View Full Version : Buying a foreclosed fixer upper farm house - *Good news!

Feb. 11, 2010, 05:37 PM
I've been getting my stuff ready to start looking at "farms" and have just started to hear back about getting pre-approved and have another to do tomorrow. I've been browsing online and talking to a real estate agent, but haven't actually gone to see anything yet. Everything we're finding is quite a bit above my (pathetically low) price range and is not horse ready at all, just houses.

I was browsing on craigslist a few days ago and found a 120 year old farm house in foreclosure that has 10 acres (4-5 cleared) and tons of outbuildings. After a pain in the butt trying to get in touch with the realtor, I went to see it a few minutes ago.

I'm usually very negative, and it needs a lot of work, but I fell in love. The house is charming. It has hardwoods throughout. "Something" is wrong with the plumbing. The floors are unlevel. No fridge or stove. A few cosmetic, small dry wall cracks, peeling popcorn ceilings, etc. The HUD inspection lists the plumbing as the only broken thing. Roof was replaced about 5 years ago, electrical is good, foundation is good, etc. The pastures already have wood posts, but no fence. The 3 outbuildings are massive, could be used as a run in and huge hay storage, a huge chicken coop, one that could eventually be turned into a studio...amazing. The pastures need bushhogging and are quite overgrown, but seem to be in decent shape.

The scary, scary thing is that bidding on this house closes Sunday at midnight. I'm a first time home buyer, this is the only place i've seen, but i've been doing a ton of drive by's and stalking properties on Bing's birds eye maps.

The house is listed for ~$116,000, but the listing agent thinks that if you were lucky, you may be able to get it for as low as $100,000. Either price is well within my budget, even allowing for fixing the plumbing and the like. I can't imagine how I would get a home inspector out to check this place out between now and Sunday. I was supposed to be out of town Friday and Saturday!

**Edited to add: Just called the realtor and she said that you don't do an inspection before the bidding. If you win, and have it inspected and find something that isn't noted by the HUD inspector, you can back out and get any money back. So apparently there is no heart pounding rush to get someone out to look at it. Whew!

Please oh wonderful COTH, talk some sense into me.

Feb. 11, 2010, 05:44 PM
If you can't get a home inspector, it's a "sign" that you shouldn't do this. Seriously. I would never buy a property without an inspection. I'm in my 12th home since I was married 34 years ago, and it's saved me numerous times to have that inspection. When I was shopping for my current home/horse property the inspector turned to me at one property within 15 minutes and said "Run. Run very fast."

I was in love with the place, but he was the cold voice of reason and he saved me.

If you can't get it together to have the place inspected, keep looking.

Feb. 11, 2010, 05:50 PM
You have no way to know how far gone the electrical is (read: fire hazard), or if the well water is safe, or if the septic works, or why the floors aren't level....

Not such a good idea, IMHO..

If you saw this one in the first stages of looking, there will surely be more. I'd wait.

Feb. 11, 2010, 06:02 PM
Unless you are cool with razing the house and building a different one I say no. I would be pumped to find the "right" 10 acres for $85k if the house was a "tip and burn": right location, mature shelter belt, on blacktop, good drainage, a building elegibility, and rural water hookup. If you can't get a home inspector out, I would not do it. That is an old house and probably a money pit x 10!

Tons of old outbuildings is a bad thing in my book. They are always in the worst places and covered in lead paint.

I'm just thinking of all the stuff that could be wrong under the surface. Ugh.

Feb. 11, 2010, 06:02 PM
Unlevel floors and cracks in the drywall indicates serious structural damage to me...I would pass. Not worth the heartache.

Feb. 11, 2010, 07:02 PM
If you are willing to take a risk for the price of a thorough inspection, I say go for it! DH and I are currently shopping short sales and foreclosures ourself (not farms- just houses) and we walked into one this past weekend that was the first place since I walked into the farm that we bought 5 years ago (which, incidentally, we bought WITHOUT an inspection- an admittedly big gamble that paid off!) and fell in love with instantly. However, unlike that farm, this place is severly damaged and what's worse it's very visible damage- every single appliance missing (clearly an angry foreclosure), water damage on the inside and outside of the house, big warning signs not to walk on the balcony off the MA BR :eek:... but you walk out on the roof-top deck to a panoramic ocean view from Dana Point to San Diego. Un-jaw-droppingly-believable. :yes: It's a steal- IF the damage isn't too bad. IF. OTOH, it's a steal for a reason. ;) Problem with this one is that you need to provide an estimate in your offer to the bank, so unless we just take a wild swing on our own and hope we are somewhere close, what are we going to do- pay to get an inspector in there BEFORE we even have an accepted offer?
We just don't know if we want to take the risk this time. So we are currently hemming and hawing and hope someone else doesn't snap it up while we dither.
I say go to the auction and see what happens! Maybe you'll get it for even lower than $100K. good luck :)

Feb. 11, 2010, 07:20 PM
It sounds like the house was inspected by a HUD inspector. Can you get a full copy of his report so that you know that the electric, well etc... was inspected?
I grew up in a house that was about 185 yrs old when my parents moved in. My father had to jack up the center of the house and cracked the plaster a little in the process. Not really that big of a deal.
Current house is 20 years old. Fixer-upper. Hubby jacked up 1 floor joist and rebraced it. Also cracked the drywall a little bit.

