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For some home buyers, a fixer-upper is their idea of a dream home. Preparing for the process comes down to creating a plan, knowing what to look for, and understanding what financing options are available.
Create a plan
Fixer-uppers require a future-oriented mindset. Knowing the magnitude of the project you and your household are willing to take on will help dictate your budget and expectations as time goes on. Understand that in addition to the down payment and closing fees, the costs inherent in a fixer-upper purchase have the potential to go over-budget easily. Familiarize yourself with permitting in your area to understand how to navigate any legal roadblocks in the renovation process.
What to look for
Location: Whether you are purchasing a fixer-upper with plans to sell it, rent it out, or live in it, consider its location before purchasing. If you’re planning on selling or renting, location is one of the most important factors to making a return on your investment. And if you’re planning to live in your fixer-upper, keep in mind that location will be a large part of your experience in the home.
Scope of renovation: If you are looking for a smaller scale renovation, look for fixer-uppers that require cosmetic projects like new interior and exterior paint, fresh carpeting and flooring, appliance upgrades, and basic landscaping maintenance. More expensive and involved projects include reroofing, replacing plumbing and sewer lines, replacing HVAC systems, and full-scale room remodels.
Inspections: Beyond a standard home inspection, which covers components of the home like its plumbing and foundation, consider specialized inspections for pests, roof certifications, and engineering reports. This will help differentiate between the property’s minor flaws and critical problems, further informing your decision when it comes time to prepare an offer.
Renovation loans allow buyers to finance the home and the improvements to the home together. Extra consultations, inspections, and appraisals are often required in the loan process, but they help guide the work—and thereby, added value—of your fixer-upper. Talk with your lender about which option is best for you.
- FHA 203(k): The Federal Housing Administration’s (FHA) 203(k) loans can be used for most projects in the process of fixing up a home. In comparison to conventional mortgages, they accept lower incomes and credit scores.
- VA renovation loan: With this loan, the cost of the improvement projects is combined into the loan amount for the home purchase. Contractors employed in any renovations must be VA-approved, and a construction fee may be charged by the lender.
- HomeStyle Loan – Fannie Mae: The HomeStyle Renovation Loan can be used by home buyers purchasing a fixer-upper, or by homeowners refinancing their homes to cover the improvements. Funds are distributed directly to contractors via a separate escrow account. This loan also allows for luxury projects, such as pools and landscaping.
- CHOICERenovation Loan – Freddie Mac: This renovation mortgage is guaranteed by Freddie Mac, allowing projects that bolster a home’s ability to withstand natural disasters.