Step 5: Getting Into It
So, after arranging financing and buying your rehab property, what's first?
Secure the property.
That means make sure that the elements or criminal elements can do no further damage to your home-to-be.
The first place to focus is the roof. If it's sound, great. If not, get it taken care of. I'm presuming that you're reading this well before you've actually acquired your building. As such, I want to stress that you get on the roofing issue (if necessary) well in advance of actually closing. Depending upon the time of year, your market, and if you're putting metal or slate or some other specialty roofing on your house, getting a secure roof on could take some time. In our case, I thought that we could have a roofer there within a week or two. It took me two months to get a decent estimate (after going over the site with 8 or 9 roofers), and another month and a half to get the roof on. Fortunately, I started before we closed, but it still put us two+ months behind schedule because you can't really do much on a house subject to water damage. Expect roofers to show up, and never give you a bid. Make sure you've got a back up roofer, too. Some will show up, give you a bid, then disappear. Others will fail to complete a job that gets complex or outside of their comfort zone.
Do not pay up front. Your only leverage on an incomplete job is your money. Don't give it up until the job is done to your satisfaction. You will likely NEED that leverage.
Other aspects of securing the site are windows and doors. Some folks advocate replacing the windows immediately. I don't, as that subjects them to damage during the construction process. There's a give and take on that, of course, if you're working during the winter, it might be nice to be a bit warmer.
If you don't replace your windows early, I recommend securing them via a screw or two, and covering them with plastic or paper. You don't want criminal eyes being tempted by tools on your site. One trick we used was spraying some windows with a "frosting". That let quite a bit of light through while obscuring the view.
If you have broken windows, get some plastic stapled over the panes or sashes to keep water out. Broken 1st floor windows may need some OSB or ply wood to keep the critters out. Cats can be a problem in rehabs. So can opossums, bats, raccoons, etc. You get the picture.
Make sure you have a lockable door. One trick we used was to put a secure pad lock flange on the door and use changeable combination locks. That way, we could give a contractor the combo, and when he's done, change it. We found ours at Big Lots for a couple bucks. We bought one for the front door, one for the cellar, one for the ladders, one for miscellaneous tools, etc.
One other thing to check is water and electric. Both of these present possible hazards and you want to make sure both are off and the water system is "winterized". You don't want broken pipes leaking on new work and you don't want to get fried while doing demo when you hit a live wire.
One thing we didn't do and wish we had done was getting security lighting in early. Light is the enemy of criminals and derelects looking for places to sleep or do drugs or crime. If you can find a cheap way to get a motion detector light up high early in the project, do so. Also, a faux or even a real security camera may provide a good deterrent as well. Cheap alarms can be a great investment. So can getting to know your neighbors.
The good news on securing the site is that it's fairly easy to do. Once a roof is on, most water problems are dealt with. Most construction site crimes are crimes of opportunity. If they can't easily get in and can't easily see anything worth taking, there's usually no break-ins. If there's a good risk of being seen or caught, it really cuts down on things.
This follows Step 4
The rest of the manual can be found here