In August 2005, for example, the
Houston Airport System put up an entire neighborhood of homes for
sale at $1 each. The airport had purchased the homes from their
owners in preparation for an expansion project and planned to sell
the homes to the general public but later scrapped the idea after
vandals destroyed the homes, making them unfit to sell, says Anissa
Veal, senior project manager at W.D. Schock and Co.
Homes also come up for sale at
bargain prices when cities or neighborhood redevelopment groups
begin improving urban areas that have been neglected. "When
these groups offer houses for sale, they're often not in horrendous
shape," says Hinson. "The organization simply offers the
houses at great prices as an incentive to bring in new owners."
However, many other homes are what Hinson calls "project
homes." Often listed at bargain prices of $1,000 to $35,000,
these structures stay on their current sites but usually need extensive
renovation. Interested buyers can search specifically for these
deals by selecting "project homes" as a search option
on HistoricProperties.com's "Find a Home" page. Buyers
can -- and should -- make their purchase of the home contingent
upon the findings of an independent home inspection. "It's
fine to buy a home 'as is,' but you still need to know what is,"
says Realtor Rick Harris of Coldwell Banker ProWest Realty in Ashland,
Ore. "In other words, you should always know what kind of potential
problems you're buying."
A few dollars more
In most cases, bargain and "dollar" homes will require
extra cash infusions. However, you can still end up with a good
deal if you shop like a savvy consumer and work with an experienced
real estate agent who can help you ask the right questions about
the property, advises Harris.
Some questions to consider:
- How much work are you willing
to do yourself? Renovating a fixer-upper can be a huge
job. If you don't have the time or skills to do the work, spiffing
up the house could get pricey. Be sure you have plenty of cash
- Does the home have environmental
problems that must be fixed? Examples include asbestos
or lead paint. Get general estimates for fixing these problems
before you bid on the home. They may be more costly than you think.
If you decide to go ahead with the purchase, your real estate
agent or lender may be able to help you obtain special financing
for the repairs.
- Does the home have valuable
historic details? Older homes often are blessed with elements
such as glass doorknobs and built-in cabinetry. Many of these
items would be expensive to buy or build new and can make the
bargain home worth its weight in gold -- even after you pay for
- If you plan to move the home,
is a lot immediately available in your price range? Depending
on the situation, a seller who wants you to move a home may give
you a deadline of 90 days or fewer. Be ready to move quickly.
Also, remember that some prime lots might be as expensive as an
entire home, so your cheapie home may quickly become more expensive
than you anticipated.
- How easy is the house to
move? Structural moving companies can give you great advice.
Depending on your area of the country, moving a basic home can
cost anywhere from $10,000 to $25,000, says Christy Settle, vice
president and part owner of Northwest Structural Movers. Taller
homes cost more. "Houses that are more than one story will
carry additional costs of up to $10,000 for wire moves,"
she says. "We actually have to get utility companies to move
power lines and traffic lights so the house and flat-bed moving
truck that's carrying it can fit down the roads."
Settle says older homes are easier to move than new
construction, because historic homes were so solidly built. Expect
to pay a little extra to secure brick chimneys or facing. Don't
even consider relocating a brick house; it won't survive the move.