Selling a Fire Damaged House
A house fire is one of the worst things one could experience as a homeowner. It is an incredibly traumatic event, but sadly not uncommon.
According to the National Fire Protection Association, a house fire occurs every 89 seconds. In 2020 alone, 490,500 fires were reported to fire departments across the nation. Fire damages amounted to a staggering $12.1 billionin the same year.
Also, while wildfires have hogged the headlines in recent years, only a very small portion caused house fires. As a matter of fact, less than 1% is caused by wildfires in 2021; fires were usually started by cooking-related accidents.
Understandably, things would feel bleak after a home fire, but this is not the time to mentally check out. There are so many questions following a house fire that it can be confusing to figure out what to do next. But once the fire has been put out, it’s important to act quickly and decisively to prevent further damage.
What Should You Do with the House after a Fire?
First of all, you must secure permission from the Fire Department before re-entering your fire-damaged home. It is dangerous to just go in and try to salvage whatever belongings that may have survived the fire as depending on the severity, the fire may have plenty of underlying damage to the structure itself.
Once the authorities has deemed it safe enough to do so, you must recover all important documents and other important belongings if possible.
Protect the property from both weather and vandalism. Depending on the severity of the fire damage, you may have to contact your utility providers to cut off electricity and water.
Afterwards, get in touch with your homeowner’s insurance company to be able to start the claims process and discuss your options going forward. They could assist in getting you set up in a temporary housing while you have your burned home inspected by the insurance company.
You would want the extent of the damage discovered and documented by the insurance adjuster.
Depending on their evaluation, the insurance company may be able to give you the replacement cost for your home. Other times, you may only get the actual cash value which is less than the replacement cost.
However, it should be noted that fire caused by wildfires may be eligible for assistance from FEMA in certain jurisdictions. It can be worthwhile to check if this applies to you.
The payout from the insurance company can then be used in the fire damage restoration if you wish. Hire qualified fire damage restoration contractors to properly clean up firefighting residue and water, remove soot, and eliminate the smoke odor.
Some restoration contractors offer renovation services as well, and they may be able to help you bring your house back to its former glory.
Repair Fire Damage or Sell the Burned House?
You have two choices regarding a fire damaged house: repair the fire damage yourself and restore your home as close to its original condition as possible, or sell the burned house as is.
Factors Affecting your Decision Regarding your Fire Damaged House
These are some questions you can ask yourself to help you decide:
- What is the extent of the damage caused by the fire?
- What caused the fire?
- How long would it take to get my home back to pre fire condition?
- How much would be the repair costs?
- Will I be able to afford the restoration and repair costs?
- What does my insurance company cover?
- Do I have an emotional attachment to my home?
Generally, if you have both time and money you can go ahead with repairing fire damage to your home. Otherwise, you’re better off selling the house as is.
Scenario 1: You decide to repair your fire damaged house
Repairing fire and smoke damage ranges between $2,8670 and $33,966 with the national average sitting at $17,598 for a full repair.
Since it is a costly endeavor, you must ensure that you get a competent and experienced fire damage restoration contractor that has plenty of experience rehabilitating fire damaged houses. You can work with your insurance agent as they may be able to refer you to someone who’ll be able to address your needs.
7 Steps in Repairing a House with Fire Damage
Conduct a thorough assessment by a qualified home inspector. Please note that this will be different from the inspection done by the insurance adjuster earlier.
Fires can cause a lot of underlying damage not readily visible. For instance, it can dry out the wooden beams rendering them weak. Fire can also cause cracks to appear in basement walls, exposing the steel within and affecting its structural integrity.
If your house has significant damage, you may need to hire different types of inspectors: structural, electrical, mechanical (HVAC), and plumbing.
