Fixer Upper Houses
Unique Tips for Buying a Home

If you are looking for fixer upper houses, I have a trade secret for you! Do you know how to determine the approximate age of houses? It may be as easy as using the lowly toilet!

Using the toilet? Ummm... let me clarify!

How to Determine the Age of Houses

Next time you are previewing fixer uppers with your Realtor, excuse yourself to the bathroom, remove the toilet tank lid and flip it over.

Assuming you are looking at the original commode, an imprinted date stamp should reveal the approximate year the house was built.

Here are more tips for figuring out the age of an old home. Sometimes you need alternate methods for fixer upper houses because after 20 years, you can assume the toilet has been replaced.

So I asked real estate agents for their favorite way to determine the age of houses. Here's what they told me...

Realtors determine the age of fixer upper houses by comparing:

  • Preliminary Title Reports
  • Multiple Listing Services
  • Licensed Appraisers
  • Real Estate Inspectors
  • Property Tax Records
  • Contractor's Charcoal
  • Court House Retrieval Systems
  • Water Heater Serial No.
  • HVAC Serial No.
  • AC Unit Serial No.
  • Roofing Ridge Vents vs. Turbines

Contractors have been known in certain regions to leave behind a charcoal scribble of year built behind plaster. Please don't even think about pulling down walls to search for the smudged date!

Unique Home Buying Information

Now that you know the secret about toilets and fixer upper houses, go to Mortgage for 38 Acres because rural properties need special consideration.

Ask Kate about Refinancing a Mortgage on a Rehabbed Property

By Lisa C. from Medford, Massachusetts


I have a property in Chicago IL that I have completely rehabbed. I have a non-conventional mortgage and I live out of state. I have decided to hold onto the property under my company.

I have spoken to a bank and they won't refinance for my company, a new company that has not seen revenue yet. What do you advise?

Ask Kate answers: Refinancing a Mortgage on a Rehabbed Property

Dear Lisa,

Refinancing a non-owner occupied home is often a challenge. But in addition, your company is without profit and holds the title to the property.

So getting a mortgage that requires you to supply tax returns or state your self-employed income is probably out of the question. On the flip side, there are few no doc loans right now. This means financing the home is likely going to be difficult. Even so, here are my suggestions.

Is the bank's resistance because the property is held in your company? Ask if they would refinance the rehabbed property if it were not held in your company. Then at least you would know your options.

Or is it a matter of too little income? If so, your choices would be to wait until the business brings in revenue or back-burner the business and get a salaried job.

Of course, neither of these plans would necessarily result in an immediate refinance. Even the second option could involve a waiting period because the lending institution may require for you to be an employee for a designated amount of time before funding the mortgage.

Best wishes for a successful refinance,


P.S. Here is information on no doc loans and other mortgages for the self-employed homeowner: Mortgages for Self-Employed Clearly Explained.

You Can Ask Kate

What if you could ask a mortgage insider about fixer upper houses? Now you can!

Ask Kate is specifically designed to answer your questions and create dialog regarding mortgage financing.

You'll also find a wealth of information at Kate's Best Mortgage Rate Blog packed with the latest additions to this website, interest rate updates, and a fresh approach to mortgage financing.

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