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6 Questions to Ask Before Buying a Fixer Upper

Thinking about buying a fixer upper? If you have the time, skills and budget, a big reno project might be for you. But before you start picturing yourself on an episode of HGTV, you’ll want to take a few things into consideration.

Do you have the time?

Taking on the renovations yourself? If you have the skills, renovating a home yourself can be a great idea – but it’s going to take time. Be prepared to devote most (if not all!) your time to that renovation. For the foreseeable future, your weekends will be spent fixing, sanding, painting and more – so make sure you understand the time investment before signing any papers.

On the flip side, you might be planning to hire a contractor to fix up the house. In this instance, the question “Do you have the time?” refers to if you have time to put off moving in order to wait for the home to be inhabitable. Which brings us to …

Where will you live in the meantime?

If you plan to majorly overhaul the house, there’s a good chance it won’t be livable for awhile – which means you’ll need to have other arrangements for living in the meantime. If you have somewhere else you can live while you do renovations, the idea to buy a fixer upper could be a great idea for you. However, if the home isn’t livable and you don’t have another place to stay, this could be a problem – and a costly one. An extended stay in a hotel will only add to your budget!

What all needs fixed?

A “fixer upper” doesn’t just mean a home needs some new flooring or paint – it typically means major repairs are needed before the space can become livable. Before getting in too deep, make a list of everything that needs to be fixed or upgraded. This includes major repairs like structural issues (roof, foundation, drainage systems, etc.) to cosmetic fixes like replacing cabinets or refinishing hardwood floors. This will give you a better idea of how to estimate the time and money you’ll need to take on a project like this.

Do you have a team you trust?

Like buying a non-fixer upper home, you’ll need lots of professionals in your corner to help navigate the buying and repairing process, like your real estate agent, mortgage lender, contractor and inspector. Before taking on a fixer upper, your real estate agent should be able to talk you through what to expect and make some recommendations on contractors and inspectors. Make sure you know when to hire a contractor – and how to find one you can trust. Always do your research before hiring pros for home renovations, interview more than one person/company, and ask for references and examples of past work. And always get estimates and plans in writing before any work begins!

Can you afford it?

It’s time to get honest: Do you have the budget for a major undertaking? (Note: If you’re struggling to pull together funds for a down payment, a fixer upper might not be the best for you.) In addition to the down payment, you’ll need to have a budget in place for all the planned updates and repairs – and as many unplanned ones you can. Hey, you’ve seen HGTV – there’s always some kind of surprise expense that comes up!

Are your expectations realistic?

Again, and we can’t stress this enough, HGTV isn’t real life. Do you picture a million-dollar end result on a shoestring budget? Maybe it’s time to reconsider your options before taking on a fixer upper. Do your research, talk to the experts, and keep your expectations realistic – or you’ll only be setting yourself up for failure.


If you’re confident about going the fixer upper route, we can help! Or if you’re not sure where to start, we can help with that, too. Let’s chat today about finding (or creating!) your dream home.

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