Should we do it?
by Karla ° Tuesday, May 15, 2007
We came thisclose to putting an offer in on a house the other day, but we decided against it because there is also another house on the market right now that is so huge it could swallow my current home in one big gulp and still have room for dessert.

To give you an idea of how big it is, I put my engineering skills to work and architected a floor plan of my current home in comparison to the big home.

It’s so huge in fact, that I almost need a map to find my way around the master bedroom and I swear one of the closets is bigger than Nate's entire bedroom.

By far and large, a home of this size doesn’t even make a blip on our affordability radar, but this home is priced well below market value because it needs a lot of work and a lot of time and a shit load of money to fix it up. But the potential is definitely there. In fact, there is so much potential that it is oozing out of the walls and ceilings right along with all the water from the leaky plumbing.

We never really considered a fixer-upper before because, well, we aren’t the fixer-upper kind of people, especially when it comes to gutting kitchens and bathrooms and fixing leaky ceilings and rewiring electrical outlets, but a home of that size in our price range doesn’t come along very often. More like never.

So right now we are watching that home and thinking about that home and slapping ourselves in the face over and over trying to see if that knocks any sense into our heads and helps us realize what we might be getting ourselves into, but while we are doing all that slapping and thinking, we are also deciding if we should totally lowball an offer to leave us with enough money to fix everything that needs fixing and just take a giant leap of faith and go for it.

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Wow...sounds like a great opportunity, but a big decision. I'm not sure what I would do. We decided to go for new or almost-new, since we've been fixing up our crappy 80's townhouse bit by bit for the past few years and we're sick of living in reno-land...especially with young kids. But this is a tiny TINY townhouse...having the opportunity to get a huge house might just have changed our minds!

Good luck with your decision!
Posted by Blogger Cate :  May 15, 2007

Gasp...I don't wanna tell you what to do but here I go...DON'T DO IT. My Better Half and I bought the huge, hulking fixer upper with crazy potential almost two years ago and it is in the process of swallowing us whole. It's lovely. We could live here forever if only we could afford it. The utility bills, the repairs, the yard maintenance, the new windows, the new roof, now the whole damn thing needs an exterior paint job that we can't afford, not to mention furniture or window treatments or outlet in the bedrooms. Who needs outlets in the bedrooms, right? I feel like we are just hanging on and forget about saving for college or retirement or braces. Just my two cents but be cautious, be wiser than we were, buy new and simplify your life or come buy our money pit, we'd be happy to sell it to you.
Posted by Blogger cce :  May 15, 2007

I was going to say something similar that when you have a fixer upper of such proportions, it takes a LONG time to get it where you want it to be. I know people who still have not fixed everything they needed to, and are constantly living with repairmen and parts of the house that can't be used.

Size isn't everything! ;)
Posted by Blogger Gina :  May 15, 2007

Oh my, I would say DON'T do it! Fixer uppers take twice as much time and ten times the amount of money you could even imagine!

I grew up in "reno-land" and didn't like it AT ALL! Plaster dust on everything, always something in the process of being ripped out and fixed. Plumbing, wiring and heating repairs eating up your money and you can't even see it and admire it after it is done.

Aside from the repairs that need to be done just think of the heating and cooling costs of such a big house.

Something smaller is much, much, better!
Posted by Blogger Cuppa :  May 15, 2007

You just have to be very honest with yourself here. You either are a fixer-upper or you aren't. It is ok to be either, but you have to be honest about it. If you aren't then don't do it. You'll end up hating the house and hating life. If you are a fixer-upper then my advice is to make a list of everything that you think needs done. Then create a very honest timeline for how long you think it will take to make things happen. Don't forget you have lives and won't want to work on the house every night and weekend. Also don't forget what someone else said - bigger house = more money for everything. If the issues are mostly cosmetic that isn't such a big deal, but the moment you add plumbing, electrical or a new roof into the mix and yowza say good bye to all your income. Good Luck!
Posted by Blogger Jennifer :  May 15, 2007

Oops! That should read "some times" not "something" ... as in "some times smaller is much much better.
Posted by Blogger Cuppa :  May 15, 2007

Throw them your lowball offer. It's a buyer's market right now. We just put in a low-ball offer on a house and after much negotiating and hemming and hawing, the sellers consented (as no one else was offering to buy it). But we decided to stay put until our baby is born.
Posted by Blogger Nicolle :  May 15, 2007

