Buying or Selling a Home/repair priority


My mother owns a 120 y/o home in central PA.  The house is approx. 4,200sf of living space with a full basement and 2 car garage on 14 acres.  The house has fallen into disrepair since my parents divorce.  The porch roofs need recoating, the chimney needs repair, the garage roof needs to be rebuilt and roofed, the interior needs cosmetic repairs.  The windows are original.  The heat is an oil fired furnace steam radiator system.  The electric wiring is the old knob and tube(?) but wired into a modern breaker panel box.  The kitchen was redone back in the 80's.  The main bathroom on floor 2 to be completely redone.  She only owes about $70K on it.  I can do a great deal of the carpentry and general repair work myself as I have those skills, but I only intend to stay here for about a year and a half.  My question is what are the areas that should be focused on to get the best selling price?  Should I focus on fixing what is broken (the more labor intensive work) and just repair the existing windows and leave heating and electric alone or would it be wiser to borrow against the house and complete the system upgrades as well?
Money is definately an issue.  Time is definately an issue.  
Thanks for taking the time to respond.

Hey, Jim.

If you try to sell the house with knob & tube wiring, buyers are going to balk. You can price it right and take that into consideration, perhaps even going so far as to get three quotes on rewiring the house. Getting rid of the K&T would be my first priority.

After that, the roof would be my major concern.

Considering how you Pennsylvania people (and I have lots of friends there, most of them in Pittsburgh and Philadelphia) love your fireplaces, that would probably be concern #3 on my list. Fireplaces add more value in the north than they do here in San Diego.

I'd probably leave the windows alone. I'm presuming they probably are wooden single-hung windows and that probably some of them don't work anymore. There are companies that specialize in repairing old wooden single-hung windows, so if you have any in the bedrooms that are preventing the window from being used as an emergency exit, I'd see about having those repaired.

The windows could be a hit or miss thing with buyers. Someone buying a 120-year-old home might appreciate the original windows, but then someone else might want modern multi-pane windows to help with heating and cooling. Perhaps get three quotes for replacing the windows and work with your Realtor in pricing the home with and without window replacement.

Oil furnaces and steam radiators are common up there, so I probably wouldn't do anything about that.

Hope that help. Good luck with everything, Jim.


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Russel Ray


Through home inspections, I provide an education about real estate. I'm one of those rare home inspectors who has been involved in real estate in many different capacities: as a Realtor (in Texas), as a property investor/flipper, as a teacher, and as a marketing expert (for Realtors and home inspectors). I believe that my experience as a Realtor and property investor provides me with a different viewpoint about home inspections in that I work for my Clients, but when there are other people involved in helping my Clients, then I firmly believe in helping them, too. That includes Realtors (both the seller's and the buyer's), repair professionals (e.g., plumbers, electricians, etc.). If I can get all the players (seller, seller's Realtor, buyer, buyer's Realtor, and repair professionals) playing in the same sandbox together to accomplish goals as a TEAM (Together Everyone Accomplishes More), then I believe I have succeeded in my job as a home inspector. My profession is, in my opinion, much more than simply documenting the condition of a property and then take the money and run. I am also a rare breed in that I don't believe that one inspection fits the needs of all Clients, and I have led the industry in understanding that fact. For example, the goals of a property investor are far different than the goals of someone buying a property to live in. The goals of a seller (a pre-listing inspection) are far different than the goals of a buyer (a pre-purchase inspection). To that end, I offer 14 different types of inspections, e.g., STANDARD, LIST, RENTER, BASIC, MAINTENANCE, SPOT, and more. I believe in giving the benefit of the doubt to all professionals in whatever industry they represent until they prove me wrong.


Over 42 years in all aspects of real estate--building homes, renovating homes, inspecting homes, Realtor.

National Association of Certified Home Inspector, Better Business Bureau of San Diego

Graduate of Texas A&M University; College Station, Texas

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