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HousingWire's 2021 Spring Summit

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Real Estate Enthusiasts

Buying a house that needs work? Projects to avoid

In today’s hot market, buyers are doing all they can to stand out. Some are buying a house that needs work and waiving inspection contingencies, while others are avoiding repair requests, opting to handle home repairs, fixes and upgrades as needed later on.

While this approach could certainly help buyers win out in a bidding war, the strategy also comes with some serious risk — especially if the home inspection is skipped.

Are you thinking of skipping inspections or repair requests and handling any minor home repairs yourself? If so, make sure to do a detailed tour of the property and consider bringing along an experienced contractor. If you spot any of these problems, you might want to think again:

1. Changing out windows and doors.

Spot some scratch marks on the front door? See some double-paned windows that are cracked or need replacing? Experts at home intelligence platform Kukun say these are pricy projects to take on — especially if you want quality materials that will last the long-haul. 

The one silver lining? The updates could save you on long-term energy costs.

2. Anything that requires moving electrical or plumbing elements.

These may seem like minor changes, but according to Kukun’s pros, they actually require a lot of time, cash and professional expertise to undertake. So if that bathroom’s got a weird layout or you hate where the kitchen sink is located, you might want to step back and reconsider the property altogether (unless you have some serious renovation savings stowed away).

3. Water damage.

If there’s a water stain on the ceiling, then consider it a red flag. It could indicate a roof leak (potentially a very expensive fix), or it could point to other damage hiding below the surface — things like mold, mildew and more. These are hazards that not only threaten your health, but they can be costly to remediate, too.

Stick to simpler projects

Your best bets when DIYing are more cosmetic changes, like repainting the exterior or interior, changing out the flooring, or converting an extra room to an office. Changing out hardware — things like faucets, cabinet pulls, doorknobs and drawer handles — are easy and low-cost home repairs, too.

Minor facelifts are also doable for most buyers. Think repainting your bathroom cabinets, changing out your kitchen backsplash, or adding in a new mirror or light fixture.

If you’re really looking for an affordable, high-impact project for your new home, though? Kukun recommends knocking out some walls to add space and open up your layout. “It’s by far the best in terms of value vs. cost,” the platform’s expert say.

The bottom line

Skipping home repair requests and planning some minor DIY aren’t bad ideas as a buyer — especially in today’s hot housing market. Just make sure you’re careful when you’re buying a house that needs work. Sometimes, seemingly small problems end up requiring much more time and money than you’d expect. 

3d rendering of a row of luxury townhouses along a street

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