There’s a great house in a great community. And that great house is selling for a great price. And you really like the price AND the home. But why is the price so great? Because the house is a fixer upper. And you need to know how much work the house needs before you buy it.
That’s why we’re sharing these tips for buying a fixer upper house. We’re talking about the big things, big questions that might influence your decision to buy the house. Let’s get going.
1. Decide if you like the floor plan
It may sound like a funny place to start, but certain walls in a house support its structure, and moving such “load-bearing” walls is hard. So first decide if you like the house’s floor plan as is. If you do, good. If you don’t, keep in mind that changing it may not be an easy job.
2. Hire a professional home inspector
This is probably the single most important thing you can do. You want to get a full home inspection done by a credentialed home inspector. You need to know exactly what you are buying – and a home inspector will be your go-to source for just that.
A home inspection will help you understand how much rehab is needed and estimate its costs.
3. Check the foundation & the roof
Is the foundation solid, or does it need to be reinforced? Is the roof in good shape, or does it need replacing? Fixing foundations and roofs can be pricey. A good rule of thumb is to check them right after it rains. If there are leaks, they’ll be more likely to show up.
4. Check the windows too
Some older windows can be repaired. But even older windows that are in decent shape are not as energy efficient as new ones, leading to higher heating and cooling costs.
5. Examine the electrical and plumbing
Older electrical systems may need to be updated for safety reasons or upgraded to handle modern appliances. Older plumbing may consist of cast iron or galvanized pipes, which last about 50 years. Replacing electrical and plumbing systems usually requires ripping out floors, walls, and sometimes ceilings.
6. Inspect the heating and cooling systems
A house’s heating and cooling systems may have reached the end of their lifespans, and may need to be replaced. Older systems are also less energy efficient than newer systems, so even if they are still working – they are generally more expensive to operate. Some fixer uppers may not even have central air conditioning. If that is important to you, installing a system would be another big project.
7. Look for lead paint, asbestos, mold, and pests
An older house may have lead paint or asbestos, which may need to be abated or removed safely. Homes with water leaks often have mold. And pests such as termites are a big deal, especially with wood-frame construction.
Replacing a driveway or sidewalk may not be the world’s biggest job. But it still costs cash, and that cash adds up.
8. Decide if you like the bathrooms and kitchen
These rooms are expensive to renovate. If the bathrooms have charming old fixtures and the kitchen will look fresh with a little updating, you’re in pretty good shape. If you’re inclined to tear them out and start fresh, that’s a pretty big financial undertaking.
9. Make a budget, make a plan
Fixer-upper houses are cheaper because they need more work, and probably have some outdated features. Consider how much money you can spend, how much work you want to undertake, and the timeframe to get the work done. This post on 5 Ways to Prepare for a Home Renovation can help.
10. Negotiate the sale price
After the inspection is complete, you may discover that the great price isn’t as great as you thought it was. Expensive repair work needs to be included in the sale price. Don’t be afraid to negotiate. You have facts and numbers on your side!
A good inspection is only one part of buying a home. Look at these 5 Questions to Ask a Realtor When Buying a Home for more advice.
And before you make a bid, give this a read: 5 Things to Do When Making an Offer on a House.