When I purchased my first home back in 1985 I was in the same situation as many first time home buyers: I had more energy than cash. So it was natural that any home in my price range would be a little rough. But I had basic carpentry and general home repair skills that I learned from my dad so a little work didn’t scare me. The home I purchased had been built during WWII and was a solid little home. But it did indeed need a little attention.
The first project my buddy and I attacked was the wobbly toilet. That ‘little’ project turned into replacing most of the rotten bathroom floor and the cracked leaky toilet. We did this while the girls kept reminding us that it was the ‘only’ toilet in the home so we had to get it done in one afternoon. We did get it taken care of and over the course of several years I did quite a bit of those little (and sometimes big) projects. But I’ve always enjoyed working with my hands and never really gave it much thought.
Today many first time home buyers are in a similar situation as they’ve grown tired of paying high rent but don’t have a lot of cash to buy a ‘move in ready’ home. What this article will discuss is some of the more expensive items to look for when searching for a ‘fixer upper’ so you don’t end up with a ‘money pit’ that needs a lot of money (that you didn’t have in the first place).
When looking at lower price point homes one of the first things to check is if it has a private well and / or septic system. You don’t need to automatically avoid them but understand the possible costs if either (or both) are in bad shape and need repaired or replaced. I’ll be writing another blog post about them in the near future. If you are looking at newer production homes which are commonly found in some areas with affordable prices you typically avoid issues with your water and sewer because they are provided through the local town or city.
Next you want to look for possible foundation issues as anything wrong with the foundation affects the entire building. Major defects such as crumbling foundation walls or sagging floors can be very expensive to repair. If the home has a crawl space, you’ll want to be sure and find out if anything has been done to it lately and be sure and have it inspected as we see a lot of moisture problems show up that the owners were not even aware of while living there. One of the advantages of homes with basements is you can usually easily see if there are any moisture/leaking issues.
After that be sure and look up at the roof and gutters as nothing ruins a home more than a leaky roof. Check on the age of the roof if the seller knows and look for stains in the ceilings anywhere inside the home. Make sure when you hire an inspector they will go into the attic to look for any staining or damage on the upper framing structure.
The reason I mention the above items first is they all will pretty much require you hiring a company to repair / replace and in each case the costs are usually very expensive and not usually covered by typical homeowners’ insurance. There are many other items such as plumbing, electrical, heating & cooling systems that need to be checked so you’ll want those inspected as well. Again you probably will need to pay someone to repair these items unless you have knowledge of these items or have a friend / family member who works in that trade and owes you a favor. You can also ask about a home warranty when you purchase your home to cover some of the mechanical systems (heating /cooling, water heater, etc) the first year you live there.
So what kind of home isn’t a ‘money pit’? Generally, you want a home that is in need of updating (which can be a personal opinion), fresh paint, new flooring, or just general cosmetic issues that you or a general handyman can take care of for materials and low (or free) labor costs.
The home that we now live in was a ‘fixer upper’ I purchased in the ‘90s that I knew needed major repairs. But I also knew it was a solid home because I had it inspected and it is in a great location in Hendricks County. I have since gutted and redone almost everything myself or paid contractors for items beyond my knowledge and/or abilities and we now have a great home that is perfect for us.
Buying a ‘fixer upper’ isn’t for everyone but sometimes the current financial situation requires you to at least consider a home that needs a little fresh paint and new flooring. Just remember to look at each home with the idea of it’s potential after you do a little work to ‘personalize’ your home. It’s actually nice to sit back and look at your work and take pride in what you’ve accomplished.
If you are thinking of looking for a ‘fixer upper’ be sure and give us a call. We’ll be glad to help you find a home that needs a ‘little’ attention. Or one that needs a ‘gut job’ if that’s what you are up too. I don’t mind crawling round a home with a flashlight to help point out obvious ‘major’ issues with a home you are interested in. While I’m not a trained inspector I can at least point out some things that will keep you from wasting your money hiring an inspector to tell you the home ‘has issues’. Call or text The Derrick Team today at 317-563-1110, 7 days a week. We’re here to help!