What to Consider Before Committing to Buying a Fixer Upper

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Many first-time homebuyers receive a rude awakening after they begin hunting. Unless you have an unlimited budget and magical powers, it’s impossible to find everything you want. This is what draws so many people to considering a fixer-upper. If you are willing to put in the sweat equity and embrace do-it-yourself projects in an aging or shabby home, your dollars can go a lot further with your realtor in the marketplace.

Intimidated? Don’t be! If you approach buying a fixer-upper with realistic expectations and the right mentality, your big commitment can pay off. You will have left a beautiful mark on a once-blighted property, and you’ll likely have increased the property value, which is useful if you decided not to sell the home instead of stay in it once you’ve fixed it up.

Lifehacker recommends hiring a trusted home inspector before purchasing a fixer-upper. An inspector can give help you identify what areas in the home need to be repaired or renovated, and they will see things that an untrained eye will surely miss. Once your qualified home inspector has helped identify need-to-fix elements of your future home, you can combine that with want-to-update elements and begin estimating how much your renovation will cost you altogether.

You should prioritize repairs that could cost you more in the long run if left unattended. Shoring up the foundation and addressing any roofing issues would fall under this category. If your goal is to sell the home after you’re done renovating it, then you should also prioritize things like bathrooms and kitchens that add the most resale value. If you plan on living in the home indefinitely, you can prioritize based off your whims and availability of funds.

When you’re figuring out projects and their related costs, don’t forget about the exterior of the home. This is especially important if you plan on selling the home once you’ve finished working on it. The landscaping and condition of the exterior of the home (curb appeal) is the first thing potential buyers will see, so you want to make a good impression. As you do your fixer-upping, you’ll want to address any structural or cosmetic issues with the roof, fences, shutters, paint or sidewalks outside your home, as well as tend to the landscaping. Remember: A few flowers can go a long way!

 

After you have identified everything that needs to be done, you’ll have to decide what to farm out to a contractor and what to tackle yourself. For that, you should definitely factor in the level of difficulty and expertise needed for your various repair and renovation projects. Certain things -- like projects involving foundational or structural elements of your home, or major electrical rewiring -- should not be skimped on because they are crucial to safety. Don’t forget to factor in the cost of buying, renting or borrowing the right power tools for the job. Depending on what DIY repair you’re tackling, you could need drills, sanders, jigsaws, etc. You’ll want the right tool for the job, so factor that cost in.

After you have done all this planning, do one more thing: expect the unexpected. Every project comes with unforeseen costs or challenges, so build some wiggle room into your budget. Unexpected costs often add somewhere between 10 and 25 percent onto the project. It could be the difference between crossing the line from “fixer upper” to “fixed up.”

Once you have a comprehensive plan in place, you can get to the fun part. Pick up that hammer and turn that house into your dream home!

Photo via Pixabay.