If you're looking for homes to repair and flip, you may come across some that have fire damage. If you're just going to gut the interior and replace everything anyway, you may figure that you might as well benefit from the awesome deal on a fire damaged home. But every situation is different, and you need to do some digging before you can determine if that house is really going to be a good investment or a major headache.
What shape are the wiring and pipes in?
When the fire damage is limited to one room or a small area, you can sometimes just remodel that one room. However, sometimes the damage to that one room may be more extensive than it appears. If the wiring or plumbing behind the walls was damaged, your renovations may have to include re-plumbing or re-wiring the whole home, and that can be quite costly.
Is there ongoing water damage to worry about?
Fire damage is not limited to materials having burned in the fire. There's often also water damage from the water used to put out the fire. If the home was not dried out properly after the fire, there could be mold growth behind the walls or in the basement. If you smell any musty smells when you enter the home, this is an almost sure sign of mold – and that you should move on to a different house. Mold is stubborn and expensive to clean up, especially when it has been allowed to perpetuate unchecked for a few months.
Are any materials warped?
Before an item actually catches on fire, it can warp and bend due to the heat. This is often true with floor materials, wallboard, doors, and windows. They may initially look fine, but upon closer inspection, you may find that they're warped. The structural integrity of a warped floor is usually compromised, and warped windows and doors are terribly inefficient. Having to replace these items through the home can make a repair project more expensive than you initially estimated.
What does a structural engineer say?
You can't always see fire or water damage to the main support beams or the foundation. To your untrained eye, the house may look fine – but there could be hidden cracks that compromise these structures. On the other hand, you might see some cracks in the foundation that you assume are bad news when they really don't undermine the structural integrity of the home at all. Always have a fire damaged home inspected by a structural engineer before you buy. This way, you can guarantee that it's at least safe, if nothing else. Contact a realtor for more information.