What to Look for When You Want a Fixer-Upper That Isn’t a Total Disaster

What to Look for When You Want a Fixer-Upper That Isn’t a Total Disaster
  • Opening Intro -

    While many people want a move-in ready home when they buy a new house, others are willing or even eager to buy a house that needs a little more work.


You may have seen movies or reality TV shows where an old decrepit house is "flipped" into a contemporary mansion. It is true you can get some really good deals by buying a fixer-upper and trying to restore it to its former glory.

However, sometimes the effort required is much more than it’s worth. So how do you determine which homes are worth a restoration effort?

Here are a few things you should do.

Have It Inspected

Obviously, if you want to restore a home, you first need to know exactly how much work will be required. If there is an old house you have your eye on, hire a home inspector to create a detailed report of everything that is seriously wrong with the home.

You shouldn’t be discovering new issues after you’ve paid for the house and started working. That could end up costing you a lot in the long run as minor and not-so-minor repairs build up.

An inspector will look for a wide range of problems. This includes electrical issues and pest infestations as well as water, roof, or structural damage.

Do the Math

After you have a good idea of the kind of restoration work that will be required to fix-up the house to the state you want it, you’re going to need to do some math. Consider all the materials and labor that will be required to perform those restorations.

Even if you plan to do the work on your own, consider what that labor is worth to you personally in your equation. If the restorations would balloon the price of the house to beyond what it would cost to buy a new home of a similar size and style, forget about it and move on.

Look for the Telltale Signs of an Unsalvageable House

While the home inspection is important, don’t rely on that alone. Your real estate agent and the seller’s will set up a walk through so that you can look at the house.

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As you walk through with your agent, you can get an idea of what kind of damage there might be. You should also ask the real estate agent about any issues in the house that they might already be aware of.

As you walk through the house, you should look for things that would make the home unsalvageable from a restoration standpoint. This should include the signs of foundation problems such as cracking drywall and doors that stick. Also look for signs of moisture that could indicate the home likely suffers from mold and could have significant structural damage.

Consider Government Restrictions

You also have to consider different restrictions the state and local government may have placed on that home. If the house is officially recognized as a historic home, certain alterations may be restricted entirely. Zoning rules and regulations may also come into play in regards to the kinds of restorations you are allowed to perform.

other valuable tips:

When it comes to buying a fixer-upper, don’t bite off more than you can chew. You could simply buy a dump with the expectation you can transform it into a beautiful home. However, in many cases, you may not be able to afford the kind of extensive restoration work that is required.

In other cases, you may not even be allowed to restore the home as you see fit. However, if you perform the right kind of research, you can be able to find a house that you can actually restore into your dream home.

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