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Category:  Homes:  Buying and Selling 

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3 Questions You Must Ask Before Buying A “Fixer-Upper” Home

By Kris Bickell

Are you thinking of buying a home that needs a little work?

For many people, this is a good way to get a bigger house, get a cheaper house, or make money by fixing up the house and re-selling it.

If you’ve never owned a house that needed lots of work, then you owe it to yourself to think about this decision carefully before signing any paperwork!

What are the benefits of owning a home that needs a little TLC?

There are many benefits to buying a home that needs some work.

If it’s an older home, then many older homes often have a lot of “charm”. Materials and workmanship are often very good in an older home. Floor plans are often “creative”.

And you can certainly get a home that needs some work for a lot less money!

But what are the issues to consider before buying a “handyman (or woman) special”?

First, is the house up to code?

While owning a home that is not up to current construction standards is not a problem in itself (most towns recognize the codes used at the time the work was actually done), if you do any renovations or remodeling and need a permit, you may run into trouble – and have to do extra work to get the house up to the standards of the current codes.

And this work can sometimes be costly. So before you buy any house – especially one needing some work to get it into shape – have the house inspected. This is a small investment that could save you many times to price of the inspection!

Finding problems is not a bad thing, it just helps you avoid unpleasant surprises and gives you more information to help you make the right buying decision for your situation.

Second, do you have the time to do the work?

If you have enough money to hire someone else to do the work, congratulations! If not, take some time to think this one through very carefully.

If you’ve never done the type of work needed, expect that you will make some mistakes while learning – and that these mistakes will cost you both time and money!

And if you have fixed up a house before, you already know that what you see on the surface does not always tell the whole story. Once you remove a wall, a floor, an appliance, etc, you may find a whole new set of problems you never considered.

Not that you shouldn’t even consider fixing up a house on your own. Just be prepared for the reality that if the section of the house you can see has not been well maintained, that the structure underneath may not be in great shape either!

Third, do you have the money to do all the work?

And if you don’t, can you live in the house while you wait?

As mentioned above, sometimes a project involves much more than meets the eye. And construction costs can easily go up…and up…and up!

If you have enough cash saved up, good for you. But do you have more than enough saved up, in case there are surprises?

Tough question, but one to consider carefully!

Should you avoid buying a “fixer upper” unless you are a handyman (or woman)?

Trust me, there is no greater feeling than finishing a project that makes your home look better (and more valuable).

So if you like getting dirty, if you like learning new skills, and if you like doing your own work, buying a house that needs work can be a tremendous experience.

But getting to the end of a project can be challenging.

And it’s a challenge you definitely need to be ready to take on!

 Kris Bickell is the owner of For more tips on buying a home, getting a mortgage, & finding a realtor, sign up for the free email course “How To Avoid These 10 Costly Mistakes When Buying Your First Home” at


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