Thanks to HGTV — and especially Texas natives Chip and Joanna Gaines — many of us are pretty confident in our DIY capabilities. We can all wield a hammer or paintbrush, but when it comes to buying our next home, when should we count on those skills to turn a fixer-upper into a dream dwelling? And when is it smarter to look for properties that are move-in ready?
Real estate agents with SEED Property Group can help you figure that out. The indie brokerage is one of the highest-producing boutique firms in Austin, and currently ranks in the top 5 percent of all Austin real estate brokerages. Here, a few of its agents explain why and when you'll want to go turnkey, and when a little sweat equity might result in big returns.
Look where other buyers aren't
"In the Austin market, the well priced 'pretty houses' often have 10 other competing offers," says Tammy Young. "In my experience, buying something that needs work results in greater short-term equity and long-term appreciation."
A good agent will have a network of pros she or he has worked with before, so finding contractors and designers shouldn't be an obstacle. The agent should also be able to weigh in on what upgrades will provide the best return for future resale, where it's wise not to skimp, and which projects you should skip.
Cosmetic vs. structural
Tile, carpet, paint, landscaping — these are all easy fixes! But some buyers have a hard time seeing past that red dining room or shag carpet in the den. If a home ticks many of your boxes but needs superficial upgrades like these, then you're likely making a smart move. However, less exciting updates such as foundation work, replacing the HVAC, or putting on a new roof definitely need the opinion of a pro.
"Many first-time homebuyers feel cash-poor and think they can't afford a house that requires cosmetic upgrades," says Young. "But there are options that don't require tons of cash, like getting the seller to pay your closing costs, negotiating allowances to help pay for big-ticket items like flooring, or even pursuing purchase-rehab loans."
Think about timing
Are you moving because of a major life change, or putting down roots in an entirely new city or state? Then factor that into your reno plans, because you might need to find temporary housing while your new purchase is uninhabitable. Even though a major renovation might seem like a huge undertaking, there are advantages to getting it all over with at once.
When remodeling her own home in Allandale, SEED agent Karol Maki discovered that although renovate each section of the home individually initially felt like a way to cut costs, doing the whole renovation at once would have reached the same total — and saved her time.
"Contractors charge a premium each time they have to start a project, and many will upcharge if it's a small job," says Maki. "Or worse, they may not even be interested. So don't piecemeal your remodel. In the long run, it will be worth the wait and you may end up saving a little money."
Go beyond walls
You might get so wrapped up in the house itself that you forget about its property. But landscaping is important for resale, and it's often just requires getting your hands dirty.
"Don't forget about your outdoor spaces," says agent Annette Patterson. "Screened-in porches, hardscapes, furnishings — I love finding antique planters, tables, and chairs from Round Top — all help to create your own personal sanctuary in nature."
Ready to roll up your sleeves on a fixer-upper or move right into your readymade dream home, but not sure where to start? Talk to a SEED Property Group agent today. The Austin neighborhood experts have access to listings you won't find on MLS, and can help you get a leg up on the competition.