Handyman Specials - What To Expect

Real Estate Agent
I recently viewed a handyman special home for sale in Amherst, NY with one of my buyers.  The lack of pictures intrigued her and she loved the wooded backyard.  
Buyer: I have to see this house.
Sarah: It's labeled a Handyman Special.  That means its going to need work.  What kind of work and how much? We don't know yet.
Buyer: It's OK.  I don't mind a little work.
I agree to show it to her knowing it would be a waste of her time.  Truth be told, I love checking out a good handyman special...   ;) It was a delay showing so we sat in anticipation for nearly 3 weeks after it was listed. 
Now, I knew it was going to be rough. It was a handyman special after-all.   But I thought it'd be cleared out... Furniture and garbage was piled high throughout the first floor.  Pet waste (contained to litter box) and hair everywhere. Cat food strewn across the floor like someone kicked the bowl as they ran out the door.  I don't blame them if they did; the place was a mess.  We made it up the stairs to the 2nd floor before the buyers daughter was freaked out by the place.  It was amazing we made it that far.  Structurally, I think it was OK... don't remember.  Plus, we never made it to the basement. There was too much other stuff going on...
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So, how do you spot a handyman special? Two big clues are : 1)Very few photos on Multiple Listing Service and your local real estate search site and 2)Description says: handyman special or needs TLC
Here is a list of a few extremes I have seen to help home buyers know what to expect when you come across that elusive, picture-less home.  I'm not saying you should avoid looking at it, but if you do be prepared and have an open mind.
  • Things a house must have (roof, furnace, windows) may need to be replaced. Soon.
  • Foundation issues which can cause floor issues
  • Missing walls, doors or kitchen cabinets
  • Damage from water or fire
  • Smells: pet, water, mold and some you'll never be able to describe.
  • Critters
  • Unfinished projects: room renovations, light fixture changing, converting bedrooms into other purpose rooms
On the financing side of this, you're only going to score a handyman special with cash, conventional loan or a 203K loan.  Speak with your preferred lender about what type of loan is best for you and how willing you are to go through any process required to finance a fixer-upper.
Happy house hunting and let me know if you find a good handyman special!

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Sarah Lynn Jaskowski

House. Home. Today.
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