The First-Time Home-Buyers Guide: Fixer-Uppers | the ReFab Diaries

In recent years, house prices have skyrocketed. This has posed a challenge to first-time buyers now struggling to get a foot on the property ladder. This is precisely why a lot of buyers are opting to go less expensive homes that need work – the "fixer-upper" – as opposed to a newer build that they could move straight into because these do tend to be more expensive. 

I obviously support this trend because I think it's better to update and rehab what's already there versus building anything from scratch (as long as you do it conscientiously). That being said, it does take a discerning eye to spot a fixer-upper with potential as opposed to a money pit. This is precisely why we have put together the following guide: keep reading for everything you need to know.  

Fixer-uppers defined

A fixer-upper is a property which walks the line between needing repairs and updating without the repairs exceeding the value of the property or being so significant that it renders the home inhabitable. They tend to be cheaper to purchase because the seller is aware that they require work in order to be habitable. This is why they are so attractive to first-time buyers or even those that buy homes, fix them up and sell them for profit. Simply put, the cost of purchasing a fixer-upper plus the repairs and renovations needed still tends to cost less than you could expect to pay for a comparable home that is considered to be in good condition or instantly livable. 

The benefits of purchasing a fixer-upper

While the benefits of buying a fixer-upper were briefly touched on above, it is definitely worth going into a little more detail. Obviously, the biggest benefit to purchasing a fixer-upper is the price. They are significantly cheaper, and this allows buyers to buy a home in a neighborhood that they otherwise wouldn't be able to afford. With a fixer-upper, you also get to customize the renovation work to your wants and needs, as long as it all remains within budget. This does make a fixer-upper more ideal for those who have a very specific vision in mind or those that are unlikely to find a home that will fit with what they want within their budget anyway. Simply put, you have more control over the finished product. 

Most fixer-uppers tend to be older homes, and older homes have original features and tons of character. A lot of these original features are highly sought after nowadays alongside trends, and they can be restored to create more visual interest in the home. Restoring these features is often easier than trying to find a comparable home with them or renovating a new build to include them, so bear that in mind. Regardless of whether or not you plan to flip the home for a quick sale or if you want to live there for the foreseeable future, you are still far more likely to make a profit on the home, perhaps even more so after living in it and paying down the mortgage for a while

How to choose a fixer-upper

If you think that you want to choose a fixer-upper for your first property, there are a few things that you should look for in order to make sure that you are getting the biggest bang for your buck. Firstly, and perhaps most importantly, is the location of the property. Ideally, you will want to find a fixer-upper in a desirable neighborhood or, failing that, one that is up and coming. This ensures maximum resale value when you come to sell the property. In addition to that, if you want to live in the property for some time, you want to make sure that you are going to be happy there, this means a nice friendly neighborhood with good transport links and all of the amenities that you want. It may also be worth considering what the calibre of local tradespeople and builders are like in that area, as they are likely to be the ones working on the property. You can find local companies on MyBuilder which cover the spectrum of trades and jobs that you are likely to need. 

Next, you will need to think about the layout and size of the property. With a fixer-upper, you can often change the layout to suit your needs, although you will still need to consider which walls are load-bearing. Increasing the square footage by extending is also a possibility, although you will need to think about how easy it would be to obtain planning permission. Finally, you will need to weigh up the condition of the home versus the need for cosmetic updates. Significant structural repairs tend to be a lot more expensive than cosmetic updates. You should look for a fixer-upper with a strong foundation, proper plumbing and electrical work, a roof in good condition and good windows and doors. Obviously, some of this can be done as needed, but it is not worth purchasing if they all need doing in addition to cosmetic work. Fixer-uppers that are simply outdated or worn out can be modernized without too much hassle, and doing so is often surprisingly affordable too. 

The bottom line

Buying a fixer-upper is a popular choice for all of the reasons listed above. However, it is a big undertaking, and this should not be underestimated. Make sure to weigh up the pros and cons as well as considering your budget.

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