It may be your budget or the thrill of doing it all yourself, but you are in the market for a diamond in the rough. But just how rough can a house be before a lender decides not to take the risk on a mortgage?
When you negotiate the contract, make sure that you include a provision for a home inspection for structural integrity, defects, and potential problems. This isn’t part of the appraisal, it is a separate detail. A home inspection ascertains the health of the house you are buying. Whether it be a bad roof, leaky plumbing, or termite damage, a professional inspector will find all the major problems. As part of your report, you will receive a list of what needs to be repaired or replaced, the time frame, and the potential costs. If you are buying a fixer-upper, you may find that your lender will require an inspection. Some will and some won’t. But you should insist on one to protect your best interests.
What if you luck out and there are no major problems, just minor ones? Maybe the carpet is worn and needs replacing. Perhaps the deck needs a little work. New paint and fresh air could be all it needs.
Minor, cosmetic concerns are usually not strong enough to scare away lenders but could lead to negotiations between the buyers and sellers. Unless you’ve done this before, you may find a good agent is invaluable to negotiate for you.
If you want certain things repaired by the seller, such as the mailbox fixed and the deck painted, make sure it is in the contract. If it is, the seller must perform. You may be able to have the appraisal include the repairs spelled out in the contract. This can help you when getting a mortgage, as lenders will only lend on the lesser of the appraisal or purchase price. Just make sure that it is all in the contract.
Occasionally, your seller may ask to perform the repairs after closing. Many buyers simply ask for a seller’s concession. Instead of installing a $5,000 carpet before closing, the seller agrees to reduce the purchase amount by the $5,000 it will cost the buyer to put in new carpeting.
But if you don’t have that $5,000 in hand to buy the carpet, don’t expect your lender to give it to you. Even if your contract states that the seller will give you back $5,000 after closing, don’t expect it to happen. Cash allowances written into contracts can’t happen. The lender will not allow the seller to hand over cash at closing. Your real estate agent should steer you away from this and help construct a sales contract that will please both the buyer and the seller. But don’t expect to come home with $5,000. It just won’t happen.
Buying a fixer-upper can be rewarding. You get to choose how you want to improve the home. But it is a lot of work and definitely not for every buyer or lender. Your best bet is to be completely upfront with your lender about your intentions. This will help the transaction go smoothly.