By Nancy Mattia
Buying a fixer-upper, which is a home needing repairs but is livable as is, could be one of the best decisions you’ll ever make—or one of the worst. On the upside, the purchase may allow you to have your dream home in your budget and customize it any way you want. The downside: The house will need considerable time and money to fix it up. Here are some things you should know before making an offer:
1. It’s risky to skip a home inspection.
While it’s always a good idea to do your due diligence with a complete home inspection prior to making a home purchase, it’s especially true with a fixer upper. Waiving the inspection may make your offer more attractive to the sellers, you could unknowingly be buying into the proverbial “money pit.” A home inspection provides the potential buyer “with the insight to determine if this is a sound purchase,” says DeLisa Dawkins, real estate agent at Realty One Group, in Greenville, South Carolina. An inspection checks that all the major systems like plumbing, electrical, and HVAC are working correctly and up to code. “Now that we are in a different phase of the pandemic, many homeowners are experiencing buyer’s remorse due to [waiving an inspection].”
2. You will spend much of your free time hammering things.
Instead of going out with friends, you’ll be spending after-work hours and weekends working on the house. Depending on how much work the home needs, this could go on for months, or even years. Don’t be surprised if you become a devotee of YouTube how-to videos!
3. Being realistic about your skill level is crucial.
While some jobs such as painting walls, ripping up carpeting, and hanging sheetrock can be done successfully with little experience, you’ll want to budget for certain contractors like plumbers and electricians to do major repairs and renovations. It’ll be more expensive than if you attempted to do the jobs yourself but if you’re a novice, you’d be taking a risk attempting to replace a toilet yourself. Besides, certain jobs require permits that only a professional can apply for.
4. You’ll want to get renovation estimates before making an offer.
Figuring out the cost of the things you want (new windows, a finished basement) is part of the “to buy or not to buy” equation. “A buyer can ask contractors and/or renovation professionals to obtain several quotes to make the best decision,” says Dawkins. “Buyers should also take into account time and displacement in the event that the home is not in a livable condition during the renovation process.”
5. Plan on allocating some of the budget to unforeseen problems.
It’s hard to accept there may be even more fixes needed than originally thought—common ones include old wiring and rotted boards under the kitchen linoleum. Adjust your budget to reflect these additional costs. Zillow recommends factoring 10 to 20 percent of the total budget for unexpected expenses.