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    Should You Buy a Fixer-Upper? How To Avoid a Money Pit

    Smart strategies to keep your reno project from becoming a financial burden

    Written By Robert Van Rhijn

    The mere thought of transforming a shabby house into a dream home feels like starring in your personal HGTV show. But before you dive headfirst into this thrilling endeavour, it’s important to be aware of the notorious ‘money pit’.

    Firstly, fixer-uppers can be a mixed bag of surprises. Sure, they boast potential charm and the promise of customization. But they also have a knack for springing unexpected expenses like a jack-in-the-box. So here's a trusty guide on how to dodge the money pit, and make your fixer-upper dreams a reality.

    Inspect, Inspect, Inspect!

    The mantra of successful fixer-upper aficionados worldwide should be: "Inspect every nook and cranny." Get an inspection from a reliable professional. We're talking about uncovering all the skeletons in that home's closet.

    Check the roof, plumbing systems, electrical work, plus the heating and cooling systems. You should also look out for things like bad paint jobs or signs of rotting. Cracks can also be a sign of hidden structural problems.

    And while getting an inspection and looking for these signs may keep you from buying a property with serious problems, just know that some things aren’t revealed until you begin renovating — which leads us to our next point on budgeting.

    Budget Like a Pro

    Think of your budget as a sturdy ship navigating the unpredictable waters of renovation.

    Overestimate expenses, set aside a contingency fund, and don't forget about the unglamorous (but necessary costs) like permits and taxes. Sticking to a realistic budget is your life vest in the construction sea.

    Other things you may want to consider are things like floor plans. When looking at fixer-uppers, find something with a floor plan you can live with. Moving load-bearing walls is a very expensive job, so invasive renos like this are generally to be avoided.

    Prioritize, Prioritize, Prioritize!

    Before you go swinging hammers and knocking down walls, create a renovation plan.

    Identify what needs immediate attention versus the nice-to-haves. For example, fixing that leaky roof before installing a jacuzzi. Prioritizing will spare you from drowning in simultaneous projects or financial troubles.

    DIY vs. Contractor Dilemma

    Ah, the eternal debate! To DIY or not DIY?

    Here are the basics: If you're a seasoned DIY wizard with the skills to wallpaper blindfolded, then go for it! But for complex tasks or if the idea of wielding a power tool is daunting, hire a reliable contractor. Ultimately, it's worth avoiding a renovation disaster.

    Meanwhile, if you're planning renovations that change how your home is structured, you'll likely need a building permit from the City. They'll check in at different stages to make sure everything meets the municipality’s building codes.

    When you eventually do sell, buyers eyeing your house may ask about the renovations. They'll want reassurance that all the work was done to code, so keeping those permits handy is a smart move.

    Finally, if you're doing the work yourself to save cash, it's smart to chat with a contractor before committing. A seasoned renovator might offer tips to cut costs, without compromising on quality. They could suggest where you could DIY, like painting or wallpapering, while leaving the trickier tasks to the professionals. Going this route may still save you a lot of money.

    Resale Potential vs. Personalization

    It's a balancing act between increasing resale value and creating your dream space. If possible, go for renovations that enhance both. For example, a fresh coat of neutral paint or upgraded fixtures can appeal to future buyers — while still reflecting your personal style.

    It’s also worth thinking about how long you will live in the house. Will you be in it for less than 10 years? If so, then pick things that will up the resale potential.

    On the other hand, if this is your forever home, do whatever you please. Chances are by the time you sell it, you’ll have already changed the aesthetics a few times. Nothing is permanent.

    Patience is a Virtue

    Renovations take time, like a slow-cooked stew simmering to perfection. It's easy to get caught up in the rush for completion, but patience is your ally. Rome wasn't built in a day, and your dream fixer-upper won't magically transform overnight. Try to enjoy the process; it's all part of the adventure!

    Final Thoughts

    Buying a fixer-upper is a thrilling journey. Although, dodging the money pit requires strategy, planning, and a dash of optimism. Embrace the challenge. But be armed with knowledge and a reliable toolkit.

    With the right approach, that fixer-upper can morph into the haven you've always dreamed of, minus the monetary sinkholes.

    Starting your search for a new home? Click on any of these links to access active listings, sold listings or contact a Strata agent.

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