My Flipping Condo - Part Two: Assessing the Damage

The exterior of the condo building and the building courtyard.

For part one of this series about a firsthand account in renovating a rental property, look here: //

It was a Saturday when I received the package in the mail: the keys and garage door opener for the condo I agreed to renovate. It was officially “on” but I hadn’t seen the interior yet, so I wasn’t sure what I was getting myself into. Two days later I took my bag of keys into Sherman Oaks. The exterior of the building itself looked clean and well manicured, but once I got through the gate—I’m not going to lie—walking through the complex depressed me.

The community space is wall-to-wall concrete and completely devoid of plants, flowers, and "welcome" mats. It was about as unwelcoming as an empty parking lot in the Nairobi desert during a sandstorm. When I slid the front door key into the lock, turned the knob, and pushed the door open, I found myself enveloped in a sad state of darkness.

I flipped the light switch on, but the lights did not go on, as the power had been shut off. A headache formed at the center of my forehead and I was sure that it would grow to a full-blown migraine by the time I worked my way through this place.

Obviously, the first step in any renovation project is to take copious notes and lots of photographs, which is exactly what I did. I wanted to be sure that when I got home, I could evaluate and prioritize the repairs that need to be done. I know I'm working with a budget, so I need to document every possible expense—real or imagined.

The condo kitchen.

When I first walked in, the kitchen was to my left. It's small—barely enough space for two. The dark wood cabinets are dated and waterstained. The counters are finished in Formica. (Yes, that old 70’s Formica.) The best part of the kitchen are the appliances—stainless steel and in decent shape. But of course, with no power it was impossible for me to know for sure.

The living room of the condo and the ceiling damage.

The decently sized combo dining room and living room is covered in wall-to-wall carpet that's both worn and stained. The ceiling is covered in outdated spray-on cottage cheese texture, and in one spot right over the living room, it's been peeling away, exposing a hole. The previous tenant had tried to cover the hole by stuffing a map into it. I didn’t look to see what the map is for, but I assume it isn't going to lead me to buried treasure—not in this place, anyway.

There are working blinds over a sliding door that lead to a small balcony. No problems there. I climbed the carpeted stairs to the second floor.

The condo bathroom.
The master “suite” consists of a small bedroom with a vaulted ceiling, again covered in cottage cheese, a small walk-in closet, and a bathroom with linoleum floor that's curling upward near the tub, exposing the subflooring. The white porcelain sink is in terrible shape. The porcelain has somehow worn down to the cast iron beneath it; how does this even happen? The bathtub is caked in mold and on the shower door was a note warning us not to turn it on because of a hairline leak in the drain which, of course, explains the hole in the living room ceiling.
The bathroom shower.
The second bedroom is about the same as the first, but nothing that some cosmetic beauty treatments can’t fix: a cottage cheese ceiling, stained carpet, and small closet.
Before doing any renovation work, it’s important to check electrical and plumbing systems to be sure everything is functioning properly. These are issues that must be repaired before any cosmetic work is done. Since it wasn’t possible for me to check the electrical, I did turn on all the faucets and looked under cupboards for water damage. There did not seem to be any damage and the water pressure was strong. Other than the shower leak, it didn’t appear to me that any other plumbing issues were at hand. Surprisingly, I left feeling excited at the possibility of turning this worn condo into a warm home.