8 First-Timer Tips for Renovating Foreclosed Homes

Alison Kasch
Written by Alison Kasch
Updated May 26, 2022
A couple checking a computer monitor
Photo: Morsa Images / DigitalVision / Getty Images

A key to a foreclosed home can also open the door to unforeseen problems—use these tips to stay ahead

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There’s nothing wrong with a fixer-upper home, but the term can make light of the time and resources that it can take to transform a foreclosed home. 

While renovating a foreclosed home can yield profits or major savings, unforeseen circumstances may leave you in over your head (and way over your budget). Here are some tips to streamline your renovating game to ensure you can turn a foreclosed home into your dream home.

1. Make a Game Plan Before You Bid

Fixing up a foreclosure might seem profitable or a way to save money when buying your first home, but many first-timers aren’t prepared for the amount of skilled work that goes into renovating this type of home. From pest problems to major structural issues, there are usually many surprise expenses and delays hiding inside a foreclosed home. 

Before bidding on a foreclosure, create a plan for how much you’re willing to spend on the property and renovation expenses. Do as much research as possible beforehand and be sure you’re prepared to handle potential snags.

2. Keep Reputable Professionals on Standby

You can’t anticipate every possible issue, but it’s important to be proactive rather than reactive when renovating a foreclosed home. The last thing you need is a burst pipe without a trusted plumber on speed dial. Be sure to vet a trustworthy remodeling contractor beforehand, choose a reputable plumber, and select a quality electrician as well. 

Don’t forget to find a quality pest control professional to keep on standby, just in case you have unwanted guests during the renovation process.

3. Prioritize Making Necessary Upgrades 

Whether you’re planning to sell or live in the foreclosed home after the renovations are complete, it’s essential for everything to be up to code. That’s why making necessary repairs and upgrades to the home’s major systems should be at the top of your renovation to-do list.

Make sure the following are current and in good working condition:

  • HVAC system

  • Water heater

  • Plumbing systems

  • Electrical system

The cost of rewiring the entire home and other whole-home upgrades might seem steep at first, but it’s an important investment to make. A prospective buyer’s home inspector will point out issues with these systems and it could cost you a sale—or force you to drastically reduce your asking price. Again, be sure to have trusted local professionals on standby to ensure these jobs get done right the first time.   

4. Keep Profit Expectations Realistic

 A couple checking its finances on a laptop
Photo: Jessie Casson / DigitalVision / Getty Images

If you’re planning to fix up the foreclosed home and resell it for a profit, don’t bank on the exorbitant profits you’ve read about or seen on TV. Reality shows make it look easy (and super lucrative for flippers), but there are a lot of less-talked-about expenses, such as loan interest, closing costs, taxes, and real estate agent commissions. Of course, there’s still a good chance that you’ll make a handsome profit, but be prepared for a loss, whether it’s time or money.    

5. Rent a Dumpster for Fast Removal of Junk and Debris

Foreclosures are typically chock full of debris, old or broken appliances, and other materials that can fill up an outdoor trash bin fast. Renting a dumpster during the clean-out phase will ensure you can get it all off your plate (and off the property) quickly and efficiently. Schedule a local dumpster rental service to streamline your junk removal so you can start renovations as soon as possible.

6. Hire a Professional Cleaner for Deep-Cleaning Services

Before you can make major renovations to a foreclosed home, you need to clean it from top to bottom and address any significant issues right off the bat. Since this process can be overwhelming, you can hire a professional cleaning service to help you get the place sparkling and ready to inhabit in no time.

Keep in mind that the professional cleaning team may find other problems that require specialized help. Taking on issues such as major mold remediation is a dangerous DIY, so prepare to call in a local mold remediation specialist if needed. 

If you’re handling your own cleanup, be sure to go in with a plan. Walk through the home and write down everything you want to cover so you won’t feel overwhelmed by the mess. Work from large jobs to small jobs, and from inside to outside. Make sure to don all the proper safety gear before diving in.

7. Schedule a Walk-Through With a Home Inspector

An inspector having a look at a house’s kitchen
Photo: AJ_Watt / E+ / Getty Images

Hiring a local home inspector to check out the home doesn’t just allow you to correct problems before they become dealbreakers—in many places, they’re a legal necessity before selling a home. Either way, a home inspection is crucial for buying or reselling a less-than-turnkey home, so be sure to get it on your calendar as soon as possible. If you’re not purchasing sight unseen, then have your inspector come before you commit to buying.

8. Don’t Neglect the Exterior

Whether you’re selling the home or moving in yourself, boosting curb appeal is a big deal. Start by cleaning the exterior and adding a new coat of paint to liven up the exterior. Adorn your landscape with vibrant plants, ornate hardscaping, and brilliant landscaping lights for that extra “wow” factor that drives a sale (or makes you excited to come home every day). Get in touch with a landscape designer near you to help create the landscape of your dreams.

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