buying a fixer-upper for your family

Looking into buying a fixer-upper that you can turn into your forever home? Sounds fun, right?! And HGTV makes it looks so easy… tour a few homes, buy the one with potential, tear down some walls, install some subway tile and voila!… you have the home of your dreams!

:: Record scratch ::

The reality is, it’s not that simple. Remodeling an old home can be super fun but it can also be filled with challenges and unexpected problems if you don’t know what to look for.

We often work with home buyers in this exact situation to evaluate the potential of a home. We weigh the pros and cons and give straight-forward advice based on our experience.  It’s easy to overlook or disregard certain aspects of a home if you’re unsure of what to look for, which is why we love to help our clients with these kinds of projects!

Here is a quick roundup of the top things we look for in a potential fixer-upper….

  1. Look for a home that has blemishes, not broken bones. Ugly is ok! Most off-putting elements of older homes – creepy wallpaper, dingy carpet, janky light fixtures – are easy cosmetic fixes that don’t require a ton of cash. Try to imagine what the spaces might look like with a fresh coat of paint, or new flooring, etc.  But foundational and structural issues can become major expenses, so be aware of what’s worth your time and money.
  2. Look for the right general layout, but don’t worry if it’s a closed plan.  Walls can be hard to move but opening them up doesn’t have to be. You can make a big impact even with a small remodel by just opening up select doorways and walls.  Whether you want a semi-open concept with fairly defined rooms and an easy flow OR a totally open concept, this can be an easy transformation with the right floor plan.
  3. Original kitchens and bathrooms aren’t scary!  Original (older) kitchens and bathrooms may seem undesirable at first glance but it’s actually a better investment to update these original spaces to your personal taste than it is to remodel a remodel. 
  4. Be aware of stair location.  If you’re considering upper level additions or changes, make sure you’re aware of and okay with the current stair location.  Stairs can be challenging to build and/or move, especially with older homes, so having an existing well-placed staircase is a huge bonus.  In addition, if you’re making stairway changes, cities will want you to bring them up to code — which is also a big hurdle with older homes with smaller footprints.
  5. Appreciate the details. Older homes, especially those built pre-war through the 50’s, have beautiful woodwork and trim.  Replacing trim and interior doors can really add up, so if the home has beautiful details to begin with, it can be a big money-saver.

We hope these tips help you in getting started on your search for your forever home. And if you’re looking for further guidance, use us as a resource!  We can give you a realistic take on the home you are looking to buy and we offer various consulting packages to review homes online or in-person. We can also give a ballpark of costs for what you are envisioning and offer some clear pros and cons with each home.  While realtors are great at valuing homes, we find they are not as accurate with remodel costs and what can actually be done with a home based on the target budget.  We try hard to be as realistic as possible with our clients when it comes to achieving their goals with a potential new home. 

Find more of our home tips and completed projects on our blog.