Are you thinking about buying a fixer-upper?
Can you really afford to buy it and fix it up, too?
How much will fixing it up really cost you?
These are key questions that need to be answered. It’s extremely important that you assess the real cost before you buy it. For without that information, you won’t know how much to offer for a fixer-upper.
But don’t fret about it. These seven steps will help you figure that out.
Step 1 – Determine What You Can Honestly Do Without Help
We all do it. We watch our favorite TV shows and YouTube videos and think we can do it all. All those home improvement pros make every project look super easy to do. But in reality, it just ain’t so.
Take that “simple” plumbing project you tackled. Remember it? How many times did you have to run to the hardware store to purchase something else that you needed to complete the job?
No, moving a staircase or even bringing wiring up to code requires much more time or skill than most folks can tout. They’re not a fix-it job like that leaky little toilet valve was.
So, since every project always takes longer than you think it will be brutally honest with yourself. Are you really able to DIY that project? Do you even want to do it yourself? And are you willing to accept the less-than-professional results that you could end up with? Less-than-professional results won’t increase the value of the home you’re working on.
Be Wise – Leave It to a Professional
Some fixes need to be left to the professionals. Remodels or updates can be dangerous when you aren’t trained or certified to do them, like electrical work, for example.
And one more thing. Will you be stressed out while you live in a demolished house month after month? You’ll most likely have time to complete home projects on the weekends only.
Step 2 – Determine the Cost of All Renovations and Then Some
Here’s a great tip! Ask your contractor to do a walk-through in the house you want to purchase and fix up. Then he can give you a written estimate on the cost of all he needs to do to bring the home up to par.
If you decide you can do the work yourself, price all the supplies needed for every renovation and upgrade.
And, whether you hire a contractor or choose to do the work yourself, tack on an additional 10 to 20 percent to the cost total. This prepares you for the surprise costs that inevitably pop up when fixing up a house.
Step 3 – Factor in Time, Costs, and Aggravation for Getting Permits
It’s a fact. Doing a home renovation without a permit saves money. But when it comes to selling the home you renovate, you could be asking for trouble. Play it safe. Ask your local officials whether or not you need a permit for the work you’re going to do. Be sure you ask about the cost of the permit you need, too.
If you decide to go with a contractor, they can make arrangements for the permits you’ll need. But if you decide you want to get the permits yourself, know this: getting permits can be time-consuming and frustrating. How? Before home inspectors give you the necessary permit for a particular renovation, they can force you to do additional work or change the way you want to do a project. Yeah …
Step 4 – Budget for Structural Work on the Fixer-Upper
Does the fixer-upper you’re looking to buy need major structural work done to it? Do a double-check. If it does, you’ll need to hire a structural engineer.
They charge $100 to $236 per hour just to inspect the house. But before you put in an offer, you’ll be confident all structural problems have been uncovered and conservatively budgeted for to the fullest extent.
Before you commit to buying a home with structural problems, get written estimates for the repairs.
A home that needs major structural work should be offered with a steep discount. So don’t commit to the purchase of a fixer-upper with structural problems without these three things:
Knowledge of the full extent of the problem
The certainty that the problem can be fixed
A binding written estimate for the cost of the repairs
Step 5 – Make Sure You Have Enough Funds Available to Fix a Fixer-Upper
Before you make an offer, do this:
Make sure you have enough money for a downpayment, closing costs, and all necessary repairs
If you’re going to fund the renovations with a home equity or home improvement loan, get pre-approved for both loans. Then make sure the deal is contingent on getting both the home equity loan and the home improvement loan. This safeguards you from being forced to close the sale when you have no loan to fix the house.
Have You Looked into an FHA Section 203(k) Program?
You might want to take a look into the Federal Housing Administration’s Section 203(k) program. It’s designed to help homeowners who are purchasing or refinancing a home that needs rehabilitation.
The FHA Section 203(k) program bundles purchase/refinance and rehabilitation costs into one monthly mortgage payment. But in order to qualify for this type of loan, the total value of the property must fall within the FHA mortgage limit for your area.
A 203(k) program is streamlined and much simpler to obtain than a standard 203(k) is. And it provides an additional amount for rehabilitation, up to $35,000, on top of an existing mortgage. It’s worth looking into, for sure.
Step 6 – Determine a Fair Purchase Price to Offer
This step isn’t a hard one. Just take the fair market value of the property and subtract the upgrade and repair costs. The fair market value of the fixer-upper is what it would be worth if it were in good condition with up-to-date remodels.
Let’s say the fixer-upper you’re considering has outdated design features such as:
- Dark wood paneling
- Beige walls
- Popcorn ceilings
- Pastel fixtures
- Laminate countertops
- Shiny gold fittings
- Avocado green appliances
- Built-in media cabinets
- Chintz wallpaper
- Millennial pink everything
- Tile counters
- Linoleum floors
- Wallpaper border
- And it has high levels of radon in the basement.
How to Determine a Fair Market Price
A comparison house or “comp” in the same Brooklyn neighborhood, sold last month for $490,100. That house had an updated kitchen with new appliances, no wallpaper, was recently re-carpeted, and has a radon mitigation system in the basement.
The cost to remodel the kitchen, remove the wallpaper, carpet the house, and put in a radon mitigation system is $100,000. Your fair purchase price bid for the fixer-upper should be $390,100.
As your real estate agent, I will let you know if it’s a good idea to share your cost estimates with the sellers, to prove whether or not your offer is fair. Be sure to ask!
Step 7 – Hire Pro Inspectors to Properly Assess Your Fixer-Upper
Hire pros to inspect your fixer-upper. This is key in helping you properly assess the value of the house and the cost of its repairs.
Home inspectors look for and uncover hidden issues in need of replacement or repair. You want to replace those 1980s kitchen cabinets, but the home inspector detects the water leak behind them.
What they don’t do:
Lead-based paint inspection
Well and septic system inspection
Pest or termite inspection
Lot size survey
Include Inspection Contingencies
Most home inspection contingencies allow you to go back to the sellers to ask them to do the repairs or when you close on the house, give you cash to pay for the repairs.
If the inspection turns up something major you don’t want to deal with, you or the seller can simply back out of the deal. If you or the seller back out of the deal, it’s okay. It just means this fixer-upper isn’t the right house for you.