3 problems with buying a fixer-upper

fixer upper

What you should know prior to your purchase of a fixer-upper

Before you embark on your own personal fixer-upper peregrination, below are a few points you need to know.

It’s a false reality. We are living in a time of fake news, alternative facts, echo chambers and confirmation biases. Watching home improvement shows on TV can be a terrific way to kill time, but they are mostly fantasy.

Latent issues wasting your time and money

There are knowns we know and knowns we don’t yet know. Latent issues are the later. Problems sometimes reveal themselves part way into a job. My neighbour, during a kitchen renovation, found that there was a ceiling above his kitchen ceiling and another above that! That lead to an unplanned bathroom renovation. His bathroom renovation (above the kitchen) also found issues that were unexpected — so what started as a relatively straightforward kitchen renovation ended up with more scope, more time and most cost.

(But his house looks fabulous now!)


  • Time is money.
  • Time is a limited resource.
  • Time for a TV show is one hour.

Before you begin your fix-up job, estimate how much time it will take — and then double it. Things will take longer than you think if you do them yourself and if you are working with contractors, they seem to have a hard time finishing the last 10%. It seems like they always move onto their next job before finishing yours!

I love the renovation shows on TV. They make it seem so easy and they always finish on time.


Lastly, funding a fixer-upper can be a lot more complicated than getting a mortgage on a home that’s not needing significant fixes and updates. The lender is really going to want to know the market price for the home and lenders don’t like risk.

  • Although some lenders offer loans with “mortgage + improvements” there are benchmarks and timelines you will have to meet to qualify.
  • Getting a home equity loan won’t help you as you have not built up any equity in the home yet
  • You might be able to get a personal loan but that could be expensive.

The bottom line

It looks easy on TV, but things are often more complex than they first appear. Know what you are getting into before you get into something you thought would be easy.


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