What to Look for When Buying a Cheap House

For almost anything that you buy, the rule “You get what you pay for” applies. Although there are some items which are okay to buy cheap, there are other things which are worth every cent, especially if the quality matches the price.

What about when it comes to buying homes? If you’re not having a house built from the ground up, your option would be to purchase an already existing house. If you have a limited budget, then a cheap house is what you’re looking for.

The good news is that your dream house does not have to turn into your worst nightmare just because of limited funds. By knowing exactly what to look for when buying a house, you can make sure that you won’t have to spend a lot of money on repairs. Here, we will take a look at the top ten factors that you should consider when buying a cheap house.

Top 10 Factors to Consider when Buying a Cheap House

If you must buy a cheap house, here are the things to take into consideration to ensure that you will not be spending more on repairs or renovations in the long run:

1. The structural integrity of the house as a whole

When buying a cheap house, the number one thing that you need to consider is the overall structural integrity of the house. Keep in mind that there’s no such thing as “just” a bathroom or a kitchen remodel.

If the seller claims that all the house needs is some work on the bathroom, there’s definitely more to it than that. Again, your goal is to not spend any more than you have to on repairs and remodelling. If you do that, there’s no sense in having bought a cheap house – you should have simply invested in a brand new house.

To give you an idea about how to check on structural integrity of the house, here’s a quick checklist:

  • Are the ridges of the roof not bowing and are the eaves not sagging?
  • Can the windows be easily opened?
  • Do the doors open and close easily?
  • Do the floors have significant bowing?
  • Is there bowing between the siding and the basement walls?
  • Is the chimney separating from the walls?
  • Are there large cracks in the foundation walls and plaster?

If you answered yes to most of these questions, there could be significant issues about the structural integrity of the house that may lead you to spend more on repairs later on. It pays to seek the help of a professional or someone who is knowledgeable about building or construction, so that you can have a second opinion of how sound the structure still is. 

2. The electrical system

Next, when buying a cheap house, see to it that the electrical system is still good. An electrical contractor who has experience in residential construction can help assess if there are any electrical hazards in the cheap house you are planning to buy.

Let’s say that new wiring was added on the house during a remodelling project. There should have been permits issued and a final inspection should have been conducted. Check out public records to this effect. If you see new-looking electrical panels, there should be a label indicating when it was installed.

A knowledgeable electrician can also check if the grounding system is intact, or if ground rods were installed to replace the grounding electrode water pipe.

As a potential buyer, there are things that are simple enough which you can check on for yourself. For instance, make sure that all the junction boxes have covers or that the existing lighting fixtures have the correct wattage.

Higher wattage lamps than what a fixture is rated can be a fire hazard. Is the existing electrical wiring around the house neat, or does it look disorganized? If you have any concerns, it is best to consult a licensed electrician.

Always Check The Electrical System!

3. The water filtration system

You should also check on the water filtration system. The newly-installed ones should have no problems in giving your family healthy, clean water to drink. If the water filtration system is old or non-existent, think about having it replaced.

4. The air conditioning units

During the hottest months of the year, you need air conditioning units to cool the interior of your house. Before buying a cheap house, make sure that the AC is still in good operating condition. Otherwise, you might have to replace the existing units to save on electricity and make the cooling system more efficient.

5. The heating system

Most old homes are heated using oil and if the house you’re buying falls under this category, you do not necessary have to convert from oil to gas. Doing so will be very costly, and is a very big project to undertake.

Consult a professional what the best solution would be if it turns out that the heating system in the cheap house you’re buying turns out to be inadequate, or defective.

6. The condition of the walls and floors

What kind of material was used to finish the walls? If it’s hardwood, for example, all that it might need is a good sanding and refinishing.

For the walls, make sure that under the paint, there are no layers of wallpaper. If paint is layered over wallpaper and paint again, it might take you months before you see the condition of the actual walls. If all the wall needs is a fresh coat of paint, then you’re good to go. 

7. The storm windows and screens

You should also check on the condition of the windows. You’re lucky if the windows installed are relatively new. For this, all you have to do is add weather-stripping to make them winter-proof.

8. The overall insulation

Insulation is what keeps homes warm in the winter and cool in the summer. If the cheap house you are buying has old plaster walls, it is highly likely that there is very little or no insulation at all. If this is the case, hiring a contractor to insulate the house for you may cost you money – but the savings that you will enjoy from heating and cooling bills will be well worth the investment in the end.

9. The plumbing system

If you plan to add bathrooms or kitchens to the house in the future, check on the existing plumbing system. If you w ant, you can hire a professional to check the sewer line into the street. This is a preventative measure that you can take to prevent any messy sewage-related projects in the future. If the sewer is problem-free, check on the plumbing system inside the home.

