How to Find the Right Fixer-Upper House

fixer-upper kitchen

Sometimes when I watch HGTV and people complain that a house’s closets are too small or the kitchen doesn’t have granite, I just think how they would have hated my house.

No one ever says, “Harvest-gold sink and counters? Sweet! Yellow is my favorite color.” or “This bathroom carpet is going to feel so soft beneath my feet after a warm shower.”

When we were looking for a house, I gave my realtor this wish list:

house wish list

I wanted pretty trees. I didn’t want to maintain a pool. I didn’t want a slick, modern kitchen.

It was kind of like when you’re single and you write this dream list of what you want in a mate, and maybe that list has things on it like “Can play guitar” and “Looks handsome but not too handsome.” It seemed reasonable.

As our house search progressed, we started to look more into fixer-uppers so that we could have the quality we wanted but still be able to afford it. I had to add a few more things to my house list.

Dream House or Deal Breaker?

If you’re looking to buy a fixer-upper house, first focus on the essentials:

1. Location

The location of your house is vital. You can’t do anything to change it. It’s the first thing people think about your house when you try to sell it later, and your home improvements have to make sense in the context of the neighborhood.

2. Outdated but not neglected.

You want a house that has been maintained even if it looks old. When buyers look for “good bones” they usually notice the trim and the windows, but it’s so much more than that. It’s the structure and the way the house is built, and it involves the foundation, floor plan, exterior, electrical, plumbing, HVAC, walls, and roof. If more than one of these needs replacement, then walk away and keep looking. You want a house that will be strong in forty years, not crumbling around you.

Getting a professional inspection is essential, but for a first-time walk through, you can observe a lot yourself. Look for cracks in the wall and straight roof lines. Watch for signs of water damage. Check the electrical panel. Find the age of the AC unit, furnace, and the water heater. Turn on the faucets and check the water pressure. Notice if the doors latch easily or not. Go around the outside and make sure the brick isn’t crumbling. (If a house is so full of stuff like a near-hoarding situation, I don’t even bother. Don’t get a house that you can’t see to inspect.)

3. Floor plan

A good floor plan makes a house livable now and in the future. There should be a good flow of traffic and sight lines from one room to the next.

Our house had nice-sized bedrooms, a big kitchen, and an open living area, but one problem. The living room was divided by brick arches going right down the middle. Tsh from Simple Mom even said it looked like an old Taco Bell.

Those arches quickly came down with a hammer, and you can see the living room before, during, and after:

living room arches before

The Potential

A fixer-upper is not going to be staged for you, so you have to think creatively. You will have to overlook wallpaper and ugly light fixtures. You have to imagine that house without the heavy curtains and all the stuff. Picture what it would look like if you cut back the overgrown hedges.

Assume you’ll replace the floors. (Go ahead and pick out the kind of flooring you’ll want so that you’ll know the square footage cost and can budget for it.)

In the kitchen we kept the original oak cabinets and had them painted white. They’ll last another forty years. We expanded the pantry and replaced the counters.

I made some concessions. I didn’t get to have pretty trees in the front yard, but I decided that I could buy trees for $50 each and plant them. In the end I got my essentials plus most of the things on my wish list. (Who am I kidding, it’s not the end. We still have a lot of work to do!)

What kind of experience have you had with a fixer-upper house, and what would you look for?
About Rachel

I write about practical tips that will help you simplify at home. Connect with me on Pinterest and Twitter.


  1. My first house was a fixerer upperer – the main proviso I had was it had to be not so in need of fixing that I couldn’t live in it for a few years while I saved up for the fixing up. (In fact, I borrowed from my parents to buy the house, paid them back and borrowed the money again to do the fixing) It needed re-stumping, re-wiring, a new roof, a new bathroom, a new kitchen, floor coverings, umm… painting inside and out. The only thing that didn’t happen was the kitchen over the nine years I lived there.

