Home Improvement

Is Your House a Lemon? 20 Money Pits To Watch For When You Buy a Fixer-Upper.

According to Bankrate.com, one of the biggest issues Millennials have with buying their first house is that they had no idea just how much repairs will cost. They make home makeovers look easy and fun on TV, but nearly half of all buyers felt totally blindsided by the amount of work that it actually takes to fix up a property.

If you are getting ready to buy your first home, make sure you read this list first, so you can be totally prepared for any of the potential issues that a house may have.


20. The “As Is” Clause

If you are looking to buy an older home, watch out for the “As Is” clause. This will usually be included on the real estate listing, saying, “This home is to be sold as-is.” More often than not, you will see this on a house that has gone through foreclosure. That means that if you find anything seriously wrong with the property later, you cannot go after the person who sold it to you.

Usually, when this clause is in a contract, it means that there are several things wrong with the house that may prevent you from getting a certificate of occupancy, or “CO”. If you find a house you are thinking of buying with an “as is” clause, always have an inspector check the property, first.


19. Overgrown Plants

An older house with ivy growing up the side can be truly lovely. However, there is a huge difference between a little bit of well-maintained ivy, and plants that have gotten out of control. Ivy holds on to the cracks throughout the bricks and mortar of a house. Technically, this does not cause the damage, but it can potentially make it worse, and it’s masking the cracks instead of fixing it.

If you live on the east coast of the United States, there also may be hidden poison ivy and sumac. You will have to hire a team of specialists to wear full-body protective gear to remove the poisonous plants, and prevent it from growing back again next year.


18. The Septic System

If you are purchasing an older home in a rural area, it is likely to have its own septic system instead of using city water and sewer. This means that you are responsible for maintaining it. Having it pumped by a professional company is only $100 to $200, but certain areas have updated their Environmental Protection Agency standards. This means that you may be stuck with replacing an outdated septic system, which can cost over $10,000. If you discover that there is a septic tank on the property, always make sure to have it inspected before you agree to buy the house.


17. Lead Paint

Many older homes built before 1979 were painted with lead paint, and they were not scraped and re-painted for years. Lead is incredibly toxic, especially if you have children. So, how do you check to see if your house has lead paint? Simply buy a lead testing kit. Remember that if you sand or scrape the lead, this will make it go in the air, and it actually may be more dangerous than just painting over it. So always be careful with an older home.


16. Uneven Framing and Damaged Walls

Over time, wooden frames from a wall can begin to warp and change over time. This can result in the frame of a house looking crooked. There are a few different ways to fix this, but you should always hire a professional who knows what they are doing. According to Home Advisor, the average wall repair job costs anywhere from $335 and $1,053. The overall cost will vary depending on how many walls are damaged, but expect to pay as contractor between $60 to $80 per hour.


15. Asbestos

Before the 1970’s, a material called “asbestos” was used in homes across America. The material was used on roofs and siding outside of houses, and sometimes in floor tiles. However, after a while, it was a discovered that the fibers inside of asbestos can break off and float in the air when a piece is broken. They can sit inside of your lungs forever, and there is no way to get them out. Asbestos is harmless if it’s left alone, but if it is removed, it can cause lung cancer.

If you buy an older home, and you are trying to remodel it, always have it tested for asbestos before you removing roofs and siding. Removing asbestos should always be done by a professional. Do not attempt to remove it yourself.

According to Home Guide, the average Asbestos removal costs $20 to $65 per square foot. So if you were to get your entire roof taken off, it could cost anywhere from $1,212 – $2,821, depending on the square footage of your house, and the amount of asbestos that the previous owners used.


14. Drainage Issues

When you are thinking of buying a house, drive past the neighborhood after a heavy rain, and look out for storm drains. Unfortunately, some towns never equipped the streets with enough storm drains, and streets flood on a regular basis. All of this excess water can potentially drain into your basement, and cause other issues. It’s one thing to repair your house, but it will be impossible to fix issues in the town by yourself. So it may be best to pass on that home.


13. HVAC

HVAC stands for Heating, Ventilation, and Air Conditioning. If you have lived in an apartment or a new house all your life, you might think that having HVAC ducts in the house is normal. But in some older homes on the East Coast of the United States that were built in the 1700’s to 1800’s, there are no ducts at all. Installing a brand new HVAC system is between $4,000 to $12,000 depending on the size of the house.

If the house you are buying already has an HVAC system already installed, there is still a lot that can go wrong. Each of the potential issues has different price points. Small issues cost just $50, while bigger problems are over $1,000. Check out this list of potential issues at HVAC.com.


12. Older Windows

If you are buying an older home, watch out for single-pane windows. These will need to be replaced. They break easily, and they do not insulate the house very well at all. Letting in a draft can dramatically increase your heat bills. It would be cheaper to replace them, because you would save money in the long run.

The cost of replacing your windows will vary depending on how many windows you need. According to Angie’s List, you can expect to pay a contractor anywhere from $400 to $600 per window. (This includes both the window and their labor.) Multiply that by the number of windows in your house, and it is likely to cost a couple thousand dollars.


