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8 Dealbreakers When Buying a Fixer-Upper

By Tammy Emineth | November 6, 2019

The term 'fixer-upper' can be very random and vague but most of us know what it means when looking at real estate. Chances are this home needs quite a bit of TLC and if it just needs a few cosmetic issues cleared up, the listing agent probably would have stated it that way. But when you see the term 'fixer-upper' you may be in for more than you bargained for.

8 Dealbreakers When Buying a Fixer-Upper

However, if you are thrifty, handy with tools and have some time on your hands, a fixer-upper property may be a great investment. If you have to live in the property, need to hire out all the work and the property needs some major repairs, this may not be the home for you. Even the toughest investors have their limits on some homes. So what are the dealbreakers when it comes to a fixer-upper?

#1. Faulty Foundation

If the foundation is crumbling, cracking or falling apart, the home is probably not far behind. This can be a very spendy repair to the tune of $30,000 or more depending on the damage and the size of the house. A home inspector would be able to give you a firm answer or at least suggest a more in-depth inspection of the foundation itself. If you're already in the buying process, this extra inspection could really save you thousands down the line by terminating the deal now.

#2. Old Electrical

If the home has old knob and tube wiring or the electrical box was not built for the number of amps or volts needed, it could cause a fire in the future and to fix it with all the wires, outlets and box could run you well over $10,000. Also, if a home has aluminum wiring it could expand and contract and cause connections to loosen and cause fires. Again, a home inspector should inform you of the issues and warn if the home is even inhabitable in its current state. If you are planning to replace the whole electrical system of the property, you may consult with a few contractors and ask for Electrical construction project Estimates.

#3. Extensive Pest Damage

A few nibbles here or there on an electrical wire or a spider in the attic is nothing to fuss about but if the home has termites that are invading every stitch of wood so much so that the house is being held together by a thread, you'll probably want to pass. This also may need a separate pest inspection from a qualified professional that knows what to look for. If the damage is so great that the house needs to be torn down and rebuilt, clearly it's not worth fixing up.

#4. Condemned

If the house has been condemned by the local government, it may not be worth the fight. This means that a government entity has determined the building is no longer fit to live in. This could be due to housing code violations and until they are corrected, it may not be inhabited. Bringing a home up to code may actually be more expensive than just tearing it down and starting over.

More: What to Know About Buying Fixer-Uppers

#5. Buried Oil Tanks

Before electrical heating, many homes had oil tanks buried in the backyard to funnel propane to the home. Today, they are considered environmental time bombs and while many don't leak, if they do, you'll need to hire oil tank removal services to have them removed. This gets even trickier if something has been built over the top of the tank unknowingly or the backyard is not easily accessible.

#6. Major Additions Without Permits

The last thing you want to do is clean up someone else's mess. If the property has undergone major remodeling, additions or repairs without required permits, you could be asking for a world of problems plus potentially dangerous issues. If something goes wrong most insurance companies won't pick up the tab.

Related: Can I Sell a Home with Code Violations?

#7. Major Mold

Mold can be nothing to worry about or it could life or death serious. If your inspector finds mold it could be a sign of a larger problem. A little mold around the base of your tub isn't a major concern but if there is evidence of mold in a basement, odd, musty smells, or if someone has gotten sick in the home because of toxic mold or black mold, this may require an immediate mold removal.

#8. Asbestos

This may or may not be a dealbreaker depending on what you're going to be doing with the home. This heat-resistant fibrous silicate mineral can be perfectly harmless if never disturbed but if it is and you breathe it in, it can cause chronic respiratory disease aggravating lung tissues and cause them to scar. This may not be something you want to fiddle with because asbestos removal needs to be done by qualified professionals that know how to safely remove it. It's typically between $20-$65 per square foot but total, whole-home abatement for siding, tile, insulation, ceilings attic, roof and pipes can run up to $50,000.

Great Tips for Investors and Those Buying or Selling a Fixer:

Tammy Emineth is a writer, blogger, and real estate marketing expert for over 15 years. As a former real estate agent, Tammy possesses the knowledge and expertise to produce content and relevant information about the real estate market and how to market real estate websites and brokerages.
  • 2 comments on “8 Dealbreakers When Buying a Fixer-Upper”

    1. Great article and also in simple words. Those points which you have mentioned in this article are very useful for demolition contractors like me. Thanks for sharing this with us.

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