Therefore, areas of inspection must include:
- Plumbing systems
- Electrical wirings
- Heating and ventilation systems – check for smoke residue inside the ductwork
- Gas lines – there could be a leak somewhere, which may start another fire
- Structural framing – this might entail opening up the wallboards and floorboards to check the possible structural damage on the floor joists and wall framing
- Windows – check the integrity of the window frames and probable warping and discoloration of the glass from the heat
- Appliances – check for water damage before using them even though they may look undamaged from the fire
- Paint – check for blisters and smoke damage
- Roof – rafters may have been weakened from the fire or otherwise retained water from the firefighting efforts
After the assessment, the restoration contractor will have an idea of the scope of work, timeline, and total cost. Keep in mind though, that renovation of a fire damaged home is very challenging, thus, there may be unforeseen repairs that may come up in the future.
However, if the inspectors deem that the damage is too severe that even major repairs cannot make your fire damaged home livable again, demolition may be your only recourse. You can then sell the property as a vacant lot to real estate investors who may be interested in holding it for the long-term or develop it eventually.
The contractor will then secure the property by installing fences and sealing off openings in the structure. Tarpaulins may be used to cover exposed parts of the roofing to prevent further water ingress and protect the structure from weather.
If some parts of the house were unaffected by the fire, even only a small portion, then it must be sealed off and isolated to prevent contamination and additional damage.
The next order of business is to remove the water from firefighting efforts in order to prevent the growth of mold and wood rot. Additionally, if chemical extinguishers were used, they can leave toxic residues, so these must be removed as well.
Once the structure has been dried out, intensive clean up will commence. All fire damaged drywall, flooring, ceiling, and other materials must be removed. Smoke and soot, which may pose a plethora of health problems, will be removed from every square inch of affected areas, particularly in ventilation systems.
Deodorizing agents will be used to completely get rid of the smoke odor, and if necessary, antimicrobial chemicals will be applied to sanitize and stop mold growth. Furniture, drapes, curtains, and clothing will also be cleaned and deodorized.
Depending on the fire damage, some parts of the structure may need to be rebuilt. Others may only entail the necessary repairs. Still some portions of the house may need to be retrofitted in order to restore it to its pre fire condition.
Even if you have scrubbed all traces of the fire damage from your home and your contractor did an outstanding job of restoring it to its former glory, it is still best to be transparent with your potential buyers about what happened.
Home buyers are likely to walk away from a deal if they found out that you had not been entirely honest with them–and they would always find out eventually. As long as your contractor did a wonderful job in the restoration and renovation, there shouldn’t be any future headaches for the new owners of your home.
Advantages of Repairing your Fire Damaged House
If you can afford the time and the financial investment (and depending on the amount of fire damage), the best course of action is to repair your fire damaged house before selling. This would help you get a higher asking price than if you leave it to the buyer to undertake the repairs themselves.
If you need to take out a loan to repair your fire damaged house, run the numbers to determine if the increase in asking price is a worthwhile investment. Make sure to account for not just repairs, but closing costs to ensure you will still be able to make a profit.
Scenario 2: You decide to sell your fire damaged home as is
If property damage is significant, the time and energy required to restore your house to serviceability may no longer be worth it. So you decide to put your home up for sale.
Selling fire damaged houses as is can be challenging. That’s not to say it is impossible. Here is what you can expect if you decide to go this route:
Challenges in Selling a Fire Damaged Home As Is
First, your buyer pool is significantly smaller. You’ll have to do some legwork in order to find experienced home buyers who are willing to take on a project with fire damage.
Second, you will have to compensate the buyer for the repairs that they need to do to your fire damaged home. This means some experienced home buyers will try to drive the selling price down significantly and you may not be able to get the fair market value of your property.
Lastly, it may be a turnoff for some home buyers since they may not be able to obtain a loan from a mortgage lender. Your best bet is finding buyer who is willing to pay cash.
Reasons to Sell a Fire Damaged House As Is
In spite of the possible challenges you may face in trying to sell your fire damaged home, you may still be left with no choice due to the following 6 reasons:
1. Financial Condition
Hiring a clean-up crew and a general contractor to repair the fire damage can be very expensive. Selling outright is the way to avoid these financial burdens.
2. Health Concerns
A house with fire damage can be unsafe for people with lung problems and the toxic residue from the conflagration can cause sickness.
3. Time Constraint
Restoration and renovation of a house is a long, drawn-out process which can take months. Selling a house with fire damage as is provides an easy way out of the hassle.
