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Buying fixer-upper homes is currently a popular investment in the housing market, especially since lower-priced houses increase housing confidence in home buyers. On the one hand, it is a great way to purchase a home below market value and sell it for more than you paid. On the other hand, it often seems to be more work than people anticipate, and sometimes the final product doesn’t end up being worth as much time, effort, and money as people put into it.

So, is a fixer-upper home worth it? The answer depends on a variety of factors and your current situation. Thankfully, we have a list of pros and cons as well as tips and recommendations if you’re trying to decide if a fixer-upper home is the right decision for you.

The Pros

  • You have more creative leeway. You can build, renovate, and design the house the way you want.
  • You can decide what places in the home you want to spend more money on (i.e., a better kitchen or a better bedroom).
  • You have the opportunity to make the home worth a great deal more than you paid.
  • You can likely flip the home for more money
  • Fixer-upper homes are typically 8% below the market value.
  • You will pay less in property taxes because they are calculated based on your home’s sale price.

The Cons

  • Most fixer-upper homes are not move-in ready.
  • Renovations are costly.
  • You also don’t have an exact total of what everything will cost, making the financial bottom line uncertain.
  • Fixer-upper homes can be a risk. You never know when things are going to go wrong, so you have to anticipate possible complications.
  • If you need to make structural changes, you’ll need a building permit, which is around $1,000, according to HomeAdvisor.
  • It can take months or even longer to finish a fixer-upper.

Do a Home Inspection

If you are interested in a fixer-upper home, you want to begin with a home inspection. The inspector will likely be able to determine whether the home is worth the investment or not, depending on the severity of the necessary renovations.

Note that if the necessary improvements in the house are structural, such as roof and/or wall issues, it’s likely not worth the investment. These type of renovations are complicated and extremely expensive. They are also not typically noticeable by potential buyers, so they fail to raise the value of your home enough to make up for the money you invested. However, if you have a written report from your home inspector listing the major issues and the estimated repair costs, you might be able to get the seller to lower the cost of the house to account for the added repairs you’ll have to do.

Get an Estimate of Renovation Costs

Deciding if a fixer-upper home is worth it is heavily influenced by the estimated cost of renovations. As stated above, home inspectors can often help you with this. Note all of the necessary renovations and how much they will cost by using a home inspector or a contractor; it’s better to over quote this than under quote. Then you want to subtract this from the home’s projected market value (after repairs and renovations). You can estimate a home’s market value by researching the neighboring homes’ values. Finally, you need to deduct 5 to 10 percent more for possible complications and other possibilities.

Determine If You Need Permits

Depending on your area, you might need permits to do certain renovations. If you build without obtaining the proper permits, you could have difficulty selling the house in the future. Make sure you have the money to get the required permits before committing to remodeling.

Identify the Skills You Have and What You Can DIY

Part of purchasing a fixer-upper is having to do much of the work on your own. Decide if you have the skills to do the necessary renovations. If you can do most of the repairs by yourself, figure out what you can DIY and hire someone to do the rest. If you’re doing most of the labor, all you need are the parts and equipment for the renovations, and you won’t have to waste money paying someone else.

If you don’t have the ability to do a large chunk of the workload yourself, consider staying away from a fixer-upper home. Hiring someone to do most of the work for you will likely cost more than the renovations are worth in value.

Make Sure You Have the Time—and the Motivation

Fixer-upper homes require a considerable amount of time. If you think you’re too busy to manage the home renovations, consider going with a move-in ready home instead. Especially if you delay pressing repairs, you could risk losing money and value in your home.

Along with a time sacrifice, fixer-uppers require motivation to deal with such a huge project. Ensure you have the motivation and determination to finish renovations before committing to a fixer-upper home. You don’t want to take the plunge and buy the home just to get burnt out halfway through and regret your decision.

Check Financing Options

Buying a fixer-upper home is more financially complicated than your typical finished home; you will need money for the routine down payment and closing costs, but you will also need money for the home repairs and any possible complications in the renovation process.

If you don’t have enough money for the renovations up front, there are borrowing options such as the 203(k) loan that is meant for home repair, improvement, and reconstruction. A multitude of other loan options can ease the financial difficulty.

Avoid Being House Poor

Being house poor is when you spend the majority of your income on your home ownership. This can include your mortgage payment, property taxes, utilities, maintenance costs, etc. If choosing a fixer-upper home is going to take the majority of your money, you’re most likely better off to wait until you have additional income to handle the financial burden.

Take into account your debt-to-income ratio (DTI) when deciding if a fixer-upper home will make you house poor. Your DTI is all of your monthly debt payments divided by your gross monthly income. Generally, a 36 percent or lower DTI is ideal.

Plan for Complications

With fixer-upper homes comes unpredictability. There are unexpected issues and costs that can leave you scrambling if you’re not prepared. Although you can’t predict the future, you can still take precautions so you are as prepared as possible if something goes wrong, whether that be additional expenses, time constraints, etc. You don’t want to be left in a tough spot because you assumed everything would go as planned.

The Bottom Line

Fixer-upper homes can be a great home investment, but a great deal of responsibility and financial burden comes with it. Make sure you have the resources and the time to manage such a project. If you do, use the above tips in your fixer-upper journey. If not, maybe consider a move-in ready home or you could postpone the fixer-upper project until you are more prepared.

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