How To Judge The Potential of a Fixer-Upper

Fixer Upper House

While some fixer-uppers are money pits, some have tremendous potential and can be great investments. Before you write-off a derelict home that could be transformed to suit your needs, or sink your savings into a house that is beyond repair, here are some things to consider: 

1. Remove Distractions

Tacky wallpaper, old appliances, and archaic furniture are all elements of a home that are easy to replace with items of your choosing. The same goes for unkempt landscaping or messy, cluttered rooms. Try to visualize how the spaces would appear without these distractions. 

2. Assess the Floorplan

A good way to look at the potential of a fixer-upper without visual distractions is to assess the floor plan. Think about the flow of traffic between rooms and whether the spaces are large enough for your needs. Keep in mind that clutter makes rooms look smaller, by reviewing the floor plan you can see the true sizing of the rooms. 

3. Load-Bearing Walls

After assessing the floor plan you may decide to move or eliminate walls. This is often a big part of home renovation strategies and can have incredible results, however it is a costly and time-consuming endeavour - especially if the walls are load-bearing. In order to get an ideas as to which walls are load-bearing, inspect the placement and direction of the rafters and joints in the basement (and attic if visible). Walls around staircases or supported by steel beams in the basement are also likely to be load-bearing. 

4. Not All Smells Are Equal

The last thing you want when looking at a house is to be met by a potent odour, but it is important to discern between the types of smell that are present. This will give you an idea as to its cause and how easy it is to remedy. Musty and dank odours are often a sign of dangerous mold and mildew hiding in or behind walls and sewage smells can mean costly,  messy plumbing repairs. However, some unpleasant aromas such as cigarette smoke and pet odours can be reduced or eliminated with professional cleaning, replacing carpet, and removing the odour-stained furniture & belongings. 

5. Flooring

You can learn a lot about a house by its flooring. Be sure to lift the carpet and check what the flooring is like underneath. Hardwood floors beneath ugly stained carpet can be huge if you calculate what it would cost to install it new. On the other hand, be aware of floors that are severely uneven as they could indicate a shifting foundation. 

6. Location, Location, Location

No amount of renovations can change the location of a home. Consider the street, the size of the yard, the trees, and any potential future building plans in the area. If you are a parent, or are planning on becoming one, it is always a good idea to consider the local schools. 

7. Beware of Renovations

Be cautious when it comes to homes that have already undergone major renovations. You will have no assurance that the renovations were completed properly, and you could find yourself with more work than you planned for. 

8. Consider Re-Sale 

Unless you plan on living in this home for the rest of your life, you are at some point going to sell it. After investing your time and money, it would be devastating to have an unsellable home. It is important to think like the next potential buyer and what they will be willing to pay for. For example, few things are more effective at selling a house than great schools. So even if you are not a parent it's something to consider for resale. 

9. Inspection Help 

There is only so much of a property you can analyze with the naked, untrained eye. If you're still considering purchasing the home, be sure to seek the help of a trained professional such as a home inspector as they can identify potential red flags such as structural problems or outdated electrical.