What is a Fixer-Upper Home?

Sheri Cyprus

A fixer-upper home is a home that requires some repairs. Fixer-upper homes may be advertised as "Handyman Specials." The type of work needed may be cosmetic or deep and it is up to the buyer to assess the estimated repair costs to see if purchasing the fixer-upper home will be a good investment or a bad one.

A fixer-upper home often requires substantial repair work.
A fixer-upper home often requires substantial repair work.

Location is important even if the fixer-upper home buyer has carefully estimated that repairing the home will be a good investment. If it's the worst looking home in a great area, fixing it up will help it sell and raise its value. But, if a fixer-upper is located in a less desirable or declining neighborhood, it would still sell for less in prime condition because of the area. Look for fixer-upper homes in neighborhoods where home prices are appreciating in value.

Larger vertical cracks can mean structural damage.
Larger vertical cracks can mean structural damage.

Find out the prices of regular homes, not fixer-uppers, in a good area and then compare those prices to the cost of the fixer-upper home you're considering purchasing. You can try to speak to the home owners in the area to help you figure out the market value of the home. If things seem favorable, then you can start looking at whether the home itself would be worth fixing up either to live in yourself or to sell.

You need a clear assessment of what is needed and what it will cost. Don't forget to add in the cost of labor — both your own time and that of contractors. You also may need to pay experts to help you determine how serious problems are. This may be well worth the money spent if you get qualified experts since they can help you avoid purchasing a home with severe structural damage that is expensive to repair.

If the home is older, it may contain lead paint or asbestos. The entire wiring or plumbing may have to be replaced. Consider every detail before deciding to purchase a fixer-upper home or you could spend a substantial amount more than you thought and most or all of your profits could easily be eaten up by unexpected repair costs.

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Discussion Comments


@browncoat - I honestly think that the most important thing to consider is location. Most of the time a fixer-upper house is going to be a fixer-upper because no one else thought it was worth putting money into it. You can't change the location and that can definitely affect the final price, or the final comfort level you might have with living in the house.


@Ana1234 - It depends on the house. One thing I will say is that anyone who doesn't have much experience with this shouldn't even buy a house with structural damage. The first thing you want to do when looking at a house is to get an inspector to give you a run-down on how solid it is. Cosmetic problems are nothing to fix compared with having to replace a roof or plumbing or foundations.

If the home is of historical value, it might be worth saving, but in that case you've got to be able to restore it rather than just fix it. Another thing to take into account is that older homes are often built without modern conveniences in mind, and might not have efficient energy systems in place.

Buying a fixer upper can be a wonderful decision and, in theory, you are doing something good with your time and money, but only if you pick the right kind of house in the first place.


I love a fixer-upper in general, but you do have to be careful not to get something that is going to cause headaches down the line. In some ways it's better to knock down a house with huge amounts of structural damage, particularly if you aren't planning to live in it yourself, even if it's tempting to try and fix it.

Repairing damage can be much more expensive than just building a new structure. If all you want to do is sell the house, then it's better to pick the cheapest option.

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