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How to Navigate Buying a Fixer Upper Home!

Buying a fixer-upper home can be a great idea, but there are a number of factors to consider first before taking the plunge. To begin with, you’ll want to evaluate the location and the extent of repairs. This is a great way to avoid losing a return on investment. You’ll also need to extrapolate for your budget since a fixer-upper can come with all sorts of extra needs. 

Of course, when the home is a steal, making a deal on a good fixer-upper provides a shorter path to homeownership. It’s easy to see how sweat equity could pay off in creating your dream home, but you’ll want to take a few precautions as you navigate this challenging terrain. The Dobbs Group offers the following advice on how to make a wise investment.

Buying a Fixer-Upper

Typically, low credit scores or high prices on new homes in the area can be barriers to homeownership. Have a local real estate agent to show you fixer-uppers in good neighborhoods with highly rated schools and a healthy market to avoid those barriers. A desirable location increases the home’s value after repairs are made and makes it easier to sell when the time comes. 

Hire an inspector with specialized insight into fixer-uppers to give a report on prospective homes. This will help you understand exactly what you are buying and if the renovations ahead are worth the investment. Consider the layout of the home too. If a home has good bones with large enough rooms and is built so you can easily move from one room to the next, it will be less costly to renovate than trying to restructure the home. It’s also vital to check major items such as the roof, electrical systems and plumbing, which can become very costly to repair and even make the home a money pit. 

Repairs to Start With

Assuming a fixer-upper does not need major renovations such as re-roofing or new plumbing, hardwood floors are a great place to start. When assessing your floors, you’ll need to determine whether yours need refinishing – sanding down the floors before adding a protective coat – or recoating, which is a protective layer that is added to the existing floors. If the floors must be refinished, you’ll need a sander or a buffer to do it yourself. A buffer is gentler on the floors and works well for scratches and dents that are not very deep.

Other repairs to consider may vary depending on the market in which you buy. For example, in Chicago, the varying temperatures we see throughout the year between our frigid winters and sweltering summers can take a toll on concrete, so patio areas and outdoor walkways may need concrete repair or replacement.

Deciding whether to complete something yourself or to hire a professional can largely depend on which tools you already own. Small renovations such as replacing fixtures and flooring as well as cosmetic additions can be DIY. And you can easily build an affordable tool kit with items that will always come in handy, like a solid drill, a reliable hammer, a cordless screwdriver and a jigsaw. Bigger projects, including those involving concrete as in the example above, are tasks best left to professionals. Ask your agent for contractor recommendations, or use a site like Angi to find local specialists with rave reviews so you can reach out for quotes. You can also use the site to find deals and reduced rates to keep your budget in check.

To Sell or Keep

After buying a fixer-upper and pouring love and care into renovating a home, deciding whether to keep or sell can be difficult. Remodeling and repairing a fixer-upper allows buyers to put their own personal touch on the home’s appearance and style. If the home is uniquely yours and suits your immediate needs, consider holding onto it – especially if the market is growing at a healthy rate. You just might turn a higher profit after a couple of years.

If the home is fixed up and in a market that is strong and on the cusp of becoming saturated, consider selling to make the best profit. In this case, market the home’s best features that newer homes might not have, such as real hardwood floors or mature trees on the lot.

According to Harvard University, the homebuilding market is declining and more people are beginning to remodel homes. This means finding a good fixer-upper might become more of a hunt, but there are still tons of great options if you look and have the right agent’s help. Remember to look past outdated cosmetic features and envision what the home could be with repairs, but keep your budget in mind.

Written by Kristin Louis