Betty Stroll | Greenwich Real Estate, Old Greenwich Real Estate, Riverside Real Estate

Many home buyers seek out fixer-uppers or older homes as a way to save money. And, while this method can be a great way to save, it does come with a few caveats.

Upgrades and repairs can vary greatly in price. Some might be simple, whereas others can take weeks or months, require permits, and uproot your plans. For these reasons, it’s good to know what you’re getting yourself into with home repairs.

In this article, we’re going to cover the most expensive home repairs and upgrades. That way when you find a home listing that you’re interested in, you can rule out these costly repairs early if you aren’t willing to spend the extra money on them after buying the house.

1. Sewer and septic

Finding out you need to replace a sewer line or a septic system can be a nightmare. Sewer lines are most often damaged by tree root growth, leaving older homes the most vulnerable. On average, homeowners spend around $2,500 to repair a main sewer line.

If you move into a new home that previously only had one inhabitant, you may find that the septic system can’t keep up with the increased workload. Repairs for a septic system average around $1,500. And to replace the septic system and install a new one? You can expect to spend around $5,000 or much more, depending on your needs and location.

2. Foundation repair

Older homes are also subject to foundation damage over the years, which can cause many problems, including safety concerns and water damage.

Houses that have poor drainage and high soil moisture are particularly vulnerable to foundation damage. And, like sewer and septic issues, tree roots can also pose a problem.

For minor cracks, foundation repairs can cost as little as $500. However, more severe damage can cost up to $10,000. On average, Americans spend around $4,000 when they repair a damaged foundation.

3. Roof replacement

Roof replacements are inevitable, but there are ways to ensure you won’t have to install a new one anytime soon. For example, slate and metal roofs can last over 50 years. And concrete? A hundred years or more.

The most common type of roofs, however, are made from asphalt shingles, which last around 20 years. In terms of price, asphalt tends to be the cheapest as well, costing as low as $2,000 to replace. Metal and slate roofs are significantly more expensive, starting at $5,000 and $17,000 respectively.

4. Heat pump installation

Installing a heat pump can be quite costly, with the national average being around $5,300. However, if you live in a moderate climate, a heat pump can replace both your furnace and your air conditioning unit.

Furthermore, if you plan on staying in the home for several years, a heat pump tends to be much more energy efficient than older alternatives.

5. Kitchen remodel

Of all the household remodeling projects--basement, bathrooms, etc.--a kitchen remodel tends to be the priciest. Americans spend about $21,000 on a kitchen remodel. The most expensive part? Cabinetry and hardware at $6,000.

Buying a home is a process that can seem daunting and even a little scary to most first-time buyers. After all, being a homeowner is a huge financial and personal responsibility.

To make this lengthy process a bit more approachable, we’re going to break it down into five steps. While these five steps may be somewhat different for each person, depending on their own unique situation, they do comprise most home buyer’s experience.

If you’re interested in learning the steps you’ll need to take before owning your first home, read on.

Step 1: Know your long-term goals

Before you buy a home, you’ll want to have a clear understanding of what you, your spouse, and your family want from the next five or more years. You’ll want to make sure the area you’re moving to can provide things like career advancement and opportunity, good schools for your children, and so on.

These questions may seem obvious, but it’s an important conversation to have before making the long-term commitment of owning a home.

Step 2: Your budget and your needs

It might be tempting to hop online and start shopping for houses, but first you should get a clear idea of the size and cost of the house you’re looking for. This involves determining your budget, thinking about your credit and planning for your down payment.

Step 3: Mortgage pre-approval

Getting preapproved for a mortgage can be a great way to gauge the interest late and loan amount you’ll be approved for. You’ll need to gather paperwork, including income information (pay stubs), tax returns, and W-2 forms.

Be aware that lenders will run a detailed credit report. Since credit reports count as an inquiry, they can temporarily lower your credit score by a few points.

Applying to several lenders within a short period of time can make a significant impact on your score. However, it will start to rise again within a few months if you don’t open any new credit accounts or take out other loans.

Step 4: Get an agent

Real estate agents know the ins and outs of the home buying process better than anyone else. They’ll be able to guide you through the process and provide you with information that you can’t get anywhere else.

Step 5: Pick the right home for you

Now it’s time to start home shopping. However, before you begin, remember that getting approved for a loan doesn’t mean you must or should seek to spend the full amount on a home.

Plan for your needs, and keep the future in mind. Someday you might decide to upgrade, but in the meantime you can be building your credit and building equity in a smaller or more frugal home.

Although preparing your house for a real estate showing can be hectic, there are ways to make it easier and less stressful. One source of stress for many people is that nagging feeling that they're forgetting to do something important.

Admittedly, overlooking some things could result in lost sales or even lost valuables, but a little advance planning and organization can help prevent those problems from happening.

The solution is to create a checklist of important reminders and tasks you have to complete before leaving the house. Your real estate agent will provide helpful guidance and tips on effectively preparing your house for showings.

