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Portland Design Build Remodeling Blog

10 Things to Look for in a Fixer Upper

Chip and Joanna Gaines are all the rage right now talking about fixer uppers and restoring older homes. If you'd like to conduct your own little episode a fixer-upper there are some things to look for so that you don't buy a lemon. A fixer should have some basic cosmetic needs but there are things that you may not want to tackle and could be a lot more expensive than they are worth. 


#1. Good Structure

If the structure of the house is solid meaning that the foundation is intact and the phones of the house are still solid, chances are you won't have a lot of money going out fixing and repairing the structure of the house. A home inspector should be able to tell you more about the structure of the house you're considering.

#2. The Roof 

A roof can be replaced but it could cost you anywhere from $4000-$8000 so unless you're willing to hand over that kind of cash, look for a house that already has a decent roof.

#3. Updated Electrical System

Updating the houses electrical system can cost upwards of $30,000 to try to find a house that already has the latest and most updated electrical components.


#4. Plumbing

Outdated or old plumbing can cost thousands to replace so you want to make sure that the plumbing is up to date or at least decent enough that you won't have to replace it for several years.

#5. Heating and Cooling Systems 

Have your home inspector check the age and the integrity of the heating and cooling system of the house. A new furnace could cost anywhere close to $5000 and a new heat pump can be even more. If this is an expense that you planned on it might not be that much of a shock but it's important to note that you may be pouring more money into a heating and cooling system once you purchase the property.

#6. Doors and Windows

Doors and windows don't have to be a lot of money but if all of the windows in the house have lost their seal you're looking at about a $30,000 upgrade. Replacing the front door might be something on your list but it could still run you a good thousand dollars to replace.


#7. Septic Systems

Unless you're buying a house on city sewer, you'll probably want the septic tank pumped before you finalize the sale. Make sure that the septic is in good working condition and that all connections are properly sealed.

#8. Mold or Mildew

Basements are notorious for having a mildew and mold smell in this mold can turn toxic if not dealt with right away. If the houses had any water damage you want that repaired completely before moving in.

#9. Structural Damage

Look through the seller's disclosure form and make note of any major damage or destruction the house may have undergone prior to your ownership. You want to make sure that any repairs were done legally and up to code.

#10. Pest Damage

Check the foundation, walls and any would work for evidence of past or termite damage that can weaken the walls and structure of the house. You may need an additional pest inspection on top of the general home inspection to verify this.

By checking through these 10 items you can get a good snapshot as to what you will need to undergo once you own the house.If you need help with the remodel or renovation contact our office today.


4 Additional Things to Look For

What else should you consider before jumping into a fixer-upper home? Sometimes things that aren’t at the top of your list for a home can have a big impact on your enjoyment of your new home—or your ability to make a profit if you’re planning to sell it. Here are four additional things to look for.



It doesn't matter whether you're thinking about purchasing a new home, an existing property, or a fixer-upper: Location still matters. And it doesn't matter whether you're thinking of living in the home yourself or renovating for future sale. You'll want to make sure the area in which you're planning to buy is one that will protect—and even enhance—your investment. Is your prospective fixer-upper in a neighborhood that's holding its own on value (or even increasing)? Is it a safe community? Does it have good schools (even if you don't have kids)? Even if you can turn your potential fixer-upper into a beautiful home, you want to be sure the neighborhood is one that will be attractive to you or prospective buyers?


Additional Potential

When evaluating a property, it’s not just what you see that’s important. Does the house offer potential that allows you to expand the living space or to include features you’ve always wanted? Does the home have unused or under-utilized space that can be tapped? Maybe there’s an unfinished basement or attic that can be built out for additional room. Or perhaps the interior is "chopped up" into small dark rooms by non-loadbearing walls that can be removed to create an airy and bright interior that makes the home look and feel larger. And while you may not recognize all of the opportunities at first glance, a design-build remodeler can often see options and potential you may have overlooked. That’s one of the things that makes the design-build process so appealing—and different—from a remodeling job that just “freshens up” a home.


Where Does the Water Go?

Drainage may not make your top 10 list of great home features, but it's something you need to take a look at. Poor drainage can end up being an extremely costly problem—and even a health hazard. It's not just a matter of whether your sinks, showers, tubs, and toilets drain properly, either. You'll also want to make sure that rainwater drains away from the house rather than seeping inside. This is particularly true if the area you’re considering buying in has had issues with soil shifting or other drainage problems. We may not be as soggy as Seattle, but with about 43 inches of rain a year, Portland is well above the national average of 38 inches. By the way, don’t let a little basement dampness scare you off. Sometimes your remodeler can come up with an effective solution to the problem. But check before you buy.


The Right Price

Nobody wants to pay too much for a home. Conventional wisdom suggests that you don't buy the highest-priced house in a neighborhood. However, if the home you're looking at has the features that are most important to you—and even additional potential for improvement—you may want to set conventional wisdom to one side. You may not make as much money on the house when it’s time to sell, but what kind of price can you put on your comfort and enjoyment for the time you’re living there? The flip side of this is that you may be able to use your due diligence to negotiate a better price. If you see that there are (fixable) issues with the home, you may be able to reduce the purchase price based on an estimate of what it will take to fix the problem.


Adapted and updated from the original post.


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