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Buying a fixer-upper home isn’t for everyone. An older house with a lot of character may look great, but a professional inspector may find issues that make it a more expensive home than you think.

Here are some things to check in that fixer-upper “dream home” you really want to buy:

Major Issues
Plumbing, electricity, the roof and structural issues in the foundation are some things a home inspector should prioritize. They’ll advise you on what you need to replace immediately, what you can wait on or what you don’t need to fix at all.

Walk through the house with the inspector and check on the expected lifespan of the various home systems. If an air conditioner, furnace or other major item needs to be fixed, get a cost estimate before proceeding with the home purchase.

Home Additions
Buying a fixer-upper can mean more than repainting the walls or remodeling the kitchen. If it doesn’t have enough room, you may want to add on to the house. Or, you may just want to knock down a wall to expand the kitchen. Is that a load-bearing wall? Can it safely come down?

Check with your city’s building department to see if you can expand. If the home is in a historic district that could limit modifications.

Ask a Contractor
Before buying a fixer-upper home, hire an architect or contractor to look at the house with you so they can give you estimates on repairs or additions.

Many contractors will give you bids for free, so you should get a few opinions before deciding who to work with. Architects may charge an upfront fee.

Tax Incentives
Some cities offer tax credits for improving their property value. If the home is in a historic district, there might be tax benefits to restoring it to its original condition.

The local power company may offer rebates for installing solar panels, dual-pane windows or other energy-saving features. State and federal governments may also offer tax rebates for energy improvements.

The bottom line is to not let the low price of a fixer-upper house entice you too much. There could be problems under the surface that may put it well beyond your budget.

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