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4 Tips for Taking on a Fixer-Upper

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4 Tips for Taking on a Fixer-Upper

If you’re considering buying a fixer-upper as your first home, there are some things you need to keep in mind. The good news is a fixer-upper is typically cheaper than a brand new home. It’s also much easier to add your own touch to a home that needs some attention. The bad news is that they will need a lot of TLC before anyone moves in, and that TLC can be costly. Check out these pointers.

Research zoning laws

Do you know what neighborhood or part of the city you want to live in? Check and see if there are any fixer-upper homes in that area. Then, look up zoning rights for that neighborhood, especially if you already have your sights set on a certain home. Zoning laws will help you know what renovations you’re allowed to do legally. For example, if you’re interested in a fixer-upper home in a historic district, you may not be able to make major changes to the home without the proper approval. In fact, you may not be able to make major changes at all. 

To learn more about the zoning laws of your city, visit the municipality’s website or meet with a city staff member who can help. You should also keep in mind that some renovations will require permits. 

Find a local contractor ASAP 

Before you buy a fixer-upper home, tour it with an architect or contractor, especially if you have no experience with remodels or home repairs. Getting a professional’s opinion can help you calculate the cost of renovations, so you can figure out whether the property is a sound investment. Talking to your contractor about your repair budget will also help him/her determine whether a home fits your financial needs. 

Before signing on the dotted line, make sure the house is inspected, so you don’t end up with any surprises later. According to Nolo, you should make sure you accompany the inspector to better understand which issues are serious and which are minor.  Inspections and contractor walk-throughs can also help pinpoint structural issues that are often costly to repair and usually aren’t worth the expense.

Tackle important repairs first

Now you need to decide which renovation projects are a priority and which can wait. Popular Mechanics notes there are some issues that should top your list due to the damaging implications. To avoid having dangerous black mold take over your home, water damage should always be a priority repair. Aside from safety concerns, you can also take a look at your budget to determine which repairs you can afford right away. If you don’t have a lot of money to work with, try some DIY repairs that will still make your fixer-upper look nice. 

Some projects are especially DIY-friendly, like peel-and-stick wallpaper. Nothing like the laborious project it used to be, today’s options are easy to apply and remove, come in various textures, and you can design your own pattern or select from thousands designed by professional artists. 

Having the right power tools to assist you with these projects (including drills, jigsaws and sanders) makes the process a lot quicker, so keep the cost of these tools in mind as well. Replacing plumbing, installing electrical wiring, pouring concrete in driveways and building garages are more involved projects that will take much more money and should be completed by a licensed contractor. 

Determine if you want to stay or sell

Now that the renovations are complete, you may be wondering if you should stay in your newly renovated home to enjoy your work or sell it to bolster your savings account. There are a couple factors that you should take into consideration before making a decision. Consider the current real estate market. If it’s a buyer’s market, you may be better off staying put until the market begins to favor sellers. You can also have a local estate agent appraise your home and discuss whether it will grow in value over time or if you should sell sooner. 

By now, you can see that buying a fixer-upper isn’t as simple as it seems on TV. You have to be willing to put in a lot of time and hard work to make it a good investment. Plus, you need the financial flexibility to deal with renovations and unexpected expenses. If you have these qualities, you may have what it takes to tackle a fixer-upper.

Photo: Unsplash

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