How to Sell a Fire Damaged House: Expert Advice and Insights

Posted on Apr 4, 2024

Facing the aftermath of a house fire is a daunting challenge, especially when unexpected. 

Sadly, such occurrences are increasingly common in California, where wildfires ravage thousands of acres yearly. The escalating threat of fires demands proactive measures, from prevention to rebuilding and selling. 

With over 3,000 structures damaged or destroyed in 2021 alone, understanding how to sell a fire-damaged house is essential. 

This article delves into the rising problem of fires in California, providing strategies for selling your home with fire damage.

The Rising Problem of Wildfires in California

The escalating frequency and intensity of wildfires in California have become a pressing concern, underscored by the staggering statistics from recent years. In 2021 alone, nearly 2,000,000 acres were burned, and over 3,000 structures were damaged or destroyed. 

When you compare this to 2013 when 600,000 acres were burned, and 456 structures were damaged or destroyed, you can begin to see the problem. One fire destroyed nearly 1,000 buildings, with 550 of that being homes. That’s more destroyed homes by one fire than all of the destroyed structures in a whole year (2013).

This increase in wildfires is largely driven by climate change. While wildfires have always been a part of California’s naturally dry environment, climate change is upsetting a delicate balance.

The combined effect of warmer springs and summers, less snowpack, and the snow melting earlier has a disastrous impact. These changes have resulted in a longer and more intense dry season. This makes the vegetation of California more vulnerable to fire.

The California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection estimates that in recent years the length of the fire season has increased by 75 days.

How To Prevent House Fires

While action is being taken at a state and federal level to help the situation, the average homeowner can be left feeling a little helpless. Here are two things you can do to lower the risk of your property being lost to or damaged by a wildfire.

1. Use Precast Concrete

Concrete is non-combustible, meaning it doesn’t burn. Using it wherever possible will reduce the amount of fuel for a fire. One of the easiest ways to take advantage of precast concrete’s natural ability to fend off fire is by using precast concrete for all your fencing needs. This is especially useful for rural properties.

Precast concrete can actually act as a fire barrier, meaning fire cannot travel beyond it. Since fencing usually attaches to other structures like a home or a barn, wood fences can be a direct path to them. Precast concrete fencing stops the fire from traveling along the fence to those other structures. 

2. Clear Vegetation 

Not only does removing vegetation remove fuel for a fire, but it makes firefighters more likely to save your home. 

Sadly, firefighters have to make hard decisions. They often can’t save every home. They look for homes that they have a better chance of saving. Homes with old, dry vegetation around the home are harder to save. Remove all the dead vegetation and lower branches on trees. It’s a good idea to clean out the gutters and roof of all leaves and twigs too.

Rebuilding a House after a Fire

Embarking on the journey of rebuilding a house after a fire is both daunting and hopeful. In the aftermath of devastation, there emerges an opportunity for renewal and transformation. This section delves into the essential steps involved in the rebuilding process, offering guidance and support to homeowners navigating the path toward restoration and recovery.

1. Apply for a Fire Insurance Claim

California has a robust fire insurance system in place, whether through a private company or through the Fair plan. In the event that your home suffers from fire damage, call your insurance provider and set up a building inspection after a fire to determine the extent of damage and claims. 

It is important to discuss the following points with your insurance agent:

  • Referral for a fire restoration contractor of repute.
  • Claims release duration.
  • List of damages to the house.

Also, try to contact the restoration professional as soon as possible to find out the duration to rebuild your house after a fire. This may help you arrange a temporary shelter in the meantime.

2. Determine the Extent of Damage to Your Home

Before the restoration begins, the fire damage restoration professional chalks out the quantity of work that needs to be done on your fire-damaged property. They will inspect the house for structural damages in components like load bearing walls, columns, beams, basement retaining walls, etc. Speak with the restoration professional to understand how much work is required to be done and whether they can put you in touch with a licensed electrician and plumber to work on the damages.

