Fixer-Upper or Move-In Ready? The Pros and Cons

Fixer-Upper or Move-In Ready? The Pros and Cons

Eleanor Büsing
Jul 27, 2015

There are a lot of considerations to ponder when buying a home: location, budget, and your basic needs, and also how much work you're willing to take on. Some people love a project and wouldn't consider a new build for love or money, and others want a hassle-free home from the get-go...

As you're house shopping, do you imagine yourself in an ultra-modern, brand-new home like the one above by Dierendonckblancke Architects, or would you prefer one of its more humble neighbors that you can make your own? Here are some pros and cons for each option- check them out and let us know where you stand!

Fixer Upper: PROS

  • Cheaper Initial Cost This much is obvious: a home that needs work done is going to be less expensive to purchase than a similar home in tip-top shape. Score.
  • Adding Value Most of the time, by investing some money and elbow grease into your new home, you'll be adding more than your financial outlay into the value of your home. If you plan to sell again in the short- to medium-term, this is an important consideration.
  • Design Dream It'll be controlled by your budget at the end of the day, but with a self-led remodel, you'll be able to decide where and how to spend your cash. Not fussed about a high-spec kitchen but want a fab back deck? It's your choice.

Fixer Upper: CONS

  • More Work Whether the work is being done by you or a team of contractors, someone will have to actually get their hands dirty. Creating your dream home may seem like a fun idea, but before you go for it, make sure you're down with spending every weekend for the next two years sanding, tiling, and/or painting.
  • More Time You might be itching to get in there and decorate, but with a fixer-upper, you'll have to slow down a bit. Depending on the level of renos needed, you might not be able to move in for awhile. Even minor upgrades can take time- I mean, my parents are still fixing up their house, 30 years on.
  • Renovation Costs/Hidden Costs It's not just the renovation budget itself you need to worry about- it's the hidden costs that come along with that. You never know what's in the wall until you tear it down, or what a survey might throw up. As a designer, I've never seen a project that didn't use up its contingency one way or another, so be sure to build yourself a buffer.

Move-In Ready: PROS

  • Easy Of course, this is the trump card. A freshly-finished home means you can get in and get on with the fun stuff (painting, decorating, living) as soon as you exchange.
  • Newer Technology A new or newly-reno'd home will usually feature higher spec technology, from the kitchen appliances to home security and integrated stereo systems.
  • More Energy Efficient New homes are also more energy efficient, thanks to things like better insulating, glazing, and heating methods. Though upgrades can help, you'll be hard-pressed to make an older home as efficient as a newer build.

Move-In Ready: CONS

  • Expensive Let's be clear here: you're paying a premium for somebody else's work when you buy a move-in-ready home. Doing the same level of work to a fixer-upper is often much cheaper, because you're pocketing the profit.
  • Design Concessions As you're hanging out on Apartment Therapy, I'm betting you have definite ideas when it comes to design. Chances are, a developer or flipper will not share your superior vision. With a new home, you'll have to make some stylistic sacrifices.
  • Quality This point might not be entirely fair: there are definitely conscientious contractors out there. But in my experience, attention to detail and quality tends to be much higher when they're reporting to an end user, rather than a company or flipper. With a newly-reno'd home, you might make some disappointing discoveries about the finish/quality of certain areas.

Where do you fall on the fixer upper vs. newly-(re)modeled debate? What did you choose to do, and would you choose differently if you had to do it again?

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