If the original HUD inspection was pretty complete and you can back out after reinspection he your inspector finds something different- why not?

Feb. 11, 2010, 07:41 PM
During one of the many dry spells these past few years out 30+ year old house settled a bit and caused some wall cracking. Settled about 3/4 inch. It happens.

If the floors require block/tackle to go thru the rooms run very fast-Ive seen an old** house like that. But otherwise it sounds cool to live in a old** house.

If you can get your $ back if something else turns up Id go for it but I have a DH that can and soemtimes will fix things.

**college roomie married a man from England. He grew up in an old house--about 800 years old. 120 years old isnt bad.

Feb. 11, 2010, 08:32 PM
If you can't get a home inspector, it's a "sign" that you shouldn't do this. Seriously.

Hold your horses there.

I assume since you mentioned bidding and HUD, this is a home listed by HUD, right?

If so, jump on it. That's how we bought our first home. The well was broken (and it needed gutting) and no one else could get financing. We sold it for 3x what we bought it for, 4 years later, did everything (except the well) by ourselves and with friends, and it was a lot of fun (and sweat). It allowed us to afford to buy another foreclosed property (this time through Fannie Mae).

Our current property needed a lot of work. We changed almost everything in the house, all the fencing, etc. Thankfully there was a 5 stall barn that was in great condition. It is a lot of work. You can renovate on a budget and learn to do it yourself, and it can be a lot of fun!

Unless something has changed since we bought our HUD house in 2002, you can get your earnest money back for any reason if you don't like the home inspection. You can't do the inspection until after they confirm you are the "winning" bidder. I think it only took $1000 in earnest money to allow us to bid on our first house. HUD payed 1/2 of our closing costs. They had all of our paperwork at the closing table. They were honest.

A lot of things play into bidding on a HUD house. How long has it been listed? Owner occupant only? What's currently going on in the market...etc...
BUT usually they are quite fair priced. Back in the day (2002-2006), HUD houses with a lot of potential or in a good area always went above their listed price. Even with a busted well, being listed forever, etc, we only got our at list price (we did try lower). Keep that in mind.

PM me if you want any other details!


Feb. 11, 2010, 09:01 PM
Are these houses "free and clear" of liens? I'd go down to the local village hall and check to see what's been filed there .

Feb. 11, 2010, 10:25 PM
Are these houses "free and clear" of liens? I'd go down to the local village hall and check to see what's been filed there .
Yes, they are free from liens! HUD covers all of that!

Feb. 11, 2010, 10:27 PM
I'd go back and ask the neighbors if they know anything about the house that you should know about it, and confirm the zoning. Nothing like buying a place and finding out the county dump is going in next door or some other interesting addition to the neighborhood. And look at it and the surrounding area on Google Earth. A friend was looking at houses in my town and saw a great house on a cul de sac, good price (actually a little cheaper than normal), very nicely updated-we looked on google earth and saw that across from his house about a hundred yards was this big artificial pond--yes, it was the city sewage treatment pond and it explained why the price was so reasonable (this state has no disclosure so unless someone mentioned it to him or by looking on Google we wouldn't have known about the pond until the wind shifted).

Feb. 11, 2010, 11:11 PM
It'll either be the worst or best thing you do.

If you can get it well within your finances go for it. Even if you buy one in good condition you are always going to have a $1000 bill here and a $2000 bill there. On a fixer upper, they will just be more frequent and more urgent so you need spare income to deal with it.

Feb. 12, 2010, 10:07 AM
Check out the county zoning website and make sure apartment buildings or a city dump are not about to go next door. Make sure the zoning permits horses.

Look at the 100 year flood plain. We once saw a lovely house that the realtor did not disclose was in a flood plain. The actual house was on the one tiny area that was not flood plain. We would have been marooned there, unable to get down the driveway, when it rained. About a year later, I found out that the area did flood after substantial rains. The map was correct.

I love old houses, but you need to be prepared for leaky basements, pipe replacement, new wiring, new heat and air conditioning, a new well, termites, mice, rotten wood, a new roof, and all of the other joys of a foreclosed or old house. Our current home was a foreclosure. It has taken us 20 years to get almost everything fixed. Every fix costs more money than you can imagine.

Feb. 12, 2010, 10:39 AM
Put your realestate hat on here. Look at the likely cost to put the property in the condition that you could live there comfortably. Add that to the purchase price and make sure that the total does not exceed comparable properties in the area.

