Questions to Ask Yourself Before Moving Into a Fixer Upper

It’s happened – the fixer upper that you’ve been eyeing for months has finally gone on the market. You cherish the wrap-around porch, the crown moldings and cherry floors in the living room, and there’s even a certain charm to the 1970’s shag carpet upstairs. Simply put, you’re now officially smitten. You begin to ask yourself – “How much work could it really be to fix up the house?”

The truth is – investing in a fixer upper is not for the faint of heart! Depending on the repairs, working on a fixer upper can easily become a crippling drain on your time and resources. Before you bite off more than you can chew, here are a few questions to ask yourself before taking the plunge:

What’s your budget?
Do the math! Before handing over the down payment, consult multiple home inspectors so that you can get a realistic assessment of how much it’ll cost to fix up the home. Structural damage that involves the home’s foundation, window replacements, or any kind of plumbing or electrical overhaul can easily pile up to be in the thousands of dollars.

As you hash out your budget, consider what sacrifices you may or may not be willing to take. For example, are you willing to take out a loan to pay for the repairs? Are you willing to forego the big vacation that your family takes every year in order to budget for unexpected repairs? How much leeway do you really have?

Which repairs really matter? 
Consider whether the things that you want fixed up are cosmetic or structural repairs. Maybe you can get by with the kitchen tiling until next year. But, living with only one shower and five kids? Not so much. As you assess your budget, prioritize which repairs are “nice to have” versus “need to have,” and adjust your timeline and budget accordingly.

Is it worth the investment?
Prospective homeowners have different reasons for wanting to invest in a fixer upper. Some are in it for the pure economics of flipping the house and reselling it for more down the road, while others appreciate the sweat and grind that goes into a good, old DIY project. While we’ll leave it to the real estate professionals that you work with to give financial advice, you can still do your research about the surrounding neighborhoods to see whether flipping the house is a sound investment. For example, are property values in the neighborhood on the uptick? Can your real estate agent provide any data on other properties that have been successfully flipped and resold?

Is now the right time?
Unless you have one or more members of your household that are fully dedicated to the project, chances are that you’ll be squeezing in home repairs between everything else that’s going on in your life – work, school, kids, etc.

Before you invest in a fixer upper, consider whether now is the right time to do so. Even if you’re not planning to work on the repairs yourself, coordinating with contractors and vendors will still take up your time. Maybe it’s better to wait until your oldest daughter goes to college or until your partner finishes paying off his or her medical school loans. Either way, make sure that now’s the right time, financially and otherwise.

Is everyone in your household on the same page?
Home improvement projects certainly are not everyone’s cup of tea. Before you decide to invest in a fixer upper, be sure to have an honest conversation with everyone in your household about how they feel about the project. For example, how do your kids feel about potentially having contractors or construction workers in your home around the clock?

Do you have it in you?
Investing in a new home can be just plain exhausting. It’s not something that’s going to happen overnight, and depending on the scope of the problem, you may need to spend months (if not years) working on the home. One repair project can easily unveil another problem, and before you know it, project deadlines are pushed back. Before investing in a fixer upper, be sure that you and everyone in your household is comfortable with the possibility of being in it for the long haul.

At the end of the day, purchasing a fixer upper is hard work, but it can also be an incredibly rewarding experience. Use these questions as a starting point, and you'll be one step closer to determining whether a fixer upper is right for you!


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