Housing prices have increased substantially due to four primary factors: a construction labor shortage, skyrocketing costs of building materials, too few homes on the market and too much demand for these houses. Given the short supply of existing homes on the market, prospective buyers have begun looking for alternative ways to purchase their dream custom homes. One way buyers can become homeowners during a seller’s market such as this is to purchase an abandoned property. During the financial crisis, developers often bought up abandoned, unfinished homes in order to refurbish and flip the properties. Today, purchasing an abandoned incomplete construction remains a viable option. Buyers can either renovate these properties or tear them down and rebuild. While purchasing an unfinished house or teardown property can be an incredible opportunity, it does not come without risks. Follow below to learn how and when to buy a teardown house -- from applying for a mortgage to valuing the property.
How to Value an Abandoned House for Purchase
Before purchasing a teardown or incomplete build, be sure to properly research the home itself and the surrounding neighborhood. Researching unfinished homes properly will help you, your real estate agent and/or your attorney effectively value each property. It will also help you determine the viability of future plans you may have for the build. Depending on the home’s age and location, certain restrictions for renovation, demolition and rebuilding may apply. Not only could these restrictions affect your ability to rebuild, but they might also impact your ability to demolish or renovate the building at all.
Determining Whether an Abandoned House is Worth the Investment
In his article “How to Value an Unfinished House” for SF Gate, Steve Lander writes that “unfinished houses can be an excellent opportunity if you handle both the financial and construction work involved in finishing them.” Before one either cashes in on their investment or moves into their new home, one must determine whether the house and its lot are worth purchasing. Lander advises that buyers value the property by “estimating the value of the house when it is completed” and by multiplying the lot’s square footage “by the market’s price per square foot.” Buyers should also factor in the cost of demolition and/or the “cost of the work that needs to be done to finish the house.” Keep in mind that costs involved in renovating or rebuilding an abandoned house are not solely related to demolition and construction. They may also include a variety of inspection fees, closing costs, insurance fees and legal fees.
To do this, buyers should consult with a general contractor or with a design-build firm for accurate estimates. Lander suggests buyers buffer these estimates by adding “approximately 20% to the cost of the work to protect against overruns.” Finally, buyers should investigate the property’s legal status by requesting records from the county recorder’s office. If possible, buyers should also ask the seller for any building permits he or she applied for. Once the buyer has calculated each of these values, he or she should subtract the estimated cost of work from the anticipated value of the final build. If any of these values is impossible to calculate, buyers can simply offer the value of the underlying lot based on comps in your area.
Deciding Whether to Teardown or Rehabilitate the House
There are many factors to consider when deciding whether to renovate an existing home or build a new one. However, these factors are a bit more limited when one must decide between rehabilitating an unfinished or abandoned home versus fixing up a home that was well-maintained but is simply out-of-date. According to Lee Wallender, Jillian Dara and Deane Biermeier in their article “Should You Remodel or Rebuild Your House?” for The Spruce, rebuilding often makes better financial sense. Biermeier, Dara and Wallender write that “if you plan to be in the house for the long-term and then sell it, it is usually wiser to tear down and rebuild, at least from a purely financial perspective.” According to Dara, Wallender and Biermeier, “physical elements of a home are on a timer” -- no matter how carefully the owners have cared for their house.
They note that “exterior paint might last up to seven years...dishwashers last less than a decade...and three-tab composite shingles are good for about twenty years.” When a home has been left open to the weather, to pests and to other agents of destruction, these physical elements fare even worse. Demolishing and rebuilding is often the best and least expensive choice long-term. This is because -- according to Biermeier, Dara and Wallender -- “you reset the clock in terms of the house's physical nature.”
Common Problems with Vacant Homes
Unfinished homes are often left vacant for weeks or months -- if not years -- after their builders or owners have abandoned them. During this time, utilities are turned off -- if they were ever connected -- and weather, pests and other elements wreak havoc on these structures. Though the Connected Investors editorial team identifies these homes as “the most lucrative and overlooked” type of property in the article “What You Don’t Know about Buying Vacant Houses,” their value lies primarily in the small pool of interested buyers hovering around their property. Few look past overgrown grass, frozen plumbing and pest infestations and consider the value of the foundation, existing structure or underlying and surrounding plot of land.
