How to Buy a Fixer-Upper Home: Step-by-Step Guide

by | Jul 28, 2023 | Buying Home, Real Estate Investing | 0 comments

A picture of a fixer-upper house with a "for sale" sign in front of it

Looking for a unique chance to transform a house into your dream home or a profitable investment? Consider buying a fixer-upper. This guide covers finding, evaluating, and financing a fixer-upper, tips for the home-buying process, and weighing the pros and cons. Join us on this exciting journey to turn a diamond in the rough into a sparkling gem!

Short Summary

  • Fixer-upper homes offer lower prices and customization options, but potential buyers must consider location, structural integrity, and the cost of renovations.

  • Financing solutions include traditional mortgages, renovation loans, or home equity lines of credit.

  • Pros & cons should be weighed when considering a fixer-upper purchase – including possible profits versus costly repairs & unforeseen issues.

Understanding Fixer-Upper Homes

Fixer-upper homes, also known as fixer-upper houses, require significant repairs and updates, offering lower prices and opportunities for customization. Popularity surged due to home improvement TV shows, turning rundown properties into personalized spaces or profitable investments. If you’re looking to find fixer-upper homes, you’re joining a growing community of enthusiasts and investors.

But what exactly defines a fixer-upper, and what makes them so appealing? Let’s delve deeper into their defining features and the factors contributing to their growing allure.

Definition and Features

A fixer-upper home requires maintenance and renovation. They are offered at a reduced price compared to turnkey homes. A fixer-upper home can range from simple cosmetic updates like removing carpets to serious repairs such as foundation cracks. Modernizing electrical wiring to adhere to current building codes may also be necessary. Considering a fixer-upper, it’s crucial to know any design and layout ideas that would necessitate removing load-bearing walls.

Popularity and Appeal

The popularity of fixer-upper homes can be attributed to several factors. Primarily, their lower purchase price makes them more accessible to homebuyers. There is generally less competition for fixer-upper homes, increasing the likelihood of acquiring a desirable property at a bargain price.

Their appeal results from increased exposure to home renovation shows like “Fixer Upper.” Fixer-uppers offer the potential for personalization and profit. It allows buyers to customize the home to their tastes and preferences while potentially increasing its value through renovations.

Evaluating Potential Fixer-Uppers

Evaluating Fixer-Upper Homes

When searching for the perfect fixer-upper, it’s essential to evaluate potential properties based on location, structural integrity, and the magnitude of required renovations. Prioritizing aspects of the home that cannot be changed (such as location) or renovations that would be too costly to undertake (such as significant structural renovations) will ensure you make a wise investment1.

This section explores these factors in more detail to help you find the ideal fixer-upper for your needs.

Location and Neighborhood

Location is the most significant factor when purchasing a fixer-upper, dramatically impacting the home’s value and resale prospects. When assessing a fixer-upper’s neighborhood, consider the school district, crime stats, proximity to amenities, surrounding homes, and municipal projects.

Ensure the renovation budget aligns with comparable homes in the neighborhood for quality finishes and upgrades. By thoroughly evaluating the location and neighborhood, you can maximize your investment and create a home with lasting value.

Structural Integrity

Assessing the structural integrity of a fixer-upper home is critical to avoid costly repairs and ensure a safe living environment. Inspect the foundation for cracks, settlement, or shifting. Check walls and structure for past damage. Engage a professional inspector for a thorough assessment.

Additionally, note any cracks in the walls, ceilings, foundation, or chimney, as they can indicate structural problems. You can avoid unforeseen expenses by thoroughly evaluating the structural integrity of a fixer-upper. This will ensure a comfortable and secure home in the long run.

Cosmetic Updates vs. Major Renovations

When evaluating a fixer-upper, differentiate between cosmetic updates and significant renovations. Extensive renovations are costlier and time-consuming. Cosmetic updates enhance aesthetics without altering the structure, like updating a bathroom or removing carpets.

Major renovations alter the layout and structure, changing the space’s purpose (e.g., converting a garage to a living area).

Financing Your Fixer-Upper Home

A picture of a person signing a mortgage document

Finding the right financing option for your fixer-upper is crucial to ensure you have the funds for the purchase and the renovations. This section explores traditional mortgage options, renovation loans, and home equity loans or lines of credit to help you determine the best financing solution for your fixer-upper project.

Traditional mortgages are the most common loan used to purchase a home. They are typically offered.

Traditional Mortgage Options

Traditional mortgage options, such as conventional loans, Federal Housing Administration loans, Department of Agriculture loans, and Veterans Affairs loans, may be suitable for homes requiring only cosmetic updates. These loans typically require a down payment, and your credit score and income will play a role in determining your eligibility.

