How to See the Opportunities in a Fixer Upper

house near seashore


Sometimes to get the house you want in the location you want, you have to start with a compromise. And, since you can’t very well move the perfect house to the perfect location, this compromise usually means buying a fixer-upper in the perfect location and then working hard to transform it into the dream home.


Though it might seem daunting, as long as a house is structurally sound – it’s not about to fall down tomorrow – with a bit of work, you can achieve the high quality you are looking for. As long as you have enough in your budget and a sympathetic planning officer, you really can get away with making a lot of improvements from extending to even knocking down and beginning again.


So, what sort of opportunities should you look for in a fixer-upper?

Work With the Current House

Most fixer-upper properties don’t look like much from the outside. Perhaps there are missing shingles on the roof or maybe a few broken windows are making the place look untidy. Neither of these things should put you off. Emergency glass repair or simply replacing the windows altogether will provide an instant fix and, as long as there is no leak damage, replacing a few shingles won’t be too much of a challenge.


What you should be looking for is potential. This can be quite hard to see if you aren’t used to it but essentially you are looking for a space you can imagine in new ways – in other words, you need to look beyond first impressions. Usually, this means looking at a space and pretending that there is a sofa here, a TV over there and a beautiful garden to look out on. For some properties, you may need to imagine something a little more radical and consider how a space would feel if you were to knock internal walls down, add an extension or even create spaces for larger windows.


For many people, once the building is sealed and structurally sound, the interior is the main problem. Rather than extending, really the budget would be better spent on internal fixtures and fittings. This is great because you can do a lot with a bucket of paint and some wooden flooring! Start by making ensuring that each room is given a sort of base coat that makes it habitable, if not completely personal just yet. So, replaster, paint and lay flooring first. From here, you just need to add colour and texture with the furniture you choose.


The more you can work with the current building, the easier the transformation will be. However, if you are looking for something radically different, it may be more worth your while to apply for planning permission for something completely different and knock the old house down. Depending on the state of the house, this can be an expensive decision but if you have the budget, it will be the simplest way to get exactly what you want.

Look at the Land

If the house is a no-go and you are planning to knock it down and start again, you need to look at the land. Though a site may be large enough to accommodate a house, terrain type and incline have a massive impact on what you can actually build. It might be that the land you choose will require a lot of work before you can get started, pushing your costs well above your original budget.


Building your own home is a really exciting opportunity to create a wow factor feature. Essentially, you have the freedom to design your interior at the same time as your exterior, rooting your building to the land and its surroundings. When you look at the land, it is important that you don’t just think about plonking a house in the middle of it, but also consider how you might like to use landscaping to make the most of the whole plot.  


For example, you might look at the land and decide to build a pergola as a way to create a shaded area that will also help to cool your living space. Equally, everyone likes to have a pool for a quick dip so consider whether you would want to have space to swim or just lounge around cooling off.

Consider the Local Area

Looking at houses in the local area is usually a good way to work out whether your plans are likely to get permission and your neighbour’s blessing. Going around to discuss your plans with the people who will become your neighbours is also a nice way to get to know any issues that your plans might raise and deal with them before you start working.


Most people like to see homes that are all the same style in one area. This doesn’t mean that you can’t be more experimental but it does mean that you will need to be prepared for opposition if you make lots of alternative choices. Being sympathetic, even while you are being bold, is a difficult balance to achieve but could pave the way for changes in the whole area.


Of course, if you are willing to go this far, the site you choose must be perfect. Don’t just think about things like the view or the space, consider the infrastructure around you. For example, living on a remote mountaintop might present some fantastic scenery but what are you going to do if you just fancy popping to the shop? Getting to work or school should be an easy journey too so don’t stray too far if you aren’t willing to make a long commute.


Though a fixer-upper can present as quite a daunting task, the reality is that when you are prepared, it is simply a case of going through a list of processes to get to a space you love. Asking an architect to help you design something special is a smart idea, and getting an interior designer may also help. And you never know what sort of bright ideas they might bring to the table.



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