Fixer-Upper Vs. Move-In Ready Home: Which Makes More Sense?

For the most part, flipping houses on home improvement reality TV shows looks like a piece of cake. You know how the storyline goes: a couple buys a fixer-upper that needs a lot of work, they begin renovating it, they discover a problem and end up needing more money than they planned, yet miraculously, everything somehow works out in the end. There’s usually footage showing the dramatic difference between what the fixer-upper looked like before being renovated and after, and it can be inspiring enough to make you say, “Hey, I want to do something like that.”

That’s the magic of good TV production and editing. In real life, fixer-uppers can be a lot of work compared to houses that are already move-in ready. Whether or not you buy a house that needs a lot of repairs depends on many different factors. Here’s a list of pros and cons of fixer-uppers and move-in ready houses.

Pros Of Fixer-Upper Homes

Lower Sales Prices
You can find a great deal on a fixer-upper. If you come across one that’s in a pricey neighborhood and you’re willing to put in what it takes to restore it, you could end up paying just a fraction of what your soon-to-be new neighbors did for their homes.

Less Competition
In some hot real estate markets, sellers of move-in ready houses are getting multiple offers from different buyers trying to outbid one another. But there’s generally less competition for fixer-uppers than for move-in ready houses. In turn, that can give you more negotiating leverage with sellers.

Buyers have more creative control over fixer-uppers than move-in ready homes. With a fixer-upper, you can customize a house’s layout and details of each room. If you’re a hands-on type of person who enjoys taking on home improvement projects, when the house is finished, you may take pride in knowing that you did a lot of the work.

Cons Of Fixer-Upper Homes

If you’re planning on doing most of the work yourself, remodeling can take a lot of time, so it’s important to have patience and have somewhere else to live in the meantime. Even if you hire a contractor to do the work, it’s still going to take a longer amount of time for a fixer-upper to be move-in ready compared to buying a house that’s already in move-in ready condition.

Hidden Costs
While sales prices for fixer-uppers may be lower than move-in ready houses, at times the cost to repair a fixer-upper may not be worth it. This is especially true if you run into any hidden issues, like structural damage or mold, which could wreak havoc on the budget you’d already set for repairs.

Pros Of Move-In Ready Homes

Less Work
Buying a move-in ready house requires much less work than a fixer-upper, so it may be a better choice if you’re on a tight deadline to move into a house or you’re not exactly a DIY kind of person.

Often More Up-to-Date
In today’s competitive market, move-in ready houses are more likely to come with modern features and trends, like open floor plans, updated appliances and eco-friendly options. Transforming a fixer-upper to have these same features, on the other hand, could take a lot of work (and money).

Rarely Surprises
There’s always a slight risk of running into hidden problems when you buy a home, like structural issues, mold or critter infestations. But with a newer, move-in ready house, you’re much less likely to encounter these.

Cons Of Move-In Ready Homes

Less Creative Control
There’s not much room for customization with move-in ready homes, other than choosing décor. If you’re not thrilled with the design or layout of a house you’re considering, you’ll have to pay more to have changes made or accept the house as is.

Sales prices of move-in ready homes don’t exactly rival the sales prices of fixer-uppers. There’s no way around it: you’re going to be paying more for a move-in ready house.

Should you choose the renovation route, how about these few tips on how to lower your Costs.

11 Tips to Lower Your Home Improvement Costs

Consider the resale value. The first thing you should think about when deciding on a costly home renovation is the resale value. If you’re planning to sell your home in the future, you’ll probably want to recoup some of the renovation costs. Will the addition or renovation help increase the value of your home? Choose remodeling projects with higher resale values to get the most bang for your buck.

Hire an inspector. There’s more to selling your house than making it look pretty. Hire a professional inspector to check your house from top to bottom — including the roof, foundation, plumbing, hidden water leaks, electric systems and anything that seems small, but could potentially become an expensive problem later on.

Care and maintenance. Is your faucet leaking? Does the toilet run? From carpet stains to light fixtures, potential buyers are going to come in and examine everything with an eagle eye (as you should when looking for your next home), so make sure everything is in proper working order.

