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10 things to inspect before buying a fixer upper

Before you take the plunge, make sure you tick off the top 10 things to consider before purchasing...

10 things to inspect before buying a fixer upper


Have you been inspired by The Block and Grand Designs and harbour dreams of buying a rundown property, preferably in a good neighbourhood for below market price, and transforming it into your dream home?

1. Time

Anyone who’s ever tackled a renovation project will tell you renos always take longer than you expect. Overhauling a fixer upper is at the extreme end of the spectrum, so first up you should realistically assess whether you have the time to take on the task.

2. Capacity of work

Next, work out what you’re getting yourself into and consult a professional to determine whether the property requires a cosmetic or structural renovation. "Structural renovations are generally more expensive so consider whether this will be financially worth it, Rearranging layouts and updating the house is easier to achieve on a budget.”

3. Structural issues

Structural issues can quickly blow out your budget and turn the property from a potential fixer upper to a condemned knock down. Invest in a pest and building inspection – if structural issues exist and you decide to proceed, you can use the report to negotiate a better price.

4. Council constraints

There’s no point buying a fixer upper in an area where council restrictions would prevent you from achieving your vision. "Check your contract of sale prior to purchasing as this may show any easements through your property, which will have restrictions on building works, Speak to your council town planner and find out the restrictions your property may have. Trees on the property may also pose a risk to building as these may require council permission to remove – depending on the species and size, this may not be possible.”

5. Budget

"To get a realistic idea on a budget, it is best to contact your tradespeople, most importantly your builder, It’s easy to underestimate the work involved when you are not in the industry.” And be honest with yourself: Is the cost within your budget?

6. Functional living

A factor often overlooked in most renovations is where you and your family will live during the process. If you’ve sold your previous home, you will have to consider renting – and add the cost to the overall budget – or moving in with family, which may raise its own issues.

7. Be Open

"Write a list of do’s and don’ts or compile a mood board for the house so you can reflect back during the renovation to make sure you are keeping to your vision for the property – however, be open to suggestions along the way.”

8. Emotional toll

Renovations and stress seem to go hand in hand. To minimise stress, establish a good working relationship with your builder and maintain an open communication throughout the process.

9. Contingencies

Despite your meticulous planning, be prepared for things to go wrong and set aside a contingency fund to deal with it. A 10% contingency in your budget usually covers unforeseen costs.

10. Neighbourhood prospects

Whether you intend to keep the property or sell it down the track, it’s wise to ensure you don’t overcapitalise or create a home that is completely out of step with what buyers in the area are prepared to pay for. Consult a local real estate agent to ensure your plans for the property are in keeping with what buyers expect.