Hey BiggerPockets family!
We'd love to see (or hear) about your worst home renovation fails, and how you were able to fix them :)
Sometimes you learn the most from someone else's mistakes --- and sometimes you just need a good laugh!
Bonus points for pictures! :)
I think bp should have a dedicated fail section, as the best lessons are the unexpected kind!
Trying to tile a custom shower. I spent a lot of frustrating nights, not using the right materials, measuring wrong. I even lost sleep during the whole process.
In the end I wasted about $800 in tile and thinset. It ended up costing me a total of $2600 (which is still inexpensive) between labor and materials to have a pro do it. But what I lost most on, was my time to be productive in other areas.
What I learned:
1. How to tile a shower the correct way.
2. Not to take on jobs when you are mentally drained.
3. Let go of my ego and let someone else do work in areas I'm not familiar with.
All in All it was a good learning experience though.
That time we renovated and finished a basement that just kept flooding no matter what we did (it was about half finished when we started). Eventually we had to tear out most of what we put in there. It was quite lame indeed.
This post has been removed.
I do not have a picture of the raccoon we found sitting on this bed.
My wife just texted me asking why the workers busted a hole through the ceiling instead of going into the attic to install insulation. It is because I picked a smooth talking contractor who I overpaid upfront. It isn't the end of the world but I won't ever use these guys again.
I had a mobile home and we had to remove some decorations from the ceiling, not realizing that was what was holding the ceiling up, the whole living room ceiling collapsed.
The worse thing I have done was to get cheap contractors, the worse mistake. You think you are saving a few dollars but your wasting thousands. Every guy was worse then the other. To be honest I could make a list of mistakes I made but it is too long...
But my top 5 list is:
Don't hire cheap contractors
Don't over rehab a house
Don't don't pay upfront, no matter how sad the story is.
Stay on top of your work and your workers
Don't give up.
As a newbie I think we are inclined to hire cheap or lowball contractors with so call pictures of their previous jobs. Im taking notes.
I bought a 1920 farm house once
And it turned out to be a termite eaten 1823 log cabin sitting on boulders... oops
YUP, it's a log cabin!
Top story of the house is sitting on steel i-beams and 4 stacks of railroad ties. Notice how you can see through the entire house
At the top right you can see the roof, notice how the trackhoe is INSIDE the house haha
Whew, finally putting in the foundation here.
Don't trust a GC who says his guys can do the specialty sub work like sanding floors or tiling. Sometimes they can, and sometimes they can't, and it's really difficult to go back. How bad does a tiled bathroom need to be for you to go to war with the contractor and demand it be ripped out?
My own work has not had dramatic fails, mainly because I don't rush it. If I don't know, I find out. Possibly my worst is some wallpapered ceilings (tin pattern) that didn't adhere properly and started peeling long after painting. I now use the foam type rather than the embossed paper type, goes up great, looks great, and holds old peeling plaster ceilings together hiding their flaws.
I am currently 1 month past due and $20k over budget on my first flip - it's been a trying and stressful period, but at this point, me and my partners are just eager to get out of the deal. Managing a flip with a crew from 2,500 miles away (SF to Cincinnati) is not for the feint of heart. It takes constant follow up, diligence and overall intestinal fortitude, let alone a lot of faith in a stranger with your Home Depot account.
The numbers are still in flux, as we're not done yet, but what was a $80k purchase with a $65k rehab has quickly swelled to a $85k rehab. What advice do the others in the forum have for out-of-state investors when it comes to managing the daily renovation processes? That's been the hardest part for me.
We will still make money, so it's not a complete fail (and perhaps a misdirected post) but I'm curious what others have done in this situation. The Home Depot costs are piling up, and the completion date is being pushed out. What are your thoughts?
@Stephen Herbert Yikes, that's a tough one. I've never done an out of state flip, mainly because of the issues you just mentioned but I do know some who have. The best advice they give is you have to have someone you trust on the ground. In some cases its a friend, it could be a Realtor you know but there has to be eyes and ears at the site on a regular basis watching out for your investment. I always think about this way, what do most employees do when the boss is on vacation for a week? Your crew isn't looking out for you, they are doing a job, with, it sounds like, very little supervision or accountability. In 9 out of 10 cases people will take advantage of that situation. If you don't know anyone and you have to hire, my guess is that expense would be cheaper than the cost overruns and delays. Great choice to invest in Cincinnati, I lived there for 6 years and wish I'd never left. I love that town and I would think the opportunities in the Greater Cincinnati area, including Northern KY ( which has better views) would be endless. Don't give up on that town
I had owned a few rentals through the years. To make the investment worthwhile, naturally I would look at some properties that need a little work, but not a total wreck. Having been in the business for 40 years, I learned that it pays to hire licensed experienced contractors that you can vet, but yet, there are some work, because to job is too small, unusual in some ways, that I sometimes had to try out people that is not normally hire. In these cases, you win some, lose some.
I had a few jobs done that fall into these categories.
In NYC, there are many attached properties, and I have one attached on both sides, a row of about 8 triplexes, and I am in the middle. There is a small backyard with a cemented area where you can set picnic tables, and the cement needs to be replaced. Its a small area but the only way to get to it is a small alleyway in the back, where it's difficult to get cement in and out because the alleyway is too narrow to fit a wheelbarrow. Couldn't get contractors interested in the job. Finally, someone who I ran across, a worker for a contractor knows a friend who would be interested. So I hired the guy based on this person vouching for him. What happened? He didn't demand lots of money up front, it's pay as you go. Paid him like $150.00 to get started. He would show up one day, work for an hour or two, disappears, then comes back a few days later, ask for $50, same thing happens. The job that's supposed to be finished in 3 days beginning to end is not even half finished three weeks later. Then he complained to a neighbor who manages the property that all he needs is another $80 and he'll be back. I told this neighbor that the contractor is just blowing smoke, but my neighbor says this guy seems to be nice guy and giving him a few bucks won't hurt, so I made a bet with my neighbor, gave him $80 to give this contractor, but I bet this guy would come in a few hours, take the money, and disappears for another week.
