Buying a fixer upper vs building from scratch

posted 12 months ago in Home
Post # 2
Member
1792 posts
Buzzing bee
  • Wedding: June 2019

My family has been both – the houses and their purposes were quite different, so it’s not entirely apples to apples, but here was our experience: 

Fixer-upper: small, 1300-sq. ft ranch in suburbia with 2 acres of property.  It was cheaper, it was a nice family home, and my parents are very gifted with their hands and were able to tackle one room a season until it was entirely done in a couple years. I spent most of my childhood in that home and it was really nice.  From what I remember, my parents bonded well over the experience and it brought them closer together. In the end, they made a really nice profit on the house and used it to build their dream house (see below). But there were cons. Doing everything on your own can lead to many expensive mistakes unless you know EXACTLY what you’re doing. Every wire, every inch of plumbing, everything.  My parents made several mistakes XD There really is a learning curve, and depending on the project, you might not make a profit at all if you don’t meet that learning curve.  Also, it was ALL their time. My dad worked full-time while all of it was going on. We barely ever saw him. And my mom was SAH, but she was always working as well. While I don’t think it negatively impacted my childhood, it certainly was something I remember: hammers were going 24/7. If you aren’t up for that, don’t get a fixer-upper (unless you want to take 10 years to do it all, obvs).

Building: Larger countryside home, 3200-sq. ft, four-floor home, 27 acres of wooded property. My parents used the profit from the fixer-upper to help them with this job.  They did NOT build the home themselves – someone built it for them and it took two years to have the core home done, but even ten years after moving in, my parents are still to this day doing things to better the place, such as painting rooms, adding a deck, paving the driveway, building a “mancave” in the basement, and at this moment they are getting an addition added onto the house for my ill grandparents to live there and be cared for.  If you were to ask them, the build was SO much less stressful for them than the fixer-upper, but it did not come without drama. Contractors can be SO incompetent. And the build was definitely hella more expensive. I spent my teenage years in this house and it is definitely my favorite of the two houses. My parents were able to control EVERYTHING (my mother got an attached garage for the first time in entire 50-year life) and they loved it.  The woods are amazing to live in.  You definitely get more control with building, but building is definitely, to me, a more permanent thing. If you build a house, you stay there forever, while a “flip ‘n flop” situation is obviously temporary.  

Just my thoughts 🙂 

Post # 3
Member
192 posts
Blushing bee

I’ve only rented, but my parents have done both. If the two are truly the same price, I’d definitely go with the build. You can specify exactly what you want, including the quality of materials and be sure that there aren’t hidden things that need to be replaced that weren’t caught in the inspection. Good luck!

Post # 4
Member
39 posts
Newbee

If they were going to be the same cost, I’d personally buy new. For me, it isn’t even really about the additional cost of fixing up a house, it is the work that goes into it. I am not super handy. My SO is but we don’t have all this extra time in the world to do it ourselves and hiring someone to do it still can put you out of your house temporarily or living in a mess. 

I bought my house and it was 20 years old so nothing crazy. I redid the kitchen which wasn’t too bad because you get to have fun picking out things like sinks and tile but when it comes to the real stuff like the roof leaking or the air conditioner needs to be replaced. There is nothing fun about those types of repairs. 

We are going to be looking at buying a different house next year and probably not go with new construction but definitely not buy something that requires $100K+ in repairs just because of the hassle of it all. With kids and work, “we ain’t got time for that.”

Post # 5
Member
10230 posts
Sugar Beekeeper
  • Wedding: City, State

As a owner of a fixer upper, just build something that will be new and done. It’s been 4 years and our fixer upper is still more fixer than upper now we’re looking to buy something else.

Post # 6
Member
4145 posts
Honey bee
  • Wedding: August 2013

also think about the finances. If you buy new, you’re looking at morgaging $450-500k. Make sure you can handle that. 

On the flip side, if you buy a fixer-upper, you are morgaging less, $250K or so, but then have to find that 200-300K for the repairs/improvements. Some places will do a loan for that, but most times, you have to have that cash on hand to pay the contractors. So determine if you have that kind of available cash. 

We just did a new build – but it was totally custom. We picked every inch of that house, so it was a LONG process and a 2nd full time job for Darling Husband who was there daily making sure things were correct, checking on things, making decisions, etc. A community where you pick from 4 floor plans and then have 5 flooring/cabinet/sink choices is easier, but also check on the upgrade costs. The nicer finishes will cost more, so make sure you are ok with the low end builders grade stuff or budget for those upgrades. 

Post # 7
Member
1110 posts
Bumble bee
  • Wedding: January 2019

We decided to build new and it’s the best choice we’ve ever made. If you get a good, reputable builder then the process is so fun and gets you a house that will cost less in maintenance, energy efficiency, etc.

