Could purchasing a fixer-upper be worth the time and trouble? Could you come out ahead financially with a fixer upper? Well, the answer depends on a few things.
Ondre and Alessandra Pollina wondered the same thing back in 2012. Initially, they didn’t want a property that needed more than a few cosmetic changes and simple upgrades.Then, they found a true fixer-upper: a two unit, single-family home that was gutted to the studs. The price was just too good to pass up so they began their renovation adventure.
They were excited about its potential, not to mention the one-half acre of land the house is sitting on. “That’s unusual for Boston,” Pollina says. “It’s the biggest backyard ever.” Four years and many renovations later, Pollina estimates her home in the Dorchester neighborhood is worth (drum roll, please) an epic56% more than it was when she bought it. Wow, talk about a return on investment!
The moral? A fixer-upper isn’t necessarily something to avoid. If the right things are wrong with a house, you could not only turn it into your dream home, but also earn serious equity (wealth building!) in the process. Oh, and don’t assume you need to be a DIY master to make it worthwhile, either. Time and patience may be all you need.
Here’s how to tell if that fixer-upper is a keeper—or if you should keep looking.
Evaluate the Price
If it’s a fixer-upper, it should come at a fixer-upper price. Duh, but that’s a reminder NOT to fall in love too quickly with a home that the listing says “just needs a little TLC.” Do your homework first, and if the price is right, then fall in love.
Find out what similar homes in the neighborhood sell for and how tricked out they are (with amenities and materials). A REALTOR® can help you figure that out. And that will tell you how much money you can invest in the home before you over-improve for the neighborhood, a mistake you want to avoid if you plan to sell in the future.
Wendell De Guzman, a Chicago real estate investor who renovates at least two houses a month, recommends treating the remodel like a business, not a hobby. Determine your budget based on the market value of homes in your neighborhood, because you’re not going to sell for more. “It doesn’t matter how much money you can put into the house,” Guzman says. “You’re limited by the market value of what nearby houses are selling for.”
Evaluate What Improvements Are Needed
The best fixer-uppers offer lots of opportunities for “instant equity,” which means if you sold the home tomorrow you’d pretty much get that money back. Some tasks can be as simple as painting or heavy cleaning, which you can accomplish with sweat equity. Other tasks may require the work of professionals. You do want to carefully evaluate the work—and the fees—that will be required by professionals against the home’s price.
The Pollinas started their rehab with high-value, low-effort landscaping, since it’s the first thing people see. They raked, brought the grass back to life, planted fruit trees and added veggie garden. You might want to invest in a Licensed Landscape Architect to truly bring your property to life. Additions like an outdoor living area with an outdoor kitchen can bring top dollar ROI.
Which Hire-a-Pro Projects Add Instant Equity?
Fact: While most home improvements add some equity, some are consistently at the top of the heap. Another thing those equity champions have in common: They usually require the help of a pro, but the cost can be instantly worth it.
Based on data gleaned from the NATIONAL ASSOCIATION OF REALTORS®’ “Remodeling Impact Report” (RIR), if these four projects are on your fixer-upper’s list of must-haves, then you may have found your dream equity-builder:
1. New roof: A new roof may not be the remodeling project of your dreams—until you realize it could actually pay you. You’ll spend about $7,600 to install it (based on a national average determined by contractors responding to the RIR survey), but when you sell, it could recoup 105% of that or $8,000, according to REALTORS® surveyed.
2. Hardwood floors: It costs about $2,500 on average nationally to refinish hardwood floors. If you bought a house that already had refinished hardwood floors, you could pay about $2,500 more for the home. But if you’re looking at a fixer-upper (at the right price) that needs the floors redone, that’s like getting the floors for free! New hardwood floors are also a good choice at a cost of about $5,500 to install, and could recoup $5,000 of that at resale.
3. Insulation: A fixer-upper offers a great opportunity to replace or add insulation. New insulation costs about $2,100 on average nationally, and can recoup $2,000 at resale—as if saving 10% to 50% on your energy bill wasn’t compelling enough.
4. New siding: Droopy, old siding can be great news on a fixer-upper. Vinyl siding costs about $12,000 to install on average nationally, and recoups about $10,000 when you sell. Getting a fixer-upper for a price that more than covers the cost of siding installation is, well, priceless.
While those four are pretty safe bets—homeowners who responded to the RIR survey gave them high happiness and satisfaction marks, too—almost any project can be worth it with a fixer-upper if the price is right. For example, a complete kitchen renovation can cost $60,000 and recover only about $40,000 when you sell. But if the fixer-upper is discounted enough, think how amazing it would be to cook in a kitchen you designed yourself.
Evaluate Your Ability to Deal with Disruption
Whether you’re a DIY Jedi or content to let the pros handle the remodel, if your patience is shorter than your potential home’s to-do list, a fixer-upper may not be a good choice.
Renovating a bathroom alone can take two to three weeks. Add hardwood flooring, a new kitchen, and siding, and you’re looking at a whole summer’s worth of rehab. When considering a fixer-upper, evaluate the limits of your emotional energy as well. Inevitable project pitfalls and delays can be wearing. Only if you have the time, patience, and emotional endurance for a fixer-upper will it be a good fit for you. And only you can determine that.
But if you can budget your time and money—and employ the right fixer-upper strategies—you might find yourself with a double reward: A home that’s worth far more than you paid, and the joy of knowing you helped get it there.
Original from HouseLogic.com by Jamie Wiebe.