The top things you should know when thinking of buying a 'fixer upper'

Over lockdown, social media platforms such as TikTok and Instagram have played a huge role in a younger generation looking to buy their first home as a ‘fixer upper’ project.

With neutral aesthetics and dramatic transformations, putting your own stamp on a house has never been more appealing.

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Pete Mugleston, MD and mortgage expert at, has compiled a list of his top tips on what to consider when you’re looking to buy a ‘fixer upper’.

There are a number of things to think about if you’re looking to buy a ‘fixer upper’. Picture: David Wright/ContributedThere are a number of things to think about if you’re looking to buy a ‘fixer upper’. Picture: David Wright/Contributed
There are a number of things to think about if you’re looking to buy a ‘fixer upper’. Picture: David Wright/Contributed

Make sure the price you’re paying reflects the work needed

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It’s obviously important to make sure you’re paying a fair price for a property that needs work, so compare the asking price to similar properties that don’t need any renovations. This is when it’s vital to be thorough when calculating the costs of the repairs. If you have an accurate figure to hand, you can add this to the asking price and make sure it’s in line with similar properties that have been finished to a high standard.

Research tradespeople prior to putting in an offer

Taking measurements and reaching out to tradespeople prior to putting in an offer on a house will always be a big help. It enables you to get an accurate quote for the work that you want/need doing to the house, which you can then combine to the asking price for the house and therefore work out the maximum you’re willing to offer from there.

Don’t get your heart set on things

If you go into renovating with your heart set on certain designs and materials, it only means you’re going to be disappointed. It often turns out that what you initially wanted, isn’t the best option for that house, so being open to new ideas is the only way you’re going to be completely happy with the end result, while still staying within your budget.

Consider having a full building survey carried out

While a simple homebuyers report might be the cheaper option, it might not pick up on structural problems or fundamental issues. This can be a great starting point if you’re buying a property that needs heavy renovation as it can provide you with a comprehensive list of the repairs that need carrying out and will give you the chance to put together an inventory of the materials and resources you’ll need. The results of a full building survey could also give you some extra leverage to negotiate a better price with the seller.

Consider what you can renovate yourself

While getting in tradespeople might be the go-to for all aspects of renovation, it’s a sure-fire way of spending a lot of money. There are countless videos online that teach you how to do some of the simpler tasks, meaning that you can cut back slightly on the spending. Painting, tiling and gardening can be easily done yourself, so factor those costs out of the final price.

Have a back-up plan for if you go over budget

Almost half of home renovators go over budget, so having a plan B drawn up is so important for if this happens to you. Make sure you’ll, at the very least, have enough funds to make the property habitable and ask yourself whether you could compromise on the rest, if it ever came to that. Could lower-priority renovations, like bringing that aged but perfectly functional kitchen up to date, be put off until further down the line? There could be more borrowing options available to you by this point, assuming your property increases in value and you’re happy living in a home that still needs ongoing work.

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