6 Remodeling Decisions to Begin With for Your Fixer-Upper

Owning a home is a life achievement many people dream about. The process can be challenging, especially if you buy a fixer-upper. These older houses are waiting for someone like you to put the magic touches on them. Some may need a complete overhaul, while others simply call for a cosmetic makeover. Patience rewards you in the end with a beautiful residence you worked hard on. 

Here at GreatBuildz, a free service that connects homeowners in Los Angeles, Orange County, Ventura & San Diego with reliable general contractors, we work with tons of homeowners looking to upgrade their fixer-uppers – here are a few common decisions to keep in mind.

Fixer-uppers take time, patience, and organization. Along the way, you’ll make decisions impacting your budget and timelines. Here’s what you need to know about remodeling a fixer-upper.

1. Get a Home Inspection

Fixer-Upper home inspection

The first order of business is to get a home inspection. Contact a professional in the area, preferably someone who has worked in your neighborhood. They’ll know what to look for in your house. An inspector will conduct an exhaustive examination of your home to see if any liabilities exist within the electrical system, HVAC, plumbing, and other units. 

If you want extra assurance, hire a second inspector to leave no stone unturned. Having thorough inspections gives you more leverage if you’re still in the buying process. You also can employ specialists who can inspect particular areas of your home. For example, a plumber can go into greater detail about the plumbing system and find problems sooner than anyone else can.

2. Consult Multiple Sources

Once you find your house’s weaknesses, it’s time to start thinking about remodeling. Before you hire somebody, do your due diligence and get estimates from multiple sources in your area. Each contractor is likely to give you different timelines and cost estimates. Plus, you’ll need to factor in time with delays. The cost will be a significant factor when you sit down and create a budget for your fixer-upper.

Related: How Do You Compare Contractor Bids For Your Home Remodel?

3. Budget Wisely

calculating budget

Whether buying a new home, a custom house, or a fixer-upper, the budget will impact the extent of what projects you can do. Purchasing any property nowadays has gotten much more expensive due to supply chain disruptions, housing shortages, and more. Data from the National Association of Realtors shows that the median home price in the U.S. rose more than 2% from December 2021 to December 2022. 

You should account for several factors in your budget during the buying process. Certain fees can quickly add up, so it’s critical to get accurate estimates and shop around with various contractors in the area. You may run into some of these costs:

  • Appraisal: Appraisal is a critical part of the buying process. If you plan to mortgage your house, the lender will likely require you, the buyer, to pay for an appraiser to set the home’s value. It’s a worthy cost because an independent appraiser can tell you if the seller has put the price too far out of range. Typically, you’ll need $300 to $400 to pay for an appraisal.
  • Inspection: Inspections are integral to buying, especially for fixer-uppers. You’ll want to pinpoint a price tag for the examinations before making an offer on the house. Buyers are usually responsible for the inspector’s bill, which will cost nearly the same amount as you’ll pay for the appraisal.
  • Closing costs: You’ll have to pay closing costs toward the end if you and the seller agree on a price. Closing costs encompass numerous fees, such as title insurance, recording taxes, and a credit report. Buyers should anticipate paying between 2% and 6% of the home’s price for closing. However, for a fixer-upper, you may be able to negotiate for the seller to cover some of the costs. 

4. Find High-priority Projects

high priority projects

Your home inspection should paint a much clearer picture of what you need to fix. Create a list of renovations you need to complete and add additional projects if the budget fits. Prioritize the extensive renovations that will affect your time living in the house, whether it’s your forever home or something you plan to sell down the road. 

An excellent place to start is the HVAC system. Some old homes don’t have any central heating and air conditioning. The houses that do often lack energy-efficient systems that will drive up your utility bills and leave your residence uncomfortable during the winter and summer. In the U.S., homeowners spend over $1,000 annually on heating and cooling. Energy-efficient systems can reduce this number significantly. 

Another high-priority project for your fixer-upper could be the floors. Here is where you’ll make a crucial decision. Should you refurbish or replace them? If the damage is cosmetic, you can save money by refurbishing. If the floors have started to rot and crack, a replacement may be necessary to preserve time, money, and stress later on. 

5. Add Passion Projects

passion project

Larger projects like HVAC, flooring, and roofing will occupy much of your renovation time and budget. However, consider things you have a personal interest in. These upgrades may or may not increase your home’s value, but they bring you happiness. Find ways to add personal touches to the house and show that you care about remodeling.

One example could be a pool with an adjacent hot tub. If you have family or friends nearby, this renovation will make your home a popular house on the block. You could also convert one of the home’s existing rooms. There are endless options, like an art studio, painting gallery, home office, mini museum, or something else you’re passionate about. These personal touches are important, especially if you plan on living here for the rest of your life.  

6. Think of Smaller Projects

small projects

Those high-priority and passion projects can take weeks or months to complete. You may also run into delays while waiting on contractors, supplies, and other factors, so find time for smaller projects that won’t take as long. One example could be painting the walls. Fixer-uppers often have outdated exteriors and interiors, and you can give the house a fresh look with new colors.

Other renovations that don’t take long include adding crown molding, installing privacy shutters, and swapping out the current appliances. A study from the National Association of Home Builders (NAHB) shows that Energy Star-rated appliances are among the most-desired features in a home. Purchasing an energy-efficient dishwasher, refrigerator and other machines could make a big difference later.

Remodeling a Fixer-upper

Remodeling a house can be daunting, especially if it’s a fixer-upper. Think of it like an artist with an empty canvas. You can take an older home and transform it into a beautiful structure that looks closer to 2023 than 1923. Remodeling takes a lot of time and effort, so be sure to solidify any remodeling decisions before picking up a hammer.

When it comes to finding the best remodeling contractor in Los Angeles, Orange County, Ventura or San Diego – GreatBuildz is simplifying the contractor search. GreatBuildz is a free service that connects homeowners with reliable, thoroughly screened general contractors and provides project support from start to finish.

Call now (818.317.3567) to chat with a real person about your next renovation project or visit our website for more information: www.greatbuildz.com


Rose Morrison is a home & construction writer from Pittsburgh, PA. She’s the managing editor of Renovated, a web magazine for the real estate industry. She’s most interested in sharing home projects and inspiration for the most novice of DIY-ers, values she developed growing up in a family of contractors.

Hi, we're Paul and Jon - Co-Founders of GreatBuildz. We believe everyone deserves to find a great contractor, have a stress-free renovation, and enjoy their beautiful new space. There are so many contractors out there and it's often hard to tell the good from the bad... until it's too late. We started our company to help simplify your contractor search and help you have a stress-free renovation experience. We're always available to help, no matter where you are in the process. Click here to learn more about our story.

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