Is a Fixer-Upper Right for You?
If you have watched any home improvement television shows over the past few years it is likely
you have been lulled into the belief that most house flips or major home improvements can be
solved neatly inside a thirty-minute primetime cable window. Hiccups, delays, and expensive
repairs are often glossed over and what viewers end up focusing on is the serotonin hit of an
ugly “before” that has been transformed into a beautiful “after.”
Perhaps you, too, have considered purchasing a home as a fixer-upper. Maybe Chip and
Joanna Gaines have become famous icons or mentors to you. Maybe you think you have Chip’s
rugged humor or Joanna’s style, or better yet, their budget to go all in and turn a misfit home
into the place where dreams are made. Possibly, you’ve passed by their branded Magnolia
merchandise at Target and wondered, “Is a fixer-upper right for me?”
Before you go down that path of reverie with farmhouse sinks, beautiful fabrics, and the release
of demo-day aggression you might truly ask yourself if this type of undertaking is reasonable for
your specific situation.
While the sales price of the home may seem too good to be true, when purchasing a fixer-upper
it is important to have a trained professional do a walk-through with you to help determine the
exact renovations the home will need to make it liveable. Not only should you calculate the
repairs or replacements, but most significantly you should help to determine a timeline and an
honest budget for these needs.
Does your military lifestyle of frequent moves and high operational tempos
allow for the time to DIY?
Next, you will need to determine whether or not you will do this work yourself or whether or not
you plan to hire it out. If you’re handy and capable and have the time, great news! You can save
a lot of money in the long run. If you will have to hire out the work, you will be at the mercy of
contracted workers’ timelines and higher costs. It’s vital to honestly ask yourself if you have the
necessary skillset, time, and money to take on a project of this magnitude.
Can you sustain your normal quality of life while living in a state of
incompletion during renovations? Is it safe for you and your family to do
This consideration might be the next most important beyond the cost. The degree to which you
will need to renovate will determine whether or not you can live in the home while it undergoes
its transformation. There is a great difference between updating some flooring room by room
versus gutting your kitchen and bathrooms for a project that could take months to complete.
However, there are advantages to taking on such a home project! There is obvious potential to
make a profit when you sell the home in the future. If you are indeed buying the worst house on
the block to transform it into something great, you stand to earn a huge payout in the difference
between what you paid to buy and renovate and what you might be able to sell the house for.
There’s also the enjoyment factor of hard work, getting to design and pick out personalized
features of your home as well as the satisfaction of completing a meaningful project with your
own two hands.
Be discerning in your appraisal of the potential home you’d like to fix up. Be discerning in
exactly how much it will cost to purchase, repair, renovate, and decorate it. Be discerning in
your own level of handiness and skill. Be discerning whether or not your family can handle a
long, drawn-out project and live in a state of upheaval. Be discerning in the difference between
what you stand to gain and what you stand to lose. And if, after discerning and counting the cost
you decide that a fixer-upper maybe just out of reach for you now, watch a home improvement
show or two and keep taking notes for when the time may be right!