Home Remodeling Myths the Fixer-Upper Shows Have Sold Us

home remodeling myth fixer upper

I’m going to come right out and say it. Those “fixer-upper” shows on TV that we all love? Fake, fake, fake…and did I mention they’re fake?

I apologize for bursting anyone’s bubble. Don’t get me wrong…I love me some Chip and Joanna Gaines (of “Fixer Upper” fame)…from a design perspective. But as an experienced Realtor and as someone who has been involved in three “fix-and-flips” I can tell you these shows give viewers an unrealistic picture of the renovation process.

A recent article in industry publication Today’s Buyer’s Rep titled “The Top 5 Myths Perpetuated by ‘Fixer-Upper’ Television” reached the same conclusion. Here’s a recap of the article:

Home Remodeling Myth #1: It’s Easy to Find a Good Fixer-Upper

This may have been true 10 years ago, following the crash of 2007/2008. But things are very different now. And not just in Denver. Prices have increased pretty much everywhere, for pretty much every type of home in every imaginable condition.

There are good fixer-upper investment opportunities out there but finding them takes skill and patience. Buying them generally takes cash…and lots of it. Buyers who can offer all cash and can close quickly are the ones who get the deal done.

Home Remodeling Myth #2: I Can Save (or Make) a Lot of Money

According to the article, “Many professional real estate investors complain that the budgets quoted on home improvement shows are unrealistically low – and the final resale price is overly optimistic.” I have to say I agree.

One reason for the disconnect is that the shows tend to highlight costs for design elements such as floor tile, granite countertops, and kitchen cabinets. They don’t focus nearly as much on the costs to address structural issues like a cracked foundation, antiquated wiring, or insufficient grading and water control.

The shows also rarely present costs for critical but “boring” elements – such as dumpster rental, insurance, and carrying costs. Carrying cost is the amount you spend in mortgage and taxes on the property PLUS the amount you spend in interest on the construction loan over the course of the renovation and until you sell the property.

Home Remodeling Myth #3: Things Will Go According to Plan

When it comes to fixer-uppers, it’s almost more important to have patience than money. Experienced contractors will give you a timeline and project schedule. It’s an educated guess…but it’s still a guess. The best contractors will be upfront with you about it and will advise you to expect up to an additional 25% on the budget and the timeline.

For a more realistic view, the article in Today’s Buyer’s Rep recommends two shows: Renovation Realities and First Time Flippers. These shows, they say, “document the travails of homeowners tackling significant projects on their own. You won’t find a crew of helpers, or celebrity hosts deftly managing the transformation.”

Home Remodeling Myth #4: It Won’t Take Very Long

Have you bought a home that didn’t require major renovation? Think about how long it took you to find that “perfect” home. Now consider finding and locking down a fixer-upper property. Then add how long a major renovation will take (see Myth #4 above). If there’s one thing I’ve learned about fixer-uppers, it’s that the subcontractors will rarely be available when the contractor has them scheduled. So you’re almost guaranteed to have days with no subcontractors on site, and others where you have plumbers, electricians, finish carpenters, and tile guys tripping over each other and getting in each other’s way

Home Remodeling Myth #5: It Will Be Easy to Nail the Design Updates

Pinterest really should have been named “Never-Ending Rabbit Hole,” am I right? There’s SO MUCH inspiration there. And not just there. There are hundreds or thousands of home-design websites with beautiful photos. It’s easy to get overwhelmed really quickly.

How I Can Help

I am your advocate and your agent not just in buying a house. I want you to be happy years afterward. With that goal in mind, if you are looking for a fixer-upper, here’s what I will do:

  • I will speak up if it looks like you are at risk of making a bad purchasing decision (one too heavily influenced by fixer-upper shows).
  • If you are ready to tackle a fixer-upper, I will provide you with comparables for recently-sold properties that will help you determine a reasonable “after-repair value.” I will also offer to connect you with trusted tradespeople in my network.
  • I will help you make sure you know exactly what you’re getting – and what you’re getting into. I’ll encourage thorough inspections (I have a GREAT resource for these) and will carefully review property disclosures with you (really important on properties sold “as-is”).
  • I will stay informed about design and renovation trends, so I can present options you may not have known about.
  • I will provide information about possible financing options, including ones designed precisely to help homeowners renovate properties.

More Helpful Resources and Reading

Depending on the type and scope of home improvements you’re considering, you’ll want to check out these recent blog posts:

As I always say…before you commit your money and time, give me a call at 303-204-6494. My experience and recommendations can save you time, money, and disappointment, and can help you get what you want from your home.

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