Friday, July 10, 2015 / by Bill Berning*
When you’re looking to buy a house, you won’t always find a place that satisfies every need on your home-buying checklist: in fact, it’s rarer to find a home that’s absolutely perfect. Homes that are a little bit imperfect can still be perfectly good buys, especially if the flaws can be fixed with a bit of DIY effort. However, you don’t want to sign yourself up for a long and grueling home improvement plan on top of your new mortgage. Some projects are a snap, while some are just not worth the time, effort, and most of all – cash.
Consider Your Resources First
Even the smallest of improvement projects need resources, so consider what you have available. You don’t want to sign up for a home improvement project that will bury you in work and stress from the moment you move in. If you’re an experienced technician or have good industry contacts to have things done professionally, you’re already a few steps ahead of the crowd. However, if you and your housemates all work forty-hour weeks, are in a new neighborhood with no knowledge of reliable contractors, or just don’t have the money to start, you’re starting behind the curve, and are paying mortgage on an inferior house right from the get-go. Really keep in mind what you’re prepared for, before you think about signing that mortgage.
Improvements Made Easy: When a Fixer-Upper Is Easily Fixed
Not all home improvement projects mean that you’ve got to call in the bulldozers, and not all home improvement projects need to be done professionally. Smaller projects can easily be done at home by someone with patience and determination, and will save you plenty of cash while still being able to enjoy your new home.
Consider, for example, a humble tiling job. Ripping up some ugly kitchen tiles and revamping the room with something a bit more stylish is an easy DIY project that fits easily inside a weekend, and won’t wind up making the home unusable in the process. Walkthroughs and tutorials are plentiful on YouTube and home improvement blogs alike, and you’ll find plenty of support and advice from the DIY community in their comments and forums. This project is medium-skilled, has few dangers, and isn’t likely to damage the home if left unimproved or if improved incorrectly: it’s a perfect DIY for nearly any new home owner, and can easily be excused as a minor imperfection when considering buying a home. Once you’ve gotten one DIY project complete, you’ll always find yourself hungry for more: suddenly, that overgrown yard doesn’t look so tough to tame into the garden of your dreams, and that ugly tub in the bathroom is easy enough to replace with a stylish free-standing ceramic number, or even a standing shower. You’ll find yourself not only improving the flaws that you originally saw, but improving your new home even further beyond that – increasing its resale value more and more as you go.
Even a project that requires a professional’s touch isn’t necessarily a deal-breaker as far as whether or not you should buy a home. If you’re really in love with a home’s look and all it’ll take to make things perfect is a professional knocking down a wall or two, you’ll find that it’s well worth the added price. Do your research, and investigate contracting companies around your home’s new area. You may wind up finding a company that you can really stick with for years to come, throughout all your home improvement projects.
When That Fixer-Upper Has too Many Flaws
Unfortunately, not all flaws can be easily dismissed when you’re out to buy a home. There are some home improvement needs that are just too severe and too resource-intensive to justify signing up for their responsibility, especially when you can’t safely enjoy your new home. If a single project will have you kicked out of the house for months on end, it’s time to reconsider the investment.
Electrical and plumbing issues are not only bothersome on a convenience level, but can also be very dangerous to anyone living in your home. Bad plumbing can damage the home’s structure (if it hasn’t already), and poor electrical work can potentially start fires. A home that has issues with pests –termites, cockroaches, rats, etc. – is unsanitary and unsafe for even the most devoted of animal-lovers. If your new home has issues with any of these items (a seller or real estate agent is legally obligated to inform you of them, lest you unleash judiciary wrath upon them down the line), it’s not just a home improvement project: it’s a big problem, and one that you may not want to get yourself tangled up in.
If you’re still determined to buy a particular home despite these glaring issues, demand that the seller or real estate agent take steps to sweeten the pot for you. Often, they can legally be given the financial responsibility for funding repairs, especially when it comes to issues that fly in the face of safety regulations: faulty electrical work, slapdash plumbing, insect or vermin, and so on. Don’t let yourself back down on these demands, as they’re well within your rights as a buyer – and believe us, a real estate agent or seller knows that they’ve got a house that gravely needs improvements on their hands. Real estate agents often have connections with local contractors to provide improvement services at a discount rate, and will be all too happy to sign you up with them to seal a sale. A good seller or agent will work with you on negotiating prices and demands. Remember: buy smart and buy safe, and don’t sign up for a home that you can’t really throw yourself behind improving.