There are several reasons homebuyers consider purchasing homes that need some work, “fixer-uppers” as they’ve come to be known.
Sometimes, it’s a matter of saving money. A fixer-upper might be priced at a bargain, and the new homeowners are handy enough to do some work themselves. In other cases, it might be a matter of few homes on the market in an area they really want to live in, or they love an architectural style that exists only in older homes.
Whatever the reason, fixer-uppers can be smart purchases. But there are some things any homebuyer considering a fixer-upper should know. Here are five tips for buying a fixer-upper.
Know your own limits
Again, if you’re handy, you can save money by doing the work yourself. You can patch drywall, paint, maybe change light fixtures, even install toilets or sinks. But are you ready to tackle electrical rewiring, moving walls or replacing a roof? Some things are best left to professionals, so when touring a fixer-upper, keep an eye out for repairs beyond your capabilities.
Also, keep in mind that doing things yourself requires time. Do you want to spend your evenings and weekends working on the new home you just purchased?
Bring a contractor
Sometimes, a homebuyer can easily recognize the work that will be needed. It’s easy to spot walls that need painting or carpet that needs to be torn out. But it helps to have a contractor with you to point out needed repairs or upgrades that your amateur eye doesn’t catch.
A contractor can also provide estimates for repairs, which is better than trying to calculate costs on your own. If you don’t know how much everything will cost, how can you determine whether the sales price is a good deal?
Hire your own home inspector
A home inspector will not only point out things you might not see on your own, but, unlike a contractor, should be able to tell you how much life is left on things such as HVAC units, the roof, appliances, windows and doors, and more. It’s important to know not just what needs to be repaired or replaced immediately, but how far down the road the non-immediate items in a home will need to be addressed.
It’s also important that the home inspector be non-biased. If you get a referral for one, it makes sense to personally vet the inspector yourself. You want someone who’s got your best interest at heart, not just helping a sale go through.
Know the rules
Especially if the home in question is an older one, it’s crucial to know the building and zoning codes of the locale. Codes change over the years, and if a home hasn’t been sold recently, it might not be up to code. Buying a fixer-upper, then realizing there is extra work required can be a financial disaster.
Electrical systems are the biggest code culprit, but some areas might require certain shutters or siding or roof material, or something else, that you might not know about when you first see the home. Homeowner Associations, too, have requirements. It’s important to know the rules.
Look up and down
Even for the most daring homebuyers, a fixer-upper with foundation problems is probably something to steer clear of. Sometimes, structural problems are super-expensive to fix. Other times, they simply can’t be fixed.
A crack across a basement wall or floor is an obvious warning sign, but so are sagging floors, out-of-plumb doors, and unlevel ceilings. Even cracked driveways can be an indication of heavy settling or movement of the foundation. So bring a tennis ball to see if it rolls across floors when it shouldn’t, put a level to walls at the ceiling, and make sure all the doors and windows open freely. You don’t want to buy a home that’s shifting structurally.
Fixer-uppers can represent great deals. They can be homes you fall in love with but simply need some TLC. Whatever the case, heeding these tips can help the purchase of a fixer-upper go more smoothly.