Buying a “Fixer-upper” Can Get You the Home You Envision

Q: “My husband and I are getting our first house and we are interested in getting a fixer upper with potential so that we can do some things to improve it and increase the value. What are the basic things we should look for that would tell us our first house would be a good candidate for a remodel and improved appearance?”

A: Any home can be remodeled and made into a dream home and that’s why many people wish to purchase a home and fix it up in the hopes of saving money on the home overall. While this is something that can be accomplished, it is important to fist understand your financial budget for the purchase and remodel before you even look at your first house.

With that in mind, a home that’s a good candidate for a remodel is one that has out of date finishes, but generally has a good floor plan. In today’s homes we like a separation between public and private spaces. We also like our public spaces such as a kitchen, family room and dining area to be open and flow together. Older homes generally have a separation between these areas. Look to see if removing walls or enlarging openings and passageways can open these areas.

Private spaces, such as the bedrooms and bathrooms, have not changed that much in sizes and configurations except for the master bedroom, which is now expected to be a self-sustaining suite. If the master bedroom in the home is small and doesn’t have a bathroom, see if there is space that can be “stolen” from an adjacent room or if there is room on the property to create an addition. A master suite should have a bedroom larger than the other rooms of the home, an attached bathroom, and ample closet space.

Bathrooms are an easy fix if all you need to do is replace the finishes such as tile, vanities, and toilets. If your budget is very tight, plan to save the major remodeling for the master bathroom. In a resale situation, home buyers looking for a home in “move-in” condition will want a fresh, well-planned master bath.

The most expensive and most remodeled portion of any home is the kitchen. And any good candidate for a fixer upper will generally have an existing kitchen that will send most other home buyers running. Plan to spend a large portion of your budget in the kitchen and get a completely new kitchen that’s up to date with appliances, cabinets and fixtures. You will likely have to move plumbing and electrical around, but in the long run this added expense will pay off.

Speaking of plumbing and electrical systems, be sure to have a full inspection on the home and find out if there are any “hidden” areas that need repairs. Try to avoid having to replace all the plumbing and electrical and be sure to know if there are any problems with the foundation or the framing of the structure.

On the exterior of the home, it’s important to think of how the home will fit in with the neighborhood after you’ve made some changes. For instance, if the majority of the homes have wood siding, shake roof and dark paint colors, a home with stucco walls, a red tile roof, and painted a peach color will look out of place.

Once you think that you have found your potential fixer-upper, be sure to consult with an architect or a builder to see if your ideas and budget are realistic for the size and scope of a potential remodel. A design professional can help you make the right choices to get the best home for your hard earned money.

At our firm, we love houses and we would be happy to visit with you and your potential purchase. We charge a flat fee of $225.00 for an initial consultation at your home to discuss what’s allowed in your neighborhood, design ideas and a discussion on feasibility. For an additional $675.00 we will also provide you with a Preliminary Schematic Design. You make take this work with you to another architect or designer when we are done or you can engage our firm to continue as your architect. The fees you pay into a Preliminary Schematic Design will be applied toward a future design contract with us.

Update: 7/19/15: This house, completed in 2009, is now for sale.

2nd Update: This home sold on 10/7/15 for $2,350,000.00! Contact me to find out what the financial statistics where on this home.

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