When it comes to buying a house, there are many things to consider. Location, size, price, etc. etc. etc. However, another big thing to consider is a new build vs fixer upper. While we’ve only bought one house so far, I want to share our experience about it (per request) and why we chose one over the other. Because as with anything, there are pros and cons to buying a new build and there are pros and cons to buying a fixer upper.
Buying A New Build
Pros Of Buying A New Build
With a new build, you might be able to pick your floor plan as well as certain finishes. You might even be able to pick your lot. This can help you be able to see if you’re going to have a nice flat, long driveway or if you’d have the complete opposite. You might also be able to get some of the newer technologies. For instance, the smart home capabilities, spray foam insulation, and/or a tankless water heater. Obviously, if they’re offered, they might be considered upgrades and come at a higher price. However, all these could be considered pros. And another big one is the fact that it’s brand new. I mean, who doesn’t like new stuff?
Cons Of Buying A New Build
So what could be considered cons if you’re buying a new build? Well, for starters, if you’re buying one that’s part of a neighborhood with a certain builder, you’ll be limited to their selection. Whatever they offer for things like countertops, carpet, cabinets, and even floor plans are what you will have to choose from. So if you had something different in mind, it might not be something that’s a part of their selection.
Another con with a new build would be that if it is a part of a neighborhood, you don’t really know what you’re getting in regards to neighbors until you move in. Of course, the hope would be that everyone would keep their grass cut and they would actually park in their driveway or garage instead of on the street. But sometimes you really just won’t know until everyone is all moved in. However, this is something that an HOA could possibly help with.
Something else that could be considered a pro or con depending on how you look at it, is that since everything in the house is new and it’s move-in ready, this could come at a premium price. And unless you’re paying cash, then you’d be paying interest on everything that came as part of your package deal of choosing a new build. However, if you buy a fixer upper, as long as you cashflow the updates/renovations, you wouldn’t be paying interest on them. Although you’d be paying interest on everything you would be getting rid of. I guess it’s almost a catch 22 either way.
Buying A Fixer Upper
If you’re considering a fixer upper, then there are basically two types:
- the one that needs to be completely gutted and finished before moving in, and
- the one that is practically move-in ready, but needs some updating to suit your taste.
With either of these, you will have to take into consideration your budget and if you can afford to fix up a house. You should factor these costs into your budget along with the time frame it will take to get these things done. Also, keep in mind that just because you can’t afford one fixer upper doesn’t mean you can’t afford a fixer upper at all. You just have to choose something within your budget.
Pros Of Buying A Fixer Upper
As I mentioned above about it typically not being an established neighborhood with a new build, it’s the opposite with a fixer upper. When it comes to the neighborhood it’s kind of like what you see is what you get. However, this might not be a bad thing because you will be able to see what the neighborhood is already like. Using the same examples from above, do people tend to keep their grass cut? Are people constantly parking in the street? Does it seem like people are taking pride in their neighborhood or do they not care? When you see these things, you can make your decision on if you like what you see and if you will proceed any further with that particular house.
One of the pros with buying a fixer upper that most people like is that you will get to choose whatever finishes you want. You wouldn’t have to worry about the choices offered by the builder like if you were to buy a new build. The only thing that will limit you is your budget. And if you’re cash flowing your updates, you won’t have to worry about paying interest on them (or them being included in your mortgage payment). Another pro that people tend to like is that sometimes it’s possible to get more bang for your buck if you buy a fixer upper instead of a new build.
Cons Of Buying A Fixer Upper
Most of the cons of buying a fixer upper are related to money. If you don’t have enough money to fix up the house, it’s possible that you shouldn’t even consider a fixer upper. Even if initially you have enough money to fix it up, there’s the risk of running out of money. Then you’ll be faced with the decision of if you’re going to take out a loan or use a credit card to finish the updates/renovations. Or if you’ll wait until you have enough money to cashflow it.
