Before the offer on our first property had been accepted, we had already packed up and returned home to Doha, Qatar where we were living at the time clueless of the rigmarole that awaited.
While we sought out bids for the renovations, we needed to activate our electricity, gas and water. We crossed our fingers and hoped that nothing would go wrong.
Since the house had been dormant for more than two years, we had to perform a pressure test to make sure that the pipes connecting gas to the house held pressure. After calling around, we opted for a family member with a plumbing business who could perform the pressure test as well as fix any issues we might encounter with a house that had endured two harsh winters without heat. Fortunately the pressure test passed and we had only a few minor plumbing issues to fix.
When attempting to get power to the house, the electric company informed us that our house didn’t meet code as the electric box outside was too close to the cooling unit. Suddenly we were looking at our first big hiccup – shifting around an electric panel and cooling unit to the tune of more than 1000 dollars. But at least we’d have electricity, right? Wrong.
We discovered shortly after gaining power that several of the lights and outlets in the house weren’t working. When we finally got an electrician to investigate, we were informed that most of the wiring in the attic had been slashed beyond repair. They were cut was so savagely that the whole house would have to be rewired. With a sense of anxiety, I asked “how much?”. The guy responded that it wasn’t a job he was willing to even touch, and hit the road. The second electrician had a similar response. It was at this time that I first uttered a phrase that I’ve echoed time and again when it comes to contractors: I have money. I want to give it to you. Why don’t you want my money?
After a few more dead ends, we reluctantly decided to fall to our backup of having another family member – a licensed electrician – perform the repairs. Because this was basically done as a favor by my brother-in-law who traveled into town a few weekends to complete the project, we were delayed significantly. What should have been a 2 day job ended up taking several weeks.
We were starting to worry that if we used too many family members, it might complicate our lives in ways we weren’t interested in. My in-laws were working tirelessly (unbeknownst to us at the time) to keep costs low, and we were granted favors from people that we couldn’t ask for again. We knew that approaching the work like this wasn’t something we could do long-term. Moreover, getting these discounted rates made it impossible determine the accurate cost of repairs for future projects. We had a lot of work to do in order to figure out a better way.
After fixing the wiring, things proceeded with relative ease, although a bit slower than we had hoped. What I now know should have taken 4-5 weeks took about 14 before it was ready to hit the rental market.
After we finished and had time to reflect on the project there were two mistakes (okay, let’s be honest, there were a dozen- but two major ones) that we learned the most from. The first was that, while a luxury, having my in-laws help so much was unsustainable. We paid them for their help and urged them not to worry about the project, but we discovered after a while that they were shouldering a lot of responsibility to keep costs low that we never even knew about…this wasn’t a model we could use moving forward. For the next house, we were looking to see if we could use what we’d learned to make things easier and distance them from the project.
The second thing that we discovered was the importance of finding the right contractor. The guy we found was fast and affordable but that came at a cost. Communication was lacking, some of the work didn’t last through our first 18-month tenant as we’d expected and there were a number of add-on costs at the end. The biggest mistake of all, however, was our own. We delivered his final check a couple of days before the job was done and, surprise surprise, we never heard from him again.
Next blog, I’ll detail getting the house on the market and some of the ups and downs of our first rental.
Part 2 of a 3 blog series. 1st blog: Impetus