If you’ve ever watched the famous HGTV series Fixer Upper, you’ve probably indulged in a daydream or two of finding a crumbling home in a good neighborhood, and remodeling it until it becomes the envy of the community. A sagging front porch and outdated siding get a facelift, the kitchen is revamped with new countertops and tile floors, and the unfinished basement evolves into a second family room and expansive office.
While Chip and Joanna Gaines — along with many other TV fixers — have inspired us by making the entire process look easy, it’s a process that can be incredibly time-consuming and costly for the inexperienced home buyer. In some cases, a moderate fixer upper can be a great way to save money in an otherwise expensive real estate market. In others, a house can quickly morph into a money-guzzling pit, with no end in sight.
Any home can become the star of its block with an unlimited budget, but in most cases that’s not reality. Realtor.com suggests putting aside no more than 40% of your household income toward home costs — including any renovations, the mortgage, taxes, and insurance. Any more than that, and your housing project could become increasingly frustrating as you struggle to pay for your other expenses.
You likely have the budget for a few cans of paint, but what about the larger fixes that come with buying an older home? When it’s time for a home inspection, keep a close eye on these issues, which can quickly increase the amount of money you sink into the house. You might have the funds to fix one or two of these problems, but if they start to stack up, it might be best to hold out for another option with fewer pitfalls.