Photo Credit: Ionny.com
Fixer-uppers can be sound investments, but they represent a full roster of repairs and renovations almost by definition – and if you’re like most home buyers, you don’t have unlimited funds to invest.
Depending on the condition of the property, it would be easy to pour your entire savings into a single room.
So, now that you’ve bought your dilapidated palace, how do you know which upgrades to prioritize and which upgrades to put off?
In this post, we’ll give you a handy guide to transforming a fixer-upper on a budget.
First Things First
Big, systemic projects – roof and foundation repairs, heating and cooling systems – should always come first, for the simple reason that they hold your home together and can protect you from much more costly emergency fixes down the road.
However, there’s an exception to the rule. If a big-ticket item needs a resolution but you know for a fact it isn’t immediate – a new roof within a three years, a new heating system within five – it might make the most sense to devote your savings and “sweat equity” to clearing other items off your to-do list.
Conversely, there might be a few inexpensive, cosmetic upgrades you can make that won’t appreciate right away, but will pay out big dividends long term.
Landscaping is probably the best example. Upgrades to your yard can take years – or, in the case of fruit and shade trees, decades – to fully mature, so it makes sense to add them in as soon as possible. Young plants are relatively cheap, and you won’t need any expert help “installing” them in your garden!
Photo Credit: Trendir.com
Focus on Functionality
Part of the allure of purchasing a fixer-upper is the dream of restoring it to its former glory – including vintage fixtures, unique architectural details, glowing hardwood, elaborately carved bannisters, stained-glass windows….
As lovely as these features can be, they don’t qualify as urgent structural repairs, and that means that they can’t head up your to-do list.
For the first year or so, focus on essential, high-impact items that will safeguard your investment and improve your quality of life. Leave the ornamentation for later. Down the road, you won’t feel the same internal pressure to trim your budget, and you’ll be able to splurge on perfection.
Photo Credit: Trwpainting.com
If you need to satisfy your urge to beautify in the meantime, you can save a significant amount of money on new appliances and furnishings – new to you, that is!
Check out local flea markets, estate sales, even Craigslist, and see what’s on offer. Your money will go farther, you’ll enjoy the thrill of the treasure hunt, and you’ll net unique vintage pieces that have the same authenticity and character as your home.
Build Sweat Equity
Most people who buy fixer-uppers do so because they enjoy DIY projects.
You can make that hard work much more effective by honing your fundamental home repair and home improvement skills.
Painting, refinishing, basic carpentry – all of the above can add up to substantial savings in professional services fees.
If you’re feeling unsure, check your local home improvement store – they often schedule basic skills classes and workshops for free or for minimal prices, since it’s in their vested interest to create a dedicated DIY customer base.
Photo Credit: Dunespainting.com
Consider a Fresh Coat of Paint
Repainting your exterior and interior is one of the best budget-friendly ways to give your home an instant facelift – and it’s a project you can likely take on all by yourself.
Paint is an excellent option for brightening up brick work – particularly if it’s bulky enough to overpower a relatively small space. It’s also a great way to instantly freshen interiors that see a lot of daily use and a corresponding amount of long-term wear and tear.
Kitchens are a common and central example, and paint is also a great way to brighten up older fixtures like cupboards and sideboards. Replacing kitchen cabinets is a fairly pricey remodel, so it makes sense to delay for a few years if possible. A bright neutral palette in a warm tone can make your faded kitchen look brand new. Finish off the inexpensive upgrade with knobs or drawer pulls.
Budget-Friendly Bathroom Fixes
Ornate luxury bathrooms – vanity lights, mirrored cabinets, sleek chrome features, elaborate tiled backsplashes – are increasingly popular home improvement projects. They can offer significant dividends in comfort – and depending on your timeline, they can impact your home’s market value.
However, they can be extremely expensive, and a lot of the cost is associated with items that are neither necessary nor necessarily on-trend. Flat mirrors and elegant sconces are a much more current and much less costly option – so check around and see if you can’t create a beautiful bathroom at a fraction of the price.
A fixer-upper is a big investment – not just in terms of money, but time, effort, and imagination. With these tips, you should be able to schedule upgrades that will put you on track to refitting your dream home from the ground up!
This article was contributed by Jodi Bakst, from Real Estate Experts, an agency specializing in the Chapel Hill market.
A Chapel Hill resident since 1990 and a Realtor since 1997, Jodi Bakst has achieved recognition through both her market performance and her professional growth as an expert Realtor. She has numerous professional designations, including Broker, Certified Residential Specialist, Certified Luxury Home Marketing Specialist, Graduate of Realtor Institute, Accredited Buyer Representative, Certified Distressed Property Expert, and Senior Real Estate Specialist. Jodi holds an MA in Public Health from UNC-Chapel Hill and a BA in Economics from the University of California Santa Cruz.