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Fabulous Fixer Upper or Monster of a Money Pit? How to Tell the Difference

In many ways, fixer upper properties are rather appealing to some home buyers. Sometimes taking on a less than perfect home can mean getting more house for your money or getting a foot into a desirable neighbourhood that they may not have otherwise been able to afford to consider.

Sounds like a great idea maybe, but only if the property is actually a fixer upper and not a ‘should be torn down’ – er. The latter, unless you are actually buying for the land/plot only, is likely to become a heartbreaking disaster while the former could, with work, give you the dream home you envisioned. But how do you really tell the difference between the two? Here are some pointers:

It’s a Cosmetic Fixer Upper

For all that we, as Realtors, stress the importance of cleaning, maintenance and staging to home sellers some just won’t – or can’t – put that kind of work into fixing up a down at heel home. So, in the knowledge that this will involve a price decrease they bite the bullet and deal with it. However, there really isn’t too much wrong. New paint, new flooring, maybe new countertops, updated lighting lighting, landscaping and a few landscaping tweaks should do it.

So, for those willing – or maybe even excited about – the idea of making a few dozen trips to the home store and putting in some sweat equity to get the home they want a cosmetic fixer upper could be an ideal buy.

The Ugly House That Can

OK, so it’s kind of ugly but sometimes a buyer can see beyond the less than pretty facade to the beautiful bones of the house. It’s going to need more work than a simple cosmetic fixer upper but the potential may really be there and a buyer would be getting a great deal that perhaps others do not realise they’ve passed up. Here are some of the hallmarks of this kind of property:

Zero Curb Appeal – The lawn is overgrown – or dead – and the exterior paint is peeling. The fencing has fallen down or the backyard looks like something that would truly appeal to Tarzan and Jane but no one else. However, these things are a relatively easy fix and thew work needed could even end up being a satisfying way to spend a few summer weekends.

Ugly Decor – Tastes differ and times changes. Yes that yellow and avocado bathroom is a nightmare to behold but 40 years ago, in the Seventies, someone (actually lots of someones) thought it was cool and stylish. The same goes for that very unfortunate wallpaper and the carpet that was slapped over the hardwood flooring (yes there was a time when people preferred to cover up their hardwood floors)

But ugly decor can be fixed. Wallpaper can be stripped and replaced. Carpet can be removed and the hardwood beneath sanded and refinished to perfection. That green toilet can be replaced in a day and for a couple of hundred dollars at most. If you see the potential to turn an ugly duckling into a beautiful swan sometimes it’s worth going for it.

Tiny Rooms and Strange Layouts

Before you discount a house that you like, one that’s in a neighbourhood you love and being offered at a good price because the rooms are too small or it’s a little weird having a bedroom downstairs take a look at the renovation possibilities. Could a non supporting wall be taken out to create the kind of open plan living space that is so in very in vogue these days. Could you simply repurpose that oddly placed bedroom without losing too much actual function? Sometimes all it takes is a little architectural imagination for a too tiny home to become a bigger and better deal than you really imagined.

The Deal Breakers

Finally we come to those ‘should be torn down’ – ers. These are the homes that cannot really be helped without a very significant investment of time and money. Foundation issues, geological problems (settling etc) extensive prior water or fire damage that was badly remediated are all things that should signal to a buyer that this is not the fixer upper for them.

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