How to Spot a Fixer Upper

Before making a move, get input from qualified professionals. Most remodelers will visit a home you’re considering for free, pointing out obvious problems and offering a “guess-timate” of the cost of achieving the changes that you envision.

A trusted real-estate agent who knows what sells well in your market can also help. “Work with them on running the comps, looking at the neighborhood and understanding what you could do with a particular home to increase its economic value and value as a place to live,”.

Don’t get your heart set on a home until a home inspector has given it a thorough examination. If you make an offer on a house, make the sale contingent on the inspection, which means that you have the right to back out or negotiate further if the inspection turns up problems. The seller usually pays for the inspection, which runs around $300, depending on the locale. If possible, go along on the inspection, to see the house through the inspector’s eyes.


Signs of potential
To find the homes with great potential, you must screen for qualities that make a worthy investment and for problems that could suck a hole in your savings.

For a worthy investment, look for:

A great location. Location was the first thing each expert mentioned. Get into a great neighborhood at a discount by buying a small home that you can expand later. “Look for a neighborhood where (other) houses have been upgraded,”.

Relative youth. Resist the charms of historical homes unless you’ve got expertise or deep pockets. Find a home no older than 50 years.

Simple upgrades. Your mission is to find a home that’s ignored and underpriced because of its shaggy looks, yet really requires only a “makeover” — simple, inexpensive cosmetic improvements like new paint, flooring and light fixtures. That means avoiding the impulse to buy a home that needs upgrades that require moving or replacing walls, cabinets, countertops, appliances, plumbing or electrical systems. “HGTV says that you can do a room makeover for $750, but that doesn’t really happen in the real world,”.