Buying a home for the first time is one of the biggest financial decisions you will ever make. And while this isn’t a decision to be made lightly, it’s hard to not let emotions get involved too. Many first-time home buyers choose to buy a fixer-upper, whether as a way to afford their dream home or to turn a profit. Either way, if you’re considering a fixer-upper, you need to know what to expect and how to keep the emotional and practical considerations in balance.
Finding and Buying Your Fixer-Upper
When you start searching for fixer-upper properties in your area, you need to determine what the true cost will be. Of course, the cost of buying a home is only one of several factors to consider. The cost of repairs needs to be included in your overall budget too. Money Crashers recommends making a list of exactly which repairs are needed, paying close attention to anything structural. A professional home inspector can help address structural issues and uncover any hidden concerns.
When writing your list of repairs, be careful not to take on more than you can handle. Buying a fixer-upper is only a good investment when you can keep costs low, which means you should expect to do much of the work yourself. With that in mind, it’s easy to get carried away with dreams and plans, but you don’t want to get in over your head with more DIY repairs than you can manage.
Once you have found the right home that fits your budget, start exploring options to finance it. Don’t overlook loans designed for a fixer-upper purchase, which have built-in reserves for funding your renovation projects. If you’re a veteran who has served on active duty for six months or more, you’re likely eligible for a VA loan. With this type of loan, you can get reduced interest rates, and you can purchase your home without having to make a down payment (as long as you don’t buy your home for more than its appraised value).
Think About Resale Before Buying
Even before you buy, start thinking about whether you plan on staying in or selling the home once it’s all fixed up. Flipping a home for a profit can be a great investment, but going into it with that plan will likely affect some remodeling decisions. The location of your home makes a difference in resale value too. If you’re planning on remodeling your dream home and staying put for a while, this is less of a concern. But if you plan on selling the house soon afterwards, make sure you don’t overimprove for the neighborhood. If you plan on adding upscale features, you’re better off buying in a nice or up-and-coming neighborhood so you can get the price you’re hoping for.
Once you close on your new home, where do you start with repairs? Before you jump in, determine which projects you can do yourself and what you should hire out. Don’t try to take on anything that would be unsafe to do yourself, such as electrical work, but be prepared to put in some sweat equity as much as possible. Make sure you have all the right power tools for DIY repairs, including a few necessities such as the best drills, sanders, and jigsaws.
Structural repairs or any work that needs to be done on the exterior of the home should come first. These projects are essential for your safety if you’re living in the home. You should also prioritize updating old HVAC systems, and take care of any wiring or plumbing problems.
After completing essential structural repairs, be strategic about which remodeling projects you choose next. According to HGTV, kitchen and bathroom projects are always safe bets for resale, so they’re a good place to focus some time and money. Whether you plan on staying or selling, you always want to keep resale value of projects in mind. It’s always smart to keep design in line with the home’s style and avoid anything that’s too trendy.
It’s easy to get overwhelmed by the process of buying a fixer-upper, but the end result is often worth the work. The most important thing to keep in mind is that you don’t want to rush into anything. Do your homework before buying and remodeling for a smart purchase that pays off.
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