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Money Pit or DIY Heaven?


Whether you flip houses or see your potential dream home in something that’s currently a bit rundown, it can be hard to tell if the property you’re planning to renovate will turn out to be a fortunate find or a total flop.

The following are tips on easy updates that can increase the value of a home and on the money pit projects you should steer clear of.

As you read and consider your options, be realistic about your skill level – you can save a lot of money by doing the labor yourself, but if you don’t know anything about plumbing or wiring, for example, hire a professional. It will only end up costing you more if you have to pay someone to fix a botched DIY project.

Cosmetic touchups: DIY heaven

Sometimes you just need a little imagination to see beyond the ‘70s decor and tangerine walls.

If the seller hasn’t put a lot of effort into cleaning and staging the home, many prospective buyers will have a hard time picturing themselves living there. As tough as it might be to ignore the staring eyes of the current owner’s massive porcelain doll collection or the grass-green shag carpeting, savvy homebuyers can block out the visual noise to see the possibilities.

Focus on the layout and structure of the home. With those dolls out of the way, a fresh coat of paint, and some new carpeting, the house could be totally transformed.

New countertops or floors: it depends

New countertops or flooring can be fairly easy to install depending on the material you choose.

A laminate countertop or floor is much easier to install than a granite countertop or carpeting. Granite is expensive and heavy, and one miscalculation or incorrect cut can be a very costly mistake. Carpeting is also less forgiving than other types of flooring like tile or wood.

Do your research before tackling a bigger project like this, and don’t be afraid to call two or three contractors for estimates. You may be surprised to find that it’s less expensive to hire someone than you thought.

Even if you end up going DIY, a contractor can give you some good insight into options you may not have considered as you discuss the best ways to get the job done.

Concrete cracks: it depends

Carefully check the foundation and walls for any cracks. Do the doors open and close easily? Are the floors bulging anywhere? These can be signs of major foundational issues, and big issues mean big money.

It’s not always as simple as repairing the crack itself. All foundations crack eventually, so talk with an inspector to see if that crack is a serious problem or if it’s just settling.

Additionally, you’ll want to look above doors and windows on the second floor, where damage can be more severe. Horizontal cracks in the wall can be caused by an excess of water and likely mean a leaky pike or two for a plumber to repair.

Electrical issues: money pit

Electrical issues are beyond the scope of the average DIYer and are a lot of work, even for a professional.

Since wiring runs inside the walls of the home, the walls will need to be opened up and then put back together once the wiring is fixed. HVAC is particularly difficult to install, and a new system can be very expensive.

You’ll also want to make sure that very little of your newly heated or cooled air is escaping, so insulation plays an important role here. In general, rewiring a house for electricity or heating and air conditioning is a major and time-consuming expense, so be wary about taking this on.

Work with a local mortgage specialist

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