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I’ve loved showing you the fun journey of fixing up our 1972 ranch home for the past few months. But today, I’m sharing some important things to know before buying a fixer upper. It’s not all perfect DIY project after perfect DIY project...we’ve hit a few bumps along the way (some quite costly). I’m hoping this can help you if you ever decide to purchase an older home to fix up, too!
We are still very much in love with our home, y’all. It’s truly our dream house and we feel so lucky every day to call it ours. But, it hasn’t come without challenges...including one that cost us a serious chunk of change to repair.
When you work hard to fix up a place you love, it’s important to protect everything you’ve redone...because truly you never know what could happen. Not only do I have a list to think about before buying a fixer upper, I have some tips on protecting your investment.
One early Sunday morning in March, only a couple of weeks after we moved in here, we realized something wasn’t quite right. We were all up early getting ready for church...showers going, dishwasher running, and I threw a load of laundry in the wash so we could fold it that afternoon. The moment I went to step into the shower myself, I realized I was stepping into two inches of standing water in the shower stall. At that exact moment, I could hear my husband asking from down the hall…”where’s the plunger? The boys’ toilet is about to overflow.” I turned off my shower to figure out why it wasn’t draining and saw water sitting in the sink, too. It was at that exact moment, we realized we had a big problem. We had a washer that wouldn’t drain (and was about to overflow on to the newly laid floors), a new dishwasher that turned itself off, four toilets that wouldn’t flush, and standing water in showers and sinks. Mayday, y’all.
After a series of plumbers visited our home, a week later, we had an all-out work zone...and a huge trench (see above photo). We had tree roots growing into our main sewer line (yay, trees). The entire line from the house to the city’s main line had to be retrenched and re-laid.
While it was all fun and games having a huge trench, a backhoe, three work trucks, and a crew of four in our yard for three days, the bill for this party was heart-stopping, y’all. While this would have eventually needed to be fixed, our Sunday morning could have been a bit less terrifying had we had a few precautions in place.
Not only did we have main line plumbing issues after buying this house, we also had a leaky water heater that eventually just stopped working...about three weeks after we closed on the house (womp, womp). We weren’t actually living in the home yet when it started leaking, so by the time we discovered it, we just had to replace the whole thing (see our shiny new one above). Since we have this new water heater (sitting on our new floors...gah!), we have enlisted an extra layer of detection: a Lyric™ Wi-Fi Water Leak and Freeze Detector by Honeywell. The Lyric™ Wi-Fi Water Leak and Freeze Detector is a wireless device, which offers an easy way to monitor water-related appliances and pipes to reduce the risks of leaks and frozen pipes. The device syncs to an app on your smartphone and will alert you when it senses potential water leaks and pending issues.
This nifty little (ridiculously easy to install) gadget will detect a leak (through the cord or the actual unit) and send a notification to my phone. Since we didn’t live here at the time of the leak, this would have been perfection to have. (Grab yours here at Home Depot.)
The Lyric™ Wi-Fi Water Leak and Freeze Detector is Wi-Fi enabled and syncs with its smartphone and tablet apps. It provides homeowners with an early warning system in and out of the home. It also has a loud 100 dB siren for those in the home.
And when we go on vacation in a few weeks, I can add my family and neighbors to my circle on the Lyric™ app...they’ll be alerted to water issues, too.
One other little issue we found after moving into this place (and experiencing the complete deluge of May 2016 in Texas)...the sunroom floods. Actually, the back patio floods, and spills into the sunroom. Good times. We knew this *may* be an issue after our inspection, but we went ahead with the purchase of the home, knowing that down the road we’d need to have the backyard and patio a bit re-engineered. We didn’t really know how much of an issue this would be, but truly, we’ve never had this amount of rain in Texas for as long as I can recall...so it’s a combination of factors that leads to a soggy sunroom.
