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Three Important Keys For Success When Buying A Fixer-Upper

By Donna S. Robinson | January 18, 2012

Buying fixer-uppers has been a common investment technique for many years. These days, with millions of foreclosed homes available at bargain basement prices, fixer-uppers can be an excellent choice for buyers who are shopping for a home to live in, as well as for real estate investors.

Before you get your hands dirty, follow these tips ūüėČ

Fixer-uppers are properties in need of repairs. They may be liveable in their present condition, or they may need quite a bit of work before they can be occupied, but in either case, there are some very important considerations when choosing the right property to help insure that you can achieve your personal objectives.

1. The Location

It used to be pretty rare to find a fixer-upper in a nice neighborhood, but the housing crisis has changed that. Today, fixer-upper properties are readily available in many of the nicer neighborhoods, especially in those states that have been hit hardest by high rates of foreclosure.

Don't be impatient. Look around your chosen area carefully before making a final choice. It's very important to be familiar with the local market. Choosing the right location will result in better property appreciation, and more demand when you are ready to sell, or better tenants and higher rental rates.

Avoid locations that have too many vacant properties, locations that have too many other investors in the area, or are places that you would not want to live yourself. Investor over-crowding tends to increase your competition and will therefore reduce your profits.

2. Know The True Market Value.

A property is not always a good deal just because it is a fixer-upper. Don't let anyone sway your judgement about a property simply because it's a fixer-upper. Just because a home has been foreclosed on does not automatically mean it is a good deal. Good deals are made through knowing what the true market value is, then negotiating a price that is as far below the true market value as possible.

3. Find A Fixer-Upper Project That You Can Handle.

Whether you are planning to live in the property, fix it up to sell or fix it up to use as a rental property, the most common mistake is that of taking on a project that is beyond your ability to handle.

I've done dozens of fixer-upper projects, including managing them for other investors. The biggest problem I've seen consistently is investors who take on projects that are bigger than they can handle. This leads to cost over-runs, projects that take too much time, and even running out of money and another foreclosure. I've seen numerous projects that were never finished after the buyer got over budget and ran out of money.

It's easy to rationalize a project before you start, and inexperienced investors often believe that they can renovate an entire house in 4 weeks, working only on weekends in their spare time. That is a common mistake.

One biggie I suggest is to avoid any fixer-upper that needs walls moved in order to be functional. Moving walls and things like staircases can create unexpected problems unless you are planning to use a contractor who has adequate experience and a crew that can get the work done correctly. I've seen projects that began well and got totally out of hand and over budget after the investor decided to make extensive changes to the original floor plan.

If you choose a fixer-upper property in a desirable location, keep your rehab budget and necessary work within your ability to control, and you have a good renovation plan that you can stick with, you should find yourself owning a great property at a below market price. That means you'll have some positive equity or a positive cash flow right from the start. And after all, that's the main reason why you should consider buying a fixer-upper. ***

Image © Frog 974 -

Donna Robinson is a 16 year veteran of the real estate industry. Her experience spans all phases of residential real estate, including licensed agent and rehabbing fixer-uppers. She is an active real estate investor who also provides coaching and consulting services to other investors. To discover how you may benefit from her expertise, contact her at [email protected] ¬†and request a free PDF copy of her latest book on residential real estate.¬†

Donna S. Robinson has been involved in the real estate industry since 1996. A licensed agent and real estate investor, she is a recognized expert on residential real estate investing. Her course, "Fundamentals & Strategies For Real Estate Investing" is approved for CE credit by the GA Real Estate Commission. She has authored several books on real estate investing, and consults with residential investment companies. She also offers coaching services to real estate investors.

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