    The second house, we bought as a couple – different kettle of fishes, the second time, as I was pregnant. It had to be near schools (preferably walking distance) near my work (also walking distance) and on the same side of town as the Bloke’s work. It needed minimum three bedrooms, two living areas (or potential to extend), a 3m wide driveway (we have a boat), and either a shed or space for a shed. It also needed a decent sized block of land, and a “sensible” kitchen (my old one was just plain silly). The house we bought ticked most of the boxes, and was the only one we both really liked. I am still waiting to remodel the kitchen – although it’s workable, the more I cook, the more it annoys me! And the school that is in walking distance is awful, so the kids go to the one that’s a little further away. I have to drive them, but I park at the school and walk to work from there. We built in a verandah which gave us a little more space. We’ve been there long enough now that Things need to be Done. I’m eying off the laundry with ill intent, but I suspect the shower room will be first on the agenda.

    • Harriet, One advantage of working in your less-than-ideal-but-will-be-renovated kitchen is that you can take good notes on the improvements you want to make.

      In my first kitchen I had that advantage, having lived with a bomb for five years. We renovated the kitchen in our second home before we moved in, and I had a much harder time anticipating how the space would work.
      Bridget´s last post…Kansas and DIY Inspiration: Vintage Collage Journal

      • I totally agree about the kitchen. This is also an advantage of living in rentals for a long time – you can compare kitchens in all your apartments/rental houses, and have a better sense of what works and what doesn’t.

        Thanks for this post, Rachel – it’s really helpful! My parents bought a fixer upper when I was a teenager and now that I am househunting, I realize what a good deal they found, but also what a risk it can be to buy a house that needs so much work! They basically followed your advice – especially in that their house has a huge yard that they wouldn’t be able to find anywhere else. They did replace all the wiring in the house, right when we moved in, but other than that there were no major issues. Just a huge amount of cosmetic work on floors, cupboards, and walls – but that’s where me and my sister came in!
        Bronwen@Bronwenreads´s last post…Review: Norwegian Handknits: Heirloom Designs from Vesterheim Museum

  2. I love that you’re posting house posts right now! So timely for me.

    Our new house: we don’t love the floor plan (the bathroom/bedrooms arrangement is odd) but I think we’ll get used to it. We do love the lot, the neighborhood, the schools, the yard, the living areas, etc. So a floorplan concession seemed ok.

    It does have some hideous brown carpet though. Already dreaming of replacing that. (Is your flooring laminate? Or actual wood?)

    And: cracking up about your carpeted bathroom comment. So great!
    Jessica @ Quirky Bookworm´s last post…31 Days of Awesome Kids’ Books: All-of-a-Kind Family

  3. Always pick the worst house on a good street, rather than a good house on a bad street. You can fix the house, you can’t do anything about the neighbourhood.

  4. Robin from Frugal Family Times says:

    We bought a fixer up and added a second storey and reworked the main floor. We left the plumbing in place and planned around it, a great money saving tip, it costs a lot to move all that. A simple idea for fixer uppers, I heard years ago: find the worst house in a great neighbourhood. I don’t know if our house was the worst, but I am biased, it was my grandparents house first. I already loved it.

    We love DIY too. If you don’t, a fixer upper might not be the best idea. Hiring all the work out is not cheap.
    Robin from Frugal Family Times´s last post…Easy Personalized Pillows with Iron-on Jean Patches

  5. When we last moved, the kids were 8 and 12. We knew we would stay for years so we looked for a house in which their two bedrooms, bathroom, toilets could be closed for long periods of time once they leave the house for studies, etc. Today, they live away from us, and we just re-open their aisle when they come for a visit : it means less heating, less cleaning, less dusting. No regrets !

  6. It drives me crazy when I watch HGTV and people are sticking up their noses because there’s no GRANITE! Ohhh heaven forbid! Especially when their budget is like $100,000. Seriously? I definitely agree with you- look for good bones, everything else can be changed.

    We are still living in the first house we bought almost 10 years ago. My favorite thing about it was the vaulted ceilings and skylights in the bathrooms. Probably a sentimental thing for me because I had those in the bathrooms of two of my homes growing up! Now that 10 years has passed, the only things I don’t like about the home are the floor plan on the first floor- it’s not open at all, and it’s very difficult for us to host parties- and that it faces north. Because we have fairly close neighbors on either side, there are no windows on the east/west sides which makes it somewhat dark inside much of the time. The good part about that is that it stays quite cool in the summertime. And in the fall/winter we get gorgeous golden light from the south.

