• Jana Kelley

Buying a Fixer-Upper: A First-Time Home Buyer’s Guide

Paul Denekin of dadknowsdiy.com

Photo via Pixabay


Buying a fixer-upper home is a big decision, and there’s a lot to think about. What’s your budget? How much of the project can be completed as a DIY, and how much will require a pro? Will you be living there when the job is done, or are you planning to flip the house? With so many questions, it’s important to know the answers before you get started.

One of the first things to take into consideration is location. If the home is in a desirable neighborhood and has updated houses all around it, you shouldn’t have a problem selling if you decide to do so. You should also do some research in the neighborhood to find out what the median listing price is for other homes. You don’t want to invest a lot of money into your house only to find out you likely won’t be able to sell it for the price you want.

Read on for more tips on how to make your first fixer-upper a success.

Have it inspected

This may seem obvious to some, but many first-time buyers don’t realize how important it is to have a fixer-upper inspected from top to bottom before making a purchase. Spending a couple hundred dollars now for a professional opinion could save you thousands down the line, especially when it comes to plumbing and electrical issues, rotten flooring or roofing, and structural damage. In some cases, homes with a lot of problems can be torn down and the lot used to build a new home from scratch. But if this isn’t in your budget, make sure everything is fixable before you get started.

Look at the layout

The layout of a home isn’t necessarily a deal breaker, but removing walls can get expensive or may even be impossible, depending on the structure. With the right layout, the home will flow from one room to the next naturally. Three or four bedrooms with more than one bathroom is the ideal layout. And because open floor plans are all the rage right now, the home should either have lots of space between the living room and kitchen or the structural makeup to add more.

Keep a running total

It’s a good idea to keep a running total of all the repairs and updates that need to be done so you’ll have an estimate as you go. The more expensive fixes will include roofing, heating and air units, bathroom and kitchen remodels, replacing plumbing and electrical, and replacing windows. However, many of these are considered to be a big boost for resale value, so if you know you’ll be selling, taking on these jobs could pay off big down the road.

There are also some lower-budget projects that provide a positive return on your investment, like boosting curb appeal. According to Angie’s List, homeowners will pay more for houses with features like privacy fencing, high-end mailboxes, entryway lighting, fresh mulch, and green grass.

Shop around

It’s important not to make any rash decisions when it comes to choosing a fixer-upper. Just because a home canbe renovated doesn’t mean it shouldbe. Also, you don’t want to settle on a home now only to find that if you’d just waited a few weeks, you could have had it for much cheaper. Do your research, take your time, and communicate with a realtor who can help you on your search.

Buying your first fixer-upper is a huge decision and can be stressful, so make sure you take care of yourself during this time. Delegate tasks to your spouse or partner, stay organized by keeping all info pertaining to the home together, and ask for help when you need it. With a good plan, you can make your first fixer-upper a success.

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