Unfortunately, there are quite a few problems buyers considering the purchase of an abandoned house must contend with before capitalizing on their investment. Thankfully, many of these issues are of little concern when the buyer plans to demolish their new home before rebuilding another structure in its place. Some issues unrelated to condition, however, could impact the new owner’s ability to build. In their articles for The Wall Street Journal and Realtor.com respectively, June Fletcher and Gina Roberts-Grey elaborate.
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Red Flags to Look Out for When Buying an Unfinished or Abandoned House
In her article “Should You Buy An Unfinished Home?” for The Wall Street Journal, June Fletcher identifies several potential issues. According to Fletcher, even watertight vacant homes “often have moisture problems, especially if the heating and cooling systems [are no longer] run regularly.” This excess exposure to moisture can “lead to mold, corroded pipes and appliances, and warped floor boards, door frames and trim.” Quoting Cleveland Plumbing Industry training director Jason Shank in her article “4 Things to Watch Out for If You’re Buying a Vacant Home” for Realtor.com, Gina Roberts-Grey agrees. According to Shank, “plumbing is a vacant house’s most vulnerable spot.”
When a home is abandoned due to foreclosure, incompletion or irreparable damage, “many absentee homeowners will simply shut off the water at a toilet or sink valve” rather than “turning off water and draining and treating pipes to prevent catastrophic fractures.” Pests also pose problems for vacant homes. Gina Roberts-Grey writes that “over time, a home without humans can become a refuge for many woodland creatures.” Squirrels, bats, mice, possums, rats and other rodents are common intruders. Many of these pests can easily “chew access holes that they—and many of their critter counterparts—use as a revolving door.” Because of this, careful inspections are necessary for all plumbing, insulation, HVAC, roofing and other functional and structural elements of abandoned homes.
According to Fletcher, vacant homes could have “a clouded title and unpaid liens and taxes.” During the financial crisis, many custom home builders abandoned luxury builds after the economy turned, the housing bubble burst and clients were unable to continue financing their new constructions. Because of this, unfinished homes were common across the US.
In her 2010 article “Half-Built Homes Can Be Bargains, But With Strings Attached” for The Seattle Times, Mary Shanklin noted that any buyer who purchases a home with liens taken against it would “have to repay them or negotiate with the bank.” Shanklin warned buyers to be especially wary of “liens involving the Internal Revenue Service, because those can be difficult to clear.” In general, prospective buyers of unfinished homes are “‘buying a lot of unknowns’” and should “‘take some precautions when considering the purchase of a half-built home.’”
When to Buy an Unfinished Home or Teardown
Buying a teardown or unfinished construction can be well-worth the cost of purchase -- especially when the property is located in a desirable district, neighborhood or subdivision. Buyers can either purchase a teardown or unfinished home to renovate it or to demolish and rebuild it. According to Ken Harney in his New Home Source post “The Tear Down Option: Is it for You?,” local governments in some communities “encourage substantial renovations over demolitions by making the permitting easier and faster.” Local governments might encourage minor renovations to make the property habitable or full renovations -- e.g. bringing the home down to its studs. Harney notes that buyers might “be able to retain the existing foundation… [or] to retain a portion of an existing wall or incorporate part of the old structure into your new design, and thereby sidestep local restrictions on total demolitions.” Homes that have been vacant for an extended period of time -- such as those that have been condemned or those that were never occupied -- might be impossible to renovate. In these cases, buyers would need to fully demolish the existing structure.
Purchasing a Home with Intent to Rebuild
According to Thompson, “teardowns are almost always small, outdated or defective homes in desirable neighborhoods.” Because the condition of both unfinished homes and teardowns is typically dilapidated due to negligence, “the bulk of the property's value lies in the land, which means they tend to be priced below the average for their location.”
Buyers can determine whether a list price is fair by subtracting the cost to demolish said structure from the value of the land. Thompson notes that the cost to demolish a residential property is “typically $5,000 to $20,000 for a 1,500 square foot house.” Homeowners should only purchase teardowns or unfinished homes if the property is able to “support a new house worth two to three times more than the sale price of the teardown.” Before purchasing a teardown, buyers should ensure that the land is suitable for construction by ordering soil tests and examining prior permits.
