Fixer Upper Purchase Check List


Check List for Purchasing a Fixer Upper with Limited Funds

You have just purchased, what would be considered a “fixer upper.”

If you haven’t exhausted all of your financial means, by purchasing the fixer upper, and have some spare money available, where should you apply your money to obtain the most positive improvement of the home?

The following is a check list of items, that should be considered, to properly and most efficiently manage the funds that you have available.

1. Home Perimeter

The easiest and most financially effective process, to establish momentum for working around the new home, is to start with the immediate exterior of the home. In many cases, if the home is identified as a “fixer upper “, there has been minimal upkeep around the perimeter of the home. Start the first weekend’s activities with a good cleaning of the exterior plantings and landscaping. In most cases, I would strongly recommend the total removal of any trees, shrubs or bushes that are adjacent to the structure. Clean it all up, rake it out, and trim the entire exterior. Free the structure from the overgrown environment.

2. Evaluate the Exterior of the Structure

the second focus should be on the immediate aesthetics of the exterior of the home. This is not meant to indicate that the home should be resided, or even in many instances, repainted. If there are loose clapboards, or loose, rotten trim, etc. replace or secure these items. Minimize the immediate expense; however, maximize the overall effects by cleaning the exterior façade of the structure. If the home is vinyl or aluminum siding, a simple power wash may produce drastic results.

3. Determine what will be the final look of the exterior of the structure

Determine if the final look will be new siding such as wood clapboards, vinyl, etc., or is the original siding capable of a simple paint job? We recommend that, initially, the minimal be spent on the exterior façade of the structure, due to the ability to properly address this item in the future. Your financial means may change in the future and you will have the finances to install new siding, new masonry, new wood clapboards. Try to minimize what you do, initially, to provide you the opportunity for bigger and better in the future.

4. Critique the windows and the doors.

If there are particularly bad windows or doors, that mandate immediate replacement, consider this expenditure. If you decide to replace any windows, first research the types of windows and doors that are readily available. It is a good idea to read the “Replacement Window “webpage and start the internet search for local window suppliers and installers. We recommend that you find a local contractor that is capable of window and door replacement. If funds are extremely tight, the replacement of both doors and windows is within the capability of the homeowner. Minimize the replacement at his time, to save your initial money. Further replacement can always occur at a later time. Again try to minimize what you do, initially, to provide you the opportunity for bigger and better in the future.

5. Examine the roof and all of the exterior flashings.

This investigation should be performed carefully and thoughtfully. There is no guarantee that the roof is capable of holding the weight of a person, so your investigation should be done extremely carefully, and with the ultimate consideration for your own safety. If the roof and flashings can be examined from the ground level, it is best if this occurs. In many cases, a trip to the attic will identify any water issues or damages from compromised roofing materials. The chimney flashings should be carefully checked to ensure that water is not flowing down the chimney sides, and causing difficulties in the home. This is easily performed by visually examining the exterior surfaces of the chimney, if stained, then water is entering the attic space. If it is determined that water is penetrating the home, through the roof, flashings, or elsewhere, the contracting of a good local roofer is recommended. This is normally not a good place to start you homeowner repairs.

6. Move to the interior of the home.

Once the initial 5 items noted previously are performed, and hopefully minimal money has been spent, a trip to the interior of the home is next. Identify the condition of the walls and ceilings within the home. If it appears that there has occurred substantial compromise of the walls or ceilings, the idea of removing the existing walls and ceilings should be considered. Obviously it is not recommended that this occur within the entire home, unless it is quite obvious that this radical procedure is required. The most effective method of trying to make this determination is to evaluate the insulation within the walls of the home. This evaluation can be done, most efficiently by drilling holes in the walls and ceiling in relatively inconspicuous locations. These locations would be, behind doors that are always opened, in the back of cabinets or where you already have furniture selected to be placed. The idea of this investigation is to try and determine how much insulation is already in the home, and how consistent this insulation is. There are special contractors that specialize in the installation of insulation within an existing home, however, if the walls or ceilings are going to be removed anyway, and then the insulating of the walls and the ceilings has become much easier. Do not allow anyone to insulate the walls, or the ceilings prematurely. I have been involved with several projects that had just been reinsulated, and we were hired to remove the wall and ceiling sheetrock panels.

7. Mechanical systems

The status of the mechanical systems is best left to the experts to determine. Research the surrounding area for reliable subcontractors to evaluate you mechanical systems. In most situations, the same contractor will be capable of evaluating both the plumbing and the heating and air conditioning. Initially, attempt to minimize the financial exposure of replacement equipment, or a new installation. For financial reasons, it is physiologically more stimulating to the homeowner, to start and see aesthetic details being accomplished, as opposed to expending all of the available money on a new mechanical system. Once again, as we have indicated, a new system could be installed at a later date and the available money, maintained for other more exciting aesthetic issues initially. Minimizing the large purchases will save you the money initially, but will also allow you to live in the home and more accurately determine your personal needs within the home.

8. Electrical systems

The status of the electrical system is extremely important, especially in terms of the safety of the occupants and the home. Old electrical installations, limited outlets, limited switches can always become safety issues. A professional electrical contractor should be hired to properly evaluate the electrical distribution within the home. As with the other issues, minimal financial commitment should be the goal, however safety must be maintained. There is no need to immediately update the service, or install new electrical equipment; however the electrical integrity must be safe and intact. Once again, living in the home will allow you to determine, based on your living habits, where you would want an additional outlet, lighting, etc.

9. Remove all of the old flooring, if it is compromised.

Old carpet, vinyl or synthetic flooring is easily replaced, and the presence of old and compromised flooring finishes, causes a negative environment that could have easily been fixed. If you remove the old flooring, do not install new flooring until the walls and ceiling have been newly painted or finished. The floor installation should be at the end of the entire process. Consider simply painting floor surfaces for the time being to freshen up the space and create a sense of cleanliness and aesthetic value.