Another thing to keep in mind if you’re considering buying a fixer upper is what all will need to be fixed. It’s not always about the aesthetics. Sure that’s a big part of it because who wouldn’t want a house to look how they envision it? However, some of the big-ticket items to keep in mind would be if any of the below items would need to be replaced and how soon depending on the age of the house:
- HVAC system
- water heater
Some of the more expensive aesthetically pleasing items include:
As you can see, there are multifaceted pros and cons of buying a new build or a fixer upper. We chose to buy a fixer upper, but one that was move-in ready. There were things that we had to fix right away, and there were things that we knew we were going to have to fix down the line.
Some of the things we fixed/replaced/bought RIGHT AWAY include:
- 3 new toilets (1 still needs to be replaced, but it’s in the basement)
- blinds (there were only 3 blinds in the house; we have 20 something windows though)
- water heater
- roof leak in our closet
** side note: The toilets were usable, but I personally was NOT going to use them.
Some of the things we’ve HAD to do overtime, but not necessarily when we wanted to and in no particular order include:
- new roof (done through insurance, but had to pay deductible)
- new HVAC system (one for the main level and one for upstairs)
- replaced some siding and had it painted
- replaced all the siding on the chimney and had it painted
- cut down lots of trees
- more sod
- updated one of the bathrooms due to a leak
- replace the deck with new wood and paint
I don’t even have to put the price for all the things listed above for you to know that it all equals $$$. Lol. But this isn’t a pity party for us buying a fixer upper and then having to fix it up. We knew what we were getting into for the most part. And we’ve been able to do some things that we WANTED to do, which include:
- replacing ALL the carpet with hardwood
- half bathroom update
- kitchen makeover (new countertops, appliances, flooring, recessed lights, repainted kitchen cabinets, and new hardware)
- changed out ALL light fixtures and ceiling fans
- new paint everywhere (bedrooms, office, and main living areas)
- laundry room makeover
All the things that we wanted to do cost $$$ as well. Although we’re into budgeting and trying to make good financial decisions, we didn’t quite consider ALL the money it would take to update our ENTIRE house as well as taking care of all the things we HAD to do as well.
One of our big mistakes (if that’s what you want to call it) is that while our house checked off everything on our “must-have and like-to-have” lists, we bought at the top of our budget. This meant that we really didn’t have any money to start doing updates right away. We had the money to do what we needed to do, but not too much of anything that we wanted to do. And after doing all that initial stuff and an unexpected bathroom leak, you can forget getting new furniture right away! However, although it has taken us a little longer than we expected, it has worked out for us.
The Positive Side
One of the positives of it taking us so long is that by the time we’re ready to update/change something, we’re 110% sure of our decision! Lol. Appliance decisions, countertop decisions, flooring decisions, even dining room furniture decisions… we don’t regret any of our decisions. Now if I could just find the perfect 4-seater couch that’s not a sectional, we would be good to go!
We’re Still Not Finished
You would think after everything I mentioned above, that we would be finished with updating our home. But nope. We’re not! We still have the master bathroom to do, which is likely not going to happen until we pay off the house. We also want to replace the carpet in the basement. We’re not exactly sure what type of flooring we will choose, but we’re leaning towards luxury vinyl plank flooring. And the basement bathroom hasn’t been touched either. Those are the major things we have left to do, if we decide to do them. Everything else is either cosmetic, regular upkeep, or decor related since we haven’t really done much in that department.
Our main focus when we first bought the house was to do what we needed to do, then pay off my last student loan, fund our emergency fund, and then start our home updates. Thus, we haven’t really decorated much because I didn’t want to decorate knowing we would be changing the paint color, flooring, etc.
I’m sure the big question you’re wondering is whether we would ever buy a fixer upper again. Well, the answer is yes! BUT… there’s always a “But”. Lol. But if we didn’t have the money to fix up everything right away, we would think twice about it. And we would also think twice about if we had to update the kitchen, ALL the bathrooms, and replace the carpet with hardwood everywhere. It’s a lot. It’s a lot of time and it’s a lot of money. What helped us some with this house is the labor costs involved with most of the things we’ve done. We did a lot of the work ourselves as well as with the help of Omar’s parents.
Ultimately, we wouldn’t rule out buying another fixer upper, but we wouldn’t rule out buying a new build either. If we were to move one day it would be nice to have some of the newer technologies that are offered these days. But as usual, whatever we decide will definitely be within our budget!
Feature Image: Unsplash