Looking for a Fixer Upper? —  Some Tips

Before you walk in the door, look around the block, are you at the ugliest home on the block? Good! Keep reading. If the home you’re thinking of remodeling and maybe flipping is on a street that looks like a warzone, maybe hold off on investing a few hundred grand.

You don’t want to over-invest. Ask your local realtor about sales in the zip code your looking at. You want to get a grip on what kind of homes are selling fast and what homes are staying on the market for months. Those prices will help you understand how little or how much you should be investing.

A big problem we see in the Bay Area is people over spending on luxury and amenities in areas that don’t support big price-points. Be strategic. Especially if you’re thinking you might want to sell the home in a few years or sooner, try to spend money on making the home as livable as possible, your money is better spent making the layout more open than soft-closing bathroom cabinets. (although soft-close cabinets are awesome)

Doing The Work Yourself

You’ll find plenty of tv shows that fit a whole remodel into 22 mins, but as you know it’s not that simple. Some things, like painting, knocking down walls, and tearing up carpet can be done on your own. Other tasks: plumbing, electrical, exterior painting…can be done, but be prepared to watch a lot of youtube tutorials, and you might end up creating an expensive-to-fix mess.

Are you prepared to take on these huge projects? These things take time, energy…if you and your husband (for example) both work full time, it’s going to be extremely hard & stressful maintaining your normal lives while tearing out drywall 8 hours a day on the weekends. Leveraging your income by hiring a project manager, & handymen is a smart choice for a busy family.

Hiring Contractors: Start with Friends and Family

The first thing you should do when starting your search is asking friends & colleagues about their experiences, and who they’ve hired in the past. Try to soak up as much you can from these conversations. You want to find out what went right, and any mistakes they’ve made that you can learn from, so you don’t repeat them. Know any Real Estate Agents, Plumbers, or Electricians? Don’t be afraid to get on the phone and call, if you have a good realtor you’ve used in the past, they would love to give you a good referral. It helps them to give you the best referral they can, as they want to be top of mind when you need them.

Double Check Their Credentials

Ok, so you have a list of names and numbers, now you’re going to do to a bit of research. You’ll want to find someone with a good online reputation. If you can’t find someone online, google their phone number, they may be using a brand name different from their name.

Even though they’re not the most popular company amongst service providers, Yelp is still a great way to find non-biased review of businesses. Sometimes, reviews get filtered out without merit, so scroll to the bottom, and check the “filtered reviews.”

Take a deep dive into websites like Yelp to get people’s reviews of your possible new contractor

The key things that you want to look for when looking through reviews of these businesses is responsiveness, organization, and follow through.

Getting Bids/Interviewing Leads

It’s very hard to find a contractor that isn’t completely booked months in advance, so you’ll have to make quite a few calls to get to this step, but once you think you’ve found some promising leads, here’s things to look out for besides the price:


Take note of how long it takes to get a call back, or an email. The more organized they are in getting your business, the most organized they’ll be handling your business. If you having trouble scheduling a day to do a walkthrough, or it’s taking days to get a phone number of a past client, that might be a forecast of what’s to come.

You want a seasoned professional working on one of your biggest investment. Not a hobbyist. Try to look for someone who lays out the complete scope of work in an organized fashion, and makes clear the deadlines, cost, and time it will take to complete your project. Stay far away from someone that writes down a dollar amount onto a napkin and hands it to you.


You don’t want to read anywhere in the reviews, or from their past clients that the customer wasn’t able to get in touch with the contractor while on a project. This is usually due to contractors being too busy to pick up the phone, and not having a proper customer service system. Which leads to the next point.

Stay away from one man shows:

What if Joey gets sick? What if Joey falls off the face of the earth? No matter how good of a first impression, you’ll want someone with a support crew. You’re probably not the only job someone has, especially in this crazy market. Imagine, as a contractor, juggling a few remodels at the same time? Alone? Maybe hire a one man show for a small, tiny, two hour job, but not for a remodel or big project.

Quality of Work:

You’ll find the best contractors are the most transparent. Stay away from organizations that don’t share past clients. When you ask a good contractor about past clients, you should hear something like: “Oh yeah, I did finished a house on 23rd, go drive past and check it out!” Red flag: “My clients are very private, sorry.”

Most pros will have a good list of past projects or some sort of portfolio.

Make your needs clear from the start:

Don’t want smoking onsite? Need the driveway clear at all times? Make your needs clear from the start, and don’t mince words. Otherwise, you’ll be playing catch up.

Reviewing Bids

Make sure the estimates you’re getting are itemized. And make sure each item has a price next to it. This is beneficial for a number of reasons. Mainly so that you may compare pricing down to materials and labor, and make a decision based on the research you’ve made. When you don’t have itemized cost, you can’t do that, and you don’t know what you paying for.


Example of a pretty good bid.

Hopefully you’ve gotten some good tips reading this, don’t be afraid to get in touch below for a great referral for just about anything you can think of.

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