PF Weekly Grab a Brew

Why the fixer-upper house might not be for you: PF Weekly Grab a brew #83

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It’s true that our dreams can get crushed when we don’t have the cash to do what we thought we would especially when you buy a fixer-upper house.

Of all the people I’ve ever met they said they didn’t feel that renting was helping them to build a financial future for their retirement years.

Although this is a wide-open topic that will bring in all sorts of controversy it’s certainly a personal decision that we must make on our own.

Acquaintances of ours in their early thirties are looking to buy an older home that is their dream home but the catch is they want a fixer-upper. They do plan to have kids as well in the near future.

He asked me my thoughts about older fixer-upper homes since many homes in the UK are very old. I was honest with him but ultimately it was my opinion and they need to make their own. I don’t want to be responsible for one of the biggest purchases of their lives.

They are currently renting and have never owned a home before so owning a home is like the golden ticket for them or anyone really. He’s not the handiest of guys and admits it but says he will find a way to get it done and take his time. He loves watching HGTV and all of those fixer-upper home shows. You know the shows that make it seem like renovating a house is a piece of cake. Yeah, right.

I’m not sure that I was that confident when I bought my flat so I made sure both homes were in livable conditions and if any repairs were needed they were just aesthetic. That doesn’t mean that I was on the safe side either… read on.

Renting has its pros and cons as does owning a home but the biggest difference is that you MUST maintain your home. When you rent or rent to own you may pay condo fees which keep your yard and even your roof in tip-top shape.

This is not true when you own a home unless your home does come with a condo fee which some do but the fees mainly take care of landscaping services only.

I’ve talked about home maintenance on the blog before and how you must be prepared for the added expenses as a homeowner. What happens when you’d do anything to get out from the renting and into your own home even if you buy a fixer-upper house with dreams of renovations but the house is in serious need of TLC?

Just because you think you are the DIY man or woman doesn’t mean you really are. I’m no pro and there are things I just won’t go near when renovating because frankly if I can’t do it why bother wasting my money and time. Some people disagree and will give it a go only to patch up or hide shady work that they messed up because they no longer can afford to fix the mess they’ve created.


The fixer-upper house


When we bought our current home and my home in the UK both were what I would consider in decent shape but could use some updates. It didn’t mean we HAD to do it but it was our dream to fix our house so it suited our style.

Buying our Canadian house at the cheap price that we did helped our financial cause because it left us with money in the bank to start building our fixer-upper future.

This also meant we could renovate to bring the house up to date without over-pricing the house for resale a huge mistake some homeowners make. Don’t get upset when your over-priced, over-renovated house doesn’t sell or sells for less than what you put into it.

That didn’t mean though that everything would go as planned for us.

Although things got in the way over the years we still managed to complete bits of renovations here and there. I’m still renovating over 5 years into owning our home which is now mortgage free.

Sure having no mortgage helps us to save money to revitalize our home but that’s easier said than done for some people. It’s hard to sit around and watch your home crumble before your eyes when you have no funds to fix it up.

Rushing to buy a home due to personal circumstances is not always the best route to go especially if the home needs lots of work and your wallet is empty. Sure it’s great to dream big but when those dreams don’t come to fruition because something happens such as job loss, health issues or even child-birth can really put a halt in your plans.

We’d all like to buy a brand new custom-built home or a newly renovated older home and sure it may be possible but not everyone wants the cookie cutter home, the flipped older house nor the home that was designed by a builder that you have no custom control over.

The benefits of the fixer-upper is that you control what you want in the house. So, if you bought your house for a great deal it doesn’t seem so bad as long as you have the cash to back up what you want to do especially if the house is in dire need.

Some people fail to do their homework when it comes to a fixer-upper and only later find out that what they had in mind to repair was going to cost them a fortune. Since this was my first Canadian home purchase if we sell and buy again you can bet I’ll be doing more digging when it comes time to put an offer on another home. I’ve learned plenty of new home-owner lessons over the years.


Renovations cost money


It’s not cheap to complete renovations especially if you have to hire out help so it certainly is worth your time to do your homework. Friends of ours are only getting to do their roof after 15 years of living in a home that is in grave need of a roof.

They managed to have two kids in those years and the costs alone set them back more than they thought it would. Sure, they both have decent jobs but I wasn’t going to ask them whether they budget or not or how much debt they have. YES, you must think of these factors as well before you jump into the fixer-upper market.

You don’t want to be buying the cheapest materials known to man to fix up your house either unless you are prepared to get what it’s worth. When it comes time to sell you might find those renovations are falling apart again or potential buyers will spot work that was not done properly or with the correct materials.

I’ve been to many open houses as a nosey neighbour because I can and when having a look around I’m shocked to see how many people install the wrong parts or materials in their home. This only means the new owners have to rip it out and start over costing them money.

If you want the best bang for your buck, do the job right and pay the money to get the best materials you can or at least that are comparable to builder grade and above. I’m not a huge fan of builder grade myself and in renovating our bathroom I can already tell you that I’m finding mistakes behind the walls and an uneven ceiling I have to repair now.


Hidden renovation money guzzlers


It’s not always easy to see what’s behind walls unless you tear them down. This can lead to all sorts of problems and plenty more money to be spent. This is just another reason to think about all the potential problems when buying a fixer-upper.

