The conversation tends to go like this...
Buyer: So, I want a place in Toronto… on the subway line, with an open concept layout… hm… & I need a parking spot too, but I don’t want to pay more than “x” dollars.
Lara: Okay no problem. We can take a look at some properties in that area!
Buyer: *sends lots of newly renovated listings or new builds that don’t quite fit what they want & have low square footage*
Lara: Is renovating or fixing up a property an option?
Buyer: I haven’t really thought about it, but I guess we could look!
If you aren’t up for a challenge & some work then this might not be the path for you. If you are up for the challenge & aren’t afraid of a bit of paint or changing some light fixtures then keep reading!
Don’t get me wrong, not every “fixer-upper” is as easy as a bit of paint. Not every tenanted property just needs a new door to replace the one with the hole or a thorough scrub of the toilets for it to feel like home. Sometimes though, the process is easier than you realize & worth the cost of some elbow grease! How do you spot what’s worth it & what’s not?
Have you ever looked at properties online & wondered why some listings only have a picture of the front of the house or condo building? Are you ever frustrated that it says all of these great things about the property but you can’t see any of it?
Check if it’s tenanted.
A lot of the time sellers & their agents know the inside of a property is in rough shape. If it won’t photograph well, they won’t photograph it! This doesn’t always mean there’s a lot of work involved to make it a clean, fresh & liveable space. All it means it there likely IS work required.
How much, you ask?
We never know until we see the property, but if you are up for some exploring, finding a diamond in the rough may be possible (& fun)!
A benefit to tenanted properties with no pictures is that they don’t usually drive much traffic. Often agents will take buyers to see properties they’ve found online. Without background knowledge of the potential these tenanted properties have, a lot of the general public will be drawn to the pretty, bright, staged spaces with beautiful photos instead. They overlook these gems without interior photos.
Look Past The Clutter
When an agent DOES take buyers to see these properties, the pool of offers is further depleted because of a property’s condition & a lack of vision. If it’s cluttered & dirty, it may be hard for buyers to see potential past the mess in front of them. A broken screen door & gunk on the stove are an easy fix, but one the seller might not want to do. It’s an immediate turn off for visitors. A clean move-in ready, neutral space helps buyers envision themselves living there & form that very important connection that keeps their mind engaged & pulls at their heart strings.
De-cluttering & de-personalizing is vital to drive the most traffic & encourage the greatest number of offers. On the flip side, you can capitalize as a buyer when it’s not! If you can look past the graduation photos, litter boxes & pile of dirty dishes, you are in the minority of buyers. Negotiations may be possible if you are willing to do the work yourself & have a vision for the final product.
Look beyond the hiccups!
Make It Your Own
Financial negotiations are a huge benefit. Beyond that, settling on a place that needs some work also allows you to make it your own! Even though there are many beautiful move-in ready properties on the market, there is almost always SOMETHING that isn’t quite perfect.
Maybe the light fixture in the living room is too shiny for your style; maybe the colour of the new flooring won’t match the colour scheme you’ve always envisioned for your living room; maybe the bathroom was just repainted but is bright yellow & you are definitely NOT a yellow bathroom kind of person.
These aren’t changes that need to be made for the property to be clean & liveable so changing them might be hard to justify. If the walls have holes & the paint is falling off, the repair cost might be reflected in the price or can be a negotiating point. This relieves the guilt of painting it your perfect zen grey before you move in!
Making a space yours & undergoing the process of choosing finishes & hiring professionals is certainly not for everyone. You need to have the time to do these projects or the finances to hire others to do it for you. The reward when you cook in your brand new kitchen for the first time in a condo you know is still below market value is SO worth it though!
Not only can it be a challenge to find the right property, but once you do there is no immediate guarantee you can make the changes you want.
Flooring in condos can’t just be replaced – they need to be approved. There are certain under-padding requirements to help with moisture & sound.
Taking down a wall isn’t as easy as knocking on it to see if it’s hollow & noticing the vent ducts run on the other side of the room. You may have to go hunting for building plans & have a contractor ready to review them for you. Even if all of that runs smoothly, you are still at the mercy of the condo board to approve a submitted proposal. If they aren’t responsive or resourceful, this process could take a long time & all of this might not be possible before a competing offer is submitted & you’ve lost the property.
Buying a fixer upper is a process about calculating risk & ensuring you are within your comfort zone. Is the property still worth it for you if you aren’t able to remove half that wall to make it an open concept space? Maybe it is & you want to submit an offer regardless. Maybe it isn’t & we move on to our next hunt!
These are questions we need to ask & answer, together.
& that’s what I’m here for!
- To help you come up with the questions you need to ask & determine who needs to answer them.
- To help you see the potential behind the mess & clutter.
- To help you have vision if spacial reconfiguration isn’t your forte.
- To give you a real idea of whether it is just a facelift or a full renovation.
- To talk to you OUT of properties that aren’t worth it – educating you so YOU will be the one to talk me into the right one.
Having the right team behind you is step 1 of this process. With a background in HVAC & building luxury resale homes, I have a pretty solid team of professionals that can help me answer questions to the things I don’t know. My biggest piece of renovation is advice is to always hire the right professional for the right job. If you need plumbing done & want it done right the first time, hire a plumber not just a general tradesman.
Regardless of whether you conclude a fixer upper is right for you or not, make sure you enjoy the home buying journey!
Lara Stasiw • Real Estate Agent & Home Design Connoisseur
You made it to the end! THANK YOU!!
If you’re not exceptionally bored by my run-on sentences & bad humour, keep reading!
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