How often have you seen property ads for homes that ‘need a little love’ or are ‘ideal for DIY enthusiasts’? We often translate this as ‘in desperate of blood, sweat and tears – and don’t forget the massive home loan’. But some people actively seek out these ads; they want nothing more than a ramshackle house that they can gut and rework to their hearts’ desire. And some people are so desperate to own property that they are willing to buy a house that needs work in exchange for a lower price.
Whatever your reasons for buying a fixer-upper, there are a few things you need to bear in mind.
Buying a fixer-upper isn’t always a steal
Sure, you pay a nice low price but have you considered exactly how much it will cost to fix it up? Generally, the more work a house needs, the lower the price. But, the more work that’s needed, the more expensive it will be to bring it up to scratch.
You’ll need to hire a professional property inspector to get an accurate estimate of replace and repair costs. Obviously, this will cost you some more money, but rather pay a couple of hundred dollars for a thorough inspection than find your renovations climbing tens of thousands of dollars over budget.
Once you have your estimate, add an extra 20-40% so that you’re prepared for any unexpected expenses that arise. This way you can include it all in one home loan rather than have to scramble for major extra financing.
Consider your skills
How much of the work do you want to do yourself and how much are you willing to outsource? Outsourcing will add to your expenses, but if you tackle projects that you know will flummox you, you might have to pay extra to get your mess sorted out. It’s usually best to leave plumbing and electrical work to the professionals, likewise if the roof needs a major overhaul and the support structures are less than stable.
On the other hand, tackling the bulk of the projects on your own could help you uncover hidden talents. You might discover that you have a flair for carpentry or tiling. You could find untapped design skills. Working on your own home could also reveal the project manager in you; make no mistake, a project of this size needs management.
Are you blessed with infinite patience?
Because that is what you’ll need to deal with the slow pace of progress, delays in deliveries and a partner who does things differently to you.
Expect the new window frames to arrive late, expect the new glass panes to arrive even later. Make allowances for the fact that you will make mistakes that will need to be corrected (with solutions that require a great deal of creativity and out-of-the-box thinking). Ensure that your relationship is rock solid – is more solid than rock, in fact – because tempers will flare. This is especially true of you’re also trying to raise children and balance renovations with a very demanding full-time (over-time) job.
Those who have done it successfully say that there is very little in life more satisfying that watching your dream house come together as the direct result of your hard work. The only thing that compares is the satisfaction of living in the home into which you poured your soul.