and let me know!

Kevin Perk is co-founder of Kevron Properties, LLC with his wife Terron and has been involved in real estate investing for 10 years. Kevin invests in ...
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    Matthew Murphy Investor from Rochester, Washington
    Replied almost 5 years ago
    Great post Kevin! This is great info for newbies or someone without much construction experience.
    Kevin Perk Rental Property Investor from Memphis, TN
    Replied almost 5 years ago
    Thanks Matthew! I appreciate you reading and taking the time to comment.
    Chad G. Rental Property Investor from Denver, Colorado (CO)
    Replied almost 5 years ago
    Thanks for this basic run through. I have not yet found my first deal, but I am a little nervous about estimating repairs when I do. One question I have is can you actually see multiple layers of shingles from the ground? As a follow up, what do two and three layers do to your offer respectively?
    Dean Serrentino from Beverly, Massachusetts
    Replied over 4 years ago
    A pair of 10X binoculars is a worthwhile investment. Not only can you see the layers along the rake edge of the roof, you can also read the shingles to see if they are approaching the end of their serviceable life.
    Kevin Perk Rental Property Investor from Memphis, TN
    Replied almost 5 years ago
    Chad, Thanks for the kind words. You usually can see the layers from the ground but some times you may need to get a ladder and get up close. Here is a pro tip. If you can’t tell from the ground, try going to a window in the home on the second floor or attic for a closer look. When you have several layers a tear off is necessary so there is a bit more labor and clean up costs. I simply add those costs to my rehab estimate. Thanks again, Kevin
    Joseph Ziemba Real Estate Investor from Poulsbo, Washington
    Replied almost 5 years ago
    This is really great because I’m looking at my first deal with my realtor. It’s been foreclosed and it does need a bit work. Unfortunately I’m out of town, so I’m trying to get real savvy on repair costs and what to look for before I get back. Now I know there’s no one thing that can make or break a deal because every deal is situational and unique. But as a newbie is there any one thing that I might find that may make me really consider calling it off or really pumping the brakes? For a first time buyer in a buy/hold/rent strategy would you recommend a turn key home?
    Kevin Perk Rental Property Investor from Memphis, TN
    Replied almost 5 years ago
    Joseph, For a first time I might not get anything that has a very complicated rehab. You might want to start with something that is mostly cosmetic, paint, tile, minor wood repair, etc. Learn from them and then go after bigger projects. Look for big ticket items like foundation issues or a poor drainage design in the yard. As for turn key. Sure, just check out the company and make sure they are reputable. Good luck and thanks for reading and commenting, Kevin
    Mikael Winkler Rental Property Investor from Columbus, OH
    Replied almost 5 years ago
    Kevin, great post! Also as a newbie, this checklist format really will help break things down. Fantastic for a new, and probably scattered, real estate investing brain! Joseph – repair costs (and properly estimating them) are daunting for me, as well. I am by no means an expert (as new as you can be), but if you are looking at a more distressed home there are a number of ways to make repair costs easier to handle. One thing I came across is an FHA 203k loan, this basically allows you roll mortgage and rehab costs into one loan. And, often, whatever rehab budget you don’t use drops off the loan amount. If you think this may apply, definitely get more info from a more in-depth source. I just figured I’d share because I’ve been learning more about it and it seems like a very cool and useful option. It’s definitely made the thought of rehab costs more feasible for a newbie like myself. Hope this was somewhat helpful!
    Kevin Perk Rental Property Investor from Memphis, TN
    Replied almost 5 years ago
    Mikael, Thanks for sharing. I have very little experience with those types of loans so I cannot really add to your comments. But I appreciate your kind words and taking the time to comment, Kevin
    Kevin Perk Rental Property Investor from Memphis, TN
    Replied almost 5 years ago
    Mikael, Thanks for sharing. I have very little experience with those types of loans so I cannot really add to your comments. But I appreciate your kind words and taking the time to comment, Kevin
    Tamara V. Investor from Bethesda, Maryland
    Replied almost 5 years ago
    I believe FHA 203k loans are for owner occupants only.
    Russell Brazil Real Estate Agent from Rockville, MD
    Replied almost 5 years ago
    Great article. Many investors never seem to open their own eyes and just rely on a home inspector.
    Russell Brazil Real Estate Agent from Rockville, MD
    Replied almost 5 years ago
    Great article. Many investors never seem to open their own eyes and just rely on a home inspector.
    Carmen Glancy Investor from Boise, Idaho
    Replied over 4 years ago
    I appreciate your article Kevin. It is great information for us that do not have a great deal of experience.
    Dennis Juanir Rental Property Investor from Corona, CA
    Replied 11 months ago
    Thank you Kevin for this very helpful post.