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Buying a Fixer Upper

Posted by Susanna Haynie on January 17, 2016
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buying a fixer upperAre you ready for buying a fixer upper?

In listings you might read: “A fixer-upper.” – “A handyman’s special.” – “Needs TLC.” No matter how you phrase it, buying an ugly house means that you are signing up for a bit more work than any other home. Here are a few tips if you are looking to purchase a fixer-upper.

Take a good look…

…at what needs to be done. Look particularly for structural issues like foundation cracks, water damage, and problems with rot or termite damage. If there are structural issues, bring in a contractor to give you an estimate as to the costs to repair. Pay particularly at the visible big ticket items: Roof and windows.

Make a list of all of the repairs that are required and the estimated cost. Even if you intend to do the repairs yourself, it is best to use a cost estimate as if a contractor is doing the work. That way, if you do the work yourself, you will come in under-budget. It is not unusual for construction projects to cost more than expected, particularly if the work required is extensive.

I (or your real estate agent) will provide you with an estimate of the market value of the home as if it were in good condition. With that number in hand and your cost estimate for fixing the needed repairs, you will know what a fair price is to offer on that fixer-upper.

Currently, the market for homes in general is very limited, there is a shortage in supply. While deep discounts are not readily available, you might be able to snag a property that is at least somewhat under value and with lots of elbow grease and maybe a bit of imagination you will be able to increase the home’s value.

Look for ways to bring more daylight into your home. Higher wattage bulbs can make small spaces feel larger. Selecting a lighter paint color and carpet can also brighten up dark rooms. Dark paneling or cabinetry can also make a room look darker than necessary. Consider painting with a lighter color to brighten the room.

There are many advantages to owning an older home.

You might feel that you’ll get better craftsmanship in an established neighborhood with character, or you have features in a particular home that was only available during that particular building period. But, you might also be challenged with a home that needs updating to be practical for today’s families. Here are a few tips on updating an older home.

Many older houses have several small rooms, while today’s families prefer more open floor plans. Look for ways you can open up your home, think about knocking out nonstructural walls or creating archways, arch windows into another room or possibly pony walls to  create the impression of openness. When you open up a room, you create a sense of flow in the house that can transform the feel of the home.

One of the largest advantages of an older neighborhood is the mature trees and plantings. However, if they are not trimmed back, they can overwhelm an older house and hide its beauty. Take a good look at the landscaping with an eye at trimming, pruning and removing plantings that are no longer of an appropriate size in relation to the house. Older trees can often be left alone, but it is worth looking at pruning dead branches or overhanging branches that are dangerously close to power lines or the house itself. If you have an older home (pre 1975) it is imperative that you have the (in many cases clay) sewer lines scoped to make sure that they are still functional, especially when there is a mature landscaping and large trees close to the sewer lines, those lines might be affected by the trees root system.

Also, here in Colorado Springs, any home built prior to 1978 is considered to have Lead Base Paint used during its construction or an old remodel. Learn more about the new rules.  Read before you buy. Extra precaution is needed to deal with this Lead Base Paint when you disturb it. It’s considered HAZMAT.

I love finding older homes that, with a little work, can be updated and improved. These transformations can be rewarding, both in the character of the home as well as the increased financial value that they bring. Please give me a call if you are interesting in finding that diamond in the rough and we can start looking right away.


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