Most people don’t care how much time and money you spent on what they can’t see because it’s only what they do see that will sell your home. Never forget this important tip. You might have to spend $20,000 to rip out a basement reno gone bad to fix leaks or structural issues but when it comes times to put your house on the market… no one cares! If it looks spectacular that’s what will sell your house.

If you buy a new home you might get lucky with a new home warranty but even so mistakes are going to happen because homes are put up so fast these days. If you have no one to fall back on get ready to dig into your pocket because your new home just became a fixer-upper or part lemon.

Sure owning a new home or a home that is a complete fixer-upper is great to call your own but what you must ask yourself is whether you are prepared to take on the financial storm if disaster strikes.

If you can’t repair your home this could lead to your house falling apart around you forcing you to sell for less than what you paid for it or if you are lucky breaking even depending on the state of the home, years owning the home and the housing market.

Have you ever bought a fixer-upper home only to find there were major problems when you went to renovate that would cost you more than you could afford? What tips can you offer people who want to buy the fixer-upper home?


Top recipe


Spiced Crumble Peach Pie

If you don’t already know I have a second Facebook page called The Free Recipe Depot where I share recipes from other Foodie Bloggers from around the world.

Once a week I pick one recipe that has been submitted as my Top Recipe of the week. Trust me when I say this is no easy task as some of these foodies can cook up a storm.

This week I picked this lovely Spiced Peach Pie with Crumble  made by Michaela from Affair from the Heart since peaches are in season and we are all looking for new recipes for our fruits.

If you love to preserve going the extra step and canning peaches is a fun way to enjoy peaches all year-long. The work is worth it when you enjoy out of season fruit that you took the time to preserve.  Enjoy.


Weekly CBB posts


If you missed any CBB posts from the week here is the list of posts you can catch up on reading! You will notice that I’m only posting 5-6 days a week now. You may notice this post will be combined with my Saturday Weekend Review shortly as well. More explanation to come soon!! – Mr.CBB

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  1. We bought a major fixer upper. It was a great deal and I’ve learned a bunch about fixing/installing/repairing things around the house. I’ve also learned that I’ll never buy a fixer upper again. It’s a great idea, and if I had more time, it would absolutely be worth it, but it’s just too much work for us to do on our own again. But, the low mortgage payments and small debt kind of make it worth it…

  2. I bought a fixer upper 2 years ago and I can confirm money goes quickly. We had a healthy budget for our renovations but blew right through it and went over budget. Both materials and labor are expensive. As you mentioned once you open a wall and find something wrong you have to repair it. It’s not a walk in the park like they show on HGTV. On the bright side our mortgage is low and major renovations are behind us now.

  3. Our old house was a fixer-upper and it definitely cost more money than we planned. We sold last year and only broke even after spending tens of thousands of dollars on the place. Never again =/

    1. Good point… some people can flip a house and make a fortune and others… well not so much. We are trying very hard to make sure we don’t spend more than we have to in order to get a proper return.

  4. Loved this post! Housing renovations are so expensive and never go “Best Laid Plans” that being said one of our houses did enable for me to be a stay at home Mom very cheap mortgage and it was a dump and a lot of work. I still don’t recommend that route to everyone I loved the fact that you talked it out…now about that tempting peach pie recipe….LOL!

  5. I like the idea of fixing up a house because you can mold it into your specific likings. You could do that with a house from scratch but it seems to be harder that way, but I could be wrong. Also, from what I’ve seen on HGTV and the comment above, I’d be scared of things happening from messing with the walls and even possibly hitting a pipe.

  6. Many of the people I have talked to regarding home buying prefer a brand new home or a newly renovated home. I think this may largely have to do with the fact that neither them nor their partner is handy. I really lucked out with mine because not only is he handy, but his brothers are quite handy as well. What’s even better is that they enjoy doing the renos and have quite the assortment of tools between them. So really all you’re paying for is the materials, and the beer. 😉

    We purchased a fixer upper because my partner is handy and also to save money. And another thing,tearing down drywall and putting up new drywall is HARD WORK.

    1. We aren’t grooming as many men and women these days to be “handy” because it’s more about technology. You are right most people want to buy the house and it’s move-in ready. Pity really because being handy is something that I’m very happy I’ve learned to be since being a young boy and having a mum and dad who were able to help me in this direction. Not all parents can.

  7. Yea…those fix it shows don’t show the hours of prep work and the worst of the mess. I gave up watching them as I have lived through a few renovations and know what it’s like. I don’t need to have it sugar coated for me.When we bought this house we knew it needed a lot of work. Our original thought was to do the kitchen first. That lasted until we actually moved in and got a good look behind the walls at the wiring. That was fast tracked to the Need list and everything else was pushed back to a want. It was seriously a fire hazard, the wiring was so bad!!! Even the Ontario Hydro inspector said he was very glad we were re-wiring the place. Hubby can do wiring and we had a permit from Ontario Hydro for the job so it was inspected and it did pass. It never fails to amaze me that so many people don’t do that. If your wiring isn’t done right it can (and does) cause fires that can destroy your house, not to mention the possible loss of life a fire can cause. The truly scary part is that a fire can smolder inside the walls for a long time before it explodes into a major fire engulfing the entire place……..
    If you are getting a fix it upper then I hope you do know what you are doing. not knowing can be costly in so many ways. Beyond the money issues if you don’t know what you are doing it is very easy to get hurt..badly

    1. That’s exactly my point. Many people think the fixer-upper is the way to go but once you start opening walls you might just find the money depletes real fast. I bet you won’t be doing that again.

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