What happened? He took the money, and sure enough didn't see him for another week. So finally we fired him and decided to look for somebody else. What's the problem? Real contractors don't want to take on something that someone else started, some cite liability reasons. Some would quote the job as if they did the whole thing. But the problem remains, it's a small job at a awkward location that no one wants. My neighbor finally located a contractor, lives in the area, who he personally knows for a while. Quoted us the job, we accepted, but under one condition. It's a small lousy job that he'll take it when it fits into his schedule. He did it months later, and the back yard couldn't be used all this time. And when my neighbor inquired in between when he'll get to it, his answer is "I'll get to it when I can, but if you find someone else in the meantime, it's OK"
So how do you like that for enthusiasm, and the contractor is doing a favor by taking the job. Oh, there's a funny coda to this story. My neighbor who manages the property heard some noises in the back yard next store. sometime after we fired the 1st guy. The neighbor's son, who also heard the noise, tackled the suspicious guy, and yelled to his father to call the police. When his dad saw the guy, recognized him as the first contractor, ask his son to released him, but dragged him into the house. Instead of calling the police, they called me to explained what happened, and put this contractor on the phone. I told this guy he was observed trying to break into my rental, and asked him what he was doing there. He explained he thought he left some tools behind when he was fired, and came back to look for it. So I told him we found no tools, shoulda called first, shouldn't be doing it 9 o'clock at night, and don't ever come back, and we won't call the police this time. I further told him that my neighbor's son has a black belt in karate and he's lucky he's not hurt too bad. I could hear over the phone this guy was trembling and crying. Based on the crying, I didn't think the guy be back.
And the nice thing about me using this neighbor as my manager is he's retired, sits by his front window all day and notices everything going on. And with his karate kid in the back bedroom, I couldn't do any better with security. And he did all of this using my driveway for free. But anyway, I coulda done better with contractors.
Well anyway, quite an adventure.
@Stephen Herbert seems like most estimates are low from the beginning, with the contractor strategy is to the job secure first, then up charge as the process moves along.
Absolutely hands down spending double on a Reno than I wanted too and not getting an actual bid to work off of that way I could hold them to it. Learned a lot that first Construction job!
I'd bought a 2 family home with very solid structure, brand new windows, roof and electrical in a C - D class neighborhood. Unfortunately after we'd started renovating the bathroom and kitchens someone broke in and stole all of our newly input materials and even the rough in. There wasn't enough money in the budget to go back in and do it all over again nor did we trust it.
We had quite a few but the best was the SFH rental with an ongoing annual sewer backup after heavy rains etc. Insurance paid the first time & yet the city wouldn't address the ongoing sewer issues. After a couple more backups & disgusting cleanups we paid $1500+ for a new PVC sewer line inside the basement slab & added a check valve on the sewer line just inside the basement wall. Finally after several more sewer backups affecting others in the street the city decided to replace the sewer main BUT NOT the old ceramic lateral feeds from our basements. The street was lined with huge CITY OWNED trees so we know the old ceramic laterals were being compromised with tree roots. Most of the neighbors paid out of pocket for their new hookups but with the check valve in place I didn't have any more backups. Then while replacing the main sewer line the city sewer grunts drove their heavy equipment across our freshly excavated front yards & the weight crushed all our sewer laterals to the main. Finally the city paid to replace all the laterals.
Now we always get our sewer lines scoped & get higher insurance coverage for sewer line failures/backups.
This wasn't really a fail, but I severely underestimated how long a bathroom renovation would take in my first deal, which was a live-in flip. I had to use the basement "bathroom" for 2 weeks. I thought we'd be able to do it in one weekend. The bathroom consisted of a toilet out in the open in the middle of the basement (previous owner) and a makeshift shower.
Originally posted by @Christopher B. :
I bought a 1920 farm house once
Is that a plywood driveway? I've always wanted one of those!!!
Countless learning experiences. Finished a basement that flooded in the spring. Had to tear it all out and drain tile it, then redo it. Hired terrible contractors on numerous occasions. Grossly under estimated. Mistook what looked like a small amount of mold for not a big problem (pipes burst, so I figured the mold was from that), the mold ended up being moisture from the stucco. Stucco was removed and walls where decayed. We replaced 1/4 of the exterior walls and joists and had to re-side.
Many more. The important thing with a rehab is to over-budget and to have an "extra" budget. Mistakes/surprises will happen
Free eBook from BiggerPockets!
Join BiggerPockets and get The Ultimate Beginner's Guide to Real Estate Investing for FREE - read by more than 100,000 people - AND get exclusive real estate investing tips, tricks and techniques delivered straight to your inbox twice weekly!
- Actionable advice for getting started,
- Discover the 10 Most Lucrative Real Estate Niches,
- Learn how to get started with or without money,
- Explore Real-Life Strategies for Building Wealth,
- And a LOT more.
Sign up below to download the eBook for FREE today!
We hate spam just as much as you
Create Lasting Wealth Through Real Estate
Join the millions of people achieving financial freedom through the power of real estate investing