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Buying a Hudson Valley home fixer-upper is back in vogue

Couple assembling furniture

Feel like buying a fixer-upper to flip or live in? It can be profitable and rewarding. It can also become a money pit, with one costly discovery after another if you’re not careful. The following points can save you time, and take some of the sweat out of the sweat equity and time you are about to invest.

During the last pre-crash housing boom, nobody but short of work home improvement contractors and the clinically insane wanted to buy a restoration project. Everybody wanted homes in “new” and “move-in condition.” Home inspectors made a fortune. Some buyers are still looking for “perfect” homes, but many now see the value in spending a little on spackle, paint and minor upgrades to turn a dowager into a dutchess. Here are some ways to identify whether or not a property is worth the effort.

Work it out
Figure out as closely as possible what a home needs to make it worth renovating. Leave behind your ego (“I can fix anything with this sledge hammer and a little dry wall,” or your emotions (“It’s ‘sob’ just like grandma’s cottage.”) Look with an analytical eye. Don’t go too far with changes. Find a floor plan you can live with; changes like moving load-bearing walls can be a complicated, expensive proposition.

Check it out
Check the home completely, on the inside and out. Starting from the basement, look for problems with exposed wires and plumbing. A sure sign it’s time to move on are cracks in the foundation that indicate problems with stability and support of the structure, which are the cause of some of the biggest problems in a house. Standing water anywhere inside is no bueno. Go to for some good pointers on bad foundations.

Sit on the roof. Kick off the moss.
Check out the roof however you can safely, either by climbing a ladder for a closer look, or when that proves difficult or dangerous, with a pair of binoculars. If it’s asphalt shingles, look for curled edges, and cracked or missing shingles. Old slate shingles never rot, but the flat iron nails they used to secure them can rust away. Look for what looks like black slate around the edges of the exterior wall.
Water incursion can wreck any home. Also check gutters, downspouts and leader pipes. They need to be able to channel rain and runoff away from the home.

Go to the Bathroom.
Look around for anything that leaks. Bathrooms need careful attention as they are a place where un-contained water can easily damage framing and floors. Also check for mold or mildew, a prime reason for a 180-degree turn out the door.

Old Ain’t Gold When it Comes to Plumbing and Wiring.

Ancient plumbing and crumbling wiring is a disaster waiting to happen. Galvanized steel pipes build up sediment over the years, leading to corrosion and leaks. Aluminum wiring, once championed as a “safe and money-saving way to wire wood houses has been responsible for many millions in fires and lost lives. Installing new pipes and wiring are two very expensive fixes to be made.

Follow your nose!
Musty, dank or chemical smells anywhere in a house spell trouble. They can indicate anything from mold or mildew to gas leaks, sewer or septic problems. Mold can be particularly troublesome, as it can be life-threatening under the worst conditions. It hides behind walls, in insulation and anywhere water condenses on a welcoming surface like gypsum wall board.

Water is also the cause of wood rot – another red flag. Inspectors check windows and other trim surfaces regularly exposed to rain and water. Simply pressing on suspect areas with a pencil or pen tip can show soft or crumbling wood.