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  1. #1
    Join Date
    May 2008
    Pacific Northwet

    Default Buying an old home? Be prepared for after-the-sale sticker shock.

    If you're considering buying an old home, or one that has had a lot of "DIY" repairs and remodeling, expect to spend an additional $10,000 to $50,000 repairing and updating just the plumbing and wiring.

    I see so many posts in this forum about people with questions about plumbing and electrical wiring with regards to their "new old" home. I suspect that many of these people jump in to old-house ownership without truly understanding the cost of repairs. Judging by their posts, many of these people assume that the repairs can't be that difficult, but the nature of their posts also suggests that they have neither the experience nor the expertise to do the work efficiently or safely.

    My advice? Before you purchase the home, after the inspection, also have a reputable general contractor, plumber, and electrician (and any other necessary contractors) give you estimates on the cost of doing the desired and necessary repairs. Explain to them that you are seeking their advice as consultants, and offer to pay them for their time. That way you have no psychological obligation to use their services after the sale.

    Even if you plan to do the work yourself, knowing the cost to have a professional do the work serves both to help you make wise decisions and serves as bargaining chips in negotiating the price of the home.

    And if you do plan to do the work yourself, educate yourself. I recommend that you get books on the various subjects you need to learn so you get a more complete understanding. 0nline forums and YouTube videos are helpful, but not nowhere near comprehensive. You can learn a tremendous amount by yourself, but that still doesn't replace practical experience gained alongside a professional. It's true for any discipline: plumbing, wiring, building, cooking, driving, logging, brain surgery, rocket science, or underwater basket weaving.
    The "Senior Member" designation under my name doesn't mean I know a lot, it just means I talk a lot.I've been a DIYer since I was 12 (thanks, Dad!). I have read several books on various home improvement topics. I do not have any current code books I can refer to. I was an apprentice plumber for two years.

  2. #2
    Join Date
    Jul 2010

    Default Re: Buying an old home? Be prepared for after-the-sale sticker shock.

    This is a good solid advice for novice home buyers, worth more than g o l d.

    Most fixer upper/home in disrepair buyers almost always underestimate the tasks in front of them - the ones they see and the ones they don't.

    In a seller's market, and we are entering a period of seller's market, buyers scramble to get into a house, any house, due to the fact that there are multiple offers on most houses. They don't want to miss the boat. That's where they make their mistakes.

    BTW fencepost, of all the trades you mentioned, I haven't tried underwater basket weaving. I'll add it to my to do list.

  3. #3
    Join Date
    Sep 2012

    Default Re: Buying an old home? Be prepared for after-the-sale sticker shock.

    excellent advice from both of you.

  4. #4
    Join Date
    Oct 2012
    Houston, TX

    Default Re: Buying an old home? Be prepared for after-the-sale sticker shock.

    As a second time homebuyer, diyer, but novice to old houses I have to say this is great advice.

    I purchased my home at what was a recent bottom of the market, just before my neighborhood got hot. I know I had old wiring, I know I had some odd combos of plumbing. I also know I would be replacing a lot.

    In the 2+ year I have had my house I have spend $800 on plumbing jobs from a pro, and another $600 or so was done under home warranty. I have probably done 30 hours of work myself with maybe $200 in labor. I anticipate paying nearly $1k to a pro plus another 40 hours in my own labor and more materials. All of that before a planned remodel of my upstairs bathroom. My plumbing is actually "easy" as I am on pier and beam and almost all of it is exposed.
    As for electrical, my service was replaced as a condition of purchased, I replaced another breaker box in the garage. I have spent well over $600 in materials and logged at least 40hours of my time. I anticipate logging another 100 hours and spending another $500. After that I bring in the electrician to check my work, finish off my work as needed. Probably at least a couple hundred if there is No work done by the electrician.

    Now if I were to think "that's not so bad" I stop and think about how much my time is worth. I have evaluated my free time to be worth $40-50 hr to me. Add up those hours and the anticipated hours and that is a guess of my cost. It ain't cheap. A pro will cost $100-150 an hour, but will work more than twice as fast and has a General Liability policy to protect himself and myself if something goes wrong. I screw up and it is my problem and fault.
    It's this old house, not this built after your dad was born house.

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