Do Teardowns and Unfinished Houses Qualify for Mortgages?
In our article “How to Build a Custom Home Hassle-Free,” we noted that lenders are often hesitant to finance either land purchases or new builds because they face greater risk of default. This hesitancy also extends to distressed properties like teardowns and unfinished builds. To protect lenders, the federal government and some state governments have established certain criteria for extending loans or lines of credit against distressed properties. Writing for Investopedia in their article “The FHA’s Minimum Property Standards,” Amy Fontinelle and Marguerita Cheng elaborate. Amy Fontinelle writes that FHA loans and some other mortgage loans “must meet safety, security and soundness standards which include areas like roofs, electrical, water heaters and property access.”
These standards do not apply to cosmetic concerns or “minor defects” that do not threaten the buyer’s health or safety. To prove that a property meets these standards, the current owner must typically produce a “certificate of occupancy.” In her article “What Is a Certificate of Occupancy?” for Million Acres, Maurie Backman writes that a certificate of occupancy is a document “issued by a local zoning or building department stating that a home or property is suitable for occupancy.” In order for a property to be considered suitable for occupancy, “it needs to be compliant with the building code that applies in that area (which means it needs to adhere to safety standards).” Most banks across the country require buyers to secure a certificate of occupancy from the seller before approving a mortgage on the house in question. Those who purchase a teardown or incomplete construction with the intention of renovating or adding on to the property may also need a certificate of occupancy to begin custom home construction.
Alternative Financing for Teardowns or Incomplete Builds
Financing with FHA 203(k) Loans
Unfortunately, in many cases, neither teardowns nor unfinished constructions will meet these minimum property standards. Writing for Investopedia, Fontinelle notes that those wishing to purchase a home that fails to meet minimum property standards should “ask the seller to make the needed repairs.” Similarly, homeowners who have conducted unpermitted renovations should offer buyers a credit to bring their remodels up to code. This step is generally unavailable to buyers hoping to secure a mortgage on teardowns or incomplete constructions because the current owner is clearly unable or unwilling to address such issues.
On the other hand, properties that do not meet minimum property standards could qualify for certain loans -- such as FHA 203(k) loans -- that are designed to help homebuyers rehabilitate older distressed properties.
However, according to HUD, “the total rehabilitation cost must not exceed $35,000” in a limited loan. A single major renovation -- much less multiple -- can easily surpass this bound. Sadly, distressed properties -- such as teardowns or incomplete constructions -- in some areas of the US without a certificate of occupancy do not qualify for rehab loans. No matter where the property is located within the US, HUD criteria for FHA 203(k) loans require the home to be at least ten years old. Because of this, new builds that were never finished -- either due to lack of financing or some other reason -- do not qualify.
Converting a Construction Loan into a Mortgage
In their article “How To Use A Land Loan To Finance A Property Purchase” for Forbes, Casey Bond and Mike Cetera outline alternative ways to finance a teardown or incomplete build. According to Cetera and Bond, “buying a teardown [is] one workaround to securing an actual mortgage loan for a land purchase.” After the new construction is complete, homeowners might be able to convert their construction loan into a mortgage.
This conversion would save homeowners from having to pay back the construction loan at high interest within a short period of time. In some cases, banks might acknowledge an incomplete construction as a teardown and offer the lendee similar terms. In our upcoming article “Financing Your Demolition and New Construction Project,” we offer additional resources.
Working with Element on Your Knock-Down and Rebuild Project
As one of California’s premier design-build firms, Element Homes not only has years of experience in the custom home design field, but also understands the unique challenges facing California home buyers. Our team of industry experts understands local laws, regulations, building codes and permitting requirements. The Element Homes team also understands the California climate, which is vital to designing and building a custom home that can withstand earthquakes, wildfires and winds.
Perhaps best of all, Element Homes offers each client access to our cutting-edge project tracking software. Especially important in complex projects like those involving demolition, our project tracking software allows clients to monitor every stage of their build. Schedule a consultation with our team by calling or reaching out via our website. We are happy to answer any questions you may have about our custom home building process.
