New Year, New Project: Tips for turning that fixer-upper into your home

fixer-upper home project in ulster county ny

With the start of a new year, we tend to start setting goals for what we want to achieve this year, and the future. Maybe 2020 has been your year to make your next move, and you’ve been eyeing Ulster County. With its gorgeous landscapes and quintessential towns, buying a home with character and history adds to the charm of living in the Hudson Valley. Maybe you have looked at a few homes with your REALTOR® that are fixer-upper types, and are ready to take on the challenge. Before you get in over your head, here’s a few things to consider and tips for buying and renovating that charming house. 

Be realistic about project and scope

Houses that will need the most work will be the most attractive usually financially. They’ll be priced at the lower end of the market, and oftentimes, if you’re new to fixing up a house, you may not necessarily be aware of everything that will be involved, or could go belly up. It’s often more than just a new coat of paint and replacing cosmetic fixtures, expect that there might be structural, plumbing and electrical issues to consider. Being realistic of what you are willing to do, and how much you are able to spend will help you decide whether the project and overall scope of the renovations are feasible. If you prefer to just buy something that needs mainly cosmetic work, you’ll likely be looking at a fixer upper that is priced a bit higher than some homes that are on the market for a total bargain. Using a REALTOR® will greatly help in advising you on the reality and what is really feasible while you are shopping around for houses.  

Know your loan options

As with the majority of home buyers, you are likely going to need a mortgage loan to help pay for your real estate purchase. Often times mortgage approval can be dependent on a passed inspection, which could be hit or miss with a fixer- upper type of property. Luckily today, some financial institutions have more options than the traditional cookie cutter mortgage available. Some companies may help pay for repairs and part of the down payment, and in return, take equity in the property so that they can make some money back when you sell the house. While this may be attractive to those who are looking to flip and fixer-upper, speaking with a mortgage broker about different types of loan options that might work for a property that needs repairs before you find your dream fixer-upper is a good idea, and you may be pleasantly surprised by what you find. Working with a REALTOR® from the beginning can also help advise you on options, as well give you options of trusted and recommended financial institutions to speak to in terms of your lending options.  

Know when and where to compromise, and be flexible

It’s very easy to get carried away in the planning, and start imagining creating your absolute dream home. Even with a healthy budget, research and planning, things change. Be prepared to compromise. It’s unlikely everything will go 100% to plan, as is with most things in life. Maybe the plumbing was more than you budgeted for, and you know have to adjust your kitchen remodeling budget and can’t afford the beautiful marble counter tops you’d been eyeing. That’s OK, and you may have to settle for the next-best thing. If there are certain things that are an absolute must-have, make a list before you start the renovation process of items you aren’t willing to compromise on, and those items that you are. This way, when you have a hic-cup, you’ll feel more at ease compromising on something you’ve already willingly put in the not a make-it or break-it category. 

Prepare for the worst

Buying a fixer-upper is not for the faint of heart, and often is the buy for those who are passionate about taking a house and repairing and decorating it to make it their home. Things are likely to take a turn for the worst, whether it be something you had anticipated not being a problem, turning into a major project, an issue with a permit, contractors cancelling on you, or renters or buyers falling through once you’ve finished the house, be prepared for something to go wrong. Having a back-up plan for possible worst case scenarios will help figure out solutions quicker and easier in case things don’t go to plan. Working with a REALTOR® during the buying process can also help prevent some worst case scenarios, as they can help advise on issues before the emerge, and help steer you in the right direction, or prepare you in the event that something goes belly up.  

Buying and renovating a fixer upper can be a rewarding and challenging project, and often considered a labor of love. One of the most rewarding things is the ability to make the house your home, as opposed to the home of the family before, and really putting your personal stamp on the house. If a fixer-upper is your dream real estate buy for 2020, make sure you work with a REALTOR® to guide you through the entire process. It’s not for the faint of heart, so having an experienced and trustworthy REALTOR® on your side will make a huge difference in overall real estate buying process, and help you plan and understand all the different parts of a fixer-upper. For more information in finding a REALTOR® to work with, visit the Ulster County Board of REALTORS® website: or contact us for information.  


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