Ok, I understand the terms of this site and the specific questions, such as How much will it cost for me to renovate my kitchen? are off limits. I certainly understand why. Every project is different, in different geographical regions, which can be a big factor, and it is near-impossible to give good answers without first inspecting the space and the needs of the individual.

However, I think that a good and appropriate question to ask may be as follows:

I'm considering purchasing an old, vacant, run-down house. What are some general guidelines I should consider regarding whether it is worth renovating or rebuilding?

In other words, I am a not a contractor nor have I had any sub-contracting experience. I have no clue what may need to be done to extensively renovate an old house.

I know that no one could remotely give me a good idea on the cost of any particular home but I am sure that MANY of you could give good, general advice regarding big-ticket items to look for, as well as issues to look for that might appear significant to a nonexpert but aren't really difficult (or expensive) to repair and fix.

As someone who has no idea how much work or money it could take to fix up an old home, I'd like a little advice on discerning whether an old home just needs a lot of TLC, is one that might be fixable, but the repairs would be so extensive it would be cheaper to bulldoze the building and start from scratch.

Is this question appropriate?

2 Answers 2


I don't think the question is off topic if you phrase it correctly. It isn't, "How much will this cost to fix?" or "Is it worth fixing?"

Ask the question, "I am at point X, please tell me what I need to have fixed to get to point Y?"

This is a normal question here. A good answer will go through what needs to be fixed, the order, the pros/cons of doing certain things, and things like that. I personally answer quite a few of these and there are regulars that do too. Focus on the work that needs to be done.

As far pricing. I believe it should be on topic, however it isn't. So you can't go down that road. If I were answering a question and I had a good ballpark on pricing I usually try to include it as an extra. It isn't "my price" but it is a range of prices I have personally been charged.

As a side note: If you are looking at renovating a very dilapidated house - contractor prices will be all over the place. If you don't have a really good relationship with a contractor then I suggest that you try to run the cleanup/demo yourself - this isn't always feasible. You will want to pay an engineer, plumber, electrician, and so on. A lot of times though you can knock of 30-50% of the total bill making sure that when the trades hit your building they are doing framing/cleanup/punching holes/whatever.

  • Let me clarify a bit. My wife and I would like to move into a different home. In the small, rural town we live in, there are some old (80-100 year) homes. One in particular looks to have a pretty good set of "bones" and the asker wants $40,000 for it. Now, I know I'm already starting to move in the direction on discussions of money, and I would certainly leave those details out of the question. However, if there is a chance that we could by this home, spend 60-80,000 on it and make it a really nice home, we might prefer to do that rather than build a home from the ground up. (continued)
    – RLH
    Commented Apr 13, 2015 at 17:38
  • What I'd like to ask is a list of 10-15 things to observe, before even considering calling an inspector or architect. In other words, I just want to be able to make my own, good decisions before talking to anyone who would need to do the work. That cost time and money, and I'd rather not spend 200-300 on getting other people to tell me the issues I could see on my own, if someone gave just a little guidance.
    – RLH
    Commented Apr 13, 2015 at 17:40

I don't think this type of question fits well into the"short answer" format. Answers to these types of questions will tend to be broad, overly generalized, opinionated, and very localized.

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