Should You Buy The Model Home Or A Fixer Upper?
Shopping for a home will generally present two types of finds. Either the seller has gone to great lengths to de-clutter, stage, and possibly even renovate, or the house is listed as a fixer-upper.
The gap between the two seems to be widening, as more buyers are expecting something that looks like the reveal on one of those HGTV shows.
It’s rare to find a “perfect” home, and even one that HAS been fully renovated probably includes some layout or style choices that you’re not crazy about. The great thing of course is that it’s move-in ready and it could be years before you really need to make any changes.
On the other hand, a fixer-upper will require some updating much sooner. There’s a huge range in terms of what a fixer-upper is. One the one hand it may simply be an older house that’s still in good shape, but with some outdated finishings like older cupboards in the kitchen, a bathroom that was funky in the 70’s, and a wood-paneled basement.
At the other extreme is a home that’s so worn down, out of date, or even structurally weak, that you’re going to be looking at a complete gut and reno.
So what are you going to look for in a new home? Do you want the picture-perfect magazine? You’ll obviously pay for it. No one puts $30,000 into a kitchen just to break even, so you’re probably looking at a sizeable markup in the overall cost of the home. The flip side of course is you didn’t have to go through the stress of choosing the layout, sourcing the contractors, and eating off a hot plate for months while the job was done.
One of the great things about buying that fixer-upper, especially if it’s not at the complete gut stage is that you have time to space out the work. When you first move in, you’ll probably want to do everything, but you might be better off throwing any extra money you have against the mortgage.
Being disciplined like this for even a year and throwing an extra $10,000-$20,000 in the early years of your mortgage can shave literally years off the time it takes to pay off your home.
Once the time is right, you can plan things out and make sure you’re making the right choices in terms of design and cost.
If you’ve never been part of a large-scale renovation, start with something slow. Working with a single contractor is pretty easy, but working with multiples can be time consuming and cause a ton of headaches. Ask around your network for references and speak to a few contractors to find someone you’re comfortable with.
Lastly, depending on your time-frame for moving, you’ll have to balance personal preference and investment potential. Granite is the go-to material for kitchen counters, but maybe you like something funkier like concrete. While you shouldn’t go for granite so that in 10 years when you sell other people will like it, you should at least consider the resale implications of your choices.
It all comes down to paying a premium for the completed job, or spending your money and a lot of time to make sure you’re building exactly what you want.
There’s no right answer of course, but make sure you look at both types of homes and understand the price difference and the work involved in making your house your dream home.