10 Things About Fixer-Upper Houses That No One Tells You

buying a fixer upper

Here’s what I know: You’re either destined to buy a fixer-upper or you’re not. If it’s in your DNA, it’s going to happen and there really isn’t anything you can do about it. You can postpone the inevitable, surely. But your procrastination and distractions won’t last. Sooner or later, you’ll find yourself at a closing table signing on the dotted line; it will probably be a solid line but that’s beside the point.

Knowing that, I already know that by the time you get to the fateful day of conveyance you will already have watched exactly 3 million hours of HGTV, read 4,000 tool reviews on Amazon, created at least 17 distinct Pinterest boards dedicated with great specificity to the important features such as “Front Doors” and joined just one Facebook group to talk about your plans. One Facebook Group is all most people can take.

So I know that you’ll have already heard the endless “What nobody tells you is _________” stories. You’ll know all about hidden termite damage, a roof installed illegally and how, in certain parts of Ohio, it’s possible to have an entire house built without a survey so your neighbor’s house is probably going to be on your property. It happened to my friend Roger, true story.

Bottom line: You’ll know stuff can go wrong. But you’ll do it anyway, because you can’t not. I feel you, brothers and sisters.

So, having been there many times as both a homeowner and as a hired gun, let me share 10 EMOTIONAL things about fixer-upper houses that nobody tells you! Don’t worry, they’re mostly good!

1. You’re Going to Have Fun

All of the scary stories, the Hollywood movies and the HGTV dramatizations might have you scared to death. “What the heck am I thinking?” kind of stuff. But don’t worry. You’ll probably be fine and there is almost always at least some fun involved! So be sure to enjoy it!

2. You’re Going to Learn New Skills

There’s no doubt that you will come away from this experience having significantly improved your “skills mastered” list. Maybe it will be “cut perfect crown molding corners,” or maybe it will be “successfully navigate seven 'stop work' orders from the building department.” Either way, it’s something you didn’t know how to do yesterday. Pat yourself on the back.

3. You’re Going to Cry at Some Point

Having seen it myself many times, I can say with certainty that tears are part of the glue that hold any great remodeling project together. Take the two examples above. I’ve seen no less than four grown men cry like babies trying to make certain types of crown molding joints; I’m talking about professional carpenters. And all modern building departments are now actually designed with small rooms dedicated solely to the human right to spontaneously burst into tears. It might be over impact fees or maybe that fourth violation notice, but don’t worry, Kleenex is provided by the taxpayers.

4. You Might Suffer Temporary Regret

If all fixer-upper buyers in the world were to pool their spare change, they could probably purchase a legit racehorse. They would name it “Buyer’s Remorse” and it would represent their best chance, collectively, at earning a profit. Haha, not really, you should make some money on the deal in the long run but there will be some days when you regret it. You’ll think, “I could be fishing, at Top Golf or shopping or something! Anything other than holding this scraper!” But press on, it will pass.

5. You’ll Experience Unmatched Pride of Accomplishment

When that feeling does pass, which is usually a good year or two after you’re done with the remodel, you’ll actually gaze upon your finished work with an unmatched sense of pride. I’ve talked to people years after they completed a remodel project and the feeling of accomplishment is as strong as if it had been completed last week. There’s something really remarkable about the creation of a beautiful home that lasts for a very very long time.

6. There’s More Work Than You Think

Ok, maybe you already heard about this one in the Facebook Group, but there’s always more to do than you plan on. So just plan for that ... but then you probably will still have more, so I guess just keep going until either it’s done, you run out of money or the crying gets so bad that someone takes pity and finishes for you.

7. The Cost Will Be More Than You Think

Hand-in-hand with more work than you think is more cost than you expect. This is a universal law of remodeling and it’s immutable, like gravity and toilet drains. But somehow it all works out and the promised equity is frequently the reward. So just because the investment is more than you hoped it would be doesn’t mean that the ROI won’t still be great!

8. You’ll Wish You Did Something Differently

Hopefully for you, it’s “I wish I’d gone with a slightly darker shade of gray on that accent wall” as opposed to the more difficult “I wish I’d hired one of those licensed roofers instead of the guy I met in the aisle at Home Depot. He said he could do it, and that little dog was so cute!” But no matter what, whether it’s a big mistake or a small woulda-coulda-shoulda, there will be something, so don’t sweat it.

9. You’ll Be Glad You Did It Yourself

What exactly constitutes a DIY fixer-upper? If you do ALL of the work yourself, you’re certainly in the DIY category. But what if you hire the trades yourself, or you do the color selection yourself, or you work hand-in-hand with the professionals you hire and “make the project your baby” while still letting pros do their thing? Aren’t those still you doing this yourself, for yourself? I think so. And you’ll be glad you did.