I’ve set up Honeywell’s Lyric™ Wi-Fi Water Leak and Freeze Detector right next to our back door in the sunroom and placed the cord right in place to detect moisture the moment it starts getting wet (the product even has extensions for the cords, up to 500 feet of additional coverage). For the last few weeks, I’ve turned into my sweet 80-year-old dad and won’t leave the home if rain’s comin’. Our temporary solution has been to use some pretty cool waterless sandbags. Thankfully they do work to keep water out of here...but they aren’t a long-term solution. But, yay for being able to leave the house again on a cloudy day, right? My Lyric™ app will alert me if it even seems a bit moist in this area.
Honeywell’s Lyric™ Wi-Fi Water Leak and Freeze Detector can also detect conditions that can lead to freezing pipes...not as much of an issue in Texas, but certainly in other areas.
Not only do we enjoy all of the benefits of the Lyric™ technology with our water issues, we also upgraded to the Lyric™ Round Wi-Fi Thermostat (ummm, so cool!). Loving these Honeywell products.
Since I had never installed a thermostat before, I had to bring in my dad. However, after watching him install this, I totally could have handled it...it went up in ten minutes.
I took a few screenshots from my phone to show just how cool the thermostat...and entire app is! I can change the temperature from my phone, even away from home (or in bed when I’m too lazy to get up).
You can also control it manually. It lights up when you walk by it to display the temperature and settings...I think that may be my favorite feature! It can even use its geofencing to detect when we’re away from home and automatically turn the temperature up or down, accordingly...and back to “comfort” as we get close to home, again. I mean...come on. This thing is awesome. The Lyric™ Thermostat’s Smart Cues™ feature delivers messages to my phone with alerts to change filters or extreme temperature notifications. Its built in wifi also gives full forecasts right on the thermostat.
These two tools from Honeywell have helped us update our home tremendously...and even help fend off future issues.
Here are some of my best tips to know before buying a fixer-upper (so you can avoid some of our costly mistakes):
● Get not one, but two inspections. We did this, and it was a big saver. Our list of repairs for the sellers was fairly extensive. Our second inspection happened right before closing to ensure all of our requests were met. It was worth the money. I give credit to our realtor for this suggestion. Our inspector even gave us a break on the second round...since he was just there to recheck specifics that had already been found.
● If you’re buying a home with a lot of trees or that was built prior to the 90s, consider hiring a licensed plumber to take part in your inspection. They can use a camera in your pipes to see their condition. This is something we didn’t do, but (obviously) wish we had done. Spending a couple of hundred dollars on this plumbing inspection could save you thousands in extensive plumbing work.
● Hire licensed AC/HVAC people to also be a part of your inspection. We did this during our second inspection since both of our AC units had problems pop up in our initial inspection. This ensured that we knew the units were in proper working order before closing on the house. An inspector can tell if you have an issue, but licensed AC/HVAC peeps can pinpoint the issue and make sure it’s okay before you proceed any further.
● Negotiate with your sellers to get as many of your issues fixed as you possibly can. Our sellers were wonderful and agreed to the majority of the requests we made. Even if you think an issue isn’t much of a big deal, put it on the list anyway. You WILL have more issues pop up after you really get into the nitty gritty of owning the home. Having funds still in place for those is key. Having the seller fix as much as possible on that side of the deal can help keep your own funds in place once the deal is closed and you’re on your own for repairs.
● If the home you’re purchasing has been vacant prior to you purchasing it, be sure to get a pest service out to look over and treat the home before you actually move in. It’s much easier for them to do this before all of your furniture and belongings are in place.
● If you plan on living with some of the existing features of the property, upgrade them as much as possible. Adding the Lyric™ Thermostat to our existing AC unit gave us features our previous thermostat didn’t have. It is helping us bring our home into a more current state...and saving us money.
● Put safeguards in place so when the uh-oh situations do pop up, you’re aware immediately...before things get completely out of hand. Honeywell’s Lyric™ Wi-Fi Water Leak and Freeze Detector is a great tool for this. I’m notified immediately when we have an issue...rather than waiting to stumble on the problem (when it may have gotten much worse)
● Above all...fall in love with your fixer upper before committing to it. If we didn’t love this place half as much as we do, it would be easy to get a little frustrated with some of the issues that have arisen. But, with our love goggles on, it’s a bit easier to just care for and repair our home back to its original awesomeness without getting stuck in a “money pit” frame of mind. We love you, house!