4. Location Risk
California, Texas, and Florida are wildfire-prone areas in the United States. The increasing number of wildfires due to the effects of climate change may drive you to move out of state instead of returning to your old home.
5. Emotional Distress & Trauma
A house fire is a devastating event in a person’s life. Even after a full restoration, some people are continually reminded of the trauma they have gone through. To protect your mental health, you may be better off disposing of the property to a cash buyer.
6. Desire to have a Clean Slate
You may want to just cash out and move on, leaving your highly unpleasant experience behind and starting your life elsewhere.
Advantages of Selling a Fire Damaged House As Is
There are motivated home buyers who buy damaged houses and fix them up for a living. This includes fire damaged houses, properties with code violations, mold issues, you name it. These houses are worth something to specific buyers who want to flip or rent them out to tenants after doing the necessary repairs.
Further, these house buyers are willing to pay cash, allowing you to settle your financial problems, put the fire behind you, and quickly move on with your life.
How Do You Go about Marketing and Selling Fire Damaged Property?
1. Determine the Severity of the House Fire
You must obtain an incident report from the fire department so that you can find out the extent of the damage and what caused it. Fire damaged homes are usually hard to sell unless the damage is minor.
2. Go the For Sale By Owner (FSBO) Route
If you go by this route to find the right buyer, you don’t need to deal with real estate agents or pay their commissions.
You will have full control over the selling process but that also means that marketing, negotiating, and closing the deal will be your responsibility. Expect your phone to blow up with inquiries from potential buyers with their cash offer.
You must be ready with all the details about your house and the fire accident since the cash home buyer will come and negotiate with you directly.
3. Find Real Estate Investors
Selling a fire damaged house to a real estate investor is the quickest way to sell it. They are used to finding diamonds in the rough in damaged properties and doesn’t mind the work required to get it.
Joining a real estate investor meetup in your area can be a great opportunity to network with them. Since selling a house yourself is an exhausting process, a real estate investor with a fair cash offer is your ticket out of this nightmare.
Tips for Selling a Fire Damaged House
Whether you go with scenario 1 or scenario 2 (as described above), here are 3 useful tips:
1. Disclosure is important
Selling a house, and real estate in general, is a business of trust. Informing the buyer what happened to the property and why it happened is of paramount importance. Do not withhold information from buyers since they are going to find out sooner or later anyway.
2. Document the restoration process
Keep track of everything that was done during the restoration. It would be useful to take photos and file all receipts and invoices so it can help you in determining your selling price later on if you decide to postpone the sale of your house.
3. Do not be impatient
It takes time, energy, and patience to sell a fire damaged house. Potential buyers will have a lot of questions with regards to anything involving your property. Sometimes they may request to bring in inspectors of their own. Accommodate them. Take them on a tour of your house (as long as it’s safe and possible to do so).
Do not be fixated on selling your house fast. Just trust the process and it will be alright.
Closing Thoughts: Selling a Fire Damaged House
Only you can decide how to go about finding a home buyer for your fire damaged house.
If you have the time and money, repairing and restoring your house first before putting it up for sale will get you the best price possible.
If you are in a hurry or lack the funds or time required to undertake the repairs, selling for cash to real estate investors is a great option.
Here at Sell My House Fast, we buy houses and other types of real estate in any condition and in any location across the United States!
Yes, including houses with fire damage!
We buy houses fast for cash and simplify the home selling process (especially for properties with significant work required). You don’t need to pay commissions to real estate agents!
We buy houses on your terms! You can choose the closing date, and we’ll even cover the closing costs for you!
Get started by filling out the form below. If you have any questions, call us at (844) 207-0788 and we’re happy to answer. 🙂
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Author: Andy Kolodgie
Andy Kolodgie is an experienced real estate investor with a network that expands nationwide. As owner of Sell My House Fast, Andy’s goal is to provide home sellers with more options to their real estate problems than a traditional home sale. He’s been featured on multiple publications including Yahoo Finance, MSN, HomeLight, Credit.com, Apartment Therapy, Business.com, LegalZoom, Zolo, and Creditcards.com.