    The best things about this house are that it’s big enough for our family of 6 that we’ve never had to move to something larger, it’s in a fantastic little neighborhood that has only 2 entrances and the rest of it is cul-de-sacs, so it’s very quiet and my kids have lots of friends to play with (there are 4 kids on our street in my son’s class in school- and the street is only .5 mile long). I also love the backyard. It’s huge and fenced in, and anytime I consider moving I just imagine losing the backyard and I can’t do it!

    So for me, those are the things I would consider if I had to buy a new house. :-)
    Kasey´s last post…Because apparently is humanly possible to have your ears talked off.

    • Oh, those granite people on HGTV drive me crazy! Esp. when it’s there first home and they are young. We here in the US are soooo spoiled and often have such an attitude of entitlement.

      Ok, off my soap box. Sorry.

      In buying homes I was told to consider a “problem” to be twice as bad as it looks. ie: a leaking toilet. I now would say to think of it as at least 3 times as bad as it looks. That leaking toilet turned into not only a rotten floor, but a half rotten floor joist. Thank heavens for a smart helpful brother!

      Aside from all of the other wonderful advice – good bones, close to the places you go to most often, etc. – I would say to look for a good traffic flow in the house. If it bugs you a bit when you walk through the house, it will drive you crazy after you have moved in.

      I have found home inspections to be very helpful.

      Oh, in one old home, I thought it would be cheap to replace the counter top. It turned out that the custom built in cabinets were not standard depth. I couldn’t just go buy pre-made tops from the lumber store. :( It cost me tons more than I thought it would. Not to mention the hours, no – days, of scraping the glue off the walls! There was linoleum glued up the walls. And, when the new counters were put in, there was one area that had a huge gap between the counter and the wall. It was because of uneven walls. Older houses ( early 1900’s) are WONDERFUL, but often have very unique issues.

      In our first house, the water pressure was low. I thought it would be too expensive to re-plumb the whole house. Well, I did it right before we moved to help sell the house. I wish I had done it right after we moved in! I was much cheaper than I had thought and it made a HUGE difference. So, check on prices before you decide you have to live with something.

      Ok, my last 2 thoughts. If the people smoked in the house, it takes a lot of work to clean up and get rid of the smell. Animals who have urinated often in a house – esp cats – make it hard to clean up too. I had all of these problems in one house I remodeled. I took out paneling and sheet rock in one room, had to tear up some subfloor because of urine, and Kilzed everything. The back porch had been urinated on too. I only scrubbed and bleach ed the subfloor in that room. Then I put stain block on it. The new owners dog kept peeing in that room. It could still smell the urine! My brother also said that even with all I did to the house, he could still smell a bit of smoke. :( So, be careful. When in doubt, just don’t buy it.

      All in all? I would buy an old home again! They often have such good bones and the stories of the remodel adventures are fun!

      Great post! Of course, that is why I read Rachel’s blog. :)


  7. We bought our fixer-upper 12 years ago. We had a laundry list of things that the house “had” to have (at a minimum: brick, 1.5 baths, fireplace, and central heat/air), which went out the window as soon as we found our house. We had looked at oh-so-many fixer-uppers in our very small price range, but when we walked into our home it was just that…our home. We knew it the moment we walked through the front door. We wanted an older home (ours is built in 1940), we wanted character (see, built in 1940), it was brick (the only must-have we ended up with), it already had a fenced-in yard (good thing, because we already had a St. Bernard puppy), it had trees and room to add on, it had original hardwood floors (which we wanted), 5-panel doors with glass knobs (which made me squeal), a horrible kitchen, only one bathroom with a bright red sink and gold tiles (oh yes, love those 60’s “updates”), and a walk-in basement that my 6’3″ hubby could stand up in (unusual for a house from that era). I walked into the house and knew it was ours, hubby walked into the basement and knew it – we went upstairs and told the Realtor – YES.

