When Buying a Fixer Upper

With so many house flippers writing books and starring on HGTV- more and more people are starting to consider flipping their own home. But sometimes, what we see on those polished pictures and edited TV show clips is not reality.

And we just started wondering, should just anyone flip a house? Obviously some people have tried their hand at it and loved it the first time… (ie. us) But thing is, house flipping isn’t easy and shouldn’t always be considered the dirt cheapest way to go.

In our opinion, you could flip a house if you: don’t mind a good challenge, you are good at taking life in stride and you don’t mind taking risks. Note that you don’t have to be an experienced carpenter, but you do need to have the savvy to find the companies and contractors to complete your job the way you want it done.

However, you probably shouldn’t flip a house if you: are not at a place financially where taking risks is an option, you don’t have a lot of time to invest in design and you’re already overwhelmed by property searching.

We’ve learned in fixing up our own homes how hard it is to source correctly and budget accurately and avoid the pitfalls that so easily come when tearing apart old houses. It’s certainly a risk filled undertaking- and one that should not be taken without thought. So today we’d like to share our top six tips for house flipping

So if you are convinced that a fixer upper is for you- then we congratulate you. And I’m sure we’ll get along great, because risky homes and tight budgets are kinda our thing.

So here’s our top six secrets.


Start by researching zoning to see what you can and cannot do with the property. As Chip and Jo say, “look for the worst home in the best neighborhood.” One of your first priorities should be location since no matter how terrible the house, that can change. But you can’t revamp your location. I know, no brainer.


When searching for a fixer upper- it’s very important that no matter how crumbling the brick is, the home needs to have good bones. Renovations can only go so far- so make sure that the layout of the rooms and the flow of your home is functional. Besides the layout of the home, pay attention to the structure. Get an inspector to examine any potential structural problems concerning electricity, plumbing, foundation, roof. Ask for the age of home systems such as a water heater or AC. Ask how much electric power is coming to the house. And if you wanna use one of our fave inspectors- check out the Affiliates tab above.


Once you find the “perfect” house, you’ll need to estimate the cost of repair and renovation. The best way to do this is to walk through the property with your contractor. Chris and I always determine our preliminary budget with quotes from contractors and past experience in house flipping. If it’s your first home, do yourself a favor and find someone who has flipped a house to get some cost estimates and advice from.


So you’ve made your estimate. And the house is cheap- because it’s a fixer upper of course. However, you need to be prepared for the worst-cast scenario. We always add 25-30% to our renovation estimate.


Figure out what out what you can renovate on your own and what you should hire someone else to do. Whatever you choose to do, make sure that it’s done professionally and intentionally. One of the biggest mistakes that we’ve seen home flippers make is renovating for styles that were popular in the 90’s. Take the time to plan and design according to modern trends. Go with classic designs that will appeal to a wide crowd, but make sure that you follow what is currently in style.


Choose projects that will pay. Simple upgrades like paint, floor refinishing and drywall repairs have a high return in investment. Other improvements like updating the kitchen and bathrooms, adding new light fixtures, doors, and windows, shutters and siding also substantially increase the market value. However, some projects, like adding major additions to the house may cost more than it’s worth.
And that’s all we have for you today. If you have any questions, stick ’em in the comments below.

Happy house flipping and home making!
sincerely, Chris & Claudia
PS. Parts of this post were inspired by this amazing article. Just given credit where credits due.


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