20 Reasons to Buy a Fixer Upper


Are you considering buying a fixer upper? Are you worried that it is....

  • Too risky?

  • Too much work?

  • Too much of an inconvenience?

  • Too stressful?

  • Too messy?

I’m here to tell you that, in my experience, it is DEFINITELY worth it to buy and renovate a fixer upper, and that you CAN handle the project! You can read all about my story of home renovation and see the Before & After photos of our current home on the About page.

Consider this post the pep talk I would give you if we went out for coffee to chat about all things fixer uppers and renovations (my favorite coffee topics!).

Need a pep talk before buying your first fixer upper? Here are 20 reasons you should take the leap! - Click to Tweet!

Here are 20 reasons you should consider a fixer upper when you’re ready to buy a new home, in no particular order:

1. You’re the boss of your money

When you find, buy, and improve a fixer upper- you are deciding how you want to spend your money at every step of the way.  From deciding on your maximum purchase price for a distressed home (you can usually bargain for these!), to choosing your mortgage program and shopping for the best rates, to selecting your finishes on cabinetry and appliances: you are in charge of every penny that you invest into this home.  If you are on a budget, or a control freak about your money (good for you- I am, too!) then a fixer upper is a great way for you to feel empowered in your home ownership journey.

2. There are lots of tools to help you stay organized

It is true that buying and renovating a fixer upper is a complex process that will take time, perseverance, and attention to detail. BUT- there are so many resources available to help you manage this project every step of the way! When you commit to managing this process, you are investing in your future (and your finances) in a big way. It is worth a little extra management and organization on your end to create the home of your dreams. Here are some great printable and online tools to help you stay organized: (NOTE: These are NOT affiliate links. I just want to show you some awesome tools available to you right now!)

3. Time will pass anyway

One of the biggest things I hear that scares people away from a home renovation is how much time it will take, and that they don’t think they are willing to endure the experience.  All I have to say to them is that time will pass anyway. Depending on the scale of your project, it might take 1, 3, or 6 months to complete. In half a year- do you want to be living in a new home that is customized to you and your family? Or will you look around and wish that you had gotten around to improving your home- still living in the imperfect space that you are in right now? As with any big undertaking, home renovation takes time. But it will not last forever! Next year will be here in less than 12 months, and we all have the same 12 months to accomplish something.

Here is a peek into the construction process of the kitchen and dining room in our fixer upper! You can accomplish a LOT in 6 months!

Here is a peek into the construction process of the kitchen and dining room in our fixer upper! You can accomplish a LOT in 6 months!

4. A fixer upper can fit into any size budget

No matter what your home purchase budget looks like- there is a way that you can accomplish a home purchase AND home renovation project within that amount. If you have $100,000 to spend on a new home- instead of looking at homes with listing prices between $90-$110,000… start your search looking at homes listed for $75,000! A higher purchase prices does NOT always mean you’re buying a better house. Houses are listed according to market value, as well as the value assigned them by the current owner. When you begin looking at homes in a slightly lower price bracket- all sorts of options arise! At a lower price- you might find a larger house than you thought you could afford, but with fewer bathrooms, or maybe a kitchen from the 1970’s. Or you may discover a smaller home than you were looking for, but in a better neighborhood. When you look for homes that are NOT move-in ready, you will likely have less competition as a buyer, and more room in your budget to dedicate to improving the house. The way you allocate your budget will be unique to the property and the cost of improvements it needs, but any size budget can be split between home purchase and renovations.

Less than a year after we purchased our fixer upper and started renovations, we now enjoy a kitchen that before we only dreamed of!

Less than a year after we purchased our fixer upper and started renovations, we now enjoy a kitchen that before we only dreamed of!

5. You deserve to live in your dream home

Let’s be honest, buying a home is likely [one of] the largest purchase[s] you will EVER make. We’re talking about tens or hundreds of thousands of dollars on ONE THING! I don’t know about you, but there is nothing else in my life that I will invest so much money in as I have in a home. We finance it, insure it, clean it, improve it, and hope to create equity in our homes.

You get one life to live; you deserve to live in a home that is PERFECT for you and your family. - Tweet this!

Maybe that home is a converted vintage camper (which would be an awesome investment and follow the same philosophy of buying a fixer upper that applies to any other home!), or maybe that is a run down farmhouse, or maybe it’s a converted loft space in a city. No matter where you live- your home is the base camp for your life, and you deserve for it to be a direct extension of your values and your style. 

6. It’s worth it!

The end result of buying a fixer upper and renovating a home is a priceless thing. You get to come home to a place everyday that you know inside and out, a home that you have customized to meet the needs of your family, a home that you can truly call your own! Any stress or inconvenience is temporary, and the satisfaction and joy of living in YOUR house will last as long as you call it home.