If you plan to be in the house for the long-term and then sell it, it is usually wiser to tear down and rebuild the house, at least from a purely financial perspective. Physical elements of a home are on a timer. The minute the hammer strikes your house for the last time, that timer starts ticking.How do you value a teardown house? ›
Lander advises that buyers value the property by “estimating the value of the house when it is completed” and by multiplying the lot's square footage “by the market's price per square foot.” Buyers should also factor in the cost of demolition and/or the “cost of the work that needs to be done to finish the house.” Keep ...What makes a house a teardown? ›
A teardown is the demolition for replacement of a home or other building that was recently purchased for that purpose. Frequently, the new building is larger than the previous one.Does it make sense to tear down a house? ›
Demolishing a house only makes sense financially if home prices in the area are stable or on the upswing. Building the most expensive house on the street isn't a great idea in an area that's going downhill. If that's the neighborhood you really want to be in, though, better to renovate than build new.Is it cheaper to renovate or demolish and rebuild? ›
In general, it costs more to rebuild since it requires demolishing the existing structure than building a new one. However, in certain circumstances, it can be more expensive to renovate, especially when there are many aspects of the home that need to be changed or replaced.Why you shouldn't put too much down on a house? ›
A large down payment could deplete your cash, leaving you without the funds for home maintenance or unexpected repairs. Understanding how down payments work will help you determine how much you should put down on a house.What will decrease the value of a house? ›
Changes in the real estate market can lower the value of your home. Natural disasters and climate change can lower your property value because the property is a greater risk to purchase. Foreclosures in your neighborhood can also drive down property value.What is it called when you find out how much a house is worth? ›
Understanding home value
Appraised value: According to Investopedia, appraised value is a home's value as determined by a professional appraiser at a given point in time. Appraised value is used by mortgage lenders during the underwriting process to determine how much a buyer can borrow.
You can determine home value by using an online valuation tool, hiring an appraiser, using a real estate agent, or checking comparable homes in your area. Using an online valuation tool or pulling comps in your neighborhood is easy and quick, but you'll receive more accurate results using a REALTOR® or appraiser.What do you call a broken down house? ›
run-down, tumbledown, ramshackle, rickety. See synonyms for dilapidated on Thesaurus.com.
Demolition (also known as razing, cartage, and wrecking) is the science and engineering in safely and efficiently tearing down of buildings and other artificial structures. Demolition contrasts with deconstruction, which involves taking a building apart while carefully preserving valuable elements for reuse purposes.Why would a house be gutted? ›
The word “gutted” means that the major demolition has already occurred. Someone, typically a previous owner, hoping to do a renovation did a full demolition on the property and then stopped.How many homeowners regret buying a house? ›
In spite of that, many people did manage to purchase a home in 2022. But according to a new report by Hippo, 78% of those who did wound up having regrets.How do I not regret buying a house? ›
- Know you're not alone. ...
- Contact your lender. ...
- Rent out unused square footage. ...
- Rework your budget. ...
- Sell it. ...
- Remind yourself why you bought the home. ...
- Make it your own. ...
- Start making memories.
Rebuilding is typically the best option if renovating or remodeling cost more than rebuilding the building. Additionally, if a building is no longer deemed structurally safe or sound by an engineer, removing the building may be the best choice.What cost the most when renovating a house? ›
- Kitchen: $10,000–$50,000.
- Bathroom: $9,000–$20,000.
- Bedroom: $10,000–$15,000.
- Living room: $5,000–$10,000.
- Dining room: $2,000+
- Office: $5,000.
- Attic or basement: $12,300 to $33,300.
- Foyer: $1,000–$10,000.
Your interest savings will be even greater. Over a 30 year term, a $300,000 mortgage generates $175,720 in interest payments when you put 5% down. No one likes that figure. By putting 10% down, that total interest payment over 30 years drops to $166,471.How much is a downpayment on a 400k house? ›
What income is required for a 400k mortgage? To afford a $400,000 house, borrowers need $55,600 in cash to put 10 percent down. With a 30-year mortgage, your monthly income should be at least $8200 and your monthly payments on existing debt should not exceed $981. (This is an estimated example.)Will interest rates go down in 2023? ›
When it becomes more attractive to save money, consumers tend to spend less of it. But the Fed isn't done fighting inflation. And because of that, consumers should not expect interest rates to drop in 2023. However, rates may also not climb much from where they are today.What devalues a house the most? ›
- It's important to every homeowner that their property retains its value. ...