Putting Your Best Foot Forward

When your house is up for sale and it's being actively marketed, appointments with prospective buyers are sometimes made on the spur of the moment. While real estate agents will be scheduling the appointments and conducting the tours, it's up to you to ensure that your home is always in tip-top condition. Hopefully, you'll be able to enlist your family's help in picking up clothes, putting dirty dishes in the dishwasher, and cleaning up after themselves. If you have small children, they will undoubtedly need assistance in putting away their toys and making their bedrooms look civilized! Here are a few guidelines to keep in mind when getting ready for house showings:

  • Cleanliness (or a lack thereof) will be one of the many things that house hunters notice. While your house may meet their requirements for number of bedrooms, bathrooms, and overall layout, they could quickly lose interest if your floors, countertops, and sinks are visibly dirty.
  • Pets can be a potential issue if your home is scheduled for a showing. Not only can dogs be a distraction if they bark a lot or have other undesirable behaviors, but some people are allergic to dogs and cats. The ideal solution is for a friend, family member, or neighbor to take care of your dog while the house is being shown. Unfortunately that's not always possible. Sometimes confining your dog to a fenced-in back yard (briefly) or a comfortable crate that they're accustomed to may be a viable, short-term solution. Several factors would come into play, including the weather, the temperament of your dog, and whether it's going to bother the neighbors by being outside.
  • Doing your best to eliminate clutter throughout the house is another strategy for making the best possible impression on potential buyers.

Protecting Your Valuables and Privacy

Another priority that some homeowners forget is to hide valuables, such as jewelry, mobile devices, checkbooks, and cash. It's also a good idea to make sure your computers are password-protected, and that you turn them off before leaving the house. If you have any concerns about security during home showings, you might want to hide computers, personal items, and yesterday's mail in a secure place. Although most people touring your house will only be interested in its features, décor, and condition, it's always good to exercise a little caution when opening your house up to the public.

Buying a home with an in-law suite provides many families with peace of mind for years to come. Whether or not your parents don’t get around as well as they used to or you’re planning ahead for the years ahead, you’ll always be a stone's throw away from them. And while this isn’t a topic most like to think or plan for, it's never one you’ll wish you were less informed on.

When shopping around for homes with an in-law suite look for those that are a single story and open floor plan. Come crutches, walker or wheelchair this layout guarantees its inhabitants full access to every room. No chairlift required.

Some things that are especially beneficial when you’re feeling the effects of age are helpful to those at any age. 

Consider these home upgrades first:

Switch out all door knobs for handles. The twisting action of a doorknob is hard and sometimes even impossible for arthritic hands. But it also makes for easier access to any room if you’re hands are full with a laundry basket, groceries or toddler.

A grab bar should be installed in every bathtub. Everyone is susceptible to the slippery surface of the tub. However, as we age our balance and coordination begins to become compromised. A horizontal bar along the length of the tub can multitask as a grab bar and place to keep shampoo bottles and facecloths. This placement is also more subtle than a bunch of horizontal and vertically placed bars.

Another feature every home should have? A motion-sense light outside. Our eyes are no more immune to age than the rest of our body. This makes getting around in the dark much more difficult. Coupled with balance could cause a very severe accident. If your new home doesn’t already have a motion sense lamp this is one upgrade that is best made ASAP.

Once you have the basics in place consider these upgrades your loved ones will really appreciate:

A hand-held shower head with the option of a waist height wall mount. For when movement is limited and especially for those who need to sit while bathing.

A built-in shower bench. This upgrade is really just a nice touch especially compared to the white metal chairs that feel more like an afterthought.

Textured flooring. Tile can get slippery especially when wet. Installing textured flooring can help avoid that infamous “help I’ve fallen and I can’t get up” scene from playing out.

Railing along the stairs; ideally along both sides. Stairs can be a dangerous place for anyone especially if we are in a hurry or not paying attention. Having a railing to hold on to will help your loved ones keep their balance.

Believe it or not, your home's bathroom may make or break your open house.

If you allocate the necessary time and resources to enhance your bathroom's appearance before your open house, you may be able to boost your home's chances of making a positive first impression on property buyers.

On the other hand, a dirty, messy bathroom is unlikely to do you any favors, particularly in a competitive real estate market.

Transforming an ordinary bathroom into an attractive space may seem difficult. Lucky for you, we're here to help you simplify the process of cleaning your bathroom from top to bottom.

Now, let's take a look at three tips that you can use to improve your bathroom's appearance before your open house.

1. Remove Shower Scum

Soap scum may accumulate in your shower over an extended period of time. However, it is quick and easy to eliminate this problem.

To remove shower scum, use a mixture of dish soap and vinegar. Then, scrub the scum with a dish wand, and you can make your shower sparkle.

2. Clean the Toilet

When was the last time you cleaned your bathroom toilet? If you don't know the answer, it probably means your toilet is overdue for a comprehensive cleaning.

A bathroom scrub brush can help you eliminate grime inside your toilet. You also may want to use white vinegar, as this all-natural cleaning solution has been shown to eliminate bacteria, germs and mold.

In addition, don't forget to wipe down your toilet's exterior. Dust and debris on the toilet surface are simple to eliminate in just seconds.

3. Take a Look at the Mirror

A bathroom mirror may appear streaky and blotchy. But for those who want their bathrooms to impress homebuyers, it is essential to clean a bathroom mirror extensively.

Cotton pads and rubbing alcohol may prove to be exceedingly valuable. Together, these products will enable you to clean your bathroom mirror and avoid streaks altogether.

Or, if you're searching for an alternative to rubbing alcohol or traditional glass cleaner, you may want to use vinegar and water. The combination of vinegar, water and a microfiber cloth offers proven results, especially for those who need a quick, easy solution to clean a bathroom mirror before an open house.

If you need extra help cleaning your bathroom, don't hesitate to reach out to cleaning professionals for expert support. These professionals can streamline the process of getting your bathroom ready for your open house.

Moreover, if you're uncertain about how to prepare for your open house, your real estate agent will be happy to assist you. This housing market expert will describe how the open house will work and what to expect from it. Plus, after the open house ends, your real estate agent can provide homebuyer feedback and insights.

Don't wait until the last minute to clean your bathroom. Instead, use the aforementioned bathroom cleaning tips, and you should have no trouble prepping your bathroom for your open house.