If you’re ready for a new home, you’re likely weighing the options: do you buy a new place? Build from the ground up? Or settle for the compromise of getting a fixer upper and transforming it?

The fixer-upper option has some major points in its favor. If you have a good building company, you don’t even have to be an expert handyman to make the place your own.

If you’re on the fence about whether an older house in need of extra TLC is right for you, here are some benefits and challenges to consider.


Pro: Budget Friendly

Possibly the most obvious benefit to getting a fixer upper comes with the numbers. Fixer uppers will almost always be cheaper at list price.  

If the house has been properly appraised, the problem areas will have been identified and taken into account for the selling price. This might mean getting a house at a bargain.

Beyond the lower cost of the initial property, getting a fixer upper allows you to put extra budget towards the areas that are most important to you. The wiggle room provided by the cheaper buy will keep giving you an added level of choice through the whole process.


Pro: Staying On the Clock

Do you have a hard moving deadline? Buying a pre-existing home is going to be the way to go. The permit process for building can be lengthy, and buying a home that already exists allows you to skip several steps ahead. This also allows you to transform a building into your dream home at your own pace.

Without the pressure of having to have an entire build done before you move in, you can set your own timeline for steady improvement as time and budget allow.


Pro: Location, Location

One big point in favor of buying an older home is that it’s likely to be in a more established, desirable neighborhood. With old houses, you can walk around the neighborhood, get a feel for the culture and setting.

In a new housing development, it can be impossible to predict how city planning and fellow new residents will shape the environment. If there is a very specific neighborhood you want to live in, choosing a house that’s already there is the only way in.


Con: The Unexpected

Even with the most careful research and planning, you likely already know that the unexpected is inevitable when it comes to home ownership. If you have major renovations to tackle, things like the roof, the HVAC system or plumbing, the remodeling cost can quickly add up to more than the amount you saved on the purchase in the first place.

Close to half of fixer-upper hopefuls end up going over budget on their renovations.

This means, in short, that even if you can afford the initial fixer upper list price, you might not be able to afford to make it livable. Tools like a fixer-upper calculator can help you crunch the numbers.


Con: Maintenance

Even aside from the challenges you might know about in advance, older houses simply need more maintenance along the way.

Years of wear and tear mean that even if you don’t have to replace the windows in the house quite yet, you’re much more likely to have to do so within the next decade. This can further drive up the cost before your initial renovations are even completed.


Con: Over-Improving

As homeowners plan ambitious re-imaginings of their newly acquired fixer-upper, it might not even occur to them that they could overdo it.

But over-improving is a real danger, one that could leave you losing money when it comes time to sell. If you add grand improvements to a house in a modest neighborhood, you’ll be unlikely to get any return on your investments.

If you plan to stay in the house longterm, then wider scale renovations (with the accompanying price tag) can be a good decision to make sure your home will serve you well for years to come. But if there’s any chance of selling in the years to come, you might want to consider cutting back on some of the extras.


Pro: We Can Help

In the end, whether you tackle a fixer upper or build from the ground up will be unique to you and your own situation. If you need help landing on a remodeling game plan, WillowTree can help!