- 1) Poor workmanship. ...
- 2) An increase in crime levels. ...
- 3) A substandard kitchen. ...
- 4) Noise pollution. ...
- 5) Uninspiring exterior. ...
- 6) How silent are the neighbours? ...
- 7) Not energy efficient enough.
Deck additions, outdoor living rooms and patios in regions like Southern California and the Los Angeles area where outside activities can be enjoyed year round, usually give 100% return on your investment. Great room additions offer 70% return when it comes time to sell your home.Will my house lose value in 2023? ›
In 2023, the national annual median price for homes for sale is projected to rise by another 5.4%, which is less than half the pace seen in 2022. Even if a homeowner decides to sell their home, they will likely have a lot of equity in it.How accurate is Zillow Zestimate? ›
How accurate is the Zestimate? The nationwide median error rate for the Zestimate for on-market homes is 2.4%, while the Zestimate for off-market homes has a median error rate of 7.49%. The Zestimate's accuracy depends on the availability of data in a home's area.How accurate are Redfin estimates? ›
The Redfin Estimate is highly accurate, with a current median error rate of just 2.12% for homes that are for sale, and 6.54% for off market homes. This means that when a home that is currently on the market sells, the Redfin Estimate will be within 2.12% of the sales price half of the time.What are the five methods of valuation? ›
This course examines in detail the five key property valuation methods: comparison, investment, residual, profits, and cost-based.What is the 4 3 2 1 rule in real estate? ›
The front quarter of the standard site receives 40% of the total value. The second quarter receives 30% of the total value. The third quarter receives 20% of the total value; and the rear quarter receives just 10% of the total value.
Equity is the difference between what you owe on your mortgage and what your home is currently worth. If you owe $150,000 on your mortgage loan and your home is worth $200,000, you have $50,000 of equity in your home. Your equity can increase in two ways.What is the rule of thumb for how much house to buy? ›
Key takeaways. For many buyers, a good guideline is to look for a home that is about 3 to 5 times your household annual income. If you have no other debt you may be able to look at the top of that range, while if you have significant debt you might consider the lower part of that range.How would you describe a worn down house? ›
- in ruins.
Halifax defines Duplex Dwelling as "the whole of a dwelling that is divided horizontally into two separate dwelling units, each of which has an independent entrance". Other major cities use the term duplex, but for dwelling units.
What Is “Phrogging”? “Phrogging” (pronounced like “frogging”) is when someone secretly lives in another person's home without their knowledge. The name comes from the idea of leapfrog, with the intruder hopping from place to place like a frog—whether that be someone's basement or attic or crawlspace.What are the negative effects of demolition? ›
Nearly all demolition results in a large amount of waste. When buildings are deconstructed and renovated, there are materials that must be removed from the site. Without proper management, the waste can pollute the land and air.What are the effects of home demolition? ›
Depression, stress, anxiety, phobias and lack of hope in the future were mutual themes running throughout the lives of those families who have actually experienced home demolition, along with those who have experienced a constant threat of demolition to their homes, as well as many stressors of life such as lack of ...What happens when a house is destroyed? ›
If a covered disaster completely destroys your house, your standard homeowner's insurance policy includes a "loss of use" or "additional living expense" protection, providing temporary housing until you recover. It pays off your mortgage, freeing you of that obligation.Why do some houses get demolished? ›
When Does House Demolition Make Sense? There are a couple scenarios where demolishing a house is a better option than repairing or remodeling a home. The first scenario is if the house has major structural issues. Problems like a faulty foundation, fire or water damage or a pest or mold problem are not easily solved.How long does it take to gut and remodel a house? ›
Every project is different, but typically, you can expect a whole house remodeling project to last anywhere from 16 weeks (4 months) to 24 weeks (6 months). More involved projects or projects that encounter several unforeseen delays may take longer.What does it mean to completely gut a house? ›
It's taking the walls down to the studs, removing existing interior doors and trim, cabinets, sinks, and exposing the structure of the home. It often includes replacing windows and exterior doors, the roof, and replacing most or all plumbing and electrical. Gutting is about the material removal before you remodel.What is the biggest regret of home buyers? ›
Spending Too Much
Nearly a third of homebuyers (30%) said they spent too much on their homes. This was the most common regret among those surveyed.