Traditional mortgages offer competitive interest rates, making them attractive for financing fixer-uppers with minimal renovations needed.

Renovation Loans

Renovation loans, such as the FHA 203(k) rehabilitation loan, Fannie Mae HomeStyle Renovation Mortgage, and VA renovation loan, are specifically designed to finance the purchase and renovation of fixer-upper homes. These loans allow you to borrow based on the home’s after-renovation value (ARV), providing funds for the purchase and the necessary repairs. It’s important to note that products are offered as “home improvement loans” or renovation loans, but they are not true renovation loans but just unsecured personal loans or credit cards. A true renovation loan is the lowest rate possible.

The renovation loan can be a great option if you plan on making significant updates or repairs, as they allow you to finance renovation projects in one convenient package.

Home Equity Loans and Lines of Credit

Home equity loans and lines of credit can provide additional funds for renovations after closing on a fixer-upper. A home equity loan provides a lump sum of funds, while a home equity line of credit (HELOC) offers a revolving line of credit that can be utilized as necessary. These financing options allow you to tap into the equity in your home to finance renovations and improvements, making them a viable choice for those who have built up equity in their current home or have a significant down payment.

However, it’s important to note that these financing options may be subject to higher interest rates and additional fees than traditional mortgage options.

Preparing for Renovation Costs

estimating the cost of a fixer-upper house

Before embarking on your fixer-upper journey, it’s crucial to prepare for renovation costs by estimating expenses, identifying DIY projects, and planning contingencies. This will help you create a realistic budget and ensure you have the funds to complete your home transformation project successfully.

By taking the time to plan, you can avoid costly surprises and ensure that your project is completed.

Estimating Costs

To estimate renovation costs, start by researching the cost of materials, labor, and contractor quotes for the repairs and updates your fixer-upper will require. It’s also important to overestimate the renovation budget to allow for potential mistakes and unforeseen circumstances.

By thoroughly investigating the costs associated with your renovation project, you’ll be better prepared to create a realistic budget and avoid financial surprises.

DIY Projects

Determine which repairs and updates can be completed as DIY projects to save labor costs. Painting rooms, laying new flooring, enhancing the exterior, and other simple tasks can often be accomplished with essential tools and materials, allowing you to save money on contractor expenses.

Utilize online tutorials, videos, and home improvement classes to learn how to complete these projects independently. Remember that some projects may require professional assistance, so evaluate your skillset and the project’s complexity before deciding to take on a DIY task.

Contingency Planning

Planning for contingencies is essential when budgeting for a fixer-upper renovation project. This involves setting aside a contingency budget to cover unanticipated expenses, such as structural repairs or additional materials.

A comprehensive budget should encompass all expenses related to the renovation project, including materials, labor, permits, and inspections, and provide a cushion for unforeseen expenses and delays. By incorporating contingency planning into your budget, you’ll be better prepared to handle unexpected costs and keep your renovation project on track.

Navigating the Homebuying Process

A picture of a person inspecting a fixer-upper house

Successfully navigating the home-buying process for a fixer-upper involves conducting a thorough home inspection, obtaining necessary permits, and making a strategic offer. By being well-informed and proactive throughout the process, you’ll be better equipped to secure the perfect fixer-upper and set yourself up for a successful renovation project.

Researching and understanding the local market before you start your search is important. Knowing how to do this properly is important.

Home Inspection

A home inspection is essential for identifying potential issues and prioritizing repairs in a fixer-upper home. It’s crucial to hire a professional home inspector who can thoroughly assess the property and provide a detailed report on its condition, including any structural, electrical, or plumbing issues that may need attention.

In addition to a standard home inspection, consider obtaining specialty inspections for pests, sewer lines, radon, lead-based paint, and other potential concerns. By conducting a thorough home inspection, you can make informed decisions about the necessary repairs and improvements, ensuring a successful renovation project.

Permits and Regulations

Before beginning any renovations on your fixer-upper, it’s essential to research and obtain any required permits and adhere to local regulations. This may involve contacting your local building department to determine the necessary permits for structural work, room additions, or other major renovations.

By obtaining the proper permits and following local regulations, you’ll ensure that your renovation project complies with all relevant laws and that your home remains safe and structurally sound.

Making an Offer

When making an offer on a fixer-upper, consider the cost of necessary repairs and the home’s potential resale value. Formulate an offer that is reasonable and accounts for the cost of necessary repairs, and work with your real estate agent to negotiate any counteroffers.

Don’t be afraid to walk away if the seller is unwilling to compromise, as there may be other fixer-upper opportunities that better align with your budget and renovation goals.

First-Time Homebuyer Programs

A photo of a charming fixer-upper home, perfect for first-time homebuyers looking to buy a fixer upper home and make it their own.

