You’ve done it— you’ve found the perfect fixer upper property that you love! You might have been house hunting for a while, and you made sure you were able to find homes for sale that were within your budget. You toured every property that you thought might be a good fit, until you found that “fixer upper” of your dreams, and you can’t wait to get moving!
You have watched enough episodes of Fixer Upper to feel confident that you can tackle any challenges the home might present, and you can’t wait to write up a contract!
So… that’s it, isn’t it? Not exactly. Speaking from experience, that fixer upper house of your dreams could potentially become a financial nighmare! Having moved, renovated and “flipped” houses several times over the years, I learned the hard way that not every problem can be easily fixed with a few coats of paint, tlc and pretty decorative accents. With that in mind, here are 10 Fixer Upper Pitfalls To Avoid When House Hunting.
1. Foundation issues:
First things first…the foundation must be solid! Unless you are willing to do some serious repairs which might including jacking up your house, installing beams and any other foundation work that might actually end up causing your home to be less sound over time, it is best to avoid purchasing a home with structural of foundation issues, especially if you are on tight budget. Most insurance companies will not provide coverage for homes with foundation issues, but if you are purchasing a property “as is” or with cash, you might get around it. Still, foundation issues are not really a DIY problem to tackle unless you have experience in this area.
2. Leaking Basements/Mold
As a person who has suffered permanent physical illness from mold biotoxin illness (also called “Sick Building Syndrome”) my advice is to run from water leaks or ANY visible mold in the basement! Sometimes these problems can be minor and the problem of leaking may be identified and quickly fixed, but long term water in the basement means that mold is more than likely lurking somewhere.
Do not be tempted to just spray bleach and paint over mold. Mold is stealth, it can still grow back quickly even through paints that supposedly seal the mold. Even a small amount of mold can cause serious issues for some individuals. Babies and children are especially at risk. No fixer upper dream home is worth lifelong allergies and illness resulting from chronic mold exposure.
3. Roof And Gutters
An old roof must be replaced or repaired at best. This is a problem that absolutely can’t be ignored. Sometimes gutters will also need repaired, or cleaned out. Be sure that your home inspector checks for small holes from hail even if the roof appears to be in great shape. Over time these small holes will expand and lead to leaks requiring costly repairs.
When trying to determine if a property has water issues, it can be very useful to wait to view the property until after several days of heavy rain before signing any contracts. This way you will be able to determine if there are leaks any time it rains.
4. Termites and Pests Inspections
Even if you aren’t buying a property “as is” most traditional mortgage lender and contracts will allow you to “waive” the right to a termite inspection. This might save you around $75 to $150, but in the long run it is not worth it! I waived an inspection on two separate property purchases because there was absolutely no visible sign of termite damage, only to find later that there were significant termite issues at both. Don’t make this mistake!
5. Electrical Issues
The matter of electrical updates depends on making sure the wires and installation are all up to date and up to code. If they are not, you simply must not risk living in an older home with faulty wiring. Sometimes an entire home will need to be rewired, so be sure this is well within your budget when purchasing your fixer upper.
6. Plumbing Issues
While the average leaky faucet or clogged toilet can be fixed by most DIY homeowners, there are some plumbing issues that can cost thousands of dollars to repair and have health risks associated with them. If you smell a “rotten egg” smell when looking at a property, this can be indicative of a very serious plumbing issue. Lysol and diffusing essential oils cannot simply mask these types of odors. Be sure to have a home inspector identify the source of the smell and that it can be easily fixed before purchasing.
If you are planning to replace the HVAC then having an older unit will not be an issues. If you aren’t you certainly want to have the home inspector verify that the unit is in working order. Sometimes repair fees cost more than new units.
Asbestos is a very hazardous substance found in most homes somewhere. If you are planning to rip out walls, ceilings and floors to make the fixer upper you have found into your dream home, be sure to have it inspected for asbestos first. Not only can asbestos be extremely dangerous to you, there are also EPA violations and fines for putting others at risk by disturbing asbestos. No property is worth this risk.
9. Consider The Amount of Natural Light
If you are a person who loves a lot of natural light, make sure to visit the property several times and at different times of the day. Our house only gets natural light in the living room about one hour out of the day! I did not realize that because when we viewed the property it happened to be when the living room was nice and bright. The acutal reality is that our living room has the lighting of a rainy day, even on sunny days, until about 4:30 p.m. There is nothing that can be changed about this natural fact, no matter the paint color or furnishings. Be sure you are happy with the natural lighting in the home.
10. Landscaping Issues
While “a park like setting” may sound beautiful in a home sales pitch, lots of trees bring lots of maintenance and potential problems.
Having trees trimmed is a very expensive procedure, depending on the age and size of the trees. Trees and shrubs that are planted too closely to the house can cause problems with the structure and plumbing. Lots of vegetation can also invite potential pests. Be sure you will be able to keep up with all the requirements of landscaping before purchasing.
There are many other factors to consider when purchasing a new home, even if it’s not considered a fixer upper. If you have been looking for a while, or if you have sold your house and need to find a property fast, then panic, stress, and worry of house-hunting may result in a hasty decision. Or you might be viewing the property through rose colored glasses and not looking for potential problems with the home. Keeping these 10 pitfalls in mind may help you avoid a rushed decision that you’ll potentially regret.
Best of luck on your house hunting adventures!