Many Millennials share the same dream, find an affordable fixer upper in a perfect location; fix it up to your hearts content and sit back on the porch to relax when its done. The only problem is most of our budgets aren’t limitless, we don’t have a crew of people like the TV shows and you don’t know what’s behind a wall till ya take it down. Many older homes may also have hidden construction or safety issues; the best way to save time and money is prepare before you buy.
Now we will discuss what questions to consider when purchasing a fixer upper. Before you jump in, get a home inspection, talk with contractors and try to find the history of the home and neighborhood. Did It ever have fires, what part of the homes are original versus additions, and what is the history of the neighborhood.
1. What is your budget? Don’t spend all your money with just the initial home purchase, Most of the cost and time associated with a fixer upper is in the fixing. It is Admirable to try and save as much of the original home’s material as possible but that comes with a cost. This article will focus more on projects with a modest budget. Although everyone wants to fix up a home similar to the notebook it’s a lot harder and more expensive than it looks.
2. Is it in the Historic District? Many older homes, especially in city centers may have some historical district overlays. The design and permit process can be lengthier and in some cases you may have to use Era specific construction materials and be approved by a board before you can start. This may help in the long run as the local properties may rise in value as the due to their uniqueness and historic value.
3. What is the local weather and what is the intended use of the building? A single family home in a wintery climate will require a different and costlier approach than a 3 season vacation cottage on the lake. To keep construction costs low, plan to do major projects during the spring and summer months. A large roof with many peaks will be more costly to replace than a small cottage roof.
4. Does the house have historical bones? Somethings in a house are almost impossible to replace, the hand hewed beams, the original hardwood floors and the old mantle piece can be almost impossible to recreate in todays world. You can’t head to your local hardware store to pick up a marble mantle piece and 30 foot hand hewed beams. The unique trim of the Era can be hard to replace or recreate unless you have good knowledge in wood working.
5. Is there lead based paints? In almost all states their is safeguards in place to make sure the dangers of lead based paint are left in the past. Many times only certain companies are certified by the state to remove lead based paint; the methods are also more time consuming and costly than a standard remodel.
6. Was asbestos used? Although we now know the dangers of Asbestos many older homes used the building material in Insulation, siding, flooring and many other components. Check your local regulations but many times it must be removed by a certified Abatement crew, or in some cases it can be encapsulated in a safer material. Asbestos shouldn’t be taken lightly, to do it properly you must prepare and do so in a proper and safe way.
7. Is the electrical components up to date? Many older homes do not have today’s safety features like GFI’s and breaker boxes. Older wiring and older electrical panels can create a fire hazard especially during the initial construction phase. Upgrading to a modern system can be expensive and invasive depending on the access available for wiring.
8. Can you save existing tile, flooring, fixtures and finishes. The Demolition and remodeling of main rooms can be one of the largest expenses of remodeling. Trying to save original wood work and fixtures although admirable, can sometimes cost more than it is worth. Although you should strive to salvage as much as possible in many cases it may just not be possible.
9. How old is the plumbing? Although the plumbing under the sink may look new what kind of Drain lines does it tie into? Cast iron and Galvanized piping usually only lasts about 50 years to assure good water quality and no leaking. If you keep old plumbing you run the risk of breaking it when connecting it to new plumbing. Another way to save on cost is keep the plumbing fixtures in the same location. You also want to make absolutely sure everything is in working order before finishing a section that has plumbing in front or on top of it.
10. Does the property have established landscaping? Whenever possible try to plan construction around the existing Tree’s and Shrubs. It can take hardwood tree’s hundred’s of years to reach the massive size that drew you to the house, make sure you keep them healthy so you can enjoy them for years to come.
11. How is the homes foundation? Does the home have cracks in it’s foundation. Is the basement a dirt or rock floor? Is their a crawl space? Foundation repairs are almost always the most costly and expensive. Noticing that some rooms don’t quite seem to be flat can lead into some big problems down the road. Bring a level when you look at the house and make sure you keep foundation quality in mind.
12. How old are the windows? Does any water leak into the old window frames? Are the windows single or double pane? Do you feel a draft on windy days? In many cases it pays off in heating and electric bills to upgrade the windows to modern double pane windows with a higher R-Value (a insulation efficiency measure). Many old windows where handmade into unique shapes, sizes and colorings. Do these windows still function and if not can you replace them at a reasonable cost?
13. How old is the roof? Many older homes may have rotten cedar shake or older shingles on the roof. If you think you may need to replace the roof remember that the structure may need new reinforcements to accommodate the weight of the new material. Older sections may have rotted through and need more beams to be structurally sound.
14. How will you heat the home? Does the house have an old oil furnace in the basement? Can it be removed through the current doors or do you need to deconstruct it in the basement? How old are the air conditioning system and hot water heater. Find out so you can plan on when the best time to replace them is.
15. Where will you live during construction? Will you keep your current living situation until the house is move in ready? Can you afford paying for two living spaces at once. Can you cook at the fixer upper home or will you be eating take out during construction? These are all important questions that should be addressed before you make an offer.