Considering a Fixer-Upper? 15 Ways to Avoid a Money Pit

Learn how to find a great deal on the perfect fixer-upper — and how to avoid being fleeced.

9. Inspect drywall and floors

Wood floorAjintai /

Keep an eye out for flooring or drywall that is:

  • Stained
  • Uneven
  • Warped
  • Discolored
  • Peeling

These can indicate rot or mold.

10. Run from bad siding

House siding

Deteriorating siding raises a red flag for two reasons:

  • It’s expensive to replace. Depending on the material you choose, new siding can start at $10,000 to $13,000. Costs increase with the size and complexity of the job.
  • It may indicate other problems. Siding may be rotting, blistering or disintegrating because of rot or mold hiding behind the home’s exterior.

11. Beware leaky windows

Cat at windowPhuong D. Nguyen /

If you want to replace old windows with new, energy-efficient ones, that’s cool.

But be careful of committing to a home with leaking windows. Water seeping into a home through window leaks can cause untold — and unseen — problems from rot and mold. You can’t tell how bad the problems are without removing the windows.

12. Spot a bad location

People walking a dog in a nice neighborhood.Monkey Business Images /

Become an expert on the neighborhood. Bargain homes are often in less desirable areas. Knock on doors on the street and chat with neighbors about crime. Your job is to assess how bad a neighborhood is and whether it’s really going to turn around.

Even if you don’t have children in school, your home’s next buyer might. So learn about the quality of local schools. Get neighborhood crime statistics from the police. Assess the home’s proximity to jobs, stores, banks, cafes, restaurants and playgrounds.

Check out: “20 Tips For Buying a Home in the Best Location, Location, Location.”

13. Look for pests

TermitesChayuth M /

You’ll need an expert to tell for sure if a pest infestation is present. But you can spot some telltale signs, including:

  • Insect wings left on sills (a sign of termites)
  • Teeny sawdust piles along baseboards (carpenter ants)
  • Urine stains, odors or scrabbling sounds (rodents)

The legal experts at tip-offs to other pests.

14. Hire a home inspector

PlumberOzgur Coskun /

Once you’ve found a home that passes muster, hire a well-regarded home inspector to professionally look at the structure from top to bottom. This typically costs a few hundred dollars. Don’t buy a home without a professional inspection.

You can locate inspectors in your area on the website of a national organization like the .

Tag along as the inspector tours the home if you can. You’ll learn a lot by seeing it through the inspector’s eyes.

Note: Don’t try to search for lead paint or asbestos. These are dangerous substances, so let the inspector do it.

15. Inspect after a rain

UmbrellaUgo Calabria /

See if you can schedule your home inspection right after it rains. Visiting at that time lets you and the inspector see if water accumulates around the foundation — a bad sign, as it can cause leaks and foundation problems.

Have you bought a fixer-upper? Tell us about it in the comments below or on our .

Marilyn Lewis
Marilyn Lewis
After a career in daily newspapers I moved to the world of online news in 2001. I specialize in writing about personal finance, real estate and retirement. I love how the Internet ... More


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