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The sweatiest equity

Getting your hands dirty for fun and profit

The margins in real estate often come because there is a lot of hard manual and frustrating work involved in creating a living space that is beautiful that people want to live in. Being able to press the easy button for that comes at a cost.

We are constantly evaluating properties for the best repairs to make to increase their potential sales price. Some can be done yourself and others are probably best left to a pro. Contractors have done the job enough that they are just faster and better. Doing a bad job sometimes mean you have to pay someone else to correct the work so you do it twice! However with some patience and attention to detail lots of repairs can be done by just about anyone and will make a big difference in your sales price.


Here are a few that have a good return on your time.

  1. Painting - this is mostly an exercise in patience and attention to detail when preparing to paint. The better job you do taping, caulking, and preparing for the paint itself, the better results you will have. Painting is easy, the prep is hard. Painting the trim also matters. It's the eyeliner for the room. This applies to interior paint, decks, and fences. For exterior paint, you could literally kill yourself, so hire someone with insurance and a scaffold.

  2. Flooring - less so for carpet, but installing hard woods can be pretty straight forward. The hard part is removing and replacing the trim so it looks neat, as well as making the right cuts around tricky corners. The rest is almost like putting together big lego blocks with the right tools. Plus the more you put down, the better you get. It is very labor intensive but can save thousands in install and vastly increase the value of your home to upgrade the floors.

  3. Electrical Fixtures - Most fixtures are pretty straight forward to install. They can be done pretty handily in 30-45 minutes per fixture and usually don't require an electrician. Just be sure to turn off the power before swapping any out. Buyers may see updated fixtures as just part of the house, but old fixtures are like eye sores. They very quickly date the property and shift the perspective to 'outdated.'

  4. Landscaping - It's hard to get into too much trouble landscaping except for maybe digging into a utility line. So as long as you aren't doing that, freshening up the flower beds, raking, bagging, grass cutting and everything else your Dad used to make you do on the weekends when you were a kid is great for dressing up a property and you know what it costs because you probably pay someone else to do it for you.

  5. New Garage Door - sounds funny but it is a simple upgrade that makes a huge facelift for a house. Hire a pro, I tried to just fix one myself once and ended up doing more damage.

Now I didn't include everything possible here of course because let's face it, most readers haven't made it this far, no one has patience for more than five things. Anything that is complex mechanical, plumbing, or electric, get a contractor before you create more damage than you fix.

As always, question everything, don't take suggestions as absolutes. These are written from a perspective of our experience and offering help. We're not perfect.


We love talking with our friends and clients. This roof got hit by a branch but I am the only person I know that actually had their roof dinged by the storm. I had a roofer patch this, not a DIY for me. Hope you made it better than this roof.




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