It might sound like a great deal for your weekend warrior clients, but some properties just aren’t worth the price. Here’s what to watch out for
BY CHRISTY MURDOCK EDGAR
Many buyers prefer the ease and convenience of a fully turnkey property, but occasionally you may get a buyer who is looking for a bargain and is willing to put in some sweat equity to make it work. While this can be a great idea for a skilled DIYer, some properties are just too far gone for a casual home makeover.
Here are 10 things that should make your clients tread carefully when shopping for a fixer-upper.
1. As-is listing
While an as-is listing isn’t, in and of itself, a no-go, it does indicate that the seller may be aware of some necessary repairs or updates and is unwilling or unable to complete them. Ensure that you do a thorough home inspection to try to identify the elements in need of repair and determine whether your buyer is able and willing to take them on.
In the case of bank-owned properties, you may find that the home is listed as-is because the bank is not in a position to speak to its condition. Again, as-is doesn’t have to be a dealbreaker, but should definitely prompt thorough investigation.
2. Bad roof
Since a bad roof isn’t usually a DIY type of project, a roof repair should be cause for concern. Even if your buyer is willing to have the shingles replaced, a roof in poor condition can be the cause of major leaks that could affect the structural underpinnings, interior ceilings and other areas of the home. Moisture intrusion can result in dangerous mold, costing thousands more for remediation.
3. Wall cracks
Not all wall cracks automatically indicate a foundation problem — but some do. Generally, the wider the cracks, the more problematic, while cracks in concrete walls are often serious indicators of structural deficiencies. In addition, long cracks along the margins between interior walls and upstairs ceilings can indicate roof truss issues, which can be quite serious — and costly.
4. Deferred maintenance
If the house has been unoccupied for a long time — either because of a foreclosure or because the previous owners were unable to sell in a timely manner — there will generally be a certain amount of deferred maintenance. Over time, this can add up and create significant repair issues.
In addition, if a house has not been properly heated or cooled because it was standing empty, the new owner may face some unexpected repair issues once they are occupying it.
5. Window unit air-conditioning
If a house does not have central air, your buyer may believe that they can add it for the cost of a new HVAC unit. However, they’ll also need to factor in the cost of ductwork, registers and other system elements that will be required for the installation. Make sure that they get some estimates from well-qualified HVAC installers during the home inspection process.
6. Moisture and mildew smell
Even if you don’t see water damage, a strong smell of mustiness and mildew is an indicator that there is hidden water seeping in from outside or leaking from the current plumbing system. This can indicate a small intrusion — like a leaky window frame, for instance — or a major moisture problem like a prone-to-flooding basement.
7. Bad floor plan
It’s one thing to switch out light fixtures or change the tile in the foyer. A bad floor plan, however, is something that most weekend warriors can’t tackle on their own. If your buyer hates the flow of a home but thinks that a new paint color or some updated fixtures will make things better, encourage them to think again.
8. Outdated plumbing or wiring
Your buyers may think that updating the plumbing in a home stops with a new kitchen faucet and that updating the electrical means a new light fixture. However, an outdated plumbing or electrical system is a big job requiring the skill and training of an experienced plumber or electrician.
Talk to your home inspector about the materials the pipes are made of and the condition of the electrical system. Sub-par materials or amateur installation should generally serve as deal-breakers for your buyers.
9. Ugly bathrooms or kitchen
It’s easy to fall in love with a house “except for” an out-of-date kitchen or an ugly bathroom. However, these are among the most expensive remodeling projects, even for skillful DIYers.
Living without a kitchen for what could be weeks or months on end, or without one or more of the home’s bathrooms, can create major inconveniences that make the new home experience awkward and even unbearable.
10. Bad grading
A poorly graded property can result in extensive water intrusion and make it difficult to keep the basement dry. In addition, amateur fixes can make the problem worse, introducing termites and other pests into the home’s siding or foundation.
If you see standing water or excessive dampness in the landscaping close to the home, discuss the need for interventions with your home inspector or a trusted landscaper and determine whether bad grading can be corrected simply or will require the installation of drains and other diversions.