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Buying

What Does 'TLC' Mean in a Listing? You'd Better Take Care

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homeowner, repairs, remodel, renovations

You'll often see the phrase "needs TLC" in real estate listings, but what does "TLC" mean? Well, the use of that acronym for "tender loving care" is code for "this home needs work" -- and odds are, it needs a lot of work. And that, of course, could jack up your spending on what might initially appear to be a bargain home.

"'TLC' is when a home needs an extensive amount of remodeling," says Fort Myers, FL, Realtor Lloyd Nichols. And we're not talking about slapping down a fresh coat of paint, but major work that will take time and a chunk of money.

A new roof will cost you an average of $6,600, according to HomeAdvisor.com, whereas an AC system will cost about $5,238. More than likely, your fixer-upper will need more than one repair done. Nichols estimates that buyers could spend an extra "$20,000 and up" on repairs.

"Hot buttons for most buyers will be the foundation, roof, [HVAC] system, and plumbing," says Nick Moomaw, owner of TLC Home Inspections in Marble Falls, TX. "They're the ones that are potentially the most expensive to repair."

Why would anyone want a house with all that hassle? Because these ugly ducklings can be bargains. Even if you factor in the extra money you'll have to pour into renovations, you may ultimately be getting a deal -- particularly if you're handy around the house and can take care of some of the renovations yourself (which explains another euphemism you may see in such listings, "contractor's delight"). Experts say that as long as the home's foundation, roof, and structure are sound, the property can be a solid investment.

"You can do extremely well," says Nichols. "You can even flip it."

Nonetheless, if you were hoping for a home that's "move-in ready" (translation: no renovations required), you should steer clear of those TLC listings -- or, at the very least, make your offer contingent on a thorough home inspection. That way, you can assess the damage before you commit to buying the house.