A fire-damaged window of a house.

6 Steps to Selling a House With Fire Damage

What To Know About Selling a House With Fire Damage

House fires are traumatic. A fire devastates a house’s structure but even more destructive is the painful loss of personal belongings and the feeling of home. What’s a homeowner to do when it is time to sell and move on? It puts the homeowner in a precarious position of wanting to maximize the sale while being faced with the reality of the damage. In this article, we will explain how to go about selling a house with fire damage.

According to the National Fire Protection Association (NFPA), fires occur regularly, damaging more than 350,000 homes every year. This means insurance companies over-charge on damage coverage.

Step 1: Post-Fire Legwork

Before you jump into the steps of insurance coverage and claims, you will need to do your best to contain and prevent the damage after the fire. Never go inside the house until the fire department gives you the all clear.

Once the firefighters give you the okay to reenter the property, you can:

  • Open up the windows to vent the smoke.
  • Begin cleaning up.
  • Cover openings caused by the fire to prevent weather damage and exposure.
  • Inform your utility providers of the fire and request emergency shut-off services if needed.
  • Document the fire damage with detailed notes, photos and videos to provide to your insurance company.
  • Ask the fire marshal or fire investigator for their official report for your insurance claim process.

The extent of your damage containment really depends on the severity of the house fire. Keep in mind that you will need to contact your insurance company as soon as possible, so you may have to overlap the post-fire process with getting a hold of your insurance company to begin the claim process.

Step 2: Find Out If Your Insurance Covers Fire Damage

Selling a house with fire damage will come down to two decisions: sell it as is or repair the damage. After you have done as much as possible to prevent damage from worsening and documented the damage, you will then need to find out if you have insurance coverage for fire damage. Contact your insurance company as soon as possible.

Find out:

  • The extent of your coverage.
  • What the policy does and does not cover.
  • Your next steps in the insurance claim process.

Step 3: House Inspection

Once you have moved past the pressing emergency of the fire’s immediate aftermath, it is time to start the process for a house inspection. Getting a professional house inspection done is essential if you are selling the house, regardless if you plan on fixing it up or decided to sell the home as it is.

The most dangerous part of fire damage is the fact that you cannot physically see the worst of it. Structural damage lurks beneath the surface, not visible to the naked eye. It takes a trained professional to properly assess the extent of the fire damage, and because you will need to be as transparent as possible in the selling process, a house inspection is of the utmost importance.

A house inspection conducted by a licensed professional will let any potential buyers know of the repairs needed and the overall safety of the home if you decide to sell it as is. The last thing you want is for someone to get seriously hurt if the building is not sound.

Step 4: Make the Repairs

After you have received the full report and analysis back from the house inspector, it is time to decide if you are going to act on the repairs or just sell the house as it is.

Benefits of making the repairs:

  • A repair house will allow you to ask for more in the sale price from potential buyers.
  • Repairs will make the house more marketable for a realtor and therefore easier to sell.
  • It will help boost the curb appeal and attract more buyers.

If you decide to go forward with the restoration, be sure to keep detailed documentation because it will be pertinent in the sale.

Step 5: Decide If You Want to Sell Your Home in Its Current State

You’ll need to get the house inspection completed one way or another, but you do not have to go forward with repairs if you do not want to. It comes down to assessing if the repairs will help you recoup the money in the sale of the house, how much of a pain it will be to complete them and if you are even able to find a contractor to hire for what needs to be done.

According to HomeAdvisor, it can cost between $2,800 to $34,000 to resolve fire and smoke damage, restoring a home to its original condition. However, it really depends on how big and intense the fire was, so a big fire that wreaked significant damage can tally up to nearly $50,000.

Benefits of selling the house as is:

  • You won’t need to deal with hiring contractors.
  • You likely won’t recoup the costs of the repairs.
  • The lower sale price of the house may even out with not proceeding with repairs.

Step 6: Consider a Real Estate Agent

In home sales that involve a house fire, you will want to have licensed real estate agent in your corner. Selling a house with fire damage can be tricky, but a professional agent can help parse out these details and requirements. An agent can also find ways to attract buyers and make your house marketable despite the damage.

A few things to keep in mind: you will need to disclose that a fire occurred regardless of whether you use an agent or not, and selling a home with significant fire damage can take time, so as hard as it may be, be patient!

Ways to Prevent House Fires

What’s that saying about an ounce of prevention? It doesn’t take much to help prevent house fires and completely avoid this traumatic event from occurring. Isn’t that worth just the bit of effort?

Here are a few quick and easy ways you can prevent a fire in your house:

  • Install smoke alarms on every level of your home (or even better, double up and make it a carbon monoxide and some alarm combo).
  • Never leave a fire unattended.
  • Never use a stove range or oven to heat your home.
  • If you have to use a space heater, give it space!
  • Be smart about your plugs and do not overload them. Don’t plug space heaters into extension cords either.