Check on the water supply which comes into the house. If the pipe is galvanized steel, that’s a very old plumbing material which needs to be replaced immediately. Copper or plastic is a better bet, because it is relatively new.

You should also check if the pipes are of the right size, inspect the inside drain lines, check on the size of the pip on the main water supply, and test the water pressure by turning on all faucets at the same time.

And Don’t Forget About The Plumbing!

10. The condition of the roof

More importantly, check on the condition of the roof. This is one of the most expensive parts of a house to replace. You don’t want to spend the next winter season dealing with holes on the roof and having to spend than you actually have to on heating bills.

If you are trying to buy a cheap house which has mold or moisture on the roof, it’s better to let it go and look for a new one. These are very dire, expensive house problems to deal with. If the condition of the roof is still good, then you are in luck because you don’t have to spend anything on having it repaired.

Other Things to Look for

When buying a cheap house, there are other things that you need to take into consideration. How many years do you anticipate living in the cheap house that you are planning to buy?  If it’s longer than five years, you would not want to purchase a residential unit with extreme problems because it would end up being costlier in the long run.

If you’re considering remodeling the cheap house, are you doing it for resale purposes or to suit your own living habits? If you stumble upon a cheap house with ornate, intricate details, these might need to be restored to retain the character of the house – something which might be costly in the end.

When buying a cheap house, knowing which factors to consider before finalizing the sale will help you out a lot. You don’t want the house to be a burden in terms of repair and remodeling costs, so make sure that it still has that structural integrity to be able to handle being lived in for the next few years.

If not, then you might be better off waiting until you have the necessary funds to buy a slightly more expensive house, but will not give you the headaches associated with a cheap house which has a lot of structural problems.

Oana Schneider: Oana Schneider is a published author located in Chicago, Illinois, who currently works for DontPayFull.com as a communication specialist and blog editor. She writes about lifestyle, family budget, has a degree in Communications and advocates for women’s rights. Her future plans include getting a Labrador and losing a few pounds.

View Comments

  • I agree with you that it is best to consult a professional electrical contractor if you have any qualms about your present system. With something as dangerous as electrical shock, it is not worth it to take any chances and do it yourself. Plus, if you had a professional opinion, you could be sure what condition the electrical system is in.

  • I definitely agree that checking the condition of the roof of any house is important. There's no point in buying a cheap house if you spend all the money you "saved" to pay for roof repairs. Making sure that the roof is sealed, in good repair, and mold-free will help you avoid expensive repairs for at least a few years. Thanks for the article.

    • If you're looking to improve the look of your home without the painting, vinyl siding is a popular, affordable choice. Many homeowners and builders choose it because it's long lasting, durable, inexpensive and relatively easy to install and maintain. Vinyl comes in a variety of grains, thickness and colors making it also a practical choice for many homeowners.

  • Having an electrician look over your new home to ensure there are no hazards, I would agree is important. Electrical wiring being pretty complex seems like it would best be taken care of in the hands of a professional. I like your tip about making sure that your electrician is licensed.

  • Looking at the electrical system is a great tip, one that I think a lot of people overlook when buying a house. Hiring an electrician to check out the system is definitely worth it, to avoid future problems. Finding the right house really takes a lot of different factors, so thanks for the good advice!

  • Regular maintenance ensures that the plumbers can detect issues sooner and extend the lifespan of your plumbing system.

  • Hii,

    Nice post. I totally agree with you. In my opinion inspector check is the best way to make your home secure. An inspector checks the safety of your potential new home.Generally, an inspector checks the electrical system, plumbing and waste disposal, the water heater, insulation and Ventilation, the HVAC system, water source and quality, the potential presence of pests, the foundation, doors, windows, ceilings, walls, floors, and roof.It's a good idea to have an inspection before you sign a written offer.

    Regards,
    Robert Gill

  • These are great things to look at when buying any house. Checking the electrical either yourself or with a registered technician is very important to make sure it is safe. Thanks for putting this together.

  • Professional plumbers will also save you money by offering you advice on the latest high quality, energy-efficient, money-saving products in the market, that come with a guarantee of both service and maintenance.

  • Some plumbing problems occur because of improper materials and construction. Better to consult real plumbers on the planning.

  • All great points! its important to buy the house in top condition otherwise euphoria of buying it cheap would evaporate soon once the reality will start to sink in. There is one more factor, neighborhood, in the more affluent places, prices of the houses will be high. So always opt for neighborhoods with houses with in your budget.