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Buying a House to Renovate


Buying a House to Renovate

In Austin’s real estate market we’re all looking for a deal. If you have dreams of finding the perfect home to renovate and make your own, there are several things to consider before taking the plunge. First and foremost, decide if you are buying with the intent to resell quickly or if this is going to be your permanent—at least for the foreseeable future—home. If you’re looking for a place to plant your roots, read below for expert advice on how to spot a property that’s ripe for a remodel.

The Practical

Location: If you’ve had any past dealings in real estate (or even if you haven’t) you’ve heard it before, but it bears repeating—location, location (location). Remember to buy the neighborhood and not the house. You can change the house, so, yes, looking for the “ugliest house on the best block” within your budget is still sound advice.

Vision: Look beyond ugly carpet and outdated tile (easy fixes!) to see the true bones of the house. Unless you’re an experienced renovator, we suggest avoiding any property that has major structural issues to be addressed—this is where the dollars start to add up quickly. In addition, you want to look for something that hasn’t been renovated yet (or at least not in the last 15 years or so). Unless someone fixed the foundation for you but left the ugly bathrooms in place, you don’t want to put money into re-renovating someone else’s renovation.

Potential: With any project, think about the long-term added value it will bring to the house. Even if you’re planning to stay in the house for a while, think about where you will get the best ROI. It’s no secret that kitchens and bathrooms are where you get the most back per dollar spent, but also think about any unused or “wasted” spaces. Is it possible to sneak in an en suite bathroom, for example, if the house has no proper master? Is there an attic that can you turn into an office, playroom or guest space? Even if you aren’t planning a major overhaul all at once, these are potential future projects to keep in mind.

Budget: You should have a good idea of your renovation budget before you start looking for homes, but be realistic about how much a specific project will cost. For example, the national average for a kitchen remodel is about 26K according to HomeAdvisor. If you have a total home buying budget of $400,000 and find a place for $350,000 that needs all new floors, bathrooms and a kitchen, then it might not be the right house. You should also factor an automatic 20% into your renovation budget for any overages, especially if looking at neighborhoods with older homes. You never know what you’ll find hidden in the walls—from rat carcasses (easy fix) to questionable electrical wiring (difficult fix)—once they start to come down. Also make sure you’re comfortable with an excel spreadsheet—it will become your new best friend (or enemy, depending on your point of view) during the renovation.

The Logistical

Living arrangements: Assuming you’re in the market for a permanent home, where will you live during the renovation? Some factors to consider are:

Do you have pets?
Do you have children?
Have you recently entered into a new relationship and you’re tackling this project together?
If you answered “yes” to any of the following, then we suggest you look for living arrangements outside of the house undergoing renovation during the actual “tearing down of walls and such” process. Physically living through a renovation is not for the faint at heart. It can be done; it has been done, but make sure you know what you’re getting into beforehand. Some other questions you might want to consider:

Do you mind washing dishes in the shower or, alternatively, do you mind showering in the sink?
If undergoing a kitchen remodel, do you mind eating all of your meals out for approximately five weeks (if that’s fine with you, remember to factor this cost into your overall budget)?
Does dust bother you (there will be a lot of dust…tons of dust)?

Who’s the boss: Finding a contractor, architect, or designer that you can rely on and trust is tantamount. Remember that you will be communicating with each other on a daily basis throughout the entirety of the project, so a mutually respectful relationship is a must. And even though it’s your house and your money, listen to the professional you have hired when s/he tells you they are going to start a demo in the bathroom at 8:00 am on Monday. Make sure you and your things are free from the path of demo (especially if you’re occupying the house during renovation).

If you’ve read through our tips and you’re ready to roll up your sleeves, but you’re not sure where to start, talk to a SEED agent today. We are your Austin neighborhood experts and have access to listings you won’t find on MLS. In this real estate market that shows no signs of slowing down, we’ll help you get a leg up on the competition and find that perfect home…sometimes before it hits the market!