The true costs of house fixes
Lower labor prices mean that house repairs are cheaper-but they're still not cheap.
If you buy a place—especially if you buy a foreclosure—you’ll likely be on the hook for some rehab work. Luckily, the slow market means handymen are willing to negotiate on fees. “We’re definitely feeling pricing pressure,” says Jim Kastenholz, co-owner of remodeling company Total Home LLC (4657-A N Ravenswood Ave, 773-561-3078). “Pricing is more competitive because there are fewer jobs and more people are going after them.”
That said, while you can (and should) bargain for a better rate, you still need to do due diligence to ensure you’re not sacrificing quality for cost savings. First, meet with a handful of potential contractors to get competitive rough estimates for the job. For opinions on contractors’ work, Kastenholz suggests you go to unbiased sources like the lumberyards they use—feel free to ask the contractor directly for the names of his suppliers. Once you think you’ve found your man, make a commitment to hire him—that way he’ll know his efforts to bring down costs aren’t for naught. “I’m not going to spend days and weeks [doing preliminary work without a deal in place],” Kastenholz explains.
Even with the leverage a slow market gives you, though, house fixes are pricey. On average, here’s how much you’ll have to pay someone to…
…refinish hardwood floors $2 per square foot
…fix a roof leak $76–$250
…paint $300 per room
…replace a broken porch screen $55
…remove carpet $60 (varies depending on size of the room)
…change the locks $36 per lock (includes cutting new keys)
…patch a water-damaged wall $30–$240
…change a ceiling fan $75
…install a new dishwasher $125 (does not include hauling the old one away)
…replace kitchen cabinets $700 for labor on an average-size kitchen (material prices vary)