The agent can get the comps on this in a heartbeat. It is as easy as:

Purchase Price $100,000
Repair cost $100,000
Total $200,000

Now if the other properties in the area in saleable condition are selling for $350,000 you are in great shape.

Our house had not been lived in for years. It had a snake in the kitchen wall. Crappy, plumbing, heating, wiring. We did a new roof, new siding, new kitchen, new baths, new garage etc. We still have a home that appraises for way more than we spent.

Good luck.

Feb. 12, 2010, 10:52 AM
I'd say it depends. We just finished purchasing a HUD property in the last few months, and got an amazing deal on it (house on about 25 acres). You place your bid, and once you get the winning bid, then you can get the house inspected. As someone else mentioned, if you are buying the house to live in (not as an investor), if there is something major wrong with the house that shows up on the inspection, you can change your mind on the property. However IIRC, it has to be something that is major (electrical, seweage, A/C, foundation, etc)- and I don't think the plumbing would count, since it has already been disclosed to you.

The issue I would see is the same as what everyone else said- the house that we purchased prior to the HUD foreclosure was an early 1900s model house. We got it for a song...and then ended up putting tons and tons of money into it (and it's still no where near finished- it's sitting, waiting for us to list it for sale- and we are going to be losing a decent amount of money on it when we finally do sell it). To give you an idea of what to look for- plumbing (we had to replace all of it- including the cracked main line that went from the house to the sewage pipe in the street), electric (all had to be replaced, and we had to increase the size of the service- wasn't sufficient to run all the appliances), foundation (ours was pier and beam, and there were a few rotted beams that had to be replaced, and it had to be leveled), fireplaces (need to be redone- the interiors of both are collapsed- even though they look ok from the outside), windows (if original to the house- most will probably need to be either replaced or repaired- rotten wood, cracked/missing glass panes, and missing glazing- this is something that takes a lot more time/money than most people think). Other than those things, it is mostly the same as other houses- flooring might need to be redone, walls, etc. The big thing is don't underestimate how much it will cost to fix things- we were told to plan on spending three times what we originally thought it would cost- I would say it almost ends up being 4x or more, as there are issues that you find as you are fixing the issues you know about.

If you are up for the challenge though- go for it! Fixing up old houses can be fun- you just have to have the right personality for it (DH isn't really into that sort of thing, which he didn't really tell me before we bought ours).

Feb. 12, 2010, 10:56 AM
Our first home was also a foreclosure, another angry one, they'd taken a hammer to every fixture in the house, torn out light fixtures, bashed a hole in the toilet tank and yanked out the free standing woodstove completely. And of course everything else was suffering from deferred maintenance or broken. We camped in the kitchen for two years, somewhere I have a picture of the kitchen with the campstove sitting on the (broken) electric stove top.

Based on my experience, a fixer upper will cost you exactly as much as the same house fixed up, you'll just be paying for it in a different way.

Our biggest problem was trying to work on the house and live there too. If you haven't dealt with a remodel before it can be incredibly stressful, things get lost as you box and stash, and inevitably you find something else wrong and have to spend to fix that too.

All that being said, it can be a great way to get into a place that you couldn't otherwise afford. Just take a good hard look at it and your skill set, or willingness to learn, plus the time you will have available, and go from there.

And I have a horribly cautionary tale about home inspectors. The house next door to my MIL was partially gutted as part of a remodel/repair. Right down to the floor joists in the back part of the house. On the market for $20K. A fellow bought it sight unseen, using the services of a home inspector, and the home inspector's comment was that the house was "appropriately valued". Fellow arrived expecting some fix-up work but was completely gobsmacked to see the two bedrooms with no floor at all. (Actually he would have fallen through the floor that was there but for some reason seeing a floor is less dauntingly immediate of a repair) Anyway, now he is renting.

Feb. 12, 2010, 12:38 PM
I buy homes to rent out, and I always look at how much I can do myself when buying. I love fixing them up and then renting them out But, when I look at a house, I know what I can and can't do, what my FIL can help me with and what I will have to hire out. That's how I decide if it's too much for me.

The farm you are looking at sounds SOOO cool! I would probably fall in love with it in a minute. But, it is old. I have a house built in 1905 - the good news about old homes is they can be very simple. Electrical issues are one of the things I worry about - plumbing not so much. cracks etc... don't bother me as much in a old house - after all, it's still standing... Interior flooring, walls, not a big deal - for me, exterior problems - that's a big deal. If you have a chance, go look at it again, make a list of what you would absolutely have to do before moving, what you would have to do that is safety related, what you could do in the future, etc... It may help you see it clearer.

Good Luck! I would love to see pictures.


Feb. 12, 2010, 12:51 PM
If you are not into remodeling and rebuilding, walk away.

In a house that old, everything needs fixing, sooner rather than later.

Unlevel floors suggests the foundation needs to be worked on, the age alone suggests scary wiring - and you won't see untill you look into the walls! My current house is a 1950s/60s ranch...the wireing in half of it is adventurous...my previous house was 100 years old, it was downright scary in places.


