Prepare for repairs when purchasing distressed properties

by Dan Krell (c) 2009.

So you decided to buy a foreclosure! You’re excited and made arrangements for renovations to begin the day after settlement. But wait; there is an unexpected glitch- your lender is requiring the mold in the basement to be remediated before closing. Home buyers’ lenders requiring repairs to be made prior to settlement is a common scenario of buying a foreclosure or short sale.

Besides imposing qualifications for borrowers, lenders also impose minimal property standards for the homes being financed! Among the many types of items that lenders may require you to repair prior to closing include (but not limited to): mold, termite damage, faulty plumbing, or roofing issues. For FHA mortgages, the minimal property guidelines were notoriously strict in the past; the seller could almost expect a laundry list of seemingly nitpicky repairs from the FHA appraiser. However, recent changes to FHA allow more discernment from the appraiser.

It seems to be somewhat of a paradoxical situation: you’re buying the home as-is, but your lender is requiring you to make repairs to the home prior to settlement. If the home is a short sale you could ask the seller to make the repairs, but then again many home owners selling their home by a short sale don’t have the funds to make their mortgage payment let alone the resources to make any repairs. If the home is a foreclosure, the rule of thumb is that banks do not make repairs to their foreclosed homes. Even though the seller won’t make repairs, you still have a couple of options to save your transaction.

Since you decided that the home you are purchasing is such a bargain, you figure that you might do the repairs yourself. However, not all home sellers will allow you to make repairs prior to settlement because of their liability (such as in a foreclosure transaction where repairs are typically not allowed prior to settlement).

If the repairs are beyond your capabilities, funds are limited, or the seller will not allow you to make repairs, you might think that your deal is dead. However, one of the little known secrets to purchasing distressed properties is the FHA 203k mortgage ( The FHA 203k is similar to a typical FHA mortgage, but the difference is that the loan will finance the repairs and renovations to the home.

The FHA 203k mortgage is not provided by all FHA lenders. Since the FHA 203k has requirements that are above and beyond a typical mortgage, it is highly recommended that you seek assistance from a qualified FHA 203k lender. You can find local FHA 203k lenders at

Another option that was common in the past is to escrow repair funds. If the buyer’s lender allows, the buyer can place the repair funds in escrow at settlement with the intention to make repairs after closing. However, as underwriting guidelines and practices have become more stringent most lenders will no longer allow for escrowed repair funds.

Buying a distressed property is a great way to get a bargain, but the transaction does not always follow the “typical” home buying process. If you are buying a distressed home, it is a good idea to plan for all contingencies including unexpected repairs by consulting with qualified professionals.

This article is not intended to provide nor should it be relied upon for legal and financial advice. This article was originally published in the Montgomery County Sentinel the week of April 20, 2009. Copyright © 2009 Dan Krell

2 Replies to “Prepare for repairs when purchasing distressed properties”

  1. By knowing your local real estate investing market, you’re able to keep your finger on the pulse of your local community and to stay abreast of changes in trends, sales prices and rental rates. Knowing immediately about these changes is critical to your investing future.

  2. True. But many home buyers looking at distressed properties these days are not investors; many are first time homebuyers! It’s important for you to do your homework on any home purchase, for those who are not aware of the market and trends- contact a Realtor!

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