I've had the keys to my foreclosure for two and a half weeks now. We haven't moved in yet, though, because there's so much fixing to do.
We could have moved in immediately if we wanted to live with pink walls throughout the entire house, unfinished drywall in multiple places, filthy carpet, electrical hazards, and myriad other issues, but alas, I've been saving my pennies by living in crappy places for too long and I'm ready for something nice.
What we have been doing to get the house looking nice is not nearly as much work as they do on most house flipping shows, and yet it feels like so much more. We're doing as much of the work ourselves as possible to save money.
-Removed the old, ugly baseboards in every room (that was fun and only required a crowbar)
-The removal partially damaged the bottoms of some walls (see green photo), which then had to be puttied and sanded
-Every room had to be primed with two layers of primer
-Every ceiling had to be painted with two coats of ceiling paint (even the ceilings are pinkish)
-All the rooms had to be painted with two coats of the colors we picked out
-We demolished a pony wall (a pony wall is a half wall)
-We hired someone to repair the previous shoddy drywall work and fix the areas that got damaged in the wall teardown
-We hired electricians to fix the fire hazards and various other annoyances and safety issues
-We bought hardwood floors and hired someone to take out and haul away the old floors and install the new ones
-We went to Home Depot and bought all new baseboards and crown molding, loaded them and drove them home ourselves (those things are 16 feet long--guess how much fun that was?)
-We have to paint it all ourselves (also not so fun)
-The flooring people are installing it all (so it will look good!)
That's just a partial list. I won't bore you with the rest.
Picking out the right colors for each room proved to be quite the time-consuming and expensive endeavor. I picked the office color on the first try and the media room color on the second try, but all the other rooms have taken at least four tries. At $8 a quart, that's a lot of money wasted on paint I'm never going to use and can't return (you can't return custom colors, which is basically any color that's not white). But given how difficult it is to repaint once all the furniture and stuff is in the house and given how relatively cheap $8 a quart is compared to hating my walls, it seems worth it.
I knew almost nothing about home repairs before undertaking this project, but I saw a lot of potential in this house. It had a half wall (which I have since learned is called a pony wall) separating the living room from the kitchen. I wanted to knock it down to open up the space. I thought we were going to have to hire someone to do it, but it turns out the work mostly just involved a sledgehammer, a saw, and a lot of dust. There were two electrical outlets in that wall, so we had to demo carefully around them and hire an electrician to pull the spare wiring into the attic, which involved creating a hole in a wall we were keeping and then getting the drywall guy to patch the hole. We were able to hire a family friend who was short on work, and while he's apparently not a professional drywaller, I never would have guessed it from the work he's done, which is fantastic (and also came at a great price).
How was anyone living with carpet this filthy? The biggest move-in expense is the hardwood floors we decided to put in. Yes, carpet is cheaper in the short run, especially because Home Depot will install a whole house worth of carpet for $200, whereas the installation on our hardwood floors is costing, well, a lot more than that.
In the long run, however, they should save both money and hassle. They won't have to be replaced in our lifetimes, and supposedly they won't even have to be refinished for a whopping 50 years (so says the warranty). That can't be said of any other flooring option. Carpet would have to be replaced at least every ten years, and wood laminate floors aren't terribly durable (I also hate the way they look). Tile might last as long, and can be inexpensive, but I don't think it creates that warm, homey feel the way wood does.
We also had to tear down the plastic (!!!) crown molding in the living room that a previous owner apparently installed--not only did it look cheap, but the corners weren't even with the sides.
Then there are the little details, like replacing the ugly bathroom light fixture and medicine cabinet, getting the ligh switches changed from the flat push kind to the regular kind, and of course, cleaning the whole house from top to bottom. It was largely taken over by spiders, too, so we have to hire an exterminator (better spiders than roaches, I say). There's also this weird hole in the side of the garage that we have to get closed up.
After starting on all this work, I have a better idea of why people are so fond of move-in ready homes. But for me, I don't think there would be any such thing as a move-in ready home. I wanted to pick my own flooring and my own paint colors for the walls. Those things, which are time-consuming and expensive, would have had to be done no matter what.
I have been exhausted every day that I've worked on the house, and it has been more chaotic and less fun than I envisioned, but I think it will all be worth it in the end.