top of page
  • Gretchen Hymer

Must Read Before Buying a Fixer-Upper!

With the market starting to recover and property prices increasing, many buyers are scrambling to find those last “post-crash” deals. Luckily, there are still lots of great buys out there when it comes to searching for a home. Often, the best value can be found in a fixer-upper. Although these projects can seem (sometimes) scary, with a few tips you’ll fast track ways to keep more money in your pocket and pay dividends in the future.

1.) Focus on location: A desirable neighborhood will be sought after and increase the value of the home.

2.) Review the condition: A home with cosmetic problems can be difficult to sell and therefore bring the asking price down. (Great for the buyer!) Look for these (fairly) easy fixes. (Also, check out the extensive amount of DIY tutorials on, but as a caution, see #6 below.):

  • Repair or patch walls

  • Paint- exterior and interior, baseboards, cabinets, door hardware, light fixtures, etc.

  • Replace anything broken or missing- faucets*, sinks*, toilets*, light fixtures, cabinets, hardware, windows, doors, etc.

  • Replace or lay down new floors and baseboards

  • Set aside some funds for landscaping as it will update the appearance of the home and create curb appeal

  • Check out this Houzz article by Elizabeth Miller:

  • *NOTE: Faucets, sinks, and toilets can be challenging to replace. Tub/shower valves may not be universal, sink faucet hole configurations vary, sinks may not be standard sizes, toilets may not have standard rough-ins, etc. Get in touch with your local plumbing fixtures showroom to make recommendations and suggested solutions.

3.) Do your math: Make sure to add up all the estimated renovating expenses (budget a little high to accommodate any extra, unforeseen expenses including labor), plus the purchase price of the home. Get an estimated market value for the property after renovation using comparable real estate in the area.

4.) Get your funding lined up: Nothing will make a renovating project go south more than not having the funds to finish the project. Before you even consider a renovation project, ask yourself if you can afford it. Paying cash for all the necessary fixes can be difficult. Some decide to take out a renovation loan, either through a home equity line of credit or a mortgage.

5.) Get your housing lined up: If you are renovating this for your own personal property, consider whether you will be living in the home during the construction. Being thrown into the middle of the project has definite cons- cramped and dysfunctional living space, dirt and dust, lack of privacy, and noise, are just a few concerns. Not making two home payments, being able to slowly update (maybe room-by-room), and being able to carefully monitor the project, however, may be substantial benefits to make the project obtainable.

6.) Be cautious and careful of everything glamorized as “DIY” aka “Do-It-Yourself”. Although many repairs or installations can be done without hiring a professional and tons of money can be saved, there is a note of caution. Take a look at which items you really should let the pros do:

  • Electrical: Unless you have a a very close electrician friend or family member, always hire a licensed electrician. Wiring is difficult because of all of the intricate codes and regulations, including fire safety.

  • Plumbing: If only replacing a shower head, plumbers tape would probably be the only tool needed and is an easy fix. But for more advanced plumbing needs, hire a licensed plumber. When putting anything under pressure (especially water), you want to make sure that its been installed properly to avoid potential leaking, flooding, and mold/mildew.

  • Tiling: To get all of the cuts, angles, waterproofing, and sloping right, you really should hire a licensed pro. This is another huge potential area for mold and mildew to grow.

7.) Don’t let others rush you into any decisions, but plan accordingly. The team you hire will demand answers, deadlines, design renderings, products to be ordered before installation, etc. and you won’t always be able to meet their needs. It’s ok to stop and tell them you are working on completing or handling their requests. Sometimes the decisions can feel overwhelming and time is needed to grasp a layout, design, or concept. To avoid project chaos, map out timelines before the project begins. Know how long it will take to order AND install cabinets, sinks, doors, etc. and you will be ahead of the curve.

Christine Tusher, a Houzz contributor, has highlighted some other areas for concern when purchasing a fixer-upper. Check out her posts here:

bottom of page