How to renovate an investment property from abroad

Real estate investor Oliver Limcangco is finally living the dream after achieving financial freedom through his property portfolio. In a new regular posting, the 31-year old shares his insights into how he acquired 26 doors and manages it all while travelling abroad.

As I write this, I am squatting at the front desk of the Gota Resort in the Philippines, the only place with Wifi for miles.  I’ve been travelling for the past 10 months, thanks to the freedom provided by my real estate portfolio. 

During this time, I’ve also acquired several more investment properties and completed large-scale renovations. This puzzles most people, who ask: How on earth can these projects be completed and delivered, on time and on budget, when I am halfway around the world?

It is possible, by following series of steps in the preparation and execution of these projects.

Preparation

In order to be adequately prepared, you will need to make sure that you set crystal clear expectations with a contractor who you trust, and then provide him/her with the necessary tools to implement your process

1. Fully review the inspection report. In order to make a decision about what needs to be renovated or repaired after purchasing a property, you will need to thoroughly review the inspection report and complete the following:

a) Identify ALL items in the inspection report that will be included in your project and put them on a list.
b) Add any renovation jobs needed (i.e. painting, new bathroom, etc.)
c) Provide this comprehensive renovation/repair list to your contractor(s) (together with the inspection report) for a viewing in order to produce a quote.

2. Arrange pictures and videos. Since you aren’t physically there, you’ll need a way to verify that the work has been completed. Once you’ve selected a contractor, set expectations with him/her about what they’ll need to produce AFTER renovation completion. These include:

a) Pictures of all items in the renovation/repair list, accurately named (i.e. the name in your list should match the file name of the picture) so that you can verify its completeness.
b) Video of the entire space that has been renovated, especially the parts inside cabinets, storage areas, etc.

3. Schedule. If you’re renovating an investment property, chances are your property management team is waiting for their date so that they can rent the suite out. This means that you’ll need your contractor to provide you with a target completion date for your project.

VERY IMPORTANT: In addition to the overall completion target date, ask your contractor to group the items in your renovation/repair list to identify which items can be completed at the end of each week. This is important because, if some of the items start lagging, you have a way to catch it right away and come up with a catch-up plan.

This also prevents the dreadful phone call most rookies get at the target completion date when they are expecting to be finished and instead get the news for the first time that there is a slight delay in the plan.

Execution

If you make sure that your preparation steps are done correctly (don’t skip steps), the execution phase should be straightforward.

1. Monday/Wednesday calls. These are just five-minute phone calls to ask your contractor if there’s anything you can do to help solve some of their problems. This usually flushes out access issues (i.e. they can’t get into the property), questions about materials, and other small issues that could produce significant delays if not taken care of right away.

2. Friday calls. This is the weekly call where you review the items that your contractor has agreed to deliver each week. Review the pictures and cross them off your list.

Do not skip the phone calls with your contractor and make sure you resolve any issue that is raised right away. Keep the contractor accountable for the dates they have committed to, but make sure you also balance this with gentle (but firm) decision-making when issues arise.
 

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COMMENTS

  • by james 2015-01-16 3:06:33 AM

    How ironic, I just completed major renovations on a triplex in Canada supervising from the Philippines. I agree with Oliver's approach and followed a similar plan. I also use some free, web based project management software called Trello to keep things organized. With a good plan, regular communication, and photos, it's not that much different than being there.

  • by Oliver Limcangco 2015-01-26 11:31:34 AM

    Totally agreed James - communication and setting expectations is the key. As long as you can track it and open the lines of communications, it's like being there :)

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