Have you seen the 1986 comedy The Money Pit? Sure, it's a Hollywood version of what happens when you overcommit to fixing up an old house, but there is some grounding in reality. What might have seemed like a laborious (although straightforward enough) job quickly turns into some kind of renovations horror. If you are considering buying a fixer-upper with a view to turning it into your dream family home, you want to avoid the project turning into a money pit. This can be avoided by making sure that you choose the right older home to renovate. But how do you make that choice?

The Layout

You need to look at the home as it is, and then decide just what kind of alterations you wish to make. Pay careful attention to the load-bearing walls. If you are envisioning an open plan living space, you need to be certain that walls can in fact be removed to achieve this. Failure to do so means that you will be stuck with the home's current layout.

The Roof

A roofing specialist will need to cast their expert eye over the home's roof. What sort of state is it in? Can any issues be patched, or will an entirely new roof become necessary in the near future?

The Walls

Carefully inspect the walls. Is there any kind of noticeable buckling or even discolouration? This can indicate moisture or even serious structural deficiencies. You should also enquire about what is inside the walls. Is there any possibility that the home's wiring might be comprised of aluminium? This can be an issue, as older aluminium wiring is more prone to overheating than its nowadays more common copper counterpart. Rewiring the home will of course require a significant amount of effort (and expense).


Keep an eye out for any kind of rot that might be evident in the home's wooden trimmings. Do the window frames appear to be degrading? What about any wooden trimmings in the bathroom? This can point to some serious moisture issues, and in an older home the structure might not even be entirely weatherproof if moisture seems to be entering the home after wet weather.

These are just a few warning signs that should cause you to decide against a particular building. But even when you find a home that seems to tick all your boxes, it's a good idea to arrange a visit from a professional home inspector. After all, there might be something that you missed, and you don't want to be stuck with your very own money pit.