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I Bought a Fixer-Upper Home in 2015 and Here’s Why I Still Don’t Regret That Choice

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Growing up, my father always chose homes that were projects. I didn’t ever really live in a house that was finished until really close to time to sell it. For me, that was a normal life, so when it came time to buy my own homes, I have consistently chosen houses that needed some work, even if it was small — it’s a bit of a family tradition.

I bought my current home, a fixer upper that was literally abandoned for four years, with my ex-husband in 2015, and I’m still working on it now. I don’t regret a moment that I’ve owned this decrepit old girl. Fixer uppers aren’t for everyone, but if you’re considering a fixer-upper home, here are some reasons to go forward boldly, and without regrets.

1. A small mortgage payment

In this age of $400,000 average home prices, I’m embarrassed to say how much my mortgage is in this public space, but it’s far less than a car payment would be for most Americans. It is so small because I spend a lot of money on materials, on repairs, on days off working on the house, and on surprise problems I could have literally never anticipated, even with a decade of experience in the real estate industry.

This house was alarmingly cheap because it had been basically abandoned, but also because no one would look at it due to the frightening electrical system. It had lots of fuse boxes wired together and a less-than-adequate feed from the power company, which had to be fixed immediately. For someone who is cash poor, this is a problem that can’t be solved, because homeowners insurance required it to be brought up to snuff within 60 days or my insurance policy would be terminated.

2. I can add value

You hear about value-added real estate in the commercial and multi-family spaces, but less often in residential markets. This is because most houses that regular people buy are already ready to go, they’ve got paint on the walls, the floors are all nice, and there’s not a general sense of chaos when you walk inside.

A fixer-upper has little of the good and all of the chaos, until you start to tame it. That could mean an intensive clean-up, lots of paint, and some basic maintenance, or it could mean fixing ceilings, walls, and floors. But in any case, every project you do in a fixer-upper home means you’re adding value. You replace the windows? Not only are you better insulated, you’re increasing your financial potential. New kitchen counter? That’s a little scoop of equity right there.

The more value you add, the more value you can add, since your equity will start to outpace your mortgage pretty quickly, allowing for cool stuff like second mortgages or HELOCs to fund bigger projects.

3. I live in an enormous puzzle

Some people like to get up every day and float along their lives with no challenges and no worries. I’m not that person. I like a little creative challenge, I like to have to be resourceful and find the right pieces and parts — and with a fixer-upper home from 1949, I have to do all of that just to keep my project going.

I’ve sourced cool sinks from Facebook Marketplace, ordered period appropriate hardware from eBay, and solved design problems created by previous owners by applying lessons learned from across social media, YouTube, and even interior design books. Living in an enormous puzzle can be trying at times, and sometimes you’re just…done.

But ultimately, it’s an incredible reward as you work out the specific quirks of your home and learn more about it with every project you tackle.

4. I’m part of something bigger than myself

I’ve never been a very religious person, and I don’t do team sports, so when it comes to joining in on something bigger than myself, I don’t have a ton of options. But this house is part of an older neighborhood that’s undergoing revitalization in all its colorful forms, and I’m honored to be a part of that. I can help my neighbors by simply helping myself, and we can trade solutions to our own puzzles, as well as the names of professionals who have helped us along the way.

It’s quite a thing to be part of something bigger than yourself, and it also helps with adding value. If your house is getting nicer and your neighborhood is getting nicer, well, everybody really wins, don’t they?

A fixer-upper can be a rewarding experience

If you’re looking at homes today, and you’ve got a lot of patience, an interest in the biggest puzzles a homeowner can solve, and a bit more budget than sense, a fixer upper might be the solution to your abundance of energy and time, with the right mortgage loan. A house you can live in, but still needs considerable upgrading, can be a very rewarding project, emotionally, intellectually, and financially.

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