Are there specific focus points, which should be considered for the most aesthetic effect, with the minimum expenditure of money? THE ANSWER IS YES / BE CREATIVE!

1. Paint;

Caulking and painting are both easy and economical methods of freshening up both the exterior and the interior of the structure. Caulking of joints and holes in various trim details is extremely effective and will provide a professional appearance. Do not be afraid to use caulk, then some more caulk. Remember, latex painters caulk is extremely affordable and easily painted.

2. Power washing

The use of a power washer on the exterior surfaces will have a tremendous aesthetic effect, without a lot of financial commitment. The exterior of the home, the walkways and patios as well as the driveway will be freshened up considerably with a simply power wash.

3. Landscape removal

Clean the exterior, and tidy up around the perimeter of the structure. Rake and clean and remove all old bushes, trees and foliage that are hiding the home. Replanting is easy and the ability to allow the sun to reach the structure is invaluable.

4. Carpet cleaning

If the interior carpets are salvageable, then the renting of a carpet shampooer could create a much cleaner and aesthetically pleasing environment. The shampooer can be rented at the local supermarket and will make a tremendous difference.

5. Cabinet painting

Simply paint the kitchen cabinets, vanities and miscellaneous cabinets throughout the home to freshen up the look. Many individuals will create their own issues and problems when it comes to the painting of these types of items within the home. If you are considering replacing the cabinets, eventually, simply paint the existing ones. Do not try to make the application perfect or even all that precise. Remember the change will offer an aesthetic shock and the actual painting application will become secondary.

6. Replace hardware

Replace the kitchen cabinet hardware or even the door handles and other hardware throughout the home. In many instances, the hardware throughout the home is the original hardware and its replacement will be an easy method of changing the entire look. Hardware is inexpensive and can be easily installed, this is an inexpensive process that will make a big aesthetic statement.

7. Remove carpets or deteriorated vinyl

If the carpets and vinyl are unsalvageable, then the removal of the flooring are suggested. In some cases, you may have wood floors underneath the carpets and a simple cleaning and waxing will produce the desired effect. If not, maybe a simple paint job will offer a creative appearance and freshen up the room.

8. Replace all of the lamps in the electrical fixtures

Although this may appear to be a very simple suggestion, the replacement of simple light bulbs in the light fixtures, could have an immediate positive effect, especially if the existing lamps are burnt out or simply too low in wattage. I can relate a story of a large multi-million dollar mansion that I had renovated. The first evening the owners came home and all the lamps in the exterior fixtures had been replaced, you would have thought we just completed the project. Lighting is important, and the replacement of burnt out light bulbs, although a simple task, will make a tremendous impact.

9. Clean the window sills and the perimeter of the windows

In most cases, an existing home will have substantial dirt and crime accumulated within the sill and casing jambs of the windows. This cleaning should be done with a scraper, cleaning agents, and vacuum cleaners. In many cases, a paint brush or special home created tools to get into all of the cracks and crevasses, will make the difference in the final appearance.

10. Wash the windows and remove any broken mutins.

Clean the glass in the windows. No one does windows, and this is a tremendous gift for home renovations. In many cases, the simple cleaning of the glass and the removal of broken mutins will create a tremendously more professional and aesthetically pleasing presentation. Mutins are those pieces of wood or vinyl that separate the window panes, in many cases, they are applied as an artificial application to the windows, it is my personal opinion that they should be removed, especially if some of them are broken.

11. Remove all window treatments

For the initial aesthetic look of the interior of the home, let the sun shine in. In many existing homes, the ability to allow the sun to enter the home has been compromised by extreme window treatments. Remove them for the time being, you will have plenty of time to decide on the final window treatments.

12. Remove all lamp shades or covers

Clean all of the light fixtures, glass globes, diffusers, etc. In many cases the grills and glass shades or covers, on existing light fixtures are dirty and foggy. Cleaning will allow the light fixture to illuminate the space and present a much more aesthetic appearance.

13. Clean sink and plumbing drains throughout the home.

Use a plumbing snake to clean all of the drains throughout the home. This will allow the water to drain and keep the sinks cleaner. There is a certain degree of positive energy that is created when a sink drains properly. The simple cleaning of the drain will cause this positive energy to accumulate!

14. Replace all of the faucet strainers around the home.

The strainer is the small removable screening that is installed at the end of the faucets. The replacement will allow the water to distribute evenly and present a much better appearance and add to that positive energy.

15. Apply WD 40

The cleaner and lubricant known as WD 40 will allow you to move through the home and clean and lubricate all of the door and window hardware. Each window and door should be cleaned, and the hardware lubricated with the WD 40. This will allow the hardware to operate much cleaner and smoother, and will present a much more pleasing effect.

If you have purchased a “ fixer upper “ and have limited funds to initially provide to the improvement of the property, the use of manual labor, elbow grease, and creativity is essential to achieving an environment that is more aesthetically pleasing than the original purchase. It is important to understand that the majority of homes, that are referenced as “fixer uppers “have not been properly maintained and therefore properly cleaned. The simply function of cleaning the home, will change the appearance appreciably. Any caulking and painting that you can accomplish, the replacement of light bulbs, lubricating hardware and cleaning of drains and strainers will immediately convey a positive environment within the home and add to that positive energy that we are striving for.

Try to economize with the money, try to apply man-hours as opposed to financial support, to create a better environment and aesthetic appearance. There will always be time to spend money, now is the time to create an environment that you can be both comfortable within as well as proud of.

There is a lot to be said about living in a home for a period of time, then evaluating what the important improvements should be.
Take your time!