11. Water Damage

When you tour a house, always look up to the ceiling. If there are any brown stains, this is a sign that there is water damage. It might mean that there is a leak in the roof, or the plumbing is leaking in one of the upstairs bathrooms. Water damage can cause a lot of different issues; wood rot, mold, ruined paint, termites, and so much more.

The cost of repairing water damage varies drastically, depending on what is causing the issue. It could be as simple as painting over the water stain if it was a temporary problem. Or, it could be as massive as replacing the entire roof, which can cost $10,000 or more. If you see a lot of water damage throughout the house, you may want to pass.


10. Mold

Water damage can lead to black mold, which could be hiding inside of the walls. Mold can cause some serious health problems like asthma, allergies, and so much more. According to House Logic, mold removal can cost between $500 to $6,000, depending on the extent of the issue.


9. Termites

Termites are terrible pests, because they eat the wood inside of your walls. When you are touring a house, keep an eye out for bugs that resemble ants with wings. They leave behind little piles of sand shavings and dirt along the baseboards.

According to Thumbtack, an annual termite treatment from a pest control company will cost anywhere from $120 to $150. But if the termites are already there, removal will cost anywhere from $500 to $600. However, exterminating them is only half of the problem. If the infestation was really bad, it can lead to framing issues, and you might eventually need to replace the wood beams inside of the walls.


8. Tree Removal

If you are buying a property in a rural location, keep an eye out for the trees surrounding your house. In the spring and summer, it should be easy for you to spot the trees that are dead, because they will not be green. These trees will eventually have to be removed. Same goes with any tree that may be in danger of being hit by lightening and falling on your house. In order to remove one tree, it costs between $60 to $350.

These companies charge extra for stump removal and grinding, which could be several hundred dollars more. If you have a wood burning stove, fireplace, or backyard fire pit, you may want to say “no thanks” to the wood grinding, and keep the logs for future camp fires. Just keep in mind that  wood has to dry for at least a year before you can burn it.


7. Electrical Problems

When you buy a house, there can be any number of electrical problems. Homes built before 1950 in the United States have “knob and tube” electrical system. These are out-of-date, and can potentially catch fire. If you find knob and tube in a home, you will need to hire a licensed electrician to completely rewire the house. The cost will vary depending on the size of the home, but a 1,500 square foot house would cost $8,000.

Even if you have modern electrical wiring, you still may need to hire an electrician for a smaller job. These can cost anywhere from $150 to $6,000, depending on the extent of the issues.


6. The Roof

Having a sturdy roof is one of the most important parts of a house. If your home is not being kept dry, rain water can penetrate the walls, and it causes so many other issues. Roofs have to be replaced every 20 to 30 years. So if it is getting older, you will begin to find leaks and issues throughout. Before you buy a house, always step far back from the outside of the property, and try to get a good look at the roof.

The cost of roof repair varies drastically, depending on what you need done. A minor repair, like replacing one shingle, can be $150. Or, if you need an entire new roof, you may pay upwards of $20,000.


5. Foundation Issues

When you are examining the exterior of the house, watch out for cracks that resemble steps in a staircase. This is a sign that there are serious foundation issues. If you see this in a home, you may not want to buy it at all, because it can be one of the most costly repairs that exist. According to Home Guide, fixing a foundation can cost between $4,000 to $15,000 depending on the extent of the damage, and what you need done.


4. Old Duct Work

If your house was built in the 1930’s, there may be ducts that were designed to bring cole or wood heat up from the basement, but it did not have a fan like modern HVAC system. After years of being left alone, it may become leaky. If you do not want to replace it completely, these ducts need to be sealed and insulated. According to Fixr, this can cost between $300 to $600.

In most cases, you may only be able to afford to fix up your old duct work instead of replacing it. As we mentioned earlier, installing a modern HVAC system can cost up to $12,000 depending on the size of the house.


3. The HOA’s Minutes

If you move to a nice neighborhood that takes pride in their appearance, they may have a Homeowner’s Association, or “HOA”. Every month, the HOA meets to discuss what should be done around the neighborhood, and they send residents a list of “minutes” that they went over at the meeting.

The person who owned the house before you may not have been following all of the rules, especially if they knew that they were going to move. If this is the case, you might be surprised to find yourself slapped with a huge to-do list from the HOA. It may require you to hire a landscaper to keep up with the Joneses.


2. A Privacy Fence

When you first buy a house, you may not mind if the back yard is facing the neighbors. You can be friendly, right? Unfortunately, you will not know how annoying your neighbors are until you start living there on a day-to-day basis. You may feel as though you cannot enjoy your backyard, because your neighbor’s kids or pets are always out there. A privacy fence can be expensive. Depending on the materials you buy and the size of your land. According to Home Advisor, the average cost is between $1,674 and $3,983.


1. Plumbing

If you have an older home, it is likely that there will eventually be an issue with plumbing. It is not a matter of “if”, but “when”. The cost of hiring a plumber will vary drastically, depending on the issue. According to Home Advisor, expect to pay an average of $300 every time you need to call a plumber.



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