My Flipping Condo - Part One

The steps leading to a condo development.

I am not a handyman by trade, but a handy man by nature. The handy gene was apparent in my paternal grandfather, who owned a hardware store in Omaha, Nebraska in the 1950s. It was passed down to my father who could fix anything—at least anything in a way that would make Rube Goldberg proud. When I was a kid, I spent a lot of time in the garage with my father, handing him the hammer, Phillips screwdriver, flat head screwdriver, and an assortment of other sacred relics from his toolbox. I learned to drive a hammer into a nail shortly after I learned how to drive a hammer into my thumb. 40 years later, I am the guy in my family who can fix things. I wouldn’t say I fix things by the book, or even in ways that look pretty, but after lots tantrums and trips to Ace Hardware, I eventually get the job done.

A Rube Goldberg comic of a "simple" fly swatter.

Last week, my father-in-law asked me if I could help him renovate one of his rental properties—a two-story, two-bedroom condo in the San Fernando Valley of Los Angeles. After months of skipping rent, the latest tenant finally moved out and the goal now is to renovate the space as quickly as possible to get a new tenant in place. My father-in-law is not expecting me to do the work, but does want me to supervise the project. This includes assessing what needs to be repaired, finding a contractor, getting an estimate, negotiating the price, overseeing the work, and managing the process for finding and securing a new tenant. For me, this job is basically a golden opportunity to see an entire project through from start to finish and even do some of the smaller projects by myself. As part of this opportunity I also get to share my journey here on DoItYourself.

Asbestos removal.

Over the next several weeks, I'll be sharing my experiences with you in the hopes that together we will learn what to do—and what not to do—when renovating your home. I'll be documenting various projects including carpet removal, hardwood floor installation, cabinet restoration, plumbing repairs, popcorn ceiling removal, inset lighting installation, shower pan replacement, shower tiling, and more. I'll be offering a layperson’s account of my experiences—the good, the bad, and the ugly—that will shed light on what to expect when renovating a property to rent, including what documents you need and how to hire a property management company.

When this project is complete, it's my hope that you will find your own inner handyman and acquire the tools and know-how to renovate and rent your own property.

Next Up: Part Two - Assessing the Damage