If you binge-watch enough 30-minute TV episodes, or spend a substantial amount of time scrolling through Pinterest boards, you might eventually be tempted to buy a fixer-upper for your next home.
Before you have to go slamming hammers through drywall and using crowbars to rip out kitchen cabinets, take some time to consider carefully whether this is the right move for you and your family or not. You might like the idea of a fixer-upper, but does it actually make sense on a practical and financial level?
The Case Against Fixer-Uppers
It’s extremely appealing to watch a show in which a cute husband and wife find an ugly house together, strip it down to the bones, then rebuild it with trendy finishes that make it look brand new. Although they may be very good at what they do, their results aren’t typical of the majority of us.
For every fixer-upper house that ends up being featured in a magazine or TV show, a dozen or more similar projects have come in over-budget (and furnished underwhelming results). Though it’s admittedly hard to tell from the outside looking in, fixing up old, worn-down properties is hard work.
Ultimately, it’s your decision. But here are eight factors that indicate you may not want to buy a fixer-upper.
You’ve Never Owned a House Before
Don’t fall for the myth that a fixer-upper is a good starter home. It’s possible for one to be — under a specific set of circumstances — but it generally ends up being too much of a headache.
If you’ve never owned a house before, you don’t possess all the context and experience a seasoned homeowner has. Every issue you encounter is likely to feature a learning curve. That will stretch the timeline and might raise challenges that will feel like insurmountable obstacles.
You Aren’t Handy
If you aren’t handy, you probably shouldn’t buy a fixer-upper. Yes, you can hire people to do some of the work, but that quickly gets expensive.
Part of what makes a fixer-upper cost effective for some homeowners is the fact that they can do most of the work on their own. By eliminating most of the labor cost, they can create a desirable house for a fraction of the cost.
There’s a definite case to be made for learning how to do certain tasks as you go, but if you have zero experience, you simply won’t be prepared to tackle large projects. You’re also likely to commit mistakes that lead to costly repercussions down the road.
You Don’t Own Any Tools
If you don’t already own an array of tools, you’re starting at a disadvantage. You’ll need dozens of tools to attack a fixer-upper.
Some of them can be quite expensive … including table saws, miter saws, and various power tools. If you aren’t careful, you’ll end up spending thousands of dollars on just the tools before you even get started.
The Bones of the House are in Trouble
Not every house that’s in a state of disrepair qualifies as a promising fixer-upper candidate. If there are any problems with the “bones” of the house, you should be extremely wary. Stay away from issues like:
- Foundation cracks
- Sagging beams
- Doors or windows that won’t close
- Fire damage
- Water damage
- Extensive termite damage
… and so on. Fortunately, you can uncover most of these problems through a good home inspection prior to purchase.
As a word of caution, however, you should know it’s common to stumble upon problems after you’ve started work on a fixer-upper project. When you tear down walls, rip up flooring, and modify existing systems, be prepared to learn about issues that previously went undetected.
You Have Small Children
A fixer-upper might be practical for a new homeowner who’s single, or even a young married couple, but it’s probably not a smart idea if you have any small children.
The first few weeks or months after you go to work on your fixer-upper will feel like you’re living in a construction zone — because you are! The last thing you want is to expose your kids to the potential hazards of sharp objects, falling debris, power tools, and other unsafe and unpredictable factors.
You Don’t Have Anywhere Else to Live
In all likelihood, you won’t be able to live in your fixer-upper for at least a few weeks. Some may require months of work before becoming move-in ready.
If you don’t have somewhere else to live in the meantime — such as an apartment or other family member’s house — then a fixer-upper probably may not be right for your family at this stage.
You Tend to Procrastinate
In a fixer-upper, specific checkpoints must be met and timelines have to be followed in order to see the project through to the finish. Having to delay a step can create a chain reaction that could throw off the entire project.
Be honest with yourself and understand who you are. If you’re ambitious and disciplined, then maybe you can do this. But on the other hand, if you tend to procrastinate and want to put things off, then a fixer-upper could be a huge and ultimately costly error.
Your Budget is Maxed Out After Purchase
A fixer-upper rarely ends up costing just what you believe it will. As mentioned earlier, it’s fairly common to find additional problems or needs after you’ve begun a project.
This can lead to significant cost increases — sometimes by as much as 15 to 25 percent more than the original budget. If your budget is maxed out after purchase and you have only a tiny amount of money left to spend on the repairs, that’s a sign you aren’t in the position to take on this substantial a project.
You’re better off staying in your current situation until you can save enough to take the leap.
Buy and Sell With Green Residential
At Green Residential, we believe buying and selling real estate doesn’t have to be a painful, time-consuming process. That’s why we aim to simplify it and make life easier for Houston-area homeowners.
For additional information about what sets us apart, please contact us today. We’d be happy to put you in touch with one of our experienced real estate professionals!