    Over the last 12 years, we have torn off a bad addition, dug a new basement, and added on so that we now have 3 full baths (excessive much??), a lovely kitchen and laundry room, and a master bedroom that is big enough for us, but not overpowering to the size of the house. We upgraded from 1500 sq. ft. to around 2,000 with a partially finished basement…and we still have a yard.

    In the last two years, we have purchased the two houses that adjoin our property, and are now in the process of flipping them for rentals. Built in 1940 and 1935, they had bones we could use, but had been sadly neglected. Now it’s our turn to dream for them and see beyond the yellowed walls and scuffed floors to what they could be. I LOVE it!! :)
    Carrie @ Busy Nothings´s last post…Thankful For :: 1101 – 1110

  8. Thanks so much for this! My husband and are hoping to sell our house and buy a new to us one in the spring, and these tips are great! We’re totally willing to buy a fixer upper but not a dump, so thanks. BTW your blog is one of my very favorites!

  9. We bought a large (3 bedrooms) 100 year old two flat in a good location (walk to schools, shopping, commuter train, parks, etc.) in a great community a couple of years ago. The previous owners had blown their money on remodeling the first floor, so the second was untouched and had most of its original details–good (beautiful woodwork) and bad (nasty kitchen linoleum and wonky cabinets). To our extended family’s surprise, we moved in upstairs–renting the “nicer” apartment nets us more income, which we can put towards fixing up the rest of the building. We are prioritizing building repairs and exterior maintenance, and saving the second floor kitchen for last, since it’s livable. The key is to include a real budget for improvements in your estimate of what the house will cost you each month by getting quotes from contactors based on your inspection report. Take care of any safety or structural issues first (our 100 year old water shut off for the building needed replacing-$1000), paint to make it more cheerful/homey for you, then take care of the other stuff when you can afford it. If you bought the right house and aren’t flipping it, you’ll have plenty of time to get it fixed up.

  10. We bought the smallest house on the biggest piece of property in the neighborhood we liked. It was ugly, but had those “good bones” you mention. We put a lot of elbow grease into our 1940’s home and added an addition up top and we still haven’t maxed out the average value for our neighborhood. Getting the right house for the right price is so important!

  11. This is a fun game. Let’s see:
    – less than 1300 SF
    – either basement OR attic, not both. neither is fine, too.
    – an entry not like the one we had in our old house (front door opened into.. a closet. seriously.)
    – OLD, tall trees
    – sunshine in one yard for a garden
    – 1.5 baths
    – washer/dryer hookup (can you tell I live in a city without these?)
    – a garage
    – dog-friendly neighborhood
    – windows galore
    – 2+ bedrooms
    – good DESIGN (see above with front door opening into closet. not well-designed.)

  12. We bought a fixer-upper condo.
    It was in a great location, the building was older but well maintained and the layout worked well for our needs.
    At first site it was terrible. The interior hadn’t been maintained or updated since it was built in the mid-90s. There were 8 students living in the 2 bed + den 1100 sq ft condo. A door was broken. The kitchen was vile.
    We knew up front what was broken and would be replaced by the strata council like the windows that weren’t sitting flush in their frames.
    The price was a great value for the area and we knew that a deep clean, new floors, fresh paint and some new kitchen appliances, it would be very livable for our family.
    After a light renovation we really liked our new home. The kitchen is galley style and some day we will pull the wall down and remodel. For now our home is rented out while we live overseas. I expect we’ll need to do some more sprucing up post-renters.
    Just like you said, you have to know what you are getting into with the structure of the home and have some vision beyond its current look.

  13. This is such an awesome post. You nailed all the reasons we bought a fixer-upper (yay 70s!) and what makes one a good buy vs. a nightmare. We love ours, despite the many many projects we have yet to do. Although the aesthetics aren’t (yet) what we’d like, the house lives great because of the things you mention: a good floor plan, sound fundamentals, great neighborhood, affordable monthly costs. And all those projects make for lots and lots of blog content, for years to come :-)
    Rita@thissortaoldlife´s last post…Easy, frugal DIY towel baraka, The best towel bar in the whole wide world of history

  14. I heart this post. We just bought our (hopefully first of a few) rental house, and these are all fabulous things to keep in mind in the future, if we decide to go with something that could use a little TLC.

