With housing markets in many large cities being more competitive than ever, many would-be buyers and investors are being forced to look outside their comfort zones and find properties that have a lot of potential, but aren’t quite perfect—in other words, fixer-uppers.
Thankfully, buyers who take the plunge with fixer-uppers have more resources to get the job done than ever, as the topic is frequently covered in magazines, books, blogs, and television shows. However, one aspect of the process that’s often overlooked is how to pick the right fixer-upper.
Not all fixer-uppers are created equal. For every home that’s only a remodeled kitchen and a few coats of paint away from being your dream home or property, there are five disasters in waiting. They’re lurking out there, ready and willing to empty your pocketbook and leave you swearing off home ownership for good. The difference between buying a home that you’ll love, and buying one that you’ll immediately regret, comes from being able to quickly and accurately appraise the property and evaluate its flaws.
If you’re looking to sharpen your eye when it comes to assessing potential fixer-upper properties, Blindster recommends paying close attention to these aspects of the home before you sign on the dotted line:
A house with a great design, location, and overall appearance can, and should, be quickly ruled out if its foundation shows any signs of damage or instability. A weak foundation may not pose problems the first year or even first decade that you own the home, but sooner or later, issues will arise that require major cash and extensive work to fix.
Although it can be difficult to get an accurate assessment of the condition of a home’s foundation, cracks, off-track doors, and pooled water or damp conditions inside the basement are often telltale signs that the foundation is weak or damaged.
A home that is fully wired for electricity with multiple working outlets in every room is something many people take for granted. However, an older home or a home with substandard wiring configurations can be at risk of losing power at any time, whether it’s confined to a specific outlet or throughout the entire home. In addition, outdated wiring or unsafe wiring also represents a serious fire hazard that can put your home and family at risk.
Take the time to test every plug, in every outlet, and in every room. Turn off and on light switches throughout the house, and open the electrical panel to make sure it’s in good condition. If the home is several decades old, consider hiring an electrician to inspect its wiring to make sure it will last for many years and won’t be at risk of failing or becoming a fire hazard.
Your home’s roof is what keeps you and your family comfortable and secure. Just as a failing or damaged foundation can eventually lead to major structural issues, a leaking or damaged roof can also gradually worsen until it’s on the brink of collapse or at the point of causing water to enter your home.
If you’re comfortable with climbing onto the roof—or if you can easily see the roof from the ground—look for signs of damage like curling and cracking shingles. Extensive stains may also indicate water damage has occurred. Storms can also cause serious damage to roofs, so look for things like missing shingles, pockmarks and dents from hail, and even sagging areas due to fallen tree limbs and branches.
Like electricity, running water is one of the greatest modern conveniences in homes, but many people don’t think about its impact on daily life until it is either unavailable or limited in some way. Unfortunately, as with residential wiring, plumbing is hidden in ceilings, walls, and floorboards, making it difficult to determine if there are any existing issues or damage that could soon result in a lack of running water, a sewage backup, or a flooded bathroom.
The quickest and easiest way to check the plumbing in a fixer-upper home is to use it. Flush all toilets multiple times. Take note if any of the toilets seem sluggish or fail to fill up with water after the flushing process is complete. Also, check the base of the toilets for potential water damage or leaks. Run all faucets and shower heads to check the water pressure and temperature. If either fluctuates, there may be blockages in the pipes or the water heater may need to be replaced.
Whether you plan on keeping the carpet or immediately ripping it out and replacing it, it’s still important to make sure you know what’s going on underneath it when you’re looking at a fixer-upper property. Carpet can hide serious issues like water damaged floorboards, mildew, and even black mold. In some cases, the reveal is actually more positive, as you may find that the carpet is hiding a beautiful hardwood floor that only needs some cleaning and polishing to be fully restored.
To find out what’s underneath the carpet, check the corners of the room and pull up on the carpet and padding. Check underneath for obvious signs of damage, while also noting the condition of the floor. If it’s plywood, expect to spend more on new flooring, if you don’t plan on keeping the carpet.
The doors and windows
If you’re looking for a fixer-upper property when the weather is nice, the seals around the windows and doors may be the last thing on your mind. And while getting those aspects of the home up to par is a relatively simple and inexpensive process, it’s still worth inspecting and knowing what you’re in for before you make a purchase, as poorly sealed windows and doors can quickly increase your energy costs and make your home uncomfortable during extreme weather and temperatures.
Pull back curtains and raise the blinds and shades to look carefully at the edges of the windows for cracks or small openings. Open and close the windows multiple times to see how well they seal after being shut and whether drafts can still enter the home. Check the area underneath outside-facing doors for cracks and inspect the overall condition of the doors. Doors that are difficult to open may have hinges and locks that need to be replaced, while damaged doors may not be structurally sound and should also be replaced.
What did you think of our list? Can you think of any other important things to take into account when buying a fixer-upper? Let us know in the comments!