Sell As Is - What it really means...

One of the most common euphemisms in real estate lingo is the term ‘sell as is.’ It is commonly used to indicate several warning flags about a house that is for sale:

  • The house for sale needs updating, at the very least, and more likely, major repairs.
  • Deferred maintenance may signal hidden problems that will be uncovered only upon inspection. For example, leaky plumbing can rot floor joists, so an outdated bathroom may well need more than a new sink and toilet; it might need to be rebuilt from the floor up.
  • For whatever reason, the seller is not interested in upgrading the house in advance of its sale and the asking price already reflects the deteriorated condition of the house.

Is a house for sale ‘as is’ a bargain?

That depends on your intentions.

Do you want to perform the essential fixes and then resell, or flip, the house, for a quick profit? If so, you must get a thorough inspection before closing the sale.

If you discover after the fact that the problems are worse than you thought, the fact that the house was listed for sale ‘as is’ means you cannot retroactively get money for repairs. The seller told you the house was for sale ‘as is,’ so you are on your own. Hidden problems often translate to costly repairs, and that means you might not be able to make money on the resale.

You might find a vintage house with characteristics that outweigh the flaws that make it a ‘sale as is,’ and think that this is a great opportunity to polish a diamond in the rough for your own home.

If so, you must carefully scope out the cost of the repairs and improvements against the expected increase in value. Use the ForSaleByOwner.com pricing guide to estimate the change in home values in that neighborhood so you can see if you are likely to recoup the investment of time, money and effort reviving a house for sale ‘as is.’

Whether you are buy an ‘as is’ house for profit or as a personal project, protect yourself by getting a thorough inspection.

  • Have a top-ranked home inspector comb the house for structural, electric, plumbing and heating problems
  • Ask the municipal building inspector to look over the house for illegal improvements that could invoke costly fines if discovered during subsequent home improvement projects.
  • Have your title insurer scour public records for past-due tax and contractors’ bills that might be lurking in the legal system. If you buy the house, you get those bills with it.
  • Get estimates from top-ranked contractors to verify your assumptions about how much it will cost to boost the house from ‘for sale as is’ to showcase.

You can view all types of houses, including those being sold "as is" on ForSaleByOwner.com.

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