Home Improvements

Upgrade the kitchen. Most real estate experts agree that the kitchen can make or break home sales. And you don’t necessarily have to spend big bucks on costly remodel projects to add value to your home. Even minor updates, like a new sink or countertops, can boost your home’s resale value.

Bathroom beautification. Bathroom upgrades are widely seen as a cost-efficient way to add value and appeal to your home. Start by re-caulking the tub, sink and shower to fix any broken or cracked seals that could lead to mold or water damage. If you have it in the budget, update the bathroom’s look with a new countertop, sink, faucet or toilet. Or, consider replacing the floor and finishing things off with a fresh coat of paint.

Paint perfection. For rooms with bold colors, design experts recommend painting over with neutral shades. This way, it’s easier for the buyer to picture their own color preferences, without being distracted by colors like “flamingo dream” or “nacho cheese”.

Create space. A simple, inexpensive way to increase the value of your home is by making it look bigger. Rearrange the furniture to best fit the space or remove certain pieces to open things up. An open-floor plan is on a lot of buyers’ lists, so work with what you’ve got to make the most space.

Contain the curtains. A small detail that often goes overlooked are the window treatments. Many curtains are bulky and block light from entering the room. Make sure your windows let in as much light as possible to really give the room an attractive appearance.

Floor flip. A stained, worn carpet can diminish the perceived value of your home. If you have the budget for it, new carpeting or other flooring options can help add value.

Take your time finding help. If you’re hiring help, never hire the first person you contact. Request written bids from at least three reputable contractors to find the lowest possible price. Carefully review the bids to compare what you’re getting with each proposal and how the contractor stands behind the work once it’s complete. Sure, price is an important consideration, but remember that poor workmanship and low quality materials can lead to unplanned repair or replacement expenses down the road. Also, if you’re going the contractor route, make sure that they’re licensed and insured before they sign the dotted line to work with you. It’s important to follow these steps to avoid contractor fraud.

Do the work yourself. Labor can take a solid chunk from your renovation budget. Save some money by putting your own sweat equity into your projects. Sure, there are some things best left to a professional — electrical work, certain demolition, major plumbing, to name a few — but don’t underestimate the power of your own two hands. Painting, sanding and insulation are all ways you can chip in. Take advantage of the many free resources available and learn how you can do some home improvements DIY style.

Consider look-alikes. Don’t let the term “knock-off” deter you from saving money. Whether retiling a bathroom or swapping your shag carpet for a stylish hardwood floor, you can find imitation materials that look just as nice for a price that’s often less than half the cost. For example, while a solid oak hardwood floor is attractive, it’s also expensive. Consider engineered oak flooring that looks similar but costs way less.

Get thrifty. Big-time do-it-yourselfers find the best deals because they know where to look. Reap some big savings by heading to recycling centers, like Habitat for Humanity ReStores. These stores offer salvaged materials at half-off home-center prices. Even yard sales or sites like Craigslist can be extremely fruitful if you take the time to do some digging. Keep in mind that some contractors won’t work with salvaged items to avoid a liability risk. They might be hesitant to work with materials that they don’t know the history or quality of. Check with your contractor to see if this is a viable option.

Bid on materials. Check out auctions that specialize in home building products and score amazing deals on surplus remodeling materials from brand-name wholesalers and retailers. The best part? Most auctions sell everything from kitchen sinks and cabinets to trim and molding. While you might have to travel a few hours away to find the right auction, it could be worth the savings in the long run!

Plan around plumbing. Do yourself a financial favor and plan your renovation around existing plumbing. If you choose to move your toilet or sink just a few feet, you could be looking at costs well over a thousand dollars. But the cost to keep it in place? Free!

Work with what you have. Your biggest savings could be located right in your own home. Get in the revamp mindset and give your current space a face lift instead of an entire remodel. It may be tempting to double the size of your kitchen or opt for a brand-new addition, but you don’t have to go bigger to make it better. Install high pantry cabinets to increase your storage space, hang pots, pans and utensils on the walls and rearrange your bathroom for maximum functionality. You’d be surprised what a little bit of creativity can do. A room can transform with the right lighting, color, décor or storage space— be open to affordable alternatives and reinvent what you already have.