It's almost unanimous here in comment world. I wouldn't do it because I decided to fix up our tiny, and I mean super duper tiny bathroom several months ago. It was a job that probably could have been done in one day. I'm still not done or even close. That's just the kind of person I am when it comes to that sort of thing. Good luck because I know it would be the right choice for some people.
Posted by Blogger Julia :  May 15, 2007

Lots to think about.
1. Sure you can afford the house but can you afford to "fix it up?"
2. Who will do the work? Is there anything that REALISTICALLY you or your husband will/can do and will either one of you actually do it?
3. Can you live in it while it's being done? and would you want to? (living in a house that's being renovated can be a huge pain and stressful) Is it livable now?
4. Get someone qualified to do an "inspection." I would also have someone that's handy w/construction (like your favorite father-n-law) to look/go over this too.
5. Make a comprehensive list of things that need to be done and prioritize them also making notes of how "major" they are. Which ones can wait (extra bedroom can probably wait, etc). Make a "timeline" that you feel is realistic (seriously). Have your father-n-law or someone else that's "handy" w/construction go over this with you. Next get figures on what it would cost to do them and definitely inflate those costs because it always ends up being more, if not you'll be pleasantly surprised.
6. Like someone else mentioned, can you afford to live in it...utility-wise?

If you still want to go ahead, you can give them a low-ball figure. They will either accept, counter offer or refuse to which you can figure out whatcha wanna do then. My brother put in a ridiculously low bid on a big house (needed major redecorating--talking gold-colored wallpaper everywhere) and they took it!
Posted by Anonymous trisha :  May 15, 2007

I can't believe you said you "aren't the fixer upper type" you two are exactly the fixer upper type.

I think you should go for it.

(says the girl with curtains for cupboard doors and a bathroom that has been out of commission for two years)
Posted by Blogger Supervisor :  May 15, 2007

Go for it! Especially if they except a low ball offer.
Posted by Blogger Christy :  May 15, 2007

Hey Karla,
If you want to talk to an expert on the joys of demos and renos, just ask Mandi! I'm sure she'd love to fill you in on the trials and tribulations and the ultimate joy it brings to her and Kevin...just a thought.
Deb (AKA Mandi's M-I-L)
Posted by Anonymous Anonymous :  May 15, 2007

I have always dreamed of buying an old Victorian and fixing it up. Someday I still hope to do so.

First thing I would do is give it some serious thought. Make sure you aren't blinded by what could be and see the house for what it really is right this minute. List all the things that need to be done. List them in order of importance. Make some calls, get some ball park figures on some of those major fixes. As someone else honest with yourself. How much can you and the hubby really do? How much are you willing to learn? How much time are you willing to dedicate to the process?

If you're still feeling like you want to do it...make that lowball offer and see where it goes. If you get it...good luck and know many will envy you and many will want to have you checked for brain damage :) If you don't get it...then it wasn't meant to be.

If you do enter into any type of contract be sure to make it contingent upon you getting a thorough inspection by a professional home inspector (all major items...heating/cooling, roof, plumbing, electrical, basement walls, foundation, any fireplaces and chiminies, etc.)and being satisfied with the condition of the home.

You might also want to check out a website called Houseblogs where renovators have come together to share the ups and downs of home restoration and renovation. They're a great community of folks who love to talk about their homes and offer great support and encouragement to others just like them. You can find them at You can get a bit of an idea of what it's like to live in a home that is being renovated by reading several of the blogs where the homeowners also have infants and toddlers. Check out Pigeon Point Project, That's a cute little farm house and House in Progress...they all have wee ones.

Good luck in making your decision!
Posted by Blogger Poppy :  May 15, 2007

That is a hard decision. Our experience was to buy a relatively decent mid range home that was built in the eighties. SUre it needed some fix ups (flooring, bathroom, roof, furnace, possibly paint the house etc.) and now we are $10,000 into renos and wishing we had bought new (with a home owners warranty). Did we have $10,000 for renos...hell no! But we had VISA! Hehe. In all seriousness, everyone else made great points...REALLY consider it carefully.

Posted by Blogger Kris :  May 16, 2007

We did it, and it was so hard. Our very very solid marriage nearly didn't survive and I'm not the first person to admit that a home can (almost)sink a relationship. It is hard. Not as hard as some of the stuff that you guys have been through, but pretty hard. Good luck.
Posted by Blogger Mama T :  May 16, 2007


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