Tips for Buying a Fixer Upper

    Tips for Buying a Fixer Upper

    May 14, 2021

    As you’re conducting walkthroughs of potential properties, you probably have a vision in your mind of exactly how you want your dream home to look. Even if you just need to purchase new furniture to fit the layout or re-paint the walls, let’s face it—most houses won’t be perfect for you. Luckily, a little DIY can make a home as good as new! Home renovations can be a great way to customize your space but what happens if you’ve found a potential home that needs a little more work than you can handle yourself? Here are a few tips for anyone considering a fixer upper.

    Get a home inspection.

    No matter what property you might make an offer on, getting a home inspection is always, always a good idea. Even a newer home could have issues that you won’t be able to spot yourself during a walkthrough and if you are looking at a fixer upper, you’ll definitely want to know what repairs to focus on first. Although it’s a decent chunk of change up front, it can save you thousands of dollars in the long run or even potentially save you from making a terrible investment.

    While living near the coast offers undeniable beauty and abundant opportunities for fun and relaxation, it also comes with its share of home maintenance challenges. You’ll want the inspector to determine if your fixer upper has suffered wind or water damage from a prior coastal storm, especially flood damage. Salt water and sand can also rust or damage certain materials more quickly.

    Although most people looking into a fixer upper already expect issues, knowing the problems up front will help you decide if the project is too large to take on, or can also give you some negotiating power when you make an offer. In particular, items that the inspector has deemed hazardous, structurally unsound, or not up to code could be a red flag for you, or at the very least, cut into your renovating budget.

    As a general rule, you may also want to inspect or test for pests (termites, rodents, etc.), mold (from a specialist certified by the Institute of Inspection, Cleaning and Restoration Certification), and radon (the Environmental Protection Agency estimates that 1 out of every 15 homes in the US has elevated radon levels). In some cases, your home inspector may even discover an issue that requires further evaluation by a specialist. Learn more about the importance of a home inspection.

    Communicate with your local governing agencies.

    The appeal of a fixer upper is understandable—it comes with the potential to make a home look exactly the way you want it. Before you let your imagination run wild, though, you’ll want to check on local building codes and zoning laws. Zoning laws could dictate what you can and can’t do, especially if the home is located in a historic district or zoned for specific use. Additionally, when you’re budgeting for renovations, you will want to factor building permits into your estimate.

    On the other hand, some municipalities may offer tax incentives for improving property values within certain neighborhoods. If you aren’t sure how local or state laws could impact your potential fixer upper, a great first step is to ask your Coldwell Banker Seaside Realty agent!

    Obtain an estimate.

    If you’re looking at a potential fixer upper and you already know some of the items that need to be improved thanks to your inspection report, the next step is to sit down with a local architect or contractor and discuss your vision for the property. Ask for a full estimate of what exactly it will cost to renovate the house, how long it will take, and how much work is involved.

    You may need to hire several different companies for specialized projects even if you plan on saving money by doing some of the work yourself. Materials and labor costs can quickly add up and the price may fluctuate depending on the local market. For example, the average price of lumber has increased over 300% since April 2020, according to the National Association of Home Builders. Inflation costs could play a huge role in your decision on whether a fixer upper purchase is a good investment, or if a certain renovation plan is within your budget.

    Speaking of your budget, this is a great time to really compare your available funds against the anticipated cost of the remodel. Unfortunately, you may need to make some compromises or be prepared to complete the renovation in phases. Don’t forget that you will also need to either be prepared to live in a construction zone or find alternate housing while the project is ongoing. In the case of a fixer upper, time may be an even bigger influencing factor than costs.