  15. We rated the houses we looked at as A, B, or C. “A” meant move-in ready with no improvement necessary, (and probably out of our price range). “B” was some renovations needed but nothing major and we could live there while we did it. “C” meant total overhaul. Our marriage would not thrive (to say the least) in the “C” scenario, so we’ve done “B” houses. A little paint, some new carpet, etc.
    Katherine@YeOldCollegeTry´s last post…A Post Without Pictures

  16. We just bought a fixer-upper in a great part of town. We saw houses in much better shape for a similar price, but they were in areas we didn’t want to live.

    Our work is going VERY slowly, but we are lucky enough to be able to stay with my in-laws while we get the house livable. So far we have replaced most of the plumbing, all the bathroom fixtures, and removed a wall between the kitchen and living room to create an open floor plan. We’ve also scraped off popcorn ceilings, removed all the flooring and baseboards, and are in the process of painting. Still to come: new floors, painting the cabinets and building more, along with a pantry, replacing the counter tops, and countless other details. It is exciting to be able to make everything exactly how we want it! I wouldn’t have it any other way.

  17. ““This bathroom carpet is going to feel so soft beneath my feet after a warm shower.”” That made me laugh so much. Carpeted bathrooms. WHYYYYYYYYY?

    Love every single point you make. Such fantastic advice!

    • I once had a carpeted bathroom. It was cheaper and easier than alternative flooring. (I was young and very inexperienced in all things “home.”) When we bought a bigger house, we kept that one with the carpeted bathrooms and used it as a rental. When I moved back into it after our divorce, those carpets were the worst thing ever! 10 years of I-don’t-know-who peeing on it! One night I couldn’t take it any more and started ripping it out. Lived with plywood floors for about 6 months. Better than that carpet! Never again! :-)

    • Maybe it was a trend at some point? I’ve seen quite a few carpeted bathrooms. Our first house had it. Fortunately there was tile underneath.
      Bridget´s last post…Kansas and DIY Inspiration: Vintage Collage Journal

    • Karen (Scotland) says:

      Very common in Scotland, have to say, especially in the older generations. I couldn’t live with it but my gran, aunt, parents had/have it and love it.
      I can only imagine it harks back to the freezing winters of years ago without any central heating.
      Most of Europe mocks us, it’s true. It’s one of the first things Dutch folks ask my husband when he says he lives in Scotland – “Do you have carpet in your bathroom? Ha, ha!”

  18. After looking at dozens of houses and needing to move quickly, I settled on a house whose owner loved mauve. Mauve curtains, mauve blinds, mauve wallpaper, mauve toilet seat, mauve sponge painting. There was ugly wallpaper in almost every room, the kitchen and bathrooms had their original 1972 cabinets and light fixtures, and the carpet was old and stained.

    I knew none of those things was permanent and have spent the last 10 years changing just about everything in the house. I remind people that the house you buy is just walls and floor; what you do with it is what makes it yours.

  19. We are in the process of buying another home, and orignally had picked a house that seemed great. Then, it didn’t appraise for what the owners were selling it for, and they refused to drop the price. That’s when we walked away. Another house with a very similar floorplan came along, but it needed a little more work (all cosmetic). It wasn’t my dream house at first, but once I stepped back and saw the house for the great features it has under some of that outdated wallpaper, I knew I could really make it my own.
    Jaimie´s last post…This is normal, right?

  20. I love the soul of older homes, and would love to have a Craftsman bungalow someday. But I’ve accepted the fact that the hubs and I are not DIY-ers.
    I could spend all day staring at that photo of your finished living room. So peaceful. And I love the white walls and the pop of orange artwork. Great job, guys.

  21. We’ve purchased three and lived in them while we did the work. The second one was just mainly cosmetic so it was easy. The first and third were absolute dumps! The first was a hundred year old bungalow. We had to replace the roof (it had 4 layers) and rebuild part of the foundation. We also had to jack the house up a bit. Obviously these are not repairs for your average family buying a fixer upper. My husband is a remodeling contractor so he was able to do the work himself for a fraction of the cost. We re-did every room, and when it came time to sell, we sold it ourselves and got the price we wanted & sold it in 2 weeks.

