Fixer-Upper, Money Pit or Bad Deal? It’s Your Call

Every home has shortcomings, even that adorable cottage you swooned over at first sight or that house with the majestic views you can still picture with your eyes closed.

Fixer-Upper, Money Pit or Bad Deal? It's Your Call

It did have the bathroom tiles that were wiggling loose. Its closets were smaller than you had hoped. The weeds in the backyard needed to be whacked. And its water heater seemed to be making strange noises.

But which shortcomings can you deal with, and which ones are deal-breakers?

The Right Address

A dream house that’s in a bad neighborhood or too far from your work could make life there intolerable. You don’t want to be a buyer who is so blinded by a charming home that you discount the daily hassle of an hour-long commute, or the agony of being woken up repeatedly by 2 a.m. motorcycle drag racers.

Real estate agents advise buyers to do nighttime reconnaissance to check for such things as barking dogs, cut-through traffic and teenage garage bands. Check the local crime rate. Look into the zoning on those nearby empty lots—if the neighbor’s bonus parking spaces could become a 7-Eleven, you will want to know.

The Right Price

REALTORS® may suggest keeping your total monthly housing costs—including mortgage payments, taxes and insurance—to no more than 40% of your household income. If your income fluctuates, make sure you take that into account in your calculations. Splurging on a dream can become a nightmare if it makes it hard to afford groceries.

Can You Fix It?

Many interior drawbacks might look daunting, but in reality may not be difficult to improve.

Not enough sunlight? Installing new windows may work.

If putting in or removing walls could make or break the house for you, consult with an expert to size up the situation. It’s not too pricey to add a wall or take one down. If you can imagine it, it might just be possible.

Roll Up Your Sleeves

Most houses have characteristics and features you may be able to change yourself at relatively low costs. A house that appears dilapidated may just need a fresh coat of paint, a thorough cleaning and updated landscaping. If you are not afraid to roll up your sleeves and get to work, it may be well worth your while.

However, make sure you take a hard look at what the home requires. Does the kitchen just need new cabinets, or does its aged plumbing indicate the need to repipe the entire house?

Improvements such as upgrading the kitchen or a bathroom can take serious cash, depending on the extent of the required work and your ability to do it yourself. However, problems with mold or water damage could prove costly and frustrating.

The Right Needs

Sure, the home you’re looking at has the most adorable breakfast nook with built-in china shelves, but will it make up for not having a playroom for your three kids? The hot tub has you fantasizing about weekend dips, but will your dog run out of room in that teeny tiny backyard?

There’s a lot about a house you can change, but its size and the size of its lot isn’t one of them—at least not without a lot of cash and work. On the flip side, if a house has everything but the perfect home office you dreamed of, maybe you could finish the partially done basement and learn to love your downstairs workspace.

When it comes to buying a home that meets your basic needs, not everything has to be perfect before you take the keys.

Updated from an earlier version by Ben Garson. This article was published by Anne Miller on To see the original article, click here.


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