“Move-in ready” homes are desirable — there’s no doubt about it! But sometimes it makes better financial sense to opt for a house with dated decor and a less than trendy kitchen or master bath. You may not get your dream home immediately, but the opportunity to transform a property into your own swan can be rewarding. It can also be easy on the pocketbook.
When looking at Ugly Ducklings, however, look first to structural integrity and the condition of major home systems. including plumbing and septic, driveway and drainage. A home inspection is invaluable, even though no inspector can guarantee trouble-free systems. Inspections will alert you to potential problems: Needed roof repairs, leaking faucets, inoperable appliances, termite infestation or dry rot and the like.
All home components have a life span, and if you’re buying an older home, try to determine the age of its systems, including heating and air conditioning, and kitchen appliances.
Here are some ways to weigh the pros and cons:
Assure that the electrical panel and service to the home are ample for your needs. If the panel is undersized or the home still has aluminum wiring, you’ll probably want to check on repair and replacement costs: In some older homes, it might be a deal killer. But it also might be an opportunity. You’ll have to weigh the options.
A roof that has been well-maintained, and that currently has no major deficiencies, is a bonus. If there are existing problems with shingles or gutters, it’s prudent to get an estimate for needed repairs from a qualified roofer. Use it as a bargaining chip in negotiations.
Heating and Air Conditioning are major “quality of life” considerations. Whatever systems the house has installed should be in reasonable condition, and should heat and cool appropriately on demand. That doesn’t assure that you won’t have some costs sooner rather than later. But, depending on the age of the systems, you make get many more years of use.
Older appliances may not have all the bells and whistles of stylish new models. But kitchen updates are expensive; the most costly items include cabinets and appliances. Buying a house with a vintage kitchen means that you can undertake a redo on your own terms, doing a little or a lot on your own timetable and with a specific budget in mind.
Paint and simple fixes can change the whole look of a room, and put a new face on a whole house. A little elbow grease and a lot of imagination will easily compensate for the extra price of a remodeled home with all the newest materials.
If you’re looking for bargains, look beyond negative curb appeal. Consider lot size and potential, and know that with a little cash and a lot of sweat equity, a nondescript yard can be transformed. Choose low-maintenance plants and reap double rewards.
Buying property in need of TLC, a Plain Jane, or the ugliest house on the block can be a wise decision if you have a little patience. But you might have to also invest some time and effort, along with some cash, to make it a thing of beauty.