Is a Fixer-Upper Right for You?

DoItYourself Staff
Is a Fixer-Upper Right for You?

You may be considering buying a house that needs a little bit of rehab. Sure, houses that are move-in ready don't have the problems that a fixer-upper might--like an old roof, a dilapidated porch, or dirty shag carpeting. They might be in good condition by all appearances and appraisals, with the little luxuries that make new houses appealing. However, fixer-uppers are often the better choice if you're ready to do the work.


The most obvious advantage to purchasing a house that needs work is the price. Often, the price will reflect neglect and necessary repairs. Purchasers may even be able to negotiate a selling price lower than list price of the house depending upon how motivated the seller is. Remember to include the price of renovations in your calculations. Have a reputable appraiser give you an idea of the necessary repairs and their costs.


Your fixer-upper might be one of those charming old houses that has stood for a hundred years--and will withstand another hundred. Older houses are bound to need some repairs. Drafty windows, old-fashioned heating and cooling systems, and outdated kitchens and bathrooms can turn many buyers away from purchasing one of these gems.

However, these are perfectly good houses, they just need to be brought up to current style, safety, and energy standards. You won't find beautiful hardwood floors, charming nooks, and spacious dining areas in standard newer houses. Old houses have personality and were built to last--once you get past the updating process, the house you'll have will be your pride and joy.

New houses--especially prefab "custom" or "designer" homes--are often shoddily put together in a manner that does not reflect the price. You may have high ceilings that mimic luxury, but paired with the thin walls, anything that goes on in one room can be easily heard in the other side of the house. You may have beautiful, spacious bathrooms, but the countertop may show its poor craftsmanship within the year. And that private back yard? Just wait for that new development set to go in.


Communities that grew up at the turn of the century built houses that were similar in style and size to the surrounding houses, but they were not the same cookie-cutter homes that are so popular today. New communities have houses that might not need even a light bulb screwed in--but who wants to live in a house that is the mirror image of the one across the street?


The most important thing to consider is how much work your fixer-upper is going to need. Are you ready to take it on? Do you have the skills to make it a DIY project? Be brutally honest with yourself. If not, do you have the funds to hire a contractor, including the inevitable overages? And do you have the patience to live through months of living in a construction site before the work is completed? It takes some fortitude to tackle a big renovation, but in the long-run, if your answer is yes to all those questions, it will be worth it.

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