Post # 8
Member
49 posts
Newbee

We had a house built by a custom builder. It took about 4 months longer than we were told it would and ended up costing about 10k more than the original quote but we were aware we would likely go over as such is the nature of building had saved accordingly. You need to also factor in additional costs for things like landscaping, grass and fences and trees etc as these all add up really fast too. One tree was $15k! I love that we chose to have a custom home built as we could have whatever we wanted and make the house constructed for us and our needs. I have no regrets about building. We are moved in now but still have a few items outstanding but we just withheld some money from the builder until he completes those as we were bored of living in hotels and wanted to close! It can be stressful as you have to pick so many things but it’s also a lot of fun.  

Post # 9
Member
8768 posts
Buzzing Beekeeper

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unicornlove2013 :  we have a fixer upper and we haven’t done everything at once which spreads the costs out, but you have to be willing to live with a house that isn’t perfect. Our house was built in the 1800s and it’s absolutely SOLID. They don’t make ’em like that anymore! It is balloon framed which means we had to make certain adjustments when redoing the insulation to protect against fire hazards, but all in all not a big deal. Modern builder’s grade is such crap that I’d only build if I could go full high-end custom.

I will say that I lived for 5.5 years with an ugly inefficient kitchen. Which sucked. But we renovated it last year and it’s perfect. Exactly what I wanted and I love it every day now. If this isn’t our forever house it’s at least for the next 30 years house so I am willing to make it a labor of love. Our to-do list is long but I like putting our stamp on everything. We still have to add a bathroom, renovate another bathroom, and refinish the attic but it will all get done in due course. The house works for us now. This house has seen so much and now we get to add our story which I think is really cool. We bought it from a couple who had lived here for 30 years and raised their family. Now we’re doing the same. And if we live to sell this house I will 100% choose to sell to another young family just getting started. 

Post # 10
Member
236 posts
Helper bee

We built and couldn’t be happier with our decision. We still have some work to do in our new home but it’s been easy things that can get done at our own pace (adding shelves, adding built ins, bigger deck, etc). 

In my area turn key building packages are very common and popular. You basically find a builder and they do the whole thing top to bottom. We didn’t pay any more than we were quoted. We did pay to do some upgrades along the way but those were changes to the original spec so we anticipated that. We felt like our upgrades were reasonably priced which is why we went ahead with them. I would make sure you find a builder you trust. The one we went with did top notch work and didn’t buy cheap materials or anything. Our trim alone is beautifully done, chunky and not builder cheap looking at all. 

We loved that we were able to chose our own layout and really design a home that worked for us. Our builder had us go directly to the suppliers to pick out materials. We went right to the kitchen showroom to pick out cabinets and counters. They had our allowance and broke down what our extras would be (we upgraded the quartz, extended our island size, added a spice rack pull out, added drawers to our island, additional pantry cabinets with pull out drawers, upgraded the cabinet faces for around $4k the additional pantry cabinets being most of that). We also went directly to the flooring store to pick out our carpet, tile and vinyl flooring (we could have done hardwood but preferred the laminate). I was given a lighting allowance and bought all our lights ourselves and were reimbursed for them at closing. We also went to the paint store to get our own paint colors. The only things we picked from the builder showroom was the vinyl siding (they had 25+ colors), shingles, front door, garage doors, shutters, bathroom facets, and interior doors (they had like 20 choices).

Post # 12
Member
244 posts
Helper bee
  • Wedding: City, State

If you watch any of the house renovation shows on HGTV, it seems that there are almost ALWAYS hidden items that aren’t considered, like old pipes, beams in the wrong place, they knock out a wall and something else happens, etc. Based on that alone, I’d go with a new build over a major fixer upper. For reference, the house we bought needed some work but was not a fixer upper by any means, just needed some love and a new back yard. We’ve been there for almost a year and still have tons to do, and something else always seems to be wrong – AC issues on a relatively new unit, backyard design not financially feasible for what we expected and had to change our plans, relying on a tax refund that never really came. If the money really is the same for both options, do a new build so you can customize it to the layout you want, with new pipes, new AC, and you have paperwork / warranties on everything that goes into it. 

Post # 13
Member
8768 posts
Buzzing Beekeeper

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unicornlove2013 :  in that case I would buy a house that’s already built and is livable even if it’s not your dream home. You can upgrade it when you’ve save up for each upgrade. For that previous house was it $200k worth of work to make it what you want or to make it habitable? 

Post # 15
Member
8768 posts
Buzzing Beekeeper

View original reply
unicornlove2013 :  oh and don’t stretch your budget! Being house poor sucks. 

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