First-time home buyers bought more than two million homes in the United States in 2017. Many of those homes were not new, which means quite a few people found themselves in possession of a fixer-upper. These houses can be a dream or a nightmare. If you get the house for a good price, you can make a considerable profit by fixing it up and selling it.
Of course, this may depend on your area of the country; the average price for a fixer-upper in Boston, Massachusetts, for example, is $420,000, but the average will be much lower in less-populated and rural areas. And if renovations head south, you could end up pouring a lot more money and resources than you intended into a money pit. Here are a few suggestions to keep your experience on the positive side.
The Buying Process
As a first-time home buyer, get prepared before you even begin looking. Check your credit score, know what kind of down payment you can afford, and get pre-approved for a loan so you can make an offer without having to wait.
Looking beyond traditional real estate listings often yields results when you’re searching for a fixer-upper in your area. Check your local courthouse for foreclosure notices and attend auctions and estate sales. Because you’re willing to do some work on a house, you’re more likely to find a gem others will miss. The ideal fixer-upper is the worst house in the best neighborhood.
Before you buy, make sure you get a home inspection so you know exactly what you’re facing in terms of repair work. You want to make sure you’re not missing something major that will spell disaster once the house is yours.
Prepping for DIY
Determine what projects you need to hire out and what projects you can handle. For the jobs you’ll be doing, make sure you have the appropriate tools. A few common power tools include a drill, circular saw, jigsaw, oscillating multi-tool, and an orbital sander. These will get you through most projects. If you’re not sure which models or brands to buy -- or which tool to use for which job -- do some research or ask your contractor or an experienced friend for recommendations.
What Projects to Tackle First
Deciding what projects to start with will depend on if you are living in the home. If you’re living there, you will likely remodel one room at a time so you can live in the other areas. If you have other living arrangements, you can work on the entire home at the same time.
Major projects come first. Knocking down walls, tearing out old kitchens, ripping up flooring, and doing major plumbing and/or electrical work are large changes that should come before smaller cosmetic improvements such as paint.
If you are working with a contractor, make sure he communicates his remodeling plan to you. If you’re doing everything on your own, create a timeline before you pick up the first hammer.
Love It or List It?
As a popular show on HGTV asks, once you have completed the fixing up process, should you love it or list it (stay or sell)? If you are emotionally invested in the property due to the blood, sweat, and tears you poured into it, it makes sense to stay. If the entire process is just a business transaction to you, you’ll be more willing to sell. Either way, you should have your house reappraised once repairs are finished. If the home value has increased significantly, you may be in a good position to sell quickly (make sure you research capital gains tax first).
If you’re up for an adventure, buying a fixer-upper can be an exhilarating experience for first-time home buyers. Go into the process with your eyes open, and get lots of advice from people more experienced than you. Every fixer-upper process has moments when you’re not sure if things will work out, but the end result can be well worth your time, effort, and investment.
Photo from Unsplash
Guest contribution by Bret Engle.
Clark Real Estate
305 W. Moana Ste C
Reno, NV 89509