3. Secure Your Premises

Once the restoration begins, you need to protect your property from vandalism and trespasser accidents. Fence off your land, board up the fenestration–the whole drill–to ensure that your house can be restored without much incident. Your restoration team can assist you with this.

4. Start With Structural Repairs

The structural components of your house are what keep it standing upright – these are the most important parts that need to be fixed first. This is a job best left to the professionals of the trade, such as the structural engineer, fire damage restoration professional, civil construction professionals, carpenters, etc., who know how to handle fire-damaged buildings. They will start with replacing the joists, beams, columns, and other structural components that have withstood irreparable fire damage.


5. Begin With Electrical System Repair

Before drywalls can be installed, getting your home’s utility systems back in order is necessary. The electrical system is especially susceptible to fire damage, and restoration cannot progress before it is thoroughly inspected and a new circuit breaker is installed. Right from supply to plug-in points, every component of the electrical line is checked.

6. Repair Fire-Specific Damage to the House

Fire, in addition to causing structural damage, leaves a peculiar trail behind after it is done ravaging a property. Soot residue, smoke stains, contaminated (and often choked) air ducts, etc., are some common sightings in a fire-damaged property. Your restoration professional should search for such damages and repair them.

7. Restore Every Room, One by One

It is an overwhelming experience to have your home burned to the ground and then back standing in a few weeks. The key is to keep your calm and do it one room at a time. Seek help from your restoration professionals to salvage furnishings and whatever you can before installing new drywall and cleaning the room up.

8. Keep a Record of Everything

This is more like an ongoing activity from the moment you file your insurance claim – document everything. Take pictures, retain invoices, receipts, all the paperwork and bills, correspondence, etc., to document your home restoration. Digitalize these papers to create a folder that can help you prove the extent of the damages you suffered, the duration and resources it took to rebuild; the professionals deployed on-site, etc. In the event that you should be required to furnish evidence, this folder should be your go-to place.

The cost to rebuild a house after a fire is between $3,000 to $40,000. If you reside in California and haven’t had the chance to get fire insurance for your home yet, the time is now.

How to Sell a Fire-Damaged House

When faced with the task of selling a fire-damaged house, homeowners typically have three primary options to consider. Each option comes with its own set of advantages and considerations, catering to different needs and circumstances. Here are the three options:

Sell with a Realtor

One common approach is to enlist the services of a real estate agent to list and market the property on the open market. While this option may offer access to a larger pool of potential buyers, it also entails commissions, fees, and potentially lengthy timeframes to find the right buyer.

Sell 'For Sale By Owner' (FSBO)

Alternatively, homeowners can opt to sell their fire-damaged house themselves, without the assistance of a real estate agent. This method gives homeowners more control over the selling process and eliminates the need to pay agent commissions. However, FSBO sales may require additional time, effort, and marketing savvy to attract buyers.

Sell to an "All Cash Buyer"

For those seeking a fast and hassle-free solution, selling to a real estate investor for cash is often the most expedient option. Investors are typically willing to purchase properties in "as is" condition, without the need for repairs or renovations. This can save homeowners time, money, and stress, especially if they are facing time constraints or lack the funds for repairs.

Related: 5 Essential Tips to Sell Your House Fast for Cash

Final Words

Selling a fire-damaged house can be a daunting task, but with the right approach, it can also be a smooth and efficient process. Partnering with a qualified investor offers the advantage of a quick and hassle-free sale, with the property being purchased in "as is" condition, eliminating the need for repairs or renovations. If time constraints or lack of funds are an issue, selling to a real estate investor for cash can be a quick and painless solution. 

At We Buy Houses Fast SoCal, we buy housed regardless of its condition–and, yes, this includes fire-damaged houses. With our flexible terms, homeowners have the freedom to choose the closing date and avoid paying any real estate commissions or closing costs.

Get in Touch Now!

Contact us today at (818) 573-0860 to get started on selling your fire-damaged house and moving forward with confidence.

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For personalized advice, consider consulting a tax professional or a real estate attorney who can provide specific guidance based on your situation.

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