If you are no stranger to HARD work and getting dirty, that can be a diamond in the rough. I like older houses. ut you have to have resources to fix them up right.

TB Fan
Feb. 12, 2010, 02:35 PM
I felt I had to pipe in a bit here since hubby and I purchased a home mid '09. We looked for a horse property for almost 5 years. We've seen it all. And after all of that we ended buying a newer house that didn't need anything. There are no horse facilities but we've learned its much easier (and prob cheaper) to build a barn and fencing than renovate, especially an old house. I'll add that our old house was built in 1890, we we completely renovated it.

One thing that I don't think was mentioned is that there is probably no insulation in the walls so you will spend xtra cash trying to keep warm in the winter. Also, typical homes of that era have different dimensions. For example, door openings and windows end up being a custom order ($$) at the local home inprovement shop. Make sure the house has an actual septic system, and not a "cess pool". We looked at a beautiful farmhouse that had a "cess pool." Didn't even know what it was or that it really existed. No way we were getting a mortgage until that got updated. Septic systems can run into the tens of thousands.

I'm not trying to dissuade you. There are plenty of people who love fixing up old houses, and frankly I'm glad they do b/c they do look so nice. Take a very close look at your finances, your free time and the reality of a fixer upper.

Feb. 12, 2010, 03:08 PM
First question: where are you located? Auctions in different states can have different rules. Around here, unless otherwise specifically stated, when you buy at an auction you buy "where is, as is, with all faults." You don't get to do an inspection later and then back out if you don't like the results. Maybe the realtor was being straight and maybe they weren't. I'd check on that.

As noted, uneven floors are a sign of trouble. So are cracks in walls, no matter how small. You say the foundation is good, but the uneveness and cracks suggest otherwise. Also, depending upon where you are and what the ground is like a "leveling project" may be a small thing (we owned a house in Houston and had it leveled for a modest price and no serious trouble) and it may mean major reconstruction (as it did for a friend of mine in FL).

Forclosures are always potential problems as when somebody sees it coming they quit doing maintenance.

If your pockets are deep and/or you've got a lot of experience in building then this might be a "diamond in the rough." But it also might be a Money Pit. Emotion plays a big role in buying houses or horses. If you've just got to have this place then go for it and good luck. But go in with your eyes open and a either a full bank account or a big line of credit because from your description this place will take some real work and real money to put it back in liveable shape.

Last, and not least, what are the foreclosure rules where this house is? In some places an owner who is forclosed has an "equity of redemption" meaning that within a statutory or judicial period they can cure any default and reclaim the property. I've heard of terms ranging from 6 months to two years (WI when I lived there was one year). It would really suck to buy something, fix it up, and then have to buy off a former owner or outsider who purchased their interest.

Sellers in real estate transactions seldom need lawyers (except to draft deeds or other documents). Buyers, OTOH, are generally well advised to consult with a lawyer, particularly where foreclosure is involved, to ensure that they don't have any "surprises."

Good luck in whatever you decide.


Feb. 12, 2010, 03:35 PM
My family bought a property much like you describe in 1987. It has a funky old farm house and tons of outbuildings. My dad is an architect and super handy and over the last 20+ years he's rehabbed all of the outbuildings. But it has taken 20 + years of working on the weekends to do it. He's winched the barn straight, they've completely rebuilt a building that had collapsed into an art studio. The old cow shed is now a Japanese tea house.

My first summer out there, we put a two strand electric fence and created a couple big pastures. There was an old kitchen well we used to siphon off water for the horses. It was wonderful.

We haven't done much to the house. But it's solid. A little damp in the summer and we still don't have central heat. Somehow, it is very well insulated and stays over 70 degrees with two woodstoves once we get it warmed up, even on the coldest New England day.

But it is absolutely magical. People come from all over the world to stay with us. BUT, we've never lived there year round.

So, if the thought of rehabbing the house with some help moves your heart, go for it! If you or your partner would love to spend your weekend salvaging beautiful old wood from your outbuildings and jigsawing rotted beams back together then it's a good fit.

We LOVE our funky old farm house with tons of outbuildings. My father turned my field shelter into a Japanese Tea House... The land and space is so flexible that I'm sure we could figure out another shelter if I ever could keep horses there again...

Not sure if this is helpful. But it's just a story about how a similar, unloved property came one family's personal version of Heaven.

Feb. 12, 2010, 06:02 PM
I just lost my whole long and sad reply so I will shorten it to say that if you do make an offer - make sure that you go to the extra added expense of getting a home inspector who also is a professional RESTORER of antique homes. They will recognize a lot of real problems that a 'normal' home inspector will not. You want someone who restores, not someone who renovates - a proper restorer will really understand what they are looking at in terms of how the house in constructed and will know what problem areas to examine and more importantly how to get to them.

