Buyers are Skipping Fixer-Uppers. Why they Shouldn't

Early in my career (1990s) most of the buyers I worked with in Winnetka and the North Shore were adamant about finding a fixer-upper. A home that they could “make into their own.” They often told me they didn’t want what someone else had done to the home, they had their own visions.

Fast forward to the present where for at least the past five years, buyers have blinders on when it comes to homes that need updating. They may be fine with painting a few rooms or replacing an appliance, but the rest of the home needs to be move-in-ready with a clean, clear palette. From Apartment Times, “78% of millennials prefer move-in-ready homes.”

Are they missing out on something? Has this need for a particular aesthetic led them to overlook the obvious benefits?

Home flippers have always been on to something. Clearly, putting money and elbow grease into the project results in a profit if done right. These homes are being bought up quickly by flippers – when the price is right.

Some things to consider when buying a home that needs updating:

  • First and foremost, doing renovations to your home increases the equity. There has been a lot written about what renovations reap the greatest financial rewards. A home that needs work most likely would benefit from a new kitchen and baths and those items deliver instant equity. Discuss this with your real estate agent who knows what projects are worth doing.
  • Consider the project that needs to be done. Is it just aesthetics? Is it simply a matter of pulling up carpets, refinishing floors, painting kitchen cabinets and adding new pulls? Those types of upgrades don’t need a sledge hammer or blueprints and should not put off a smart buyer. I’ve heard so many buyers exclaim that a particular wall color really puts them off. Too easy to fix that – don’t let it “color” your decision.
  • Not everything needs to be done immediately. The cost of doing repairs or upgrades would depend on your original budget and how much you saved by buying a fixer-upper. If the budget doesn’t allow for all the work to be done at once, consider the most egregious items and fix those. 
  • Your sense of accomplishment. It’s your home, your imagination, your taste, your dream. Not everyone has the time or inclination to go this route, but if you do, consider how you’ll feel living in the home that you created. And depending on budget, fixer upper does not mean do-it-yourself. If you can’t, find someone who can. Your real estate agent, friends, and the local Next Door are great sources for referrals.

The North Shore villages of Winnetka, Wilmette, Kenilworth, and Glencoe have many homes that need updating (as well as many fully upgraded or new construction homes.) A full home inspection that doesn’t reveal serious issues such as foundations, water, electric or plumbing problems, should give you the confidence to not get stuck with a money pit. Skip those and get out your lipstick!

Let your agent know you’re looking for houses like this: 

This home needs some TLC”

“sold AS-IS”

“The price has been reduced to ______ to allow the buyers to make whatever interior or exterior changes or improvements they desire”

“Bring your decorating ideas” 

“So much potential in this ranch”   

“Opportunity Knocks! Buy this Diamond in the Rough!”




While you’re here, please see:   all North Shore homes for sale


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 Margaret Goss is a full-time real estate broker since 1998 working in the North Shore communities of Winnetka, Wilmette, Kenilworth, Glencoe, Northfield, Glenview, and Evanston.

She can be reached at:
Phone:  847-977-6024
See her full BIOGRAPHY

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