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House hunting is an exciting but stressful process, especially for young people trying to afford their first home. To save money and make a home their own, many first-time buyers look for fixer-upper properties that have a little wear-and-tear. Properties that need renovations are often posted at discounted prices, which brings in buyers with limited budgets.

Sometimes, a little DIY know-how and creativity can mend problems quickly and save buyers thousands. However, other problems are much more serious and costly.

It can be hard to know the difference between a quick fix and a big, expensive problem. Use this guide to sort the ugly from the seriously bad problems when house shopping to avoid headaches and big expenses during future renovations.

1. Poor Maintenance

When you first take a glance at a home, don’t be distracted by colorful decorations or charming landscaping. Instead, pay attention to how the structure of the property was maintained. Are the windows clean and in good condition? Doe the roof look faded and patchy? Don’t hesitate to inquire about the previous owner’s maintenance habits. Come armed with knowledge of proper home care, and ask direct questions like whether the roof has been inspected once or twice a year, or if the windows have been replaced in the last decade. If you get the sense that the home has been neglected, you might find even worse problems during your own repairs, so proceed with caution.

2. Foundation Problems

Take note of the foundation’s appearance from the outside of the home. If possible, ask to see the property’s basement. Look for signs of foundation damage, like big cracks in the floors or bowed walls. Foundation problems are rarely easy to fix, and will add significant costs to your renovation budget.

3. Patches of Fresh Paint

A fresh coat of paint can be a good or a bad sign. Ideally, the homeowner wanted to freshen up the property for sale, and is looking to impress buyers with on-trend colors and styles. However, beware of a single wall that has been freshly painted– the paint could be an attempt to hide mold or stains from moisture. It’s better to add fresh paint yourself than to have to fix a property with leaking walls or a mildew problem.

4. The Neighborhood is Empty

HGTV warns that if a home is one of many for sale on a street, there may be something wrong with the area. Be sure to do a little research about why so many people are abandoning a location, since no matter how much you spend on fixing a house, you can’t pick it up and move it to a new town!

Many buyers (34%) want to avoid renovations and problems with plumbing or electricity when purchasing a new property. However, it is important to know the difference between major issues and quick fixes. Use this guide to determine when to work with an issue, and when to walk away.