What You Need to Know Before You Buy a Fixer-Upper
Fixer-uppers seem like all the rage these days – but do you know what you’re getting into?
True, the deal may be sweet, and the house may seem like it has a lot of potentials. But are you about to close on a never-ending money pit? Or a gold mine?
8 Things to Know Before Buying a Fixer-Upper
Star TV Show Hosts Aren’t Coming to Rescue You
The idea of renovating a fixer-upper can seem pretty romantic: With a little bit of sweat, hard work, and swinging around a sledgehammer, you, too, can turn your property into a dream home. They do it all the time on TV, right?
The reality is that few of us have the skills, time, or money required for a complete rehab, or even a medium-sized one. Before you decide to go all in, do an honest accounting of your time, budget, and skill.
Location is the Name of the Game
As the old saying goes. Don’t buy a fixer-upper that sits on a busy intersection, next to a jail, or across the street from the local pig farm. Even the hottest house, with all the amenities, will be undesirable if you have to worry about constant bad smells or convicts knocking on your door at 2 a.m. Look for fixer-uppers in already desirable or up-and-coming neighborhoods – better to fix up the worst house on the block than the worst house on the worst block. What’s the neighborhood like? Quiet, well-maintained, safe? No matter how good the deal is, a fixer-upper in an undesirable location is not going to bring you the results you want.
Them Bones, Them Good Bones
During your search, look for a place that has curb-appeal (or will have it with a little TLC). What’s the layout like? You want a layout that flows naturally, not one that seems like it could be an Escape Room. Large windows and custom woodwork go a long way to making a house go from looking run-down to looking like a well-cared for antique. Each room has to be functional – as is – before you decide to buy the house. No amount of funky paint colors or cool countertops will cover up a bad layout or distract from a cramped room.
Structural Problems vs. Aesthetic
In that line, what are the main problems the house has? Are they aesthetic (fairly easy to fix) or structural (not easy and generally very expensive)? Get a home inspector in there, stat. They will alert you to problems like cracks in the foundation, radon, or outdated plumbing and electrical. Structural problems can quickly turn into a money pit you cannot escape from.
Vet Your Contractors
Not all contractors are going to have an online presence. But if not, can you vet them through people who have worked with them before? Ask your contractor for references. If they do have an online presence, their reviews should be a good indication of the quality of their work and their reputation. Before you hire a contractor, have a few come check out your house, your budget, and what you want completed. You’ll not only get a realistic idea of your vision is possible (and affordable), you can decide which contractor you want to work with. The easiest, most painless option for you? Hire a full-service property management firm, which has already vetted contractors and has insurance in case something falls through — leaving you with less to worry about.
Don’t Cut Corners
There are some things you can probably do yourself: Painting, tiling, even laying flooring. Other things should be left to the pros: Electric, plumbing, any heating or cooling. For starters, if you don’t live in the house, ie your primary residence, you can’t legally do plumbing, electrical, or HVAC. Secondly, it’s a legal liability.
DIY blogs are fantastic resources, but you don’t want to end up electrocuted because you wanted to save a few bucks. You don’t need to buy the best fixtures and features out there, but don’t go for the cheapest: People will notice the quality of what you chose, and, over time, it will just cost you more money to replace.
It’s Your Time — and Money
Have you determined your budgetfor not only the house but the renovations required? After the home inspection, check in with your realtor. Review your priorities and plan accordingly, based on your budget and willingness to tackle major renovations – or hire experts to do them.
Renovations never happen (or at least, rarely enough to make the news) on a budget or on time. Life’s like that. What can you do to manage your – and others’ – expectations?
For your budget, build in a ten to twenty percent buffer. If that puts you way over what you can afford, you may need to scale back – for now, at least. Prepare for your timeline to fluctuate as the work happens – contractors get sick, people cancel, or, you may decide to hire new people, which requires an adjustment period.
Also, have you considered any licenses or permits you may need? These can take a while, and some are fairly expensive.
Looking for a full-service property management firm that can help you navigate the issues? We offer a full range of services with vetted contractors. Reach out through our website or give us a call today.