Almost half of homebuyers wish they'd done this before closing. Don't make their mistake! A Zillow study found that 75% of homebuyers have regrets. Whether they paid too much or bought too soon, these people wish they had a real estate redo.What are 3 reasons not to buy a home? ›
- You Have No Down Payment.
- You Have Poor Credit.
- You Have a High Debt Ratio.
- You Have Little or No Job Security.
- Renting Might Be 50% Cheaper.
- You Tend to Move Every Year.
- You're in an Unstable Relationship.
- You're in a Declining Real Estate Market.
Real estate agents suggest you stay in a house for 5 years to recoup costs and make a profit from selling. Before you put your house on the market, consider how your closing fees, realtor fees, interest payments and moving fees compare to the amount you have in equity.What are 3 disadvantages to buying a house? ›
- Costs for home maintenance and repairs can impact savings quickly.
- Moving into a home can be costly.
- A longer commitment will be required vs. ...
- Mortgage payments can be higher than rental payments.
- Property taxes will cost you extra — over and above the expense of your mortgage.
If you have noticed severe problems with your home's structure, or if you've noticed extensive moisture and mold damage in different areas, you might want to completely rebuild instead of simply renovating that portion. However, a home only needs a complete rebuild if it has extensive damage.What time of year is best to renovate? ›
Additions to Your Home
The most optimal time of year for house renovation projects is actually January through early March. While this sounds counter-intuitive, the frozen ground and dry air can make it easier for contractors to pour concrete.
Excited, nervous, stressed, maybe even a little sad. These are all emotions you might feel when you're buying a home, even if you've planned to make the jump to homeownership for months. All of these feelings are totally normal.Is a house worth more after its built? ›
Although you may pay for their charm and individuality, these old homes still cost significantly less upfront than their newer counterparts. The price of a newly built home is often higher than that of an older home by a staggering 30% or more.What is the biggest homebuying regrets? ›
Here's what millennial homeowners report regretting when buying their first home: Paying too high of an interest rate (22%) Not being educated about homebuying (21%) Buying a home in a neighborhood that changed too much (21%)How do I let go of my house emotionally? ›
Take photos of the property, revisit old memories with them, and reminisce about how you all loved living there. The process will hopefully aid in accepting your emotions throughout the home sale. It's natural to be anxious and stressed about moving.How do I get out of being house poor? ›
- Increase your income. A side hustle, a second job, a raise or passive income can help if you're struggling to afford your mortgage. ...
- Cut back on spending. ...
- Consolidate debt. ...
- Cancel your private mortgage insurance. ...
- Mortgage forbearance. ...
- Refinance your mortgage. ...
- Sell and downsize.
We adapt to the good parts of home ownership — but not the bad. One strong reason why buying a home doesn't make us happier has to do with “hedonic adaptation,” which is the idea that after a good thing happens, we experience a momentary increase of positive feelings, but eventually “adapt” and return to a baseline.
Old homes have better-quality construction
Even the walls are likely different. In an older home they're probably built with plaster and lathe, making them structurally stronger than the drywall construction of modern homes. These older materials also provide a better sound barrier and insulation.
Buying a house after 60 is a big financial decision that could impact the remainder of your retirement. Thanks to the Equal Credit Opportunity Act, there is no age limit to taking out a mortgage. As long as you can meet the financial requirements, you're allowed to take out a loan at any time.How does age affect home value? ›
Age and condition
Typically, homes that are newer appraise at a higher value. The fact that critical parts of the house, like plumbing, electrical, the roof, and appliances are newer and therefore less likely to break down, can generate savings for a buyer.
What was the hardest part of buying a home for you?
|Most difficult step of buying a home||Percent of respondents|
|Understanding the process and steps||13%|
Sometimes the hardest part about buying a home isn't finding it, it's getting it. That means there are too few homes and too many people needing a place to live. That means there are more buyers than sellers. That gives sellers the advantage, meaning it's a Seller's Market.What is meant by the 20% down rule? ›
Buyers traditionally put 20% down to lower their interest rate and skirt insurance. The 20% figure comes from the minimum payment most lenders require to avoid paying private mortgage insurance, an extra monthly payment that can cost 0.2% to 2% of the loan's principal balance.