I have often lauded the benefits of buying a fixer-upper. I love the potential they offer and the ability to (in many cases) get a "deal" on the property. The value and equity coming from your investment in the repairs that need to be made.
Another benefit is the ability to upgrade or fix those things in the manner that you specifically desire. This is an area of discussion we often have with sellers. Do they make the repairs themselves or leave it as-is and let the buyers personalize the home however they desire? Of course, there's a lot that goes into that discussion and loads of factors that can sway you either way.
Today, I want to focus on a few items that buyers should be wary of when evaluating a fixer-upper. In many of these cases, the sellers would be very well served to fix these issues prior to selling.
Many of the trouble-spots we will cover are pointing to more serious issues and should raise some red flags for the buyers. Those red flags don't necessarily mean that you shouldn't buy. They are just "cause for pause" and an indication that you should be a bit more vigilant in understanding what you're getting into. Let's get into it!
The first trouble spot is similar to most of the used cars we have all purchased in our lifetimes and that is the phrase "as-is" in the listing. In general this is a harmless phrase because it is generally understood that any home you purchase is without any sort of warranty or guarantee.
The "as-is" note seems to bring an extra level of "We are hands-off" from the seller's perspective. While there may be "issues" scattered around the home, the sellers are aware of them and are not going to budge on the price based on those items. If you are comfortable with the necessary repairs, this may be a great opportunity. If not, it may be best to let this one go.
Smells always seem to get my cautious antennae up. Any sort of moisture smell is a big red flag for me. If you have lived in New England for any length of time, you are aware of the moisture challenges that can arise. They can creep up in the basement (very common) or, worse yet, they can be anywhere around the roof or ceilings.
The primary reason moisture is bad is due to the propensity for mold to grow. This is dangerous for the homeowners or tenants to say the least. Second, but no less damaging, is the effect it can have on the home itself. Which brings us to our next point.
Stuck windows and doors and simply something to be aware of. Just because a door doesn't close or a window won't open does not mean the home is uninhabitable or a terrible home. It mostly means that there has been some warping over the years and it is something that needs to be investigated.
A home inspection can root out the causes of the warping and point you to the trouble-spot. It may have been a roof leak 20 years ago and the ramifications were just never fixed. Meaning, the damage was done, but the cause has been fixed. Be sure to explore these things with a professional and see if it is something that should give you reason to walk away.
Another slightly related warning sign is sagging or sloping floors. These carry a similar note of caution as the windows and doors because they can be a sign of serious structural damage. Once again, though, they could also have been remedied in years past and are just a relic of the aging home.
Simply meaning that while your jelly beans may roll their way under the fridge anytime you drop one, it is not getting any worse and the home is structurally sound. Same deal as above with this one, have a professional get you the information you need to make an intelligent decision.
One of the more common areas of trouble, especially with older homes, is the roof. While a severely sagging roof is obvious to the naked eye, this is another of those areas that should be investigated by a professional.
"While we can see the more obvious signs of a sagging roof, a professional home inspector will be able to target specific areas that could cause issues down the road," Badger Realty agent Brendan Battenfelder said.
Moving downstairs, the basement can certainly keep a myriad of secrets. We already touched on our concerns about water damage and the basement is another culprit for that. Keep your eyes peeled for water stains and obvious signs of the presence of water such as items up on pallets or crates.
It's also important (and likely obvious) that you should be checking for cracks down here as well. Once again, they can be stable and not cause for concern, but getting a professional to tell you that will help you sleep at night.
The last item for today is the electrical and wiring system. This is something I ran into in that first duplex I bought. There was still a bit of "knob and tube" wiring throughout the home. While this is not necessarily dangerous, it has been replaced with more modern wiring systems and again, should be checked by a pro.
Wiring and electricity is one of those things that kind of freak me out. Get yourself some peace of mind and ensure that it is safe and stable. Rewiring a home is not something that is quick, easy or cheap.