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Buying a fixer upper and wanting advice

Posted: Mon Sep 02, 2019 6:46 pm
by 7055

I am new to home owning and house-improvements, however I am currently shopping for my first house and I want to purchase something that I can fix up on my own so that I can afford to have a nicer home than I otherwise would have. I also think that it will be something that I will enjoy doing.

I haven't decided on a house yet, but I just wondered if anyone could offer me advice on if I am getting in too far over my head. I am currently single and I am a mechanical inclined individual but I have no experience working on houses. How unreasonable is it for a newby such as myself to learn how to remodel a kitchen (or other such area) and successfully pull it off on his own using the internet as a learning resource? Is there anything in particular I should look for when purchasing homes? Any sections of the home I should avoid as my first remodeling project? How much does it typically cost to remodel a kitchen doing all your own labor and how many hours?

Re: Buying a fixer upper and wanting advice

Posted: Mon Sep 02, 2019 7:13 pm
by A. Spruce
If you are reasonably handy, then you'll be able to tackle 90% of cosmetics and probably 50% of structural.

Having been an investor, to me a "fixer-upper" needed some paint and maybe floor coverings. While I could build a house from the ground up, as a temporary investment, I wanted the least amount of work for the highest amount of return. As an owner, I would first and foremost choose a house that fit my needs, after that it must have good bones, something that is structurally sound and maybe just needs a little TLC here and there.

As for how deeply you dive into rehab projects will depend on your comfort level and ability to figure things out on the fly. Changing countertops is easy, changing out cabinets is more challenging, a bare stud remodel can be daunting to the uninitiated. So, i would recommend starting with smaller, manageable projects to get your feet wet and start learning about the different processes it takes to do the projects you have on your list.

Re: Buying a fixer upper and wanting advice

Posted: Tue Sep 03, 2019 7:59 am
by Shannon
I agree I would not go with something that is basically unlivable or needs major repairs. Be sure it has a stable foundation, good structure, sound electrical and plumbing. If all those things are ok then most things after that are doable if you have some ability as a DIYer. IMO it is better to start with something that you know you can handle even if its maybe not the size you want at this time. I would also avoid buying in undesirable areas because even though these homes are usually cheaper ,even if you improve that house over time you may not be able to sell it easily or for enough money to get your money out.
It is really hard to give you good numbers on the kitchen reno.There can be so many factors involved including scope of work, size of kitchen ,prices in your local area and your ability. A simple 8' wall of Ikea cabinets for a complete rookie with limited skills will take you 1day to assemble and 1-2 days to install. Prebuilt counter tops will take you a couple hours to install. You then have a sink to install 1/2 day ,walls to patch and paint, appliances to install and maybe flooring as well. A simpler project like this could take 1-2 weeks depending on many factors and your skill level.

Re: Buying a fixer upper and wanting advice

Posted: Tue Sep 03, 2019 9:59 am
by A. Spruce
Keep in mind that living in a remodel, that is, you're living in the house while it's torn apart, is not easy and puts a lot of stress on the occupants. You say you're not married, and this will help, but living in a constant state of disarray takes it's toll pretty quickly.

For your first time out, I would recommend sticking with something that is primarily a cosmetic fixer, paint and floor coverings are quick and easy, whether you do them yourself or not. Bathroom and kitchen remodels are messy and time consuming, especially the deeper you go. A pro working full time will take 3 to 4 weeks to remodel a kitchen or bath, a DIY'r with little to no experience will easily double or triple that time period because they're only working evenings or weekends.

As Shannon pointed out, watch the area you purchase in, it will affect the purchase price, resale value, and whether or not you will recoup the cost of any repairs or remodel work over the course of your ownership. Buy in the best neighborhood you can afford. Good neighborhoods increase in value the fastest and hold that value the best, whereas poor areas of town are the last to increase in value and the first to lose value when the market goes south.

I would go further and state that I would not buy a first home under the pretense of it being a "forever" home because your needs now are not likely to be the same as your needs 1, 3, or 5 years down the road. You don't want to invest large quantities of money into a home that you will never get back. For instance, a bathroom remodel can easily be $20,000, a kitchen can easily be $50,000 and up, same goes for any high dollar improvement, such as a swimming pool, outdoor living space, room additions, etc., how long will you have to hold onto the house to recoup that money in resale value? Odds are, you won't see that kind of gain in value in less than 10 years, depending on market and economy fluctuations during your time of ownership.

Now, if it is a forever home, then you won't be as worried about recouping the costs of upgrades, it's more about what creature comforts you want and need. Just be aware of your intents and purposes for the property as you make your improvement decisions accordingly.