Old Home with an Old Chimney? What to do With a Fixer-upper

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Not everyone is interested in buying a home that is in great condition. Some people enjoy the challenge of buying fixer-uppers and getting right to work. No matter what your reasons are for going this route, it can either be a rewarding experience or your worst nightmare. The advantages of buying a home to that needs to be fix up include:

  • You have fewer buyers to compete with
  • You can get the house for much less than the market value
  • You can usually sell it for a profit if you decide to sell later on
  • The masonry work on older homes is amazing when kept in good repair

Of course, your personal satisfaction on seeing the changes come together for the house you envision will be priceless. When you buy a fixer-upper, you will need to do it in stages.

Inspections

No purchase should be made without a full understanding of exactly of what you are getting into. Repairs are one thing, but structural soundness in the home and chimney is another entirely. Here are a few ideas for making sure the home is up to par:

  • Home Inspector: A home inspector can pinpoint all the areas of the home that need work by doing a thorough inspection. This is how you will develop a budget and decide whether it is the right move.
  • Chimney Inspector: A Chimney Sweep Institute of America (CSIA) trains all Certified Chimney Sweeps to be on the lookout for every type of chimney problem. Chimneys were required to be lined in the mid 1980s, so many older chimneys are unlined and dangerous to use.
  • Plumber: A certified plumber will be able to tell you whether the entire plumbing system is working properly or needs work.
  • Electrician: A certified electrician will be able to tell you whether the wiring is up to code or if the home will need to be completely rewired.

The Decision

This should be relatively easy once all the other inspections are out of the way. Questions you will have to ask yourself include:

  • Do I really want to purchase this home? Renovation projects and real estate flipping is not easy; if it was, everyone would be doing it.
  • Am I going to renovate or remodel? This question could be answered for any part of the home from the basement to the chimney cap.
  • Will you need to change the layout or configuration? Make sure all of your renovations protect the structural integrity of the home.

The inspection process will help ensure that the home is in compliance with local building codes. You may want to do some of the work yourself and this is understandable, this is part of the fun of buying fixer-uppers. However, remember that the more complex jobs should be left to the professionals. Hire an electrician for the electrical work, a plumber for the plumbing work, and a certified chimney sweep for the fireplace (or wood burning stove) and chimney work.

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