7. You get to customize the life you want for your family in your home

Home design and improvement are about so much more than construction and renovation.  Managing a fixer upper and making improvements to your home gives you the chance to really dig in to what you need in a house, discover what functions your house performs for you and your family, and make those things a reality through intentional and smart design choices. For example, my family likes to keep shoes out of our house, and in our last home the entrance to our home opened directly into the living room. There was ALWAYS a pile of shoes by the door to trip over. When we designed our fixer upper, I made sure that we prioritized space for a mudroom with lockers, a bench, and a tile floor for wet shoes. This space (a simple design choice!) has completely reduced the stress associated with our back door, and makes me happy every day! When you make design choices in a home renovation, you get to create a home that really works for your lifestyle.

We now have a mudroom that perfectly meets the needs of our family. (This was originally a dysfunctional entrance to a poorly designed kitchen.) See the little shoes all tucked away? =)

We now have a mudroom that perfectly meets the needs of our family. (This was originally a dysfunctional entrance to a poorly designed kitchen.) See the little shoes all tucked away? =)

8. There is no better time to make improvements to your home

When you are already moved in to a house, the amount of inconvenience a renovation causes is even greater. There is dust, mess, workers in your home daily, and a disrupted schedule for everyone in the house. When you renovate a home before you move in, you have the chance to take care of LOTS of projects without the inconvenience of living through a renovation. My suggestion would be to complete AS MUCH work as you can before you completely move in to the house. We saved our basement renovation for last on our current home. We hadn’t decided if we would hire it out or DIY the big stuff…. Now we have been living in our home for one year, and we are starting to feel settled. I know the basement needs to be finished, but we will have to drywall, paint, and tile to make the space work for our family- that means hauling all the materials through my brand new dining room and kitchen to get to the basement! (Arrgh!) The renovation will TOTALLY be worth it, and we are glad we ultimately decided to DIY the space- BUT it would have been SO MUCH EASIER to complete the project before we finished the rest of the house and moved in.

Excavating 90 year old pipes and updating the laundry plumbing was the first step in our basement renovation. Buying a fixer upper lets you take care of big projects before you move in, and make the space perfect for you starting at Day 1.

Excavating 90 year old pipes and updating the laundry plumbing was the first step in our basement renovation. Buying a fixer upper lets you take care of big projects before you move in, and make the space perfect for you starting at Day 1.

9. Build equity in your home: Short term gains

This is probably my favorite and most compelling reason to tackle a fixer upper. By buying a house for less than market value and making key improvements to the space, you can increase your equity position in the house and make a considerable profit when it comes time to sell and move. For instance: You buy a house for $100,000 and invest $50,000 in renovations (update the kitchen, paint, flooring, and add a mudroom). Now your home appraises for $200,000, and you have roughly "earned" $50,000 by investing in your home. You can then refinance to a more competitive mortgage program, or even access a home equity line of credit to finance another project. Nowhere else, other than our fixer upper, have I ever been able to increase my initial investment by that amount in just one year!

10. Long term value and investment

No matter what house you buy, let’s assume you plan to live there for at least five years. If you buy a house at the top of your price range, there is likely no money “left” to invest in renovation projects. Houses rarely just improve in market value by large spikes all by themselves (unless you score big and land in a hot growing neighborhood RIGHT before it gets hot! Don't count on this.)  At the end of five years, your home will probably be in about the same condition as it was when you bought it, give or take some small projects along the way. You may get your money back, plus inflation, if your neighborhood has decent competition and your neighbors haven’t radically renovated their homes in the meantime! If you buy a fixer upper and make the *right* improvements for your home and for your neighborhood- your home will continue to increase in value and keep pace with (or outpace!) your neighbors’ homes now and into the future.

11. You can access special mortgage programs to achieve your goals.

Are you concerned that you have be able to buy a house, but you’ll never be able to finance a renovation? Don’t fret- that’s just not true! Now, I can’t say that financing a purchase+renovation is the right choice, or even an available choice, for EVERYONE; but I can tell you that you have more options than you probably know when it comes to financing a fixer upper. For instance, there is a federally insured home mortgage program called the FHA 203(k) mortgage. It is designed specifically to help entry-level home buyers afford to buy a home AND finance renovations to make the home perfectly yours before you move in.  This is the program we used in 2015 to finance our home purchase and renovation. Every county in the USA has a maximum borrowing limit, and all you need to know to get started is your max borrowing power and how you can allocate those dollars towards your fixer upper! In Chicago, for example, the max amount is $365,700; in Grand Rapids, Michigan it is $271,050. As long as your purchase price + renovation budget = your max amount or less, You’re All Set! This program also only requires a 3.5% down payment so you can use your cash for other necessities during your moving process.

Learn more about the FHA 203(k) mortgage program here! 

Yes, I know I am simplifying this a bit. But it does not have to be as complicated as you may have been led to believe. There are LOTS of components to consider when you are financing a home purchase. Many programs are largely overlooked, and I want you to know that you have options! Your mortgage lender MAY NOT tell you about all of them, or be familiar with them, so be sure you ask a lot of questions and advocate for yourself at every step.

If you have more questions about financing, don’t hesitate to send me a note to let me know that you want to know more! 

12. Get into a better neighborhood/school district

By looking for a house on the lower end of your budget, and potentially buying the house that nobody else wants (that’s what we did!), you can find a home in a nicer neighborhood that you may have considered before. Or you might be able to move into a school district/county/you-name-it of your dreams without paying as much for the move-in-ready property next door. 

