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Real Estate Tips and Advice

Fixer-Uppers: Gems in the Rough

What Could Go Wrong?

Is that fixer-upper home
you’ve been eyeing a hidden
value or a money pit waiting
to drain your bank account?
That’s the quandary faced by
those who choose to consider
restoring a home to its former
The enduring appeal of
home-renovation TV shows
points up the potential for
savings and customization
possibilities, but also the
downside when cost overruns
begin to add up. Here’s some
guidelines to consider when
approaching investing in a
‘Worst House on the Best
That’s the gold standard of
investing in a fixer-upper.
Finding a home in need of
restoration in your dream
neighborhood may be all the
motivation you need to go
all-in. Of course, you should
consider just how much of a
fixer-upper you’re willing to
take on — and can afford.
First, hire an inspector
to reveal any potential
hidden problems in wiring,
plumbing, structural issues
or other high-dollar dealbreakers. Because you may
not live in Waco, Texas, with
Joanna and Chip Gaines on
your team, you’ll want to
make sure your dream home

renovations match your
budget. Restorations can
quickly get very expensive as
the inevitable add-ons come
into play.
Updating or Total Do-Over
Some fixer-uppers are simply
in need of some TLC. And if
you’re an experienced do-ityourselfer with the valuable
skills necessary to restore a
home at this lower-level of
renovations, the appeal may
be even more attractive. If
the home requires extensive
renovations, mixed with
substantial design and

amenity upgrades, the
appeal may not fade but
your patience and budget
may. Most renovations and
upgrades can add instant
value to a home; others, such
as expensive but essential
hidden repairs like beams
and load-bearing walls, won’t
“wow” anyone.
To Live-In or Not
Most renovations are not
just taxing financially but
can also take a toll on your
patience, especially when
problems cause delays.
Choosing whether to live in

and through a renovation is
a decision that may or may
not be one of choice. Some
might find their expected
ability to occupy another
residence cut short and be
forced to move in during a
renovation or for at least part
of it. Others might heartily
dive in and believe they can
weather the difficulties and
that their on-site presence
will help usher the project
along. Still others have no
choice. Be sure to consider
the discomforts and gauge
the extent of your obligations
and responsibilities.

For one fixer-upper who
did everything right, things
still went wrong. In a story
in U.S. News & World
Report, Laura Hedgecock
relates that very tale. She
and her husband “checked
the builder’s references,
checked him out with the
Better Business Bureau and
looked at his projects. We
went over the contract with a
fine-tooth comb, kept all the
sworn statements and refused
to write checks without
releases.” But that didn’t
spare them the unexpected,
expensive surprise that her
contractor had run out
of money and many of
the materials used in her
renovation had yet to be paid
While problems always crop
up on “Fixer-Upper,” they’re
always quickly resolved,
mostly on-budget, and
everyone’s happy with the
big reveal. That’s not always
the case in reality. There
can be great job and pride
associated with renovating
your next home — and great
pain and disappointment. Do
your homework and make
sure you’re ready for all the
trouble and potential extra
expense before you decide to
take on such a project.


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