For first-time homebuyers, government-sponsored programs provide financial assistance to help them purchase a fixer-upper. Let’s explore some of these programs, such as down payment assistance and tax incentives, to see how they can benefit your fixer-upper journey.

A great way to reduce the amount of money you need to put down is through down payment assistance programs.

Down Payment Assistance

Down payment assistance programs are loans or grants qualified first-time homebuyers may utilize to cover a down payment. These programs can come in grants, loans, or a combination of both, and eligibility requirements may vary, including income limits and credit score requirements. An escrow account can hold the funds until the transaction is finalized.

By taking advantage of down payment assistance programs, first-time homebuyers can reduce the initial costs of purchasing a fixer-upper and allocate more funds toward renovations.

Tax Incentives

Tax incentives may be available for buyers who purchase and renovate fixer-upper homes in certain areas. First-time homebuyers may be eligible for deductions on mortgage interest, property taxes, and other costs associated with purchasing a home.

Additionally, some states offer tax credits for energy-efficient home improvements. Taking advantage of these tax incentives can further reduce purchasing and renovating fixer-upper costs.

Pros and Cons of Buying a Fixer-Upper

Before diving headfirst into the world of fixer-uppers, it’s important to weigh the pros and cons of buying a fixer-upper home. By understanding the advantages and disadvantages of such a purchase, you’ll be better equipped to make an informed decision and determine whether a fixer-upper is the right choice for you.

On the one hand, fixer-uppers can be a great way to find fixer-upper houses and get a fixer-upper house.


Buying a fixer-upper offers several advantages, such as lower prices, customization opportunities, and profit potential. The reduced purchase price allows you to acquire more homes for your money and potentially purchase a home in a superior neighborhood than you would otherwise be able to afford.

Additionally, the capacity to customize the home to your needs and desires provides a unique opportunity to create the living space of your dreams. Furthermore, increasing the property’s value through renovations can yield a profit when the home is sold.


However, there are also disadvantages to buying a fixer-upper, such as costly renovations, challenging budgeting, and unforeseen issues. Renovations can be expensive and risky, and you may encounter unexpected problems and delays during the renovation process. Additionally, living in a construction zone can be a major inconvenience and potentially disrupt your daily life.

By carefully considering these disadvantages, you can determine if the potential rewards of buying a fixer-upper outweigh the risks.


In conclusion, purchasing a fixer-upper home can be rewarding and profitable for those willing to take on the challenges and risks of renovating a property. By understanding the ins and outs of fixer-upper homes, evaluating potential properties, securing the right financing, and navigating the home-buying process, you’ll be well on your way to transforming a run-down house into your dream home or a profitable investment. So, are you ready to roll up your sleeves and make your mark on a fixer-upper?

If you are considering buying a house for the first time or improving your credit, pick up a copy of my book Essential Advice for Buying Your First Home and Navigating Through the Mortgage Loan Process.  I also have a second book, A Look Into the Secrets of Credit Repair: How to Fix Your Score and Erase Bad Debt.  It’s available on Amazon in print, kindle, or audiobook format.

Frequently Asked Questions

Are fixer-upper houses worth it?

Fixer-uppers can be a good investment, but it’s important to look at neighborhood comps and plan renovations correctly. Otherwise, the purchase may not end up being worth the money.

Does buying a fixer-upper save money?

Buying a fixer-upper house is undoubtedly cheaper than buying a ready-to-go home. Though savings depend on the individual house, they may not be as great as expected.

Fixer-upper homes require a lot of work and money to make them livable. Repairs, renovations, and upgrades can add up quickly. It’s important to factor in the cost.

What do you do first when buying a fixer-upper?

When buying a fixer-upper, you should start by getting a home inspection done. This will give you an accurate assessment of the repairs that need to be made and help guide your decision-making process.

Remember that a fixer-upper can be a significant investment, but it is important to be aware of the potential costs and time involved in making the necessary repairs.

What is the downside of fixer-upper?

Fixer-uppers come with unexpected costs, with 4 out of 10 over budget and only 1 in 5 coming in under their estimated budget. Most experts suggest adding 10-25% extra to cover unplanned expenses.

It is important to plan for the unexpected when budgeting for a fixer-upper. It is wise to add a cushion to the budget to cover any additional costs that may arise. This will help ensure that the project stays on track.

What does it mean when a house is a Fixer Upper?

A fixer-upper is a house that requires major maintenance work and renovations to become livable. It is usually an older house and may come at a lower purchase price due to the needed work.

Fixer-uppers can be an excellent investment for those who are willing to put in the time and effort to make the necessary repairs and renovations. With the right approach, a fixer-upper is a fixer-upper.


Submit a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *