One of the most highly touted methods of buying more house than you could typically afford – buying a fixer-upper – requires more than financial investment. A fixer-upper takes time to repair, especially if it incurs considerable damage. Many experienced do-it-yourselfers consider a fixer-upper home the ultimate challenge in home care and repair.
What Makes a House a Fixer-Upper?
Most homes include one or two things that require repairs. We’re talking small things though, like chips or gouges in the kitchen’s granite countertop or an older heating, air conditioning, and ventilation (HVAC) system that needs a professional overhaul or a new system that replaces it. These small issues require only a few days and a few phone calls to repair.
A fixer-upper exhibits one or more types of major damage. The home care and repair it requires might include replacing the plumbing, rewiring the home, making subfloor repairs, foundation repairs, or re-roofing the house. A fixer-upper may have sustained flood or fire damage, or damage from another natural hazard, such as a tornado or earthquake.
How Do You Decide Whether to Repair or Start Over?
Survey the damage before you buy the house. Consider the framing and foundation. Nearly all homes settle over time, so needing to jack up a home to fix it shouldn’t surprise you. Huge foundation cracks or crumbled areas indicate a need for a teardown.
The home’s frame offers the other deciding factor. If the two-by-fours underlying the siding and wallboard remain in good shape, the rest proves easy to fix. A sturdy frame means you can build onto it and while framing a building typically requires a professional, an experienced do-it-yourselfer can drywall an interior rather easily.
Let’s assume that your intended home purchase has a rugged foundation that might need only a shim or two, perhaps some reinforcing cement. The frame checks out with only healthy two-by-fours present. Where do you start?
Making a Plan for Repairing Your Fixer Upper
Before you start on your repairs, go through the home methodically, noting any damage. Write it all down on a comprehensive list. Consider which skills you have and where you could use help.
If you need to demolish walls, flooring, or ceilings, do it before contacting any professional contractors for work. Any demolition work that the pro contractor does, you pay for on your bill. You can probably swing a sledgehammer on your own, especially to save yourself tons of money.
Perhaps the ceilings, floors, and walls remain in superb condition. The last owners left the place a mess though, and you need help deep cleaning such a huge place. Contact a residential cleaning services company that specializes in move-in cleaning. Consider obtaining a project estimate instead of purchasing a flat rate option because that saves you from surprise fees tacked onto your invoice.
Once you have a clean work area, you can invite contractors to your home to make estimates. Unless you hire a general contractor (GC), you will need to organize the order of the work yourself. What order makes sense? Start at the bottom or the top, whichever needs repairs.
- Roof or foundation repairs
- HVAC including ducts and ventilation
- Refurbishing or refinishing tubs, sinks, cabinets, etc.
Essentially, the top items relate to the areas required for a safe structure. The second tier, the electrical and plumbing, makes it livable and easier to work on and in. Until you have the wiring repaired, everyone who works on the home has to bring a generator, or you must provide one for them. Finally, you make things look nice.
Addressing Specific Repairs
For a home requiring a wide range of repairs, such as drywall, countertops, and roof repairs, hire a general contractor for the home care and repair project. These renovation and remodeling contractors specialize in project management and large-scale jobs.
General contractors don’t do all of the work themselves. They typically hire sub-contractors, such as hardwood flooring installation professionals, masons, electricians, etc. These management-level contractors usually have a specialty, such as carpentry, and do all of that work themselves. The advantage of hiring a GC comes from their connections and scheduling because they handle all the other hiring, create the work schedules, and maintain the work site.
Hiring Single Positions for Home Repairs
Sometimes, the chips and cracks in the countertops preclude salvaging them. That’s when you need to hire a professional contractor for granite counter top installations. A professional countertop layer can help in other ways, too, by recommending home care and repair contractors with whom they have had good work experiences on prior jobs.
Finding one specialty professional for kitchen work can lead to a bevy of home care and repair contractors, such as the ideal contractor to handle your custom cabinet designs. Kitchen contractors typically work together as sub-contractors through various general contractors. Even if you skipped hiring a GC, you can obtain referrals from the specialist. These referrals can reduce the time it takes to locate a dependable, reliable, talented contractor to redo the cabinetry, update the sinks and faucets, and install the new dishwasher.
Similarly, when focusing on bathroom remodeling, finding one reliable home care and repair professional can easily lead to the other individuals you need to complete the job. If you need an overall bathroom renovation, consider hiring a renovation contractor who specializes in bathrooms. These companies typically employ every needed position for a bathroom overhaul, so you won’t need to hire a GC separately and you save yourself from needing to interview for each position. Conversely, if you only need to revamp the tub, search for local bathtub renovation companies and your local home care and repair professionals.
Finally, some home care and repair projects only require a carpenter, drywaller, and painting crew. For this need, search your local construction community for a master carpenter or a GC. Either position typically employs the others.
What types of repairs require a master carpenter? Damaged built-ins, such as bookcases or desks require a carpentry professional to repair them. Broken or damaged stairs or banisters do, too. If you’ve decided to build a home addition during your repairs, the carpenter can help you but may recommend a GC if your addition requires electrical and plumbing work, too.
Some fixer-uppers look a mess when you visit them with the real estate agent. After closer inspection though, what seems like a home care and repair nightmare turns out to be a pretty simple cleaning and painting job. For the best results possible, hire professional home painters to handle painting the exterior and interior of the home.
Perhaps painting sounds easy and you think it would make the ideal DIY project. That’s true when you only need to paint a feature wall in one room or a tiny bathroom. When you need to repaint an entire home, inside and out, the DIY idea goes south. Professional painters own thousands of dollars worth of equipment that you would need to purchase to do the job yourself.
The Real Costs of DIY Home Repairs
Most people don’t consider the real costs of doing home repairs themselves versus hiring a professional. Typically, they only consider the materials costs versus the cost of hiring a professional and that’s where the budget goes awry. Even with a simple task like painting, when it comes to the home’s exterior, you would need extensible ladders, scaffolding, extensible paint rollers, an array of brushes, primer, paint, and sealant.
Without the proper tools, DIY home care and repair projects don’t turn out right. Buying the proper tools can cost thousands of dollars, although most major home improvement retailers rent equipment in major cities. If you don’t reside near a major city, you will need to buy those tools or hire someone whose entire profession revolves around that work. Hiring a home improvement specialist makes more sense than buying tools you will probably use once or twice because how many times do you plan to paint the home’s exterior – honestly?
Decorating and Enjoying Your Home
Finally, with your home care and repair items finished, you can shop your favorite stores for furniture for sale. Once you have repaired everything, you decorate your home and enjoy it. You may have clear ideas about what you want in a home’s interior and exterior, but what if you don’t? Hire an interior decorator.
Despite the position’s title, an interior decorator also designs and decorates home exteriors like outdoor living areas, outdoor kitchen, and pool house. From a gazebo to a portico, an interior design professional can help you unify the decor of both areas of the home and create a comfortable environment in both. This professional contractor begins by learning about your favorite things, from your favorite colors to hobbies, to design a home decor that suits you and how you will use your home.
What if you have fabulous taste and already own tons of furniture that you want to use? Of course, you can design your home’s interior on your own as a DIY project. It makes it much simpler if you already own the furnishings you want to use and merely want to update the look to match your new digs.
While people once had to travel afar to find furnishings, carpets, and art objects to differentiate their home from their neighbors’, the Internet has solved that problem. Shop stores like Temu, Amazon, Alibaba, and Walmart to access stores throughout the world. Etsy offers a source for handmade items from worldwide artisans. That means that instead of needing to travel abroad to find the perfect Turkish or Persian rug, you can shop from your living room or bedroom and have it shipped to you.
Modern technology has also solved the problem of deciding whether something matches the decor you desire. Many online shopping platforms offer augmented reality apps that let you take a photo of your room, upload it, and try various items from their catalog in the space. Using this method lets you see ahead of time whether the blue hues really match or just perfect a green rug goes with your grandmother’s tablecloth. Taking the time and effort to snap a few high-quality photos of the room you need to update can make a difference in how smoothly your shopping experience goes.
Keeping Your Fixed Home Perfect
Enjoy the rewarding feeling of your fixed-up fixer-upper by investing in home maintenance. Your homeowner’s insurance policy covers surprise repairs necessitated by perils covered in the policy, which range from 10 to every known peril, depending on your coverage. For every maintenance item, you pay out of pocket. The easiest way to ensure your budget covers your home maintenance remains to build in savings for it monthly. Typically, homeowners spend 1% to 4% of their home’s value on maintenance each year.
Each year, your roof and foundation should undergo an inspection. You can look at your foundation to note cracks or gouges and any sinking but have a professional roofer inspect the roof. The inspections typically cost nothing, but you pay for the repair of any wear and tear damage they find. If a peril covered by your home insurance caused the damage, file a claim for it.
The purchase documents of a home list the dates of purchase of each major appliance. Generally, they all last about 15 years, except dishwashers, which wear out around nine years after purchase. Home insurance does not cover the replacement of these items from wear and tear. Most plumbers and HVAC professionals offer maintenance plans that you can purchase to lock in lower prices while providing for the annual upkeep of these appliances and home utility devices.
To help reduce budgetary outlays, consider purchasing a home warranty. These plans provide coverage for the wear and tear and maintenance items that insurance does not. The warranty does not cover the big, emergency damages that insurance does, so you would need both.
Fixing Your Fixer Upper
Ask friends and family for referrals for home improvement professionals they trust. Once you find a home repair pro that you trust, and who does great work, ask for referrals for other professional contractors that they recommend. This speeds up your home improvements and can fix your fixer-upper faster. Do small, simple tasks yourself, and once you complete all repairs and decorate, focus on maintaining your ideal home.
Schedule your annual maintenance on various items like roof inspections, so you can maintain it at the ideal level. Most fixer-upper homes cost little initially, but the money you invest in their repairs provides you with instant equity that it makes sense to maintain. It makes good sense to invest the dollars necessary to upkeep your new home.