Refurbish your furniture and décor. Instead of purchasing a new set of dining room chairs or hitting up the big stores for your wall décor, head to a local antique or resale shop for wonderful character pieces at a lower cost. Just give them a bit of paint and a little TLC to look and feel brand new!

Pay to haul-away? No way! Many people opt to have old materials picked up, but this service often comes with a price tag. Even getting one small appliance picked up on trash day could cost you more than $20. Skip the charge and call up your local Habitat for Humanity. Not only will they pick up anything that’s salvageable at no cost, but you can get a tax write-off for making a charitable donation.

DIY hauling. On a similar note, instead of paying a store to drop off your new materials, pick them up yourself! Do you have a truck? Perfect. If not, ask to borrow from a friend or rent a truck by the hour from one of the many home improvement stores. It’ll be worth it to at least compare the cost of delivery fees to the cost of renting a truck.

If you’re completing a big renovation like a new kitchen or finished basement, you’ll want to check in with your Insurance agent to see if your remodeling project has added value to your home. They’ll make sure that your coverage limits are adequate and reflect how your home has been amended post remodeling work. Also, don’t forget to update your home insurance inventory so you have the right coverage in the event of the unexpected.

Options For Renovation Loans- Here Are A Few:

Not sure what type of renovation loan is best for the project you have in mind? Good news! Here are some great options that PrimeLending offers


TypeBest forAdvantages
  • Older homes in established neighborhoods
  • Appraiser-required or borrower requested repairs that add value to the home
  • Fewer costs by rolling repairs purchase/refinancing expenses into a single loan
EZ “C”onventional
  • Covers appraiser-required or borrower requested repairs
  • Finance small upgrades on a newly purchased home over a short period of time
  • Cosmetic, non-structural improvements
  • Creates dedicated account to cover costs of updates
  • Fewer costs by rolling updates and purchase/refinancing expenses into a single loan
Buyer/Seller Funded Repair Escrow
  • Borrower-requested repairs or other home updates that will determine final appraisal
  • Creates dedicated account to cover costs of updates
  • Funds can be provided by the buyer or seller
  • Fewer costs by rolling construction and purchase/refinancing expenses into a single loan
Jumbo Renovation
  • Covers appraiser-required or borrower requested repairs on high-priced luxury homes that are valued over $484,350
  • Can be used for refinancing or home purchase
  • Covers a dedicated account to cover non-structural repairs up to $250,000
  • Fewer costs by rolling repair and purchase/refinancing expenses into a single loan
Pool Escrow
  • Adding a pool
  • Creates dedicated account to cover cost of pool construction
  • Fewer costs by rolling construction and purchase/refinancing expenses into a single loan
Weather-Related Escrow
  • Repairing weather damage
  • Making weather-related or energy efficient upgrades
  • Creates dedicated account to cover cost of repairs or upgrades
  • Fewer costs by rolling construction and purchase/refinancing expenses into a single loan


TypeBest forAdvantages
FHA 203k Full/Standard
  • Refinancing or buying older properties
  • Refinancing or buying a home requiring structural repairs or major renovation
  • Low down payment requirement on new home purchase
  • Low refinancing interest rates
  • Fewer costs by rolling repair and purchase/refinancing expenses into a single loan
FHA 203k Streamline
  • Refinancing or buying a home that needs updating or repairs
  • Cosmetic repairs, remodeling up to $35,000
  • Low down payment on new home purchase
  • Low refinancing interest rates
  • Less paperwork
  • Fewer costs by rolling repair and purchase/refinancing expenses into a single loan
HUD REO with Repair Escrow
  • Purchasing a foreclosure home
  • Foreclosed properties requiring minor repairs up to $5,000
  • Creates dedicated account to cover appraiser-required repairs
  • Fewer costs by rolling repair and purchase/refinancing expenses into a single loan
USDA Repair Escrow
  • Refinancing or buying USDA property that needs updating or repairs.
  • 100% financing for refinancing or home purchase in a USDA rural area
  • Creates dedicated account to cover repairs
  • Fewer costs by rolling repair and purchase/refinancing expenses into a single loan

As always, if you or someone you know are thinking about buying or selling. Give us a call, email or text!

[email protected], (928) 714-0001

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(928) 714-0001
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