How to Sell a Fire-Damaged House for More Cash
Nobody wants to be awoken by the sound of a smoke detector going off. A house fire is one of the most dangerous things that can happen to your house. It’s especially devastating if you were hoping to sell your home soon and are now concerned about the difficulties of selling a house with fire damage.
No matter how bleak the situation might seem, there is still a way to sell the property.
When selling a fire-damaged home, homeowners can choose to sell their home “as-is” to a cash buyer, or they can focus on restoring their home to its previous condition and selling it to a traditional buyer through an experienced real estate agent.
Immediate Action Following a House Fire
It’s natural to feel overwhelmed, emotionally drained and worried about the financial consequences of a house fire. However, there are critical steps you must take immediately following a house fire.
Ready.gov has a comprehensive guide about home fires, and they recommend contacting the Red Cross or your local disaster relief service if you need temporary housing, food, or medication. They can also assist with mental health support and document recovery for financial recovery.
After contacting a disaster relief organization, you’ll need to:
- Enter the house only after the fire department has confirmed that it is safe to do so.
- Notify utility companies of the fire and request an emergency shut-off service.
- To begin the claims process, contact your homeowner’s insurance company.
- Hire a fire restoration contractor to assess the damage, provide estimates, and begin the cleanup process.
- Photographs and detailed notes should be used to document the damage.
- For the insurance claim, obtain an official report from the fire marshal or fire investigator.
- After getting the all-clear, open all of the windows in the house to let the smoke out.
Next, you must decide whether you will sell your home as-is or you will make repairs.
Choosing the Right Approach to Sell
If you want to sell your home after a fire, you have two choices: sell it as is or repair the home.
Of course, in many cases, selling as-is is the easier option. You won’t have to deal with hiring contractors, managing the process, relocating, or living through it if it’s your primary residence. Most real estate agents, however, agree that the convenience of not doing the work will cost you in terms of the selling price.
Repairing the house increases its marketability. The average consumer is intimidated by the prospect of remodeling. Because some investors avoid fire-damaged homes, the buyer pool is very small.
Furthermore, buyers will expect a significant discount if they purchase a fire-damaged property. Making the repairs yourself, on the other hand, may result in a 100% or higher return on investment.
Normally, things like painting, cleaning, and curb appeal are relatively inexpensive. My rule of thumb is that spending 1% to 2% of the home’s value correctly will net you at least that much more upon sale. Not to mention that it will help you sell the property faster and save you holding costs.
You should have the fire-damaged house repaired for the best return on investment. There are many damaged properties on the market as a result of so many distressed sales and foreclosures, and they are heavily discounted in order to sell.
5 Steps to Selling a Fire-Damaged House
If you’re not in a hurry to sell your home and want to hire a real estate agent, you should follow these five steps to selling a house with fire damage.
1. Return the house to its original state.
Restoring your home to its original condition can be costly. Repairing fire and smoke damage can be extremely expensive with the national average being just under $20,000 for a total repair. Larger fires that destroy a kitchen or cause significant roof damage can cost more than $50,000 to repair.
Keep in mind that these costs will be determined by several factors, including:
- The severity of the fire damage
- Water cleanup
- Cleaning up after using fire extinguishers
- Soot removal
- Smoke damage
You must first contact your insurance adjuster or representative before doing any work on your home. They will go over your policy with you and explain what is covered as well as how much you will have to pay out of pocket.
With a few exceptions, such as arson and a negligently maintained structure, most insurance policies cover fire damage. Insurance may also cover lodging expenses while you repair your home, as well as any damage caused by the fire to your neighbors.
2. Inform potential buyers of any previous fire damage.
It’s not uncommon for homeowners to ask, “Do you have to disclose a fire when selling a house?” after repairing their home and everything looks great. The house has been repaired, there is no longer any damage, and it no longer smells like smoke. You will almost certainly need to disclose the fire in order to comply with your state’s disclosure laws.
The majority of people will discover or become aware that the house has been set on fire. So the only way to alleviate that and sell that home for a fair market value is to be extremely extensive with the details and what you did to put that home back together.
3. Maintain detailed restoration records.
When repairing fire damage to your home, you must keep detailed records of all work done.
A buyer will examine the property under a microscope. So you just have to be ready for that, even more than your standard inspection and purchase. Dot your “i’s and cross your t’s” in terms of documenting everything done to bring that house back up to speed, right down to photos and paid invoices.
4. Do not withhold information from potential buyers.
You should be honest when selling a fire-damaged home, including how the fire started.
People will ask, out of curiosity. Based on that, they make their decision. If it’s a standard kitchen fire, electrical fire, or vent hood, it goes right back to the documentation showing them that, “This is what happened, and this is what we’ve done to make sure it doesn’t happen again,” report experts.
5. Have patience!
Selling a fire-damaged home can be difficult. Potential buyers will almost certainly have a lot of questions and will want to go over every repair that was done as a result of the fire. They may also ask for specialized inspections such as:
If the fire started in the chimney or fireplace, a chimney inspection is required.
If the fire was caused by an electrical problem, an electrical inspection will be performed.
A roof inspection to ensure that the fire did not cause any damage to the roof.
An HVAC inspection if the fire was caused by a faulty heater, inadequate ventilation, or other factors.
You don’t want to become obsessed with “I have to sell this house in 20 days.” Instead, let’s talk about getting from point A to point B and everything in between, and making a plan for each. That will greatly simplify your processes. If you do all of those things correctly, you will receive a fair market value for your home.