Learn from homeowners who bought into major renovation projects to see if one is right for you!
Buying a fixer-upper can be a great way to maximize your buying power, whether you’re a first-time home buyer or you’re simply looking to get into a bigger house or better neighborhood. It also has its hazards. Here are six tips to keep you from getting in over your head when taking on a fixer-upper house.
1. Do your due diligence. Don’t be afraid of being nosy on your first visit; this is your first chance to look for signs of hidden damage or maintenance problems. Check behind drawers, look for mismatched molding and sniff around for a musty smell. Then come back and tag along with a home inspector, and feel free to ask as many questions as you need.
2. Be willing to stand firm. Negotiating a home price can be stressful and intimidating, but when Katherine and Conan Fugit look back at the buying process for their home, they wish they’d pushed a little harder.
“We were dealing with a bank, not a homeowner, so there wasn’t much wiggle room on some things,” says Katherine. But we’ve always wondered, What if we’d stuck to our guns about getting the radiators fixed before we moved in? What if we had offered less?”
While negotiating can be tough when you’re in love with the house, the worst thing the seller can say is no.
Their advice: “Go with your gut,” says Katherine. If it’s meant to be, it will be, and if not, you’ll find another house.”
3. Find a great pro. While they started out doing almost all of the work themselves, the Kaemingks recommend handing off much of the work to a good, reasonable contractor. “These people are professionals who can get the job done quickly, get it done right and sometimes for less than doing it yourself,” says Brandt.
The Fugits hired pros for just three projects on their home: installing a new breaker box, installing central heating and reroofing the house. Heating was a priority, as the radiators had frozen and burst prior to sale and they were moving in during the winter. So they applied for a grant and moved quickly to hire a pro.
“The experience was terrific,” says Katherine. “The people we hired for those jobs were friendly, efficient, clean and safe.”
4. Know when to get your hands dirty. Unless you’re a professional, don’t even think about touching HVAC systems, structural supports, electrical systems, plumbing and other key parts of your home’s skeleton. You’ll likely erase your savings when problems crop up down the road.
“Save the money when it comes to cosmetics, like painting, landscaping, demolition or even helping the contractor as a labor force,” Chelsea recommends.
The Fugits had no construction experience when they bought their 1940s farmhouse, but both come from families of experienced home renovators, including a master carpenter. “Without their help we would have never bought this house, let alone worked on it ourselves,” says Katherine.
5. Restore and repurpose. Both the Kaemingks and the Fugits were able save costs on their renovations by reusing quality pieces of their respective homes. “Salvaging and finding new uses for old items can really add character to a space where there isn’t any, plus it’s inexpensive to salvage and good for the environment,” says Brandt. “All our properties we renovate revolve around salvaging items and reinventing them in a space.”
6. Find the right furnishings. Once you move in, you may have to accept that your ultracomfy couch just won’t fit in your new space. In fact, it might be your old furnishings that are making you feel like there’s more work to do.
“If a home is decorated right, it doesn’t matter how old the space is; it can feel new and fresh with the right furnishings … it’s remarkable,” says Brandt.
In our case our long, rectangular media room made me second-guess why we hadn’t added a wall to create a value-adding extra bedroom. Fortunately, my husband gently coaxed me into admitting I was in over my head and that I needed to hire an interior designer.
Where I had seen a confusing space, she saw a chic, midcentury office area and lounge space. Now when I have to work on the weekends, I have a comfortable work and reading space within view of my favorite Sunday-morning news programs.
Do you think you could handle a fixer-upper? Comment Below and let us know!