    Our third house is the one we’re currently living in. It was a dump, too! But we loved the location and yard and felt the house had potential. But there were four of us and it only had 2 bedrooms and one bathroom. Before the first year was out, we added a partial second floor with a bedroom, bathroom and walk-in closet. Our 19-year-old daughter moved up there. Then we re-did part of the basement and made a large bedroom with bathroom for our 17-year old son. Then we attacked the rest of the house.

    Unfortunately, the previous 2 owners were packrats and saved anything & everything and left it all behind. It took 2 dumpsters to clean out the basement, attic and yard. And because there were so much debris, it was a breeding ground for SNAKES. We had three adult snakes (2 ring neck and one garter) in the family room and 7 baby ringnecks in the basement laundry room. I HATE snakes and was not happy at all. I started wearing shoes all the time! I was terrified to get up in the middle of the night to go to the bathroom. I had nightmares about snakes crawling in bed with me. The only good thing was we’ve never had a single mouse. And my husband got to work (so I wouldn’t leave him) and cleaned up the debris around the house and sealed all the holes. So after that first year or so, we haven’t had any more snakes (at least if we have, they haven’t told me).

    This house has been the most work but we’ve enjoyed it here. However, it’s pretty much done so it’s time to move on and do it again!´s last post…Cooking Basics: What Does it All Mean?

  22. We bought a fixer upper (a 1933 Craftsman) that stated “needs some TLC” and “as is” on the listing. I love older homes with character! It had almost everything on our list: good location and schools, basement, eat-in kitchen, large yard and some other things. We have renovated so much over the past 7 years. It REALLY did need work. But with alot of sweat and some hard earned money, we love it! We’ve got some more plans, including finishing part of the basement, restoring the original cedar shakes on the exterior, new front door, adding an additional half-bath, I could go on and on! I could see this as our forever home.
    Paige´s last post…hello extra day off

  23. How timely – I’m moving into mine on Monday! We bought our apartment 12 years ago and have literally done EVERYTHING. And now we’re about to do it again. You can get so much more house for your money if you are prepared to put some work in. We would never have been able to afford a house the size of our new one if it was ‘finished’. Like so many people do, we knew it was the right house straight away and didn’t even have to discuss it. I totally agree with everything you’ve said, particularly about the ‘bones’ of the house. While ours is very dated and needs redecorating throughout, it has been kept in immaculate condition and won’t be grotty to live in while get everything done. We made compromises such as accepting a much, much smaller garden than we wanted and also a slightly awkward parking set up. However, we’ve ended up with much bigger rooms than we thought we’d be able to get and it has a fantastic sense of space. Within our budget, we also thought we’d have to accept being very overlooked. While there are plenty of other properties nearby, none of them feel like they are on top of us so that was an added bonus. I think when you view properties you can quickly work out which compromises you are willing to make and which ones you aren’t! I look forward to hearing about more of your renovations – everything looks great so far.

  24. I had serious buyers’ remorse after we bought our house because I couldn’t see the potential the way my husband could. Our house is just perfect for us, really. It is the best location in the city – walking distance to everything we love and on the bus route, too. We have a large back yard for a city house. We have 2 apartments in the house, too, which is what we wanted. My husband is an architect and he made a plan for the renovations and we’ve been going through them a step at a time. We bought the house for a song from a slumlord – I lived with roaches for the first few months!!!! – but it is a beautiful old Victorian with good bones, and we’re not planning to ever leave this house. We put in a first-floor bedroom and bathroom with a walk-in shower ;)
    Margo, Thrift at Home´s last post…Cake Wreck Pops

  25. I think a lot of these tips go for buying any house, not just one you plan on fixing up. When my husband and I were house hunting, we had a very specific number we wanted to stay under. For our area, it ended up being a choice between a smaller and more awkwardly laid out house that was fully updated, a newer house that had been beat up a bit, or an older house that was dated, but had a great layout and lots of character. We went with the last one because we decided that we can fix it being dated, but we just couldn’t add the same kind of charm this house has to the other two. We’ve done quite a bit of unplanned remodeling (we had carpeted bathrooms too!) and still have more to go, but I’m still happy that we chose this house. We just keep adding on new money with tax returns and Christmas money. :-)

  26. Great advice. If you’ve got a good location, layout with potential, functional systems, (heat, electric, plumbing), and sound structure, you can change everything else over time.

