Buying a fixer upper is an educational, emotional, time & money commitment that can be absolutely draining and is kind of like having a child. You learn as you go, creating on the spot solutions for easy fixes and exercising patience with more serious issues. These trials and tasks are a humbling experience, educating and making you honest about your own abilities. Don’t promise your child superhuman strength and commitment if you can’t deliver when it’s asked for. You end up disappointing yourself more than what you are helping to build anyway. Like any new parent, the best ways to prepare are by reading the literature and talking to people with some experience. However, no amount of preparation will give you all the answers and take away the unexpected surprises. That’s part of what makes it worth it, making the satisfaction so enjoyable at the end. You can never know what a child will turn into and it certainly probably won’t be anything planned for. It’s something full of possibilities and no limits on what it can and will become.
The Diamond in the Rough
The ideal fixer upper might have smelly carpets and missing hunks of drywall, but the plumbing and electrical systems exist and function accordingly. It has been fastidiously maintained despite the out of date appliances and furnishings. Many houses that were completely redone in the 70s and 80s fit this model and are up for another face lift. Fresh coats of paint on top of new drywall can make an incredible difference, especially when coupled with floor repairs.
Updating the lighting and appliances of an old house are more cosmetic changes that offer a big return for a small price. Along with their complimentary companions, fixtures and windows usually need to be replaced with more modern and energy efficient models. Installing the most current green energy faucets, toilets and stoves is another way to completely change the look and feel of the house while raising the resale value above the purchase price.
Major repairs are often “invisible.” They add very little to the resale value of a house, but are great at draining budgets. These repairs involve any design and structural problems. Plumbing pipes and electrical wires are hardly ever seen. However, having to replace, add or move them stands out in anyone’s checkbook. Other structural repairs include leveling the foundation, replacing the roof, extensive wall repairs and constructing additions to the house. The one exception to this list is a bathroom addition, which alone can raise the resale value to be more than twice what was paid.
The Worst House on the Best Street
When buying any house, location is priority. Fixer uppers are more likely to found in developing neighborhoods rather than in already established areas. Real estate websites that offer complete neighborhood listings and specific search fields are the best way to find a bad house in a good location. Many websites advertise or categorize fixer uppers using the terms “handyman special,” “needs work” and “diamond in the rough.”
Going to open houses is the next best way to find both a neighborhood and a house. Frequenting them often is look visiting a schoolroom. You learn how to spot potential problems and get better at locating them. By seeing all sorts of problems and levels of work, you also get more comfortable and realistic with your own abilities and skill level.
The best teachers at open houses are the selling brokers that have been hired to show them. They should be able to offer the ins and outs of specific neighborhoods, knowing both the normal and unusual trends. If unable to answer any immediate questions, the broker should be dedicated enough to do the research and smart enough to find it. These sellers are also your potential buying brokers. Finding yourself drawn to a particular one, consider hiring them.
Taking a course in carpentry may help you further understand what will be involved in upcycling a fixer upper – start here today!