Profitable house problems

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Hi. I know many people look for distressed properties in order to fix up and flip. But many of the problems with properties end up costing more than they are worth. So I thought it might be good to get investor opinions on what are the most profitable 'problems' with a property. In other words, what are the problems that drive most buyers away (and thus help lower the price) but are easy fixes that can result in big profits? One of my favorites is cat urine. Yeah you have to rip up the carpet, bleach the floor and seal with Kilz, but this only costs $100 or so + flooring. However, if you have to rip up the flooring anyway, the smell of cat urine normally turns most buyers off.
I should know. I had a renter with a cat who ruined my carpets. Before I took out the carpets and treated the floor, most people who saw the place turned right around and walked out. After sealing everything up, it rented in 24 hours. Anyone else have some good 'problems' to look for? Thanks.

Unfortunately, pet urine is NOT ALWAYS an easy fix.

Case in point -- the house I am fixing up to move into. The college girls who lived there previously owned cats, dogs, a rabbit and a couple gerbils. These animals drenched 1000 square feet of upstairs carpeting.

So I pulled up the carpet - still smelled. Pulled up the padding - still smelled. I finally had to pull up ALL THE SOGGY SUBFLOORING to get rid of the smell.

Replacing all that was EXPENSIVE.

Originally posted by NC Mark:
Unfortunately, pet urine is NOT ALWAYS an easy fix.

Case in point -- the house I am fixing up to move into. The college girls who lived there previously owned cats, dogs, a rabbit and a couple gerbils. These animals drenched 1000 square feet of upstairs carpeting.

So I pulled up the carpet - still smelled. Pulled up the padding - still smelled. I finally had to pull up ALL THE SOGGY SUBFLOORING to get rid of the smell.

Replacing all that was EXPENSIVE.

Would hardwoods have been a better choice for these types of renters?

IMHO hardwoods would have been scratched to hell with all those animals. Also hardwoods are not "liquid resistant", so urine will seep down to the sub-floor. To get the smell out you would have to pull up the hardwoods...THAT would be extremely expensive and time consumng.

I would never put hardwood floors in an apartment where college kids would live. They are just as bad, if not worse, than low income renters.

I wonder if laminate flooring (Pergo) would have worked for heavy-wear tenants. I've always thought it was cheap looking, but recently saw a Pergo job that really looked like nice hardwood, just tougher and more resistant to pet scratches and spills.

To answer your original question, I think the key is not the type of repair needed, but having the right contacts to have it fixed cheaply -a really affordable handyman can make a place's interior look great without costing a lot.

I once heard from a real estate agent that buildings with structural problems are the best deal because no one wants to touch it, and owners will sometimes dump the for a fraction of the price, and an entire building can usually be propped up for a lot less than you'd think. For example, a building might be discounted $200K because of structural problems, but the fix is only $50K. I've seen a couple 'good deals' like this, but was never brave enough to take them on.

Sorry - I really did not mean to make this thread a debate on the cost of cleaning pet urine - I just used that as an example.

I wanted to try to keep it on the topic of what to look for in a house that might drive other buyers away but would be easy to fix. The structural issues and the boarded up windows are great examples. Any others?

As I go around looking for houses to buy, it would be great to look for these kind of things. Hopefully it would help others as well.

Removing non load bearing walls is an easy one. Most people like an open floor plan and too often, older homes have a kitchen that is divided from the living room, dining room ,etc. This is something that might cost a little more than you were thinking, based on your example but it is still relatively cheap to do, takes very little time, and provides a great WOW effect to potential buyers. Of course, you want the kitchen to look nice as well.

Painting over old tile and tubs in a shower is another one. Many people assume you have to replace both, which can be pretty expensive, especially in CA where I live. However there are companies that will come out and for a few hundred bucks, you can have your whole bathroom looking like new.

Some funny replies here to the urine issue. On that note, getting a bug sprayer from Home Depot and filling it with water and bleach and going over the affected areas will also do the trick once you've removed the damaged elements.