In real estate slang, a ‘fixer upper’ house is one that, although it can be inhabited as it is, it does need to have various features fixed. It may also require maintenance work, such as redesign, redecoration or even partial reconstruction. It’s usually quite a dream for anybody interested in real estate, as it can be bought for a very low price and turned into something magnificent. Our best guess is you already know all that. But do you know what are the main 10 questions to ask yourself before buying a fixer upper?
#1. What is your budget for buying a fixer upper?
Although the name itself – ‘fixer upper’- makes it sound like the property will come in very cheap, that is not always the case. For example, there are also historic homes and buildings which find themselves listed under the very same dubbing of fixer uppers, but that doesn’t mean they will be cheap. Also, as with any other home, its price depends on the area it’s located in, its size, and its current degradation state.
Therefore, the very first thing you need to do if you’ve started on this path is to assess your budget correctly. Also, ask yourself – how much you are willing to go over it?
#2. Is your house located in a historic district?
Try to learn as much as possible not only about the house itself, but the street it’s located on, as well as the neighborhood. Should the fixer upper be located in a historical district, it will cost you a lot more to renovate it. The process will also be a lot lengthier, and you might have fewer prospective buyers if your plan is to sell it. But this is a two-way street, because a newly and correctly restored historical house can mean a lot of money for you, the seller.
#3. Are the house’s ‘bones’ in good condition?
There are a few items about a house which are very pricey to replace, such as its floors, paneling or doors. These represent your home’s ‘bones’. If they are in good condition, that means you will have to pay less for the renovation.
It’s actually a very good idea to keep them if they are in good condition or reuse them if they’re not. Antique wooden doors and floors add a certain nostalgic and romantic charm to a house modern builders can’t quite seem able to recreate.
#4. Does the house have lead-based paint or asbestos?
The law in most states nowadays requires protective actions to be taken when dealing with lead-based paint. All these measures will need some training and a particular certification issued by the state. This can mean more time spent on the renovations and even increasing their cost.
As far as asbestos goes, you can still find it in older houses, especially in the insulation, floors or sidings. It has to be removed completely from the house as it endangers your health. However, keep in mind that it has to be removed by a specialist, so don’t try to do it yourself. Sometimes, it can be encapsulated if the law permits it.
#5. Does the house need any electrical upgrades?
Older and more battered houses usually need to be improved as far as their electrical part goes. They don’t have safety devices, such as ground fault circuit interrupters, their wiring itself is old and worn out, while their electrical panels can be a downright fire hazard. Still, upgrading everything will be pricey, so try to find the best solution to accommodate this.
#6. How does the landscape around the house look like?
If the fixer upper comes with some sort of garden, front or back yard, try to make the best of it. The good thing here is that this is something you can do yourself, unlike other things, which tend to be out of your league as a first home fixer upper. This means it will cost you very little money, but will add a lot of value to the house if you wish to sell it. Build a new fence around it, construct a stone alley, trim the trees, and plant flowers. No help required, you can do it all yourself in just a few days.
#7. What condition are the windows in?
Windows are very important. You will say this is a redundant statement, but it’s not. Carefully selected and installed windows will save you a lot of money on your electrical and heating bills. If the windows are very old, shot or have cracked frames, the best thing you can do is to replace them altogether. This will give you the opportunity to buy the double glazing type or even the ones with a greater R-value. This is a measure of the insulation’s efficiency.
#8. What condition is the roof in?
Yet another major thing you need to look at before purchasing a fixer upper is its roof. Older houses traditionally have roofs made wood. This means that, most likely, it has eroded and/or rotten over time. Therefore, water might leak into your house and heat might escape through it in winter time.
Also, while on the subject of the roof, consider adding some lightly colored sunlight deflecting tiles. They will keep the sunlight away from your house in the summertime and will lower you need to use the AC and, thusly, the electricity bill.
#9. What is the weather like in the area?
Renovating a house very much depends on its purpose. And that purpose is partially due to the weather. For example, it takes a lot more money and time to renovate a residential building that has to endure harsh winters in a very cold climate than a small cabin only used during the summer months. Don’t neglect this aspect and consider it when planning your initial budget.
#10. How are the neighbors like?
This is a very important question you need to answer whether you’re planning on keeping the house for yourself or selling it. Try to find a fixer upper in an area that best suits you, your needs, and your lifestyle. For example, if you are young and know you’ll want to have friends over all the time to hang out, there is no point in moving to an old neighborhood where people simply want peace and quiet or have a lot of kids. In the same way, if you have a family, it’s best to find a family friendly area, such as a suburb, rather than a busy corner of the metropolitan area.
As you might have noticed, there is quite some work to be done when dealing with a fixer upper home. Still, if you put all your heart in it, the results will be amazing, and you will finally have your dream home!