    Plumbing location is important if you’re thinking about adding a bath in the future. Tying into existing plumbing can make a big difference in feasibility/cost.

    Good flooring is also a plus. Hardwood floors can be restored and have a great resale value.

    The best thing about a fixer upper is when you’re done, you get the house you want. The worst thing is living through the mess.

    We did a lot of work on our first house, and when it was time to move, it was hard to find a house that had all the features we wanted.

    Our second house was not a fixer upper, but through a series of events it turned into a gut renovation. My husband and son did most of the work, learning on the job, and put most of it back together in a year, but there are still a few things to be done.

    We learned a lot, but I’m hoping we never have to put it into practice again. :)
    Bridget´s last post…Kansas and DIY Inspiration: Vintage Collage Journal

  27. My husband and I just looked at a house last night that fits your criteria to a T! We fell in love with it. It is the perfect raise-your-family house, minus all of its ugliness (which can go away with paint, new window treatments, and pulling up the carpet to reveal hardwood underneath). The seller wants to sell it quickly as-is, and we’d love to buy it quickly as-is. The only problem is MONEY, which we don’t have enough of. Sad day. Bye bye, potential house. We will keep saving and expect that another treasure will come along when we can afford it.

  28. Your new to you home is lovely; well done! Our farmhouse is more than 110 years old and a work in progress. I’ll never finish but it’s beautiful to me.

  29. Great advice as always – other people’s experience is so useful.
    We have lived in 2 ‘Fixer-Uppers’ and were lucky enough to gain financially from the sale of both. However, we have for the first time recently bought a new-build (a UK term, perhaps?) which is 4 years old. It has taken me 20+ to understand that renovating properties isn’t for us. I think thought that your points about location and layout are important whatever the age and repair of the property – this is such good advice for anyone currently considering a move.
    Claire´s last post…Minimalist Monday: Real life minimalism

  30. My husband are considering purchasing a fixer upper and we are torn. Your article really helped. We both see the potential in the house: has great location, tons of space, huge backyard for the kids. But it needs a lot of updates and their is an awkward past addition that needs to be changed. Thanks for all of your tips!

  31. A bad floor plan is not a total loss. It depends on what work you have planned. We had to replace the poky old Victorian scullery kitchen anyway, so we moved it to the entrance hall/room and ended up with a spacious kitchen where everything happens and a little library with a stove and patio doors onto the garden.

  32. This is all so wise and true. I can hardly stand to watch HGTV anymore. It is like my TV is just spewing out, over and over again, “Granite countertops, stainless steel appliances, hardwood floors, blah, blah, blah.”
    It is all about LOCATION and potential.

    • Oh, and how can I forget the need for enormous master suites? That I do not understand. You sleep in there. You need a bed. And the gargantuan master bathrooms with separate tub and shower. Why two things to clean instead of one?
      I have lived in a new house with all the features house hunters seem to love and in an old 1917 house with tiny bathrooms and minimal closets. Guess which one I like best? Lack of storage can be a beautiful thing because you only keep what you really need and use.
      I’ll stick with my 1917 house that is cozy, warm, inviting, surrounded by big trees, and just what we need.

  33. I’m glad you posted a photo of the living room post-demo. I’ve really been wanting to see it. Does the kitchen have two entries from that space? Did you do something cool with the fireplace? I bet it would look wonderful painted white.

  34. Our fixer-upper has been a lot more work than we’d planned, but we knew we wanted something we could make our own. I think a great thing to remember when working on a house that needs A LOT of work is that it’s okay to “make it work” for now. For example – our kitchen needs an overhaul, including changing wiring, but since it’s usable as is, I made it a little less “cave-like” without breaking the bank. It’ll tide us over until we’re ready to really take on the work and payment for a “new” kitchen. Here’s the link if you’d like a quick peek:
    Annie´s last post…Hand-made Thanksgiving Banner