Fixer-Upper vs Move-In Ready

DIY is trendy, real estate reality tv is popular, and decorating and remodeling advice is just a quick Google search away. Buying a house that needs some work may seem appealing, but there’s a lot to consider before you jump in with a view of  “how hard can this be?”


The satisfaction of being able to point to something and say “I did that” can’t be denied. Anyone with friends who’ve recently done a big renovation knows that they love to talk about their project. If the process of planning, considering options, and seeing a project through to completion interests and excites you, then you might be ready to take on one yourself.


That said, remodeling is a lot of work—even if you’re hiring professionals to do most of the labor. After all, you’re the one who has to make most of the decisions, and there is always going to be something that comes up with existing construction that you hadn’t planned for. If hearing your friends dither about the relative merits of different types of backsplash tiles makes your eyes glaze over, then maybe obsessing over the minutiae of  “do it yourself” projects isn’t for you.


You can definitely save money by buying a house that needs work, if you know what you’re doing. If you’re considering a place that hasn’t been updated in a long time and are willing to do some of the work yourself, then simple tasks like repainting, sprucing up the landscaping, or putting in new countertops and a farmhouse sink are fairly quick and can make a big difference. On the flip side, if you’re looking at a place with structural problems, or one that needs new electricity or plumbing throughout, you might be able to strike a great deal but know what you’re getting into. Extensive repairs will likely be costly and time consuming, and major renovations require not just a contractor, but an architect to ensure it’s done right.


The old saying is true: time is money. Bargain hunting takes time, as does having work done—and you’ll either end up living in the middle of a construction zone or spending some of what you’re “saving” in rent while the work is getting done on the new place. If you enjoy the process, then spending that time won’t bother you—the project of finding and fixing your new home will seem like a new hobby (or maybe even a new part- or full-time job). But if the prospect of living with workers around all the time bothers you and you’d rather not put half of your belongings into storage for months then the convenience of a place that’s really “move in ready” will certainly appeal to you.

Final word:

Part of the attraction of fixer-uppers is simply the romance and charm of older homes, and it can’t be denied that old buildings are often very beautiful and have architectural details that simply cannot be replicated in new construction. The solution, for those that love things that have stood the test of time, is often to look into older structures where the work of innovating and updating has already been expertly done. 

Image Via Dave Thompson

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