I wish we had hired someone like that instead of the loser home inspector we had. He has easily cost us over 60k in unplanned structural work, some that needed to be done immediately. If we had known we wouldn't have bought the house.

You should be able to google or look in your phone book or call a local store which sells products for renovating homes and ask them if they know of someone in the area. We paid a specialist who renovated antique homes about $800 to come look at our house AFTER we bought it..I wish we had known to spend that before.

The saddest part is that we haven't had the funds to do the things to the property to improve it that we had planned, such as water to the barn and real wooden fencing - you know, the important things!!! . It will likely be a long time before we have room for that expense.

Feb. 12, 2010, 06:40 PM
Old houses are great. But you have to be a fan. So long as it is structurally sound (think termites, powder post beetle). There is something about an old house that new houses don't have.

I would check zoning. Check that a WalMart isn't going in next door or, like happenned to friend of mine, that the state Dept Transportation has decided to put a major road expansion thru her pasture.

Feb. 12, 2010, 07:21 PM
If you can find someone to go with you who knows something about building to walk through it before you bid, that will be a big help.

The unknown here is "how much will it cost to make it livable for you." Your needs are one of the parameters, the condition of the house is another, your skills and the cost of materials in your area is a third.

"Electrical is good"... not sure what that means. Does it have grounded, three prong outlets? It most likely does not have enough power to run, for example, an air conditioner or electric heat unless those are already installed.

A roof 5 years ago - that's a good sign that someone cared recently. Thumbs up.

How is it heated? Can you afford to heat it? A heating bill on these older houses can be hundreds of dollars a month, and you may still feel cold.

You'll possibly also need to replace windows, add insulation (which may mean removing drywall).

Without seeing it, without knowing your parameters, ballpark a house like this could easily eat $50k - $100k in repairs, to get it into tip-top shape. You may not need tip-top shape, and of course the repairs can happen over time - but I'd be prepared to drop $20k into the house and another $20k into the horse facilities upon move in, to get both to safe and habitable. If you want to be able to ride, you also need to factor in the cost of an arena.

And, keep in mind that if the place is not in tip-top shape, it might be hard to sell if you needed to move.


It sounds really interesting, and it may be the right thing to do. If you can see any other places on the market, make the time. It concerns me that you say you haven't seen any other comparables. The big wild card is the expected repair costs.

Feb. 12, 2010, 07:39 PM
Check out the county zoning website and make sure apartment buildings or a city dump are not about to go next door.

Make sure no wind turbines, either!

Feb. 12, 2010, 08:44 PM
Check the electrical very carefully. Fuse box, or circuit breakers? How many outlets in each room? Three hole outlets, or just two? GFI outlet in the bathroom? Assume there is no insulation. We had an old house, and the insulation was old newspapers. Early 1900's. Interesting reading, but not very warm. If there is a fireplace, what condition is the chimney in? Look in the closets. In our old house, the closet floors had rotted away and there was just dirt there. Same for the lower kitchen cabinets. The bathroom floor was sagging, so we tore it out and rebuilt it. We got the place liveable, at minimal cost, with maximum sweat. But it was still a dive. "Substandard housing" would be a polite term.

The good news was that the house was on 20 very nice acres, close to town. A few years later we decided to sell the place mostly so we could get a nicer house. Everyone who came to look at the place loved the land, and said the only thing wrong with the place was the house. That's when the lightbulb went on. We had the place reappraised, and were able to move most of the value to the land. I think we got the house valued at $4000. We paid the bank $4000, dozed the house and built a new house. We're still there, and we like it very much. Good luck!

Feb. 12, 2010, 08:48 PM
And, keep in mind that if the place is not in tip-top shape, it might be hard to sell if you needed to move.

The other thing in that direction is that you need to finish stuff.

Partial renovations add no value at all. There are people who will buy fixer uppers at the right price, and people who want everything done. If you spend $50K doing half the improvements you still only get to sell to the fixer upper people and will get very little back on the improvements. If you ever want to sell it and get your money back, you need to finish the improvements.

Feb. 13, 2010, 09:08 PM
I'm running on little sleep, but i'll try to quickly answer a few questions.

When I say that "whatever" is good, that's just what was noted about it in the inspection. That it was in satisfactory condition with no other notes about it. It has gas heating and air conditioning, a garbage disposal and a dishwasher, so it has been updated to some extent to handle newer appliances. Actually, the original part of the house is just the master bedroom and living room. The addition is the bath, laundry, kitchen and second bedroom. I'm not sure when the addition was built, but it screams 70's. I need to see if I can get a better answer on that.

Honestly, the house is in pretty livable condition to me. My last place was a dive (though the current one was new when I moved in, and very nice) so i've been there, done that. If the plumbing were fixed, I could technically live with the rest of the issues in the house since they are mostly cosmetic. Having the floor leveled would be the only other major thing that would make me happy. The house qualifies for the FHA's 203k fixer upper loan. I figure that it would be smart to go ahead and roll everything I can afford to into that loan and get it fixed before I ever moved in. There are some things like paint, fixing cabinets, possibly flooring, etc, that I would tackle myself, but I realize i'm not qualified to handle the big things.

One other big thing with the house is that it has lead paint on the outside (none inside). The FHA loan requires you to fix potential safety hazards, and i'm not sure if that falls under that category being outside, but i'm sure you'd want to go ahead and deal with it for resale concerns anyway.

I'm going tomorrow to give the house another look at 10:30 to make the final decision about whether to bid or not. I'm taking my Dad and a very critical friend (ie: mom replacement :lol:) to give me some extra eyes.

The house was foreclosed in July 2009, and the value listed on the documents then was $176,000. If I was able to get the place for ~$100k, I could afford to put ~$50k in repairs, if needed. I figure if the the house in it's current state was valued at $176k, it makes sense that adding horse facilities and fixing the house could only ad value.

After Sunday, at midnight, maybe i'll post the video of this place for you guys. :winkgrin:

Thanks so much to everyone for your experiences. I'm certainly cautious about all that would need to be done, but I still have a really good feeling about this place. It just seems right.

Feb. 13, 2010, 09:23 PM
Good Luck! :yes:

Feb. 13, 2010, 11:41 PM
Scary, scary, scary.

Feb. 14, 2010, 02:10 AM
The big disclaimer on this is that both me and my boyfriend (we are house-shopping together) are architects, quite handy, and have some contractor connections. My parents also renovated a house when I was in high school. We're specifically looking at fixer-uppers, since we don't want to pay for someone else's poor workmanship and taste and can't afford the really nice stuff.

I think you need to be very careful, but not afraid. That actually doesn't sound too bad to me. Most of the things we've looked at have had those sorts of problems, if not much worse, and we've really only been avoiding recently renovated houses. If you think it's overall pretty livable *for you*, you can have the major problems (plumbing, etc) fixed, and renovate as you can afford. I love living in old houses and am ok with most of the adjustments that requires, but not everyone is and I'd be honest with yourself about which you are.

Lead paint - I would check, I think but am not sure that it is ok if you paint over it and it isn't somewhere children are likely to gnaw on it. That won't work if it's actively flaking, but I think you can just contain it otherwise.

What materials are the house and outbuildings built of? That can affect how stable they are after time and how easy it is to fix them. Here everything in the city is brick, and a lot of very old houses in the country are stone. They both stay pretty solid even if water gets in, as long as the foundation is solid. On the other hand, you can't just jack them up if the foundation is wonky. An uneven floor here is probably termites or rot in the joists, which isn't too bad a fix. To insulate a wood frame house, you can cut small holes between the studs and blow in insulation, but for a masonry house you have to basically build a second interior wall right up against the exterior. Some wall cracks are ok, others are signs of big trouble.

Really I think the important things are to get a good, reliable explanation of exactly how the purchase process for this house would work. If you can't get an inspection at some point in there, run away, but if you can try to find an excellent inspector. Go around with them, and get them to explain everything. They should give you a report listing all issues, a description of how serious they are, and most will include an estimated cost to fix. Keep in mind they can only inspect what they see.

If you do the 203k, you'll have to have a contractor write up an estimate, and then FHA has an appraiser appraise the house with the proposed improvements. That process should help prevent you from getting totally in over your head.

Feb. 14, 2010, 07:46 AM
The house and outbuildings are made of wood. In this area, I would be inclined to think that our soft soil could be the cause of the unlevel floors, or rot, like you said. On the map, we're listed as a moderate termite risk.

On the plus side, this house certainly wasn't an angry foreclosure. They took the appliances, but didn't do any damage to anything in the house. It's very apparent that somewhere in this house's life, someone took good care of it. The hardwoods are original, and have obviously been waxed and cared for. They look brand spanking new.

Feb. 14, 2010, 11:17 AM
Scary, scary, scary.

Watch a couple of episodes of Holmes on Homes, now that is SCARY!!!

Feb. 14, 2010, 11:33 AM
The house and outbuildings are made of wood. In this area, I would be inclined to think that our soft soil could be the cause of the unlevel floors, or rot, like you said.

The house has sills which should sit on some type of concrete or stone foundation. The most common cause if unlevel floors is rotted and therefor compressed sills, not compressible soil. If the sills rot, the house has to be taken up off it's foundation and the sills replaced. This is not an inconsiderable job - depending on the construction of the house you may have to pull up flooring on the inside of the house, remove siding on parts of the outside and literally jack the house up. You could get lucky and be able to get away with only replacing one section of is...this means though that this portion of the house needs to be lifted off the foundation.

We had a 50 ft section of rotted sill on the back of our house - that our home inspector missed BTW. Not only is the sill rotted, but the posts are rotted as well. If we chose to do it 'correctly', we basically need to rip off the roof and roof deck, take off the siding from the back of the house, pull up the flooring in the kitchen, replace the sills, upright posts which are rotted, and the ridge beam as well because the end of that is rotted due to a long term roof leak. It would almost be easier and maybe cheaper to knowck this section of house down and rebuild it - however we would lose all the beautiful features of the old house that we love so much...

I always tel my spouse, if you're coming home some night and see the house is on fire - keep on driving. We need a total loss in order to not get screwed on insurance.

Oh, about the insurance..if we have a fire which is say in the middle section of our long house - the section between the 2 story part and the attached barn/garage - in order to be fully covered we would have to have separate policies to cover hazardous waste disposal because at lease one interior wall has vermiculite, a rider to cover us for bringing things up to code - otherwise we would have to pay the difference for knob and tube wiring, non-standard, non code lumber, non-code door sizes..ect....in the end it is very expensive to be truly insured, it is potentially very expensive to not be insured.

Feb. 15, 2010, 09:14 AM
Well, for better or worse, we made a lowball bid late last night.

Should know something around 12-2pm today.

Keep your collective fingers crossed!

Edited to add: just got a call from the realtor. She forgot it was presidents day, and now we have to wait until tomorrow. Gah!

Feb. 15, 2010, 05:23 PM
I was hoping you had heard by now. See you won't hear until Tues now.
Fingers crossed for you.

Feb. 15, 2010, 07:05 PM
Waiting is the hardest part! Hope it works out for you.

Tommy's Girl
Feb. 16, 2010, 11:52 AM
I can't wit to hear, either! I've renovated 4 houses (this one is my last - I swear), and they're always worth it. Hard, yes, but worth it. GL!

Feb. 16, 2010, 05:46 PM
Oh crap, it ate my reply, and I have no contacts in...so here's the short version to be updated later.

First bid wasn't accepted, but HUD counter offered with a great price!

We sign the final paperwork in the morning!!!!


Thanks for the help COTH. Now you'll get to hear us bitch, whine and complain about what you enablers got us into. :lol:

Feb. 16, 2010, 05:51 PM

Feb. 16, 2010, 06:42 PM
AWESOME! Congrads!!!!

Feb. 16, 2010, 07:52 PM
excellent. i know you are jazzed.

you now realize that you must share everything with us now and that includes extensive photos ;)

i'm typing this from our little farm homestead project....

Feb. 16, 2010, 07:58 PM
CONGRATULATIONS !!!!!!!!!!!!!! :D:winkgrin:

Tommy's Girl
Feb. 16, 2010, 08:03 PM
Picture, please. We've all seen the before ones - so don't be shy. We may be able to come up with a few suggestions, even!


Feb. 16, 2010, 09:00 PM
Congratulations! I think. Or I hope.

Let the fun begin!

Feb. 17, 2010, 03:08 AM
Alright, now for the pictures. Besides the yucky wall colors and heinous stick on tile in the kitchen, it looks a lot better in pictures than it does in person.


The video could very well make you sick. I had to pause it in a few places to stop my dizzying camera skills.

Now we just will have to see if it can squeak by a home inspection. This is going to be like trying to get a 50 year old, blind, deaf, horse with 4 hooves in the grave to pass a PPE. :winkgrin:

Feb. 17, 2010, 08:02 AM
....Now we just will have to see if it can squeak by a home inspection. This is going to be like trying to get a 50 year old, blind, deaf, horse with 4 hooves in the grave to pass a PPE. :winkgrin:

What's the matter with it???? Looks better then the house DH & I bought. For 5 yrs the running joke when asked, "what are you doing for the weekend"....the answer was "working on the house."

Seriously, the house is lovely. It looks cared for. Colors may not be to your taste, but paint is easy to change. Wall paper, not so, but is a trivial change. The house looks dated but cared for. The kitchen is a close cousin to the one we started out with. The floors look great.....I was expecting a serious tilt.....some "warpage" to old wood floors is normal....its called "patina"....

Unless you have termites or some serious structural issue, the place looks great. Even with "stuctural issues", because it is a wood frame house, those could be rememdied.

Congratulations.....looks like you got a prize!

Feb. 17, 2010, 09:52 AM

While I know you have a lot of work ahead of you and will likely run into tons of issues you didn't foresee, please know that you can have those issues even with a new house :lol: Case in point: the farm my parents just bought was built only 2 years ago, inspection went perfectly, and they have had every.possible.issue...

So, have fun :)

ETA, just saw the pics. LOVE the study and kitchen!

Feb. 17, 2010, 11:25 AM
Congratulations! That looks way better than the pos house we bought here, and ours is much younger!
FWIW our experience with house inspectors is pretty worthless, as we seem to get the worthless house inspectors.
Good luck, I bet you got a gem. :yes:

Feb. 17, 2010, 12:51 PM
I see more enabling in the future: chicken coop :lol:

Feb. 17, 2010, 01:16 PM
Wow, you got a find! Keep us updated! I love the lofts!!!!