When you house hunt for a fixer upper, let yourself be creative and flexible. You don’t have to find the PERFECT house to buy, you just have to find a house that WILL BE perfect!-Tweet this! 

You can rely on a friend, your Realtor, or even our Facebook group to bounce around ideas and share your plans for a potential home purchase.

13. It is a great learning experience

There is no doubt about it, I know so much more about construction, home design, home ownership and home maintenance, and even my personal project management skills today than I did two years ago! If you are the type of person who loves to learn, then renovating a fixer upper is just the experience for you. At every step of the project: you will learn about your home, about the types of skills needed to improve and maintain your home, and the different professionals who make career from working on homes. You will also meet so many different people in your area who help you through the process- consider this one of the best networking experiences you can find!

14. More proactive home ownership experience

If this is your first time owning a home, you will quickly learn that there is ALWAYS more work to do around your home. Home maintenance can be a large job, and it doesn’t help when you feel like issues keep “surprising” you around every corner. During a renovation project, if you are as proactive and involved as I suggest, you will learn about your home from the studs to the foundation. There is no other time when you can learn so much about the walls and roof that protect you than when you have things "opened up" during a renovation. You will learn about things to look out for and what is “normal” in your home from the professionals who you work with during your renovation. You can also call on the network you develop when things go wrong or when you have another project to start! This is your home, and you should be the expert.

15. More confidence in the construction and maintenance of your home

After our feel more confident in the electric, plumbing, insulation, windows, gas lines, appliances, and structural support in my 1925 home than I would in a brand-new property. I have seen INSIDE the walls, I know what types of pipes my water is coursing through, I know the electric outlets are all wired correctly, and I have seen the massive support beam that holds up the second floor! I know my home inside and out, and I feel prepared to continue to take care of it for years to come.

16. Pride of Ownership

When you have participated in the creation of something, there is an entirely new level of ownership and pride that comes with that experience. After completing a renovation project on a distressed home, you can enjoy an increased level of pride in having accomplished something truly awesome! Not only will you have a house that is updated and beautiful, you will have created a place to welcome family and friends to make memories with you that uniquely suited for them. You can be proud of your accomplishment and feel great about the home that you have created.

17. Improve the value of your neighborhood

Often, a home that is well-suited to be purchased as a fixer upper is dragging down the market values of the other homes in the area. When you buy a fixer upper for a value, spend your time and energy improving the inside and the outside of the property, and live in the home as a responsible homeowner- you improve the values and the appeal of the ENTIRE neighborhood! There is proof that neighborhoods with well-maintained homes encourage higher levels of care for all of the other homeowners in the area- improving the safety and the quality level for the entire neighborhood. 

For your further reading: I really like this article on ways to make your neighborhood safer and more fun

18. Choose finishes

I know that this isn’t the most important perk to every home buyer, but I appreciate the chance to choose the finishes in my kitchen, bathrooms, floors, and walls. The colors and textures that surround you in your home create a space that reflects your personality and is unique to you and your family! By purchasing a fixer upper and spending time and money upfront to improve the home- you get the chance to update as much as you like, to JUST the right colors and textures, often for MUCH less than if you were to make improvements 1 by 1 later on in your time in the house. If shopping for so many items for your home is intimidating, (or sounds like a chore!)- don’t worry! You have help ;) Check out my design and home renovation management services to help you every step of the way.

19. You don't need to overpay for an imperfect finished product or someone else's design choices

This was one of the most appealing perks of buying a fixer upper for me and my family. When we were house hunting, we continually found homes that were at the top of our price range which had been updated in the last 10 years, but they just never *felt* right. The kitchen design was impractical, or the bathrooms were in our least favorite colors (so. much. brown), or there was new carpet installed on top of old hardwoods (we love wood floors!). It felt like a wasteful purchase to pay top dollar for elements in the home that we would want to remove or change. When you buy a distressed home, you can be sure that you are not wasting any of your home buying budget on the current finishes in your property- you pay the minimum amount possible for the home (since you hopefully won't have competing offers!), and then use the rest of your budget to update it according to YOUR preferences.


20. You have lots of support. You’re not in this alone!

At times, I have felt very discouraged and isolated by the (American) stigma to not discuss money, investments, or real estate in a community setting. These topics, like church and politics, are seemingly only appropriate to discuss with your significant other, or with a professional. We are a very private culture when it comes to personal finances, and this isn't always helpful when you are starting out or considering taking a calculated risk in your real estate ventures or your investment plans. In fact, our tendency to not talk about money makes it even harder for new home buyers to feel confident in their choices because they have no one to talk to! Luckily for you, we found each other, and you don’t have to do this alone! I have a Facebook group where all of us can candidly discuss home buying and renovating, and I’m here for you, too! I am officially welcoming you to this home improvement community where home buyers and homeowners just like you are working together on our fixer upper journeys to create the homes of our dreams. You CAN handle a fixer upper, and I will be by your side, all the way :-D