What you need to know before buying a house in need of major work

Have you found your dream house—but it’s in a nightmare state? Or do you want to renovate a house so that it looks and functions exactly the way you want?

Rehabbing a fixer-upper can be a rewarding, even cost-effective way to attain the house of your dreams. But before you buy, remember these tips to make the project less stressful—and save time and money.

Hire an inspector. Some buyers assume they don’t need an inspection if they’re going to do a lot of demolition. But an inspection can ultimately save you money, says Halpin’s Flooring America contract sales consultant James Johnson, especially if you spot something like a cracked foundation that will let in moisture and buckle your new floors. A new insurance policy on the property may require an inspection anyway, says Kevin Dinkel, a Baton Rouge inspector.

Don’t let emotions take charge. Dinkel says he’s seen buyers end up with money pits because they have their heart set on a house that’s more work than they can handle. Buyers may reason, “This is my childhood neighborhood” or “I can just see us sitting on the front porch”—when in reality they’ve chosen a house that doesn’t meet their needs.

Don’t use home-renovation shows as a guide. They can misrepresent time and cost outlays. They also don’t show common worst-case scenarios.

Determine the value that your neighborhood can support. You don’t want to put more money into your house than you can resell it for. Note sale prices of comparable homes in your neighborhood.

Get firm quotes. Whether you plan to do the work yourself or hire a professional to handle it, you will want to have a clear idea of how much money you’ll be spending.

Plan to spend more time and money than you think you will need. Add 10 to 15 percent to your quotes, Dinkel says. “It’s always going to cost more and take longer.”

Consult a professional for specialized work. Electrical or plumbing work may require permits and inspections. A professional can ensure your house meets construction codes.

Consider comfort in your choices. Some types of floors are noisier than others. Ceramic floors can keep your house cooler in summer but are harder to warm up in the winter, Johnson says.

Flooring is easy to install, but costs can vary. For instance, the price of flooring in a slab home may be different than in a house of the same size on piers. Seek expert advice.

Opt for a quick refresh instead of an overhaul. In a newer house where appliances are already well positioned, your kitchen might only need a “facelift,” says Richard Ourso of Ourso Designs. For quick impact, you might redo the counters, backsplash and floors. New cabinets alone may cost around $15,000, so decide if you can do without.

The finished product: Check out Baton Rouge before and after renovations scaling from minor to major.