Oh, those unexpected costs and renovation projects synonymous with home ownership. Yet, I wouldn’t change being a homeowner for anything! My family and I don’t share walls with anyone, and we have enough land with plenty of trees for privacy.
Here are my five top valuable lessons learned from buying and renovating homes with my husband over the past decade:
1. Buy the Fixer-Upper Home.
Buying “new” is high-risk, because the house is usually staged and very over-priced. Buying a house to renovate is much better because the value typically increases with each new completed project. Best of all: If the housing market slides off the mountain again, your house should be worth at least what you paid if bought below market value because the home needed work. My home is worth more now than seven years ago because we are DIY homeowners that bought low.
2. Think Before Demolishing.
Don’t be too quick to get rid of interior or exterior structural and design elements. The wrong renovation choices can decrease property value. Live in the house for awhile before going demolition-happy. We “almost” got rid of an original 1970s stained-glass light fixture, but didn’t. Everyone who visits our retro ’70s home loves this accent light.
3. Choose a House with an Extra Something.
Go for the corner lot with more acreage, an incredible mountain or city view, or a lakefront property if possible. Even smaller-scale extras can pay-off later like the picture window or wrap-around porch that nobody else has in your neighborhood. Especially in a down housing market, desirable features can save your home from depreciation if you need to put the house on the market like we did. Our once under-developed riverfront property, developed with sweat equity, was valuable even in a housing market going downhill fast.
4. Hire an Excellent Home Inspector.
This gives you great bargaining power for negotiating a reduction in the list price of the home. Plus, you will have great insight into what to repair first, and can budget and plan accordingly. Get estimates for what the home inspector finds wrong BEFORE signing anything. We once guesstimated that we needed $20K for window replacements. After getting 3 estimates, we knew we needed to budget for at least a $45K project.
5. Find out About Taxes and Utilities.
Before closing on a house, know what the monthly costs are, like the taxes, so you know how much money to set aside. As for utilities: Ask the home seller to share statements from the most recent year. We did this before making an offer and were in shock. The seller lowered the price another $10K so we would have money to convert electric heat to propane heat.