A money-hungry house

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My parents have worked hard for their money, and they’ve been very generous to me. So I don’t like second-guessing what my parents choose to do with what they’ve earned–but, lately, I’ve been pretty concerned.

My mom’s father passed away recently and left my parents his house. It’s a house with a lot of meaning for my mother (she grew up there), but, to be honest, it’s kind of a dump. My parents are pouring money into this old house, adding fancy kitchen appliances, a big tub with a door on it (really), new flooring, and stuff like that. But I’m worried that all of this is a big waste. The house itself is so old and in such disrepair–why try fix it up? I’m worried that they’ll end up losing all this money and work on the old place, but I don’t know how to approach them about it.

It’s true that homes don’t last forever, and that some properties just aren’t worth saving. But there’s much more to determining that a house is unsuitable for living than just saying that it looks old and worn-down.

When we talk about a home no longer being safe or worth living in, we’re usually talking about structural elements. That means things like problems with the foundation, which can be difficult and expensive to fix (the entire house may need to be lifted off of the foundation while it is repaired or replaced–and if this is the case, the repair costs could go north of $10,000).

But foundation problems and other big structural issues would have been found during a home inspection, and since experts recommend that anyone inheriting a house have it inspected, there’s a good chance that your parents already did so (on the advice of the estate lawyer, for instance) and that that’s why they’re confident in the old property.

Assuming the home is structurally sound, the improvements that your parents are making seem perfectly reasonable. The bathtub that you refer to may be a fixture designed for both luxury and safe use by the elderly, say the developers behind the American Standard walk-in tub. Your parents may be preparing the property for their senior years, a good idea if they’re not expecting to move anytime soon.

And if they do end up moving, their improvements could go a long way toward helping them get a better sale price on the property. The analysts at luxury kitchen appliance producers Dacor (www.dacor.com) say that high-end appliances can raise the value of a home, and that kitchen spaces are high-leverage areas in terms of home improvements that produce real value.

If you’re concerned about genuine structural issues with the house, perhaps you could ask your parents in a way that’s respectful and framed around their future and their safety (not their money). They may be able to explain to you how they know that the home is safe to live in — and worth improving.

“Give me an old house full of memories and I will give you a hundred novels!”

— Mehmet Murat Ildan

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