Pros and Cons of Buying a Fixer-Upper House
Whether you’re looking to buy your first or your next home, you may wonder if buying a fixer-upper home could be a good investment. Buying a house that needs work may allow you to purchase in your preferred area at a lower cost than what you’d pay for a similar-sized, move-in-ready home.
Yet while fixer-uppers can help you save some money and secure a good location, they may not be a good fit for everyone. Let’s explore more about how to buy a fixer-upper by looking at the different types on the market and the pros and cons of purchasing one.
Different Types of Fixer-Upper Homes
The term fixer-upper covers a wide range of properties. Some homes may need a bit of light cosmetic work. Others may need a complete teardown to meet your needs. Here’s an overview of the types of fixer-uppers you may encounter as you consider buying a home that needs work.
1. Cosmetic updates. Many fixer-uppers are structurally sound and have functional systems (heating, plumbing, cooling, electrical, etc.), but the previous owners may not have updated the décor for decades. Replacing flooring, fixtures and countertops can be a big change without excessive investment. Even a fresh coat of paint, new door handles and trim can turn a rundown home into a bright, stylish space.
Tip: Although cosmetic updates aren’t as expensive as other upgrades, they can add up. Before buying a fixer-upper that needs a refresh, it’s a good idea to list all the changes you’d like to make. Then, estimate their cost to determine whether it’s a project you’re willing to take on. Consider what changes can wait for “phase two” of a project.
2. Structural updates. Structural work often includes additions to the house, removing walls, making substantial updates to systems like electrical and plumbing, and more.
Structural work may also encompass updates to heating or air conditioning systems. These systems may be outdated, inefficient or no longer working. And sometimes you’ll need to perform structural work to repair water or wind damage. If the foundation is cracked from past flooding, you’ll need to fix that to ensure the home is safe and stable.
Tip: Before buying a home that needs structural work, walk through it with a contractor or structural engineer. An untrained eye may not be able to assess what professionals can and can’t do—and what might be too expensive to take on.
3. Full remodels. A full-home remodel involves completely changing the structure and layout of your entire home. Remodels often include knocking down walls, changing the orientation of your space or installing a new kitchen. You may also have to update the electrical, heating and air conditioning systems. Additionally, a complete remodel can involve gutting the entire house and leaving nothing but the foundation and outside walls.
Tip: With a full remodel, you’ll likely need permits to complete the work you’re planning. Permits can take some time to secure and cost money, so start the process early and well ahead of your contractor’s timeline.
4. Teardowns. You may find that you love a particular lot or area, but the structure of the home is in bad shape or doesn’t work for your needs. In this case, tearing down the home can be an option. A teardown means completely removing the roof, walls, floors and foundation. There will be nothing left of the existing home.
Tip: Because teardowns tend to be disruptive, they often need approval from the town or city you live in. Therefore, be sure you have the approvals you need from your community before buying a property.
What to Consider with Houses That Need Work
There are advantages and drawbacks to buying a house that needs work. Here are some pros and cons to weigh as you decide on your next move.
- Fixer-uppers can be less expensive to purchase than other homes of the same size in the same area.
- You could get into a location that might otherwise be out of reach, and you can potentially make a profit at the time of resale.
- When you’re fixing up a home that needs work, you have the opportunity to make it your own. Whether you make cosmetic changes or tear it down completely, the updated home is unmistakably yours.
- Fixer-uppers come with many unknowns. For example, you won’t know what’s behind the walls until you start remodeling. You may find the electrical system needs a complete and unexpected overhaul.
- Larger-scale projects can be expensive and often run over budget. If you encounter supply chain issues or labor shortages, costs can be less predictable.
- Depending on the extent of the upgrades you’re taking on, fixing a home can take a long time. Living through major changes can be disruptive and stressful, and you may even need to pay for another place to live.
Does a Fixer-Upper House Make Sense for You?
The decision to buy a fixer-upper comes down to your appetite for taking on the project. Even cosmetic changes can be disruptive and expensive. You must be both financially and emotionally prepared for the amount of work ahead of you. Bring in experts—home inspectors, contractors, engineers, architects and designers—to help you decide whether the home’s potential is worth the cost.
Once you decide to move forward, it’s essential to protect your investment. Especially after all the work you’ve done to restore the house and bring your vision to life. Help shield yourself from the costs of future losses or damage to your new home with homeowners insurance from Travelers.
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