Should You Buy a Fixer-Upper?
Buying a fixer-upper home can be a great way to acquire a home in a neighborhood you might not otherwise be able to afford. Maybe you’ve picked out a charming older home you think just needs some tender loving care to bring out its best. That may be true, but beware of romancing yourself into a costly renovation nightmare, where you can’t recover your investment once the house goes on the market.
That doesn’t mean you should avoid fixer-uppers altogether. But do be aware of the possible pitfalls. Once you’ve weighed the pros and cons, you can make a more informed decision about investing in that sweet little mid-century modern you’ve had your eye on.
Consider these points before buying a fixer-upper.
DIY Skills Can Make a Fixer Upper More Affordable
So you’ve fallen for a fixer-upper, and you’re weighing the possibilities. One of the first things to consider is how much of the work you’re able to do yourself. If you love to work on old houses, you’re a step ahead. But those with no DIY skills may be locked into overseeing contractors for every renovation. That can cause some headaches and will certainly cost more than if you can do the work yourself.
Renovations: Cosmetic or Structural?
Once you make an offer for a home and it’s accepted, you’ll need a home inspection. An inspection can help assure your fixer-upper is a good investment, or it may provide a warning that you should take a pass.
Be mindful that major repairs — foundation fixes, roof and wall renovations, plumbing, and electrical system redos — may not raise the house’s value sufficiently to offset the renovation cost. Ideally, a fixer-upper should require mainly cosmetic repairs. These repairs don’t cost a lot, and they raise the value of the home. They might include painting touch-ups, fixing doors, installing new light fixtures, drywall repairs, refinishing floors, and updating bathrooms and kitchens.
Also, be aware that if your fixer-upper has some differences that set it off from other homes in the neighborhood — for example, two bedrooms instead of three, or one bathroom instead of two — these may impede selling it.
Further, you will want to avoid renovations that promise to take an extraordinarily long time. By the time you finish, you may find that the home’s market value has gone down.
Can You Afford It?
Add up the cost of materials and labor — that is, your labor and that of any contractors. Then, subtract that figure from the estimated market value of the home post-renovation. Compare your fixer-upper with other homes in the neighborhood to determine estimated market value. Deduct another 5 to 10 percent for extras, possible problems you may encounter, and inflation. The figure you arrive at should be your offer.
You’ve got several options when it comes to financing your renovation. Putting the bills on a credit card is easy, but you’ll be paying high interest rates. A renovation loan lets you finance a house and improvements together. The interest rate is lower than many other financing types, and you can take longer to pay off the loan. Some types of renovation loans include:
Is a fixer-upper worth it? The answer, as with any investment, is: “It depends.” For many homeowners, a fixer-upper will be the right choice. Just be sure the renovation is not more work and more expensive than you’re anticipating. Working with an experienced agent like myself will also help you make a more informed decision.
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