Ever watch any of the popular home renovation shows and think to yourself, “Those people are insane! I would never take on a fixer-upper!”? We never say never. Fixer-uppers offer you the opportunity to map the footprint of your home, adding in the spaces you need and the details you desire to create the home of your dreams. Maybe you’re thinking, “Only handy people and DIYers should take on a fixer-upper.” Well, that’s not true. Plenty of non-handy people who don’t aspire to DIY status take on fixer-uppers for a variety of important reasons and successfully renovate them. Here are some reasons to consider a home that may be a large (but rewarding) project.
Location, location, location.
Getting into the neighborhood of your dreams may require buying the most run-down house on the block. If the neighborhood location is prime and the amenities meet your standards, then purchasing a fixer-upper may be a no-brainer, especially if the price reflects the state of the home.
If the home has a solid foundation, fixable infestations, potentially solid plumbing and land that can be manicured into something special, a fixer-upper could work for you. If the basics are met, the extras can be added later. But how do you know if these elements of the home are up to par? A good inspection will give you details, but some things you can’t know until you begin renovating.
Know when to pass.
Some old homes are just not salvageable. The cost to tear it down and start from scratch may be cheaper than repairing it. If you really love the property where the home sits and razing it is an option, consider this the opportunity to use the reclaimed bits from the former house in the new one. We’re already picturing the shiplap wall.
Get yourself a good contractor.
Do your research. Talk to friends. Check out Home Advisor or Angie's List for an accredited contractor. Get recommendations from your hardware store or local showroom (who could also be very helpful in the design of your dream home in the making). Pick the person who feels right to you. You will be trusting this person with arguably the largest monetary investment in your life, so don’t be scared to interview the contractor and ask the deep, hard questions.
Don’t be in a rush.
There are certain aspects of a remodel which you won't know until you dig in, so budget for some extra time. Repairing a fixer-upper is not a linear operation, so prepare for some glitches to occur. We’ve all heard the horror stories of home renovations that took six months longer than promised. It may help to identify which parts of the home are the most vital and tackle those first. For example, you probably want your kitchen completed early on, but your guest room can wait. With the right contractor, your home renovation will likely stay on schedule and come in on budget.
A fixer-upper can be significantly cheaper to purchase than a new home. Depending on the extent of the renovations, you could come in under budget. Make sure your contractor understands that you have a fixed budget, and negotiate costs where you can. Evaluate where you need a professional's help versus areas you may be comfortable doing the work or supplying the materials yourself.
Where to start?
Let’s assume you’ve purchased a fixer-upper and are ready to renovate. Where do you begin? We suggest going for the bathroom and kitchen. You can handle a subpar living room for a bit, but living without a functioning bathroom or kitchen would be a struggle. Both rooms are highly trafficked areas in a home and contribute greatly to its resale value. Investing in these two rooms will never be frivolous. Let’s say you have only a tiny budget for either. Once the plumbing and electrical have been modernized, those with smaller budgets may consider making simple swaps to bring down the cost of the renovations. Corian counters are often cheaper than marble or soapstone. A remote-controlled Japanese toilet may be on your list of dreams, but an equally cool water-efficient toilet may be more budget-friendly. Do you add the heated floors or the chandelier? We say go for the floors. The chandelier can come later—adding heated floors after the fact is a larger project.
In the kitchen, budget-conscious owners of fixer-uppers should comb the sales to get the appliances they desire. Countertops matter—if granite is not in your budget, poured concrete, butcher block and stainless steel all make cheaper, visually interesting and durable options. Traditional hardwood floors may be out of reach, but there are a variety of eco-friendly alternatives such as bamboo.
Whatever you spend on your kitchen and bathroom, remember that details matter. Invest in beautiful, hardworking fixtures (we’re loving Matte Black in the kitchen and Champagne Bronze in the bathroom). Incorporate attractive drawer and cabinet pulls. Pick the perfect Behr paint color. No one will know how much you spent. They’ll only know how jealous they are.