Do Small Towns have Building Inspectors? Fixer Upper

Chip and Joanna Gaines

Chip and Joanna are helping an old friend today who returns to Waco and hopes to find a family friendly fixer upper.  As they’re looking at homes in Woodway,  we find ourselves wondering…do small towns have building inspectors?

They’re searching for a four bedroom home with a large kitchen and a big backyard for two kids and two dogs.  Seems to be the norm!

Coming from Chicago, this family is exited to get back home to Waco. They have a healthy budget of $315k which, in Waco, should buy them a nice home. Joanna went to high school with the husband and Chip asked if there’s anything he needs to know about.  Even though Joanna was dressed really well that day, she said no.

Getting right to it, it’s ranch houses on parade and we start with a beat down brick ranch from the 50s.  We immediately start looking for hardwoods, closed off rooms, no insulation, old windows and maybe old utilities.  The good news is, these older ranches are easy to work on!\

The first home is in original condition and still in pretty good shape but it looks like there’s an addition.  We know that permitting can be a big issues with older additions, especially in larger metropolitan areas.

Chip and Joanna always seem to have good luck with their building inspectors.  Of all the Fixer Upper episodes we’ve watched, we can’t recall seeing permitting issues like you see on “Flip or Flop” or “Love It or List It”.  Part of this is due to the “small town” syndrome where people are accessible and you can actually discuss issues instead of submitting forms and hoping for the best.  But we’re left wondering….

Building Inspections in Small Town America

The answer to this question is…probably.  But it is safe to say that much of small town America probably didn’t enforce building codes or keep records prior to 1970.  Can this be a challenge when restoring an older home in a small town?  In some respects, it should make it easier to “grandfather” older additions and structures.  The downside is that these structures may be substandard at best.

So what do you take away from this?  If you plan on moving to or working on homes in a small town, find out what is available to you and how the system works.  It might alleviate some of the guess work come offer time!

House 2 is more of the same, large lot, brick ranch and we love these for renovations. Predictable framing, modular layout…easiest house in the world to work on. This one is out of the 60s and again they’d have a substantial budget ($160k) to work with. The home is in good, renovated in the 90s condition. It’s so low to the ground, we thought it was on a slab.

Crawl Space or Slab Home?

House 3 is almost the same as the first two and we’re amazed with the number of brick ranches they have to choose from. This one is a 60s ranch in original but clean condition. The patio is a little rough and if you notice, they had to do a little “curbing” along the edge of the house to push water away from the slab. This one also allows for $150k reno budget.

My guess is each of these homes could benefit from new windows, new duct work and some level of insulating.

They chose house 2 because it has the largest foot print and it had 2 wood burning fireplaces.

So demo day comes around and immediately they find a little subfloor rot around the sliding door leading to the patio. There was very little threshold height there so it’s not too surprising that water would eventually find its way into the home. It also wasn’t a surprise that the HVAC was toast and, even though the vents come up through the floor, the HVAC unit is in the attic. $7800 for a new unit and ductwork is the price you pay and is overall a good investment. We were, however, surprised to see that the home doesn’t have hardwoods.

The beams they installed are insane. The shutters and window boxes, while a Magnolia trademark, go a long way to building character on a budget as well. I’m not so sure about painting brick though.

Reveal day is always exciting and you can see it on Chip and Joanna’s faces. And why not, the home is beautiful and definitely something to be proud of. Predictably, the house got new windows and it wouldn’t have been a quality renovation without them. Rocking the fireplace was $2k well spent. Sunlight is always good and adding windows on either side of the fireplace in the master was well played. Another stunning renovation!

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