Deals are always appealing, especially in a hot market. So if you’re looking to buy a house and you see the chance to nab a fixer-upper for a low price, you’ll be tempted. Just be careful – sometimes that hidden treasure turns out to be a disaster. Here are five signs that the fixer-upper you’re eyeing should be left on the market.
There are some things about a house that cannot be fixed, no matter how dedicated you are – like location. Check that the house isn’t next to an unsafe natural formation. An unsteady hill signals shifting ground, which means an unsteady foundation for your house. Consider what you would if you were looking for a new house – proximity to schools or work; accessibility of public transit, green spaces, grocery stores; trees or a garden on the property. If there’s nothing nearby, walk the other way.
In any house, including fixer-uppers, the layout of the rooms is a primary indication of how (or if) the space will suit your needs. Pay attention to how the space is organized – like where the kids’ bedrooms are in relation to the master bedroom. Keep in mind, though, that you can knock out non load-bearing walls and make more open-concept spaces – as long as you know which walls are which.
Bad Plumbing or Electrical Wiring
Simple: if the plumbing or electrical system needs an overhaul, leave that fixer-upper alone. The cost of fixing those problems will outweigh the benefit of anything you save on the house itself.
Badly Done Renovations or Repairs
If a house has had major renovations and is still listed as a fixer-upper, be warned. The renovations didn’t take the first time, and will have to be redone. Similarly, be wary if the house shows signs of natural disaster damage (flooding, foundational damage), or if there have been rooms added. They could be illegal additions, not to code. Avoid these!
This is the most important thing to watch for when fixer-upper-hunting, because these are the problems that will take time and money and energy, potentially turning your deal into an ordeal. The bones are the physical fundamentals of the house – the load-bearing walls, the foundation, the structural integrity of what’s holding it all together. If there is anything questionable about the foundations or the drainage – look for slanting floors and water damage, for example – this isn’t the fixer-upper for you.
We all like a good deal – but when looking for a house, be careful to consider what could turn a fixer-upper into a money pit. For referrals and advice, reach out to your local real estate agent.