How to buy a fixer-upper and not get burned

Factors such as access, layout and even tricky neighbours can all add headaches and cost

If the property is part of a terrace without rear access, everything will have to come through the front door. Photograph: iStock

If the property is part of a terrace without rear access, everything will have to come through the front door. Photograph: iStock

So you’re thinking of buying a fixer-upper? Maybe it is a faded period charmer that hooked you, or an ugly bargain on a great street. But before you sign a contract, some hard questions will help you sort the diamond in the rough from the money pit.

Assess

When, halfway through a home renovation, TV presenters announce “Asbestos!’, building surveyors must scratch their heads. “It makes good telly, but that would have been evident if a good inspection was done on day one,” says Noel Larkin of Noel Larkin and Associates Chartered Building Surveyors. His top recommendation for those buying an old house is to get a building survey done first. This should eliminate surprises and indicate the cost of renovation.

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