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Bought a house at foreclosure – it all went wrong

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Bought a house at foreclosure – it all went wrong

Out of desperation about the Berlin housing market, Jessie Weiß and her husband Johan Fink bought a house by forced auction.
Instagram: @maison.journelles

Fashion influencer Jessie Weiß (“Daily“) and her husband bought a house through a foreclosure sale a few weeks ago.

But an infestation of vermin meant that, among other things, they had to replace the roof – a high cost factor. Now the two have decided to tear down the house and are planning a new building, as they explain in their podcast “Maison Journelles”.

Even in the demolition phase, the couple face new costs that nobody prepared them for. An expert from the consumer advice center advises prospective builders to consider before building a house whether and how they can absorb possible extra costs and to commission an independent building surveyor.

Imagine you buy a house and then you realize you have to tear it down. This is what happened to fashion blogger Jessie Weiß (“Journelles”) with her husband Johan Fink.

In the spring of 2022, White and Fink about a foreclosure auction of a house in Berlin acquired. At first everything looked good, some plans for the renovation of the almost 100-year-old house were already in place when a pest infestation was discovered in the roof structure. The wood longhorned beetle had spread in the beams. An appraiser advised the couple to completely replace the roof – of all things, the roof that was renewed just eight years ago. “The beetle infestation was apparently completely overlooked,” says Jessie Weiß in her podcast “Journal House”, in which the couple regularly reports on their experiences in and around their own home. It was also not clear at this point whether the beetle was really just sitting in the roof or whether it had already spread further.

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“What’s left of the house then?”

So what to do: Completely renovate the old house? Or tear it down and build a new one? To the surprise of Fink and Weiß, a cost statement came to the conclusion that it made no difference, at least financially.

The subsequent decision was particularly difficult for white, she says in the podcast. A new building is like “a blank sheet of paper” – many possibilities, great responsibility. Also, she often just doesn’t like new houses. In the end, the couple decided to demolish the old house anyway. A rational decision: until the end it was not clear how much of the old house would have had to be renovated anyway – and what additional costs could have arisen. “If we have to redo everything anyway, what’s left of the house?” says Weiß.

In her podcast

In their podcast “Maison Journelles”, Jessie Weiß and Johan Fink report regularly on their home project.
Journelles House

More unexpected costs

Meanwhile, the demolition of the old house is in full swing and Weiß and Fink are planning the new building together. But the longhorned beetle shouldn’t be the last surprise. The couple dedicates one of the new episodes of their podcast to the topic of costs – unscheduled costs that have not yet appeared in any estimate.

How Weiss and Fink bought their house at auction

In addition to the almost daily changing costs for materials, the prices of which are currently fluctuating due to war, inflation and the corona pandemic, the couple still has to dig into their pockets for all sorts of unexpected things. For example, the existing power box had to be dismantled (costs: around 1000 euros), the water connection had to be relocated at short notice (costs: 2500 euros) and, according to Weiß, the preparation of the excavation pit alone cost a further 1000 euros. “I can’t believe how many hidden costs we already have on the clock,” says the 36-year-old.

In addition, the couple could now face another chunk that was not planned: It is not yet clear whether the groundwater level for the basement pit of the new house will have to be lowered. If that were the case, another 20,000 euros would probably be due.

“There are no packages like when buying a car”

Dirk Scobel is an expert in mortgage lending at the Hamburg Consumer Advice Centre. He advises prospective builders to always plan for a financial buffer. A cost estimate for the construction of a house is never completely reliable – if only because all sorts of unexpected things can happen during construction. This is shown by the building project by Weiß and Fink. “There are no packages when building a house like buying a car,” Scobel told Business Insider.

How much money builders should set aside always depends on the respective construction project. Instead, builders should consider beforehand whether and how they can absorb any extra costs, says Scobel. For example, if you bring a larger proportion of your own capital with you, you will probably get additional financing from your bank if the worst comes to the worst. “For others, the family may be able to step in,” says the expert.

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If you instead want to avoid extra costs and nasty surprises as much as possible – even if there is of course never a guarantee for this – you can get an independent building surveyor on board, advises Scobel. Such experts not only check contracts to ensure that they cover all important cost items, but also accompany the construction process. A building surveyor can see, for example, if something has been botched. In such a case, builders can then demand supplementary performance.

Basically, currently is “not the easiest time” to build, says Scobel. High energy costs, increased interest rates and strongly fluctuating material prices make construction planning difficult. But: “No one can say whether it won’t be even more expensive in two years,” says Scobel. That’s why he doesn’t want to advise against building now.

Weiß and Fink have experienced first-hand how many difficulties can arise spontaneously. In their podcast, they talk about all of this with a good dose of gallows humor. Weiß also regularly shares what she has learned with her listeners. When it comes to costs, she recommends always renegotiating: “Something always works!”

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