How much to do with Mom's house

powermuffinMay 3, 2011

Hello. We are going to sell my Mom's house in S. Cal. Her neighborhood is pleasant and the homes are all about 1800 sq ft, so modest sized, 1960's. Houses seem to go for $350,000 to $380,000. Most have replaced the windows; ours are original and not pretty. Our roof is being replaced, electrical and plumbing upgraded.

The house is a wreck, baths and kitchen need to be gutted. We are having a hard time deciding how far we take the renovations and eventually will have realtors give us some input. In the mean time, we need to get the bathrooms working. My brother, who lives there, will not allow a realtor in until the baths are done.

My sister would like to put in a acrylic tub and surround; my husband would like to put in a steel tub with a tile surround. This is work that we have done before and do not find it difficult.

For the kitchen, I am thinking that a really nice Wilsonart counter would be fine.

Since the proceeds from the house are to be split five ways, upgrades won't net us each very much, but may make the house sell faster.

To what level should we upgrade the house? Do we need to replace the windows? Opinions please.



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I wouldn't do ANY work until you meet with a Realtor. It may be that a partial reno will be unsatisfactory to the buyer who wants a perfect home, and to the buyer who wants to gut the place.

    Bookmark   May 3, 2011 at 12:20PM
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My family's just been through a similar scenario. The house wasn't a wreck, but it fell below neighborhood standards. We decided that not doing updates would only give buyers negotiating clout.

Our thinking was, even if someone wants the property for a tear-down, by gosh they were going to pay for the remodeling. We sold at a decent price and didn't have to hear a bunch of belly-aching about the pink bath, wallpaper, etc. Everything was fresh and current.

Friends and even realtors told us, "Don't bother." We didn't listen, and we're glad.
If you have to pay professionals to do all the work, it's tempting to just cut the property loose as is. But if you can DIY most of it, the deal is sweeter. Since it's inherited, whatever the 5 of you make is money earned a fairly easy way.

The difficulty comes when there is an uneven distribution of labor. Ideally, everyone contributes equally. You don't want hard feelings when the deal is done.

    Bookmark   May 3, 2011 at 12:54PM
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If you think a sale may take a long time, imagine how long construction is going to take with 5 siblings having input!

Seriously though, meet with a realtor BEFORE you do any improvements. In many areas, everything on your list is going to be a money loser unless you can do 100% of the labor yourself. You need someone with no emotional attachment to tell you what improvements will net you cash and what will actually cost money.

    Bookmark   May 3, 2011 at 3:17PM
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I agree with the above. I also think you need to figure out who your potential buyer is. Is this going to be a buyer who wants a move in ready house? Or is this a tear down or flip? I think you either probably need to do all or nothing.

My dh and looked at a house a few months ago. Apparently someone had bought it to flip. They only did a halfway job of remodeling it. They knocked down a couple of walls, repainted, carpeted, tiled and made surfaces pretty, but the bathrooms were too small, the remodel made the layout awkward, the paint only served to cover the wood rot, the roof was old and curb appeal was still lacking. I honestly think the house would have been better left to someone who wanted to buy and fix it up and live in it. IMO, the house is going to sit for a very long time. I need to see if dh remembers the address so I can look it up.

    Bookmark   May 3, 2011 at 4:15PM
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Thanks for the input. Our intention is to do most of the work ourselves. Luckily, we seem to work well together. The house has 5 bedrooms as do most of the houses in this neighborhood, so very family oriented. I suspect that families looking in this area want a finished product. I realize that we need a realtor's opinion, but so far I can't get my brother to bring one in. He is still grieving and I need to give him some more time.
Thanks again for the input.

    Bookmark   May 4, 2011 at 10:14AM
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Talk with a sales agent before sinking much more money and effort than a good cleaning.

They should be able to advise you what a likely price may be based on the local market.

It may be worth selling 'as is' or making some minor repairs, but a lot depends on the market (what is the competition when selling) and the cost of the repairs.

    Bookmark   May 4, 2011 at 10:15AM
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I was recently in a similar situation and learned one important thing: there is always a market for a fixer-upper if it is priced appropriately. We were selling a 4 BR 3 full bath house that needed everything updated. What we did was make the house as appealing as we could to someone who wanted to take on that kind of project. We decluttered like crazy. We removed about half the furniture (which made the rooms look huge.) We painted the very dirty and discolored walls. We took off the window treatments to let in light. We pulled up the carpet and shined (but didn't refinish) the hard wood underneath. We cleaned up and mulched the yard. We planted some brightly colored annuals. This was all a lot of work but not a lot of money and we sold very quickly. We also sold it for a realistic price given that it needed a new kitchen and three new bathrooms.

    Bookmark   May 10, 2011 at 11:59AM
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I would love to find a fixer-upper for $350,000 to $380,000. I think at a certain price range, depending on the area, the majority of buyers don't want to be bothered to update kitchens and baths. But below that range, there's a definite market for buyers who either want a bargain or who want to put their own stamp on any renovation. Your agent should be able to tell you what that price range is for this neighborhood in S. Cal.

    Bookmark   May 10, 2011 at 4:12PM
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"I was recently in a similar situation and learned one important thing: there is always a market for a fixer-upper if it is priced appropriately."

I have been purchasing and rehabbing/renovating 'old laddie' (meant as strictly descriptive!) houses for many years.

I have even lived in some while doing the work, one for many years after I renovated. Technically that was an 'old man' house since his wife died many years before.

I have purchased from estates, from heirs, and from folks just needing money for health care or a smaller place in their senior years.

Every one has needed significant work to update, and the vast majority of sellers understood this.
Most have been surprised how much I was willing to pay (I can do all the work myself if required and time is available).

When I started I got burned a few times on unanticipated repairs, but quickly learned to look hard and well before offering.
The ones that went over anticipated cost I had to rent and hold onto longer to recover the money I put in.

One seller even came back and looked at her former house and would have purchased it back in its new condition, but it remained to large for her to care for.

She actually thanked me for getting it back into shape for another family to call home.
She was so kind I even took her out for dinner.

    Bookmark   May 10, 2011 at 4:20PM
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