How to Pick the Right "Fixer Upper"
Renovating a fixer-upper takes money, hard work and patience. If you’re able to pull off a successful transformation, you’ll reap the benefits. Keep in mind, however, that unforeseen problems could surface along the way that might make your fixer-upper a money pit. Here are the features and characteristics you should look for in a fixer-upper that will make the renovation go much more smoothly.
Strong structural elements?
A solid structure is critical when you’re buying a fixer-upper. If the home has a crumbling foundation or serious roof problems, you’ll have to decide if you’re willing to pay to repair this type of damage. The five important structural elements include the roof; heating, ventilation, and air conditioning (HVAC); plumbing; electrical; and foundation. To get a good idea of the house’s structure, explore the basement, attic and unfinished areas. Focus on those areas rather than the pretty, recent additions to the home.
Minor plumbing problems?
Your fixer-upper could need plumbing work. Depending on the scope of the project, the work will be either a quick fix or a significant undertaking that will eat into your budget. Some fixer-uppers may have low water pressure (fairly minor problem), while others may have pipes that need to be replaced (a big problem). Before buying a fixer-upper, make sure you’re comfortable with the amount of plumbing work that will be required.
A sound layout?
A logical layout is important when looking at an old home. Older homes often are divided into small rooms, while many people searching for a home these days are seeking an open floor plan where there is no separation between the zones of the house. If you envision needing to knock down walls to create a more open, airy interior, know that the job can be expensive and time-consuming.
Little to no infestations?
It’s not uncommon to encounter a fixer-upper with an infestation, whether it’s mice, termites, mold, dry rot or asbestos. A minor issue such as mice can be resolved by putting out traps and filling holes in the house. However, severe termite damage could require a costly solution, including lifting the house off of the ground to access the foundation and check for further damage. A seller is required to disclose such infestations, but a home inspector also will uncover any issues during the inspection that may occur after the house goes under contract. If you find any of these problems in your fixer-upper, it’s a good idea to get an estimate from a contractor to resolve the issue.
Although buying a foreclosed home that has sat unused for several few years might get you a low sales price, it also could present a challenge when you begin renovations. Homes that are empty for an extended time could have plumbing issues. If the water wasn’t turned off properly in the winter, for example, it could cause the pipes to freeze, split and leak. It also could become a refuge for animals, such as squirrels and bats. All of these problems can be fixed, but they add more to your bottom-line costs.
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