Tommy's Girl
Feb. 17, 2010, 03:25 PM
Gosh that house is LOVELY! It looks as if it was really loved - it's in great shape - much better that the last two I lived in (my in-laws almost passed out when they saw what I'd talked their son into buying...) -

Good luck and have fun.

Feb. 17, 2010, 04:48 PM
Ihatefrogs-before the Off Topic Day forum disappears go look at the kitchen remodel thread-if the cabinets are solid and you want to keep them you could do the bead board front with frame and paint them if you want to. They would look brand new. I love that house too.

see u at x
Feb. 17, 2010, 05:31 PM
Wow, I just stumbled across this thread; I LOVE the house! It has so much character and charm! Did my eyes see correctly from the video that there is a fireplace in the kitchen??? I think my favorite room is the study with the loft - WAY COOL! I can't wait to see the pictures once you've fully made all of your changes. Congratulations and good luck! :)

Feb. 17, 2010, 05:44 PM
I LOVE your house. Look at the gorgeous floors, large windows, that baseboard molding... oh heavens. Lovely. Just lovely.

And oh look... a chicken coop. Evil snicker... :D You are doomed.

Hey - when we bought this place the light switches were glow in the dark fishermen - the switch itself was the guy's peni... ahem - trouser trout. Up down up down - Good lord. :lol:

You've bought a beautiful home. Congratulations.

Feb. 17, 2010, 06:25 PM
I think Reynard Ridge could advise her on the chicken coop. :winkgrin:

Feb. 17, 2010, 06:53 PM
Hey - when we bought this place the light switches were glow in the dark fishermen - the switch itself was the guy's peni... ahem - trouser trout. Up down up down - Good lord. :lol:


I hope you put them on ebay! :lol::lol::lol::lol::lol::lol:

(I didn't know they made stuff like that, Lowe's certainly does not sell it...)

Tamara in TN
Feb. 17, 2010, 08:42 PM
Now we just will have to see if it can squeak by a home inspection. This is going to be like trying to get a 50 year old, blind, deaf, horse with 4 hooves in the grave to pass a PPE. :winkgrin:

I like it...I think it is very charming (maybe some nicer bigger windows) but I like it...I'd give anything for a fireplace again...

Tamara in TN

Feb. 17, 2010, 10:02 PM
Looks like you did good!

Feb. 17, 2010, 10:47 PM
I think it's beautiful!!!
(and contractor fiance who specializes in restoring older farm houses said you've done good! :D )

Feb. 17, 2010, 10:59 PM
OMG those floors are awesome!!! What a neat place!

Feb. 18, 2010, 12:36 PM
After seeing so many awful, awful fixer uppers in my house search, this is QUITE lovely. You made it sound so much worse :)

Feb. 18, 2010, 01:42 PM
It looks like ... home.

Have fun fixing it up with all the colors and textures you prefer.

Feb. 18, 2010, 03:22 PM
So wonderful- congrats! We decided to offer on that foreclosure too, and yesterday the bank accepted our price but countered on some of the "as-is" items... :eek:! So now we've freaked ourselves out a bit (they came back a little too fast agreeing to the offered price ;) ) and are going to get a few contractors in there first before signing on the dotted line. Or walking away and saving ourselves some real problems and $$$!! Hope ours turns out as well as yours. :)

Feb. 20, 2010, 07:43 PM
I LOVE the house!!!Especially the kitchen........congrats!!:yes:

Mar. 11, 2010, 12:49 AM
A minor update:

I'm very happy to say that the house passed home inspection well. Of course there were all the cosmetic issues that we knew about, and a few other simple things that needed to be addressed, but the structure was sound. The inspector actually stepped out of the truck and immediately warned me to realize that he probably wouldn't have very good things to say about a house this old. After crawling around in the attic and under the house though, he was impressed at the shape it was in, and the upkeep previous owners had done.

As we were wrapping up the inspection, one of the neighbors wandered over to introduce herself. Turns out 80 year old Clara was born and raised in this house! Her timeline doesn't quite line up in my mind, but she said the house was built in 1891, and that her father, who worked at a sawmill, built it. If her age, and the house's age are correct, and you assume her father was at least 20 years old when he built the house, then that puts him being over 60 when she was born. Seems unlikely to me, but it was still really neat to learn more about the house. It's apparently only had 3 owners, and used to be 40 acres. Poor Clara tried to buy it back when she retired 15 years ago, but apparently the bank wouldn't let her on her income (or something like that), so she moved in next door instead.

At this point, the house seems like a go! I'm excited!

Mar. 11, 2010, 06:44 AM
That house is lovely! Congratulations. Where are you located? Someplace with fireplaces in the kitchen and a ceiling fan in the bedroom. Interesting combo.

Mar. 11, 2010, 09:11 AM
Old men married young women a lot in those days, quiet possible her timeline matches.

Cool the inspection was Ok!!