So You Think You Want to Buy a Fixer-Upper?

Adam’s latest fixer-upper, 3071 Sidney Avenue, Cincinnati. Just think of the “after” photos!

You spot them around, lovely old homes, in lovely, historic neighborhoods. We’re talking about homes that stick in your head long after you’ve seen them…It’s a fixer-upper. It just needs a little love, right?

Fixer-Uppers Galore

Fixer-uppers come in all sizes, shapes and, of course, conditions. Maybe that old house is suffering from neglect and in desperate need of restoration and rehab. Then there are those houses that have been “muddled” with over the years. Chopped up floor plans, 1970s kitchen re-designs, short replacement windows and modern-styled porch rebuilds—to name a few things. These homes cry out for restoration and updating!

3924 Rose Hill Avenue, Cincinnati. This is what Adam’s 1896 Queen Anne looked like when he bought it in 2007.

A note of caution, Adam Sanregret, lead agent of Cincinnati Historic Homes, spent over 10 years(!) restoring a beautiful 1896 Queen Anne fixer-upper in the historic Rose Hill Subdivision of North Avondale. And he did most of the work himself!

If you—like Adam—have Do-It-Yourself tendencies, our best recommendation is:  DON’T GET IN OVER YOUR HEAD.

After that—and before you become a proud, new ,historic home owner—here are our Top 5 Tips if you want to buy that fixer-upper:

1) Get a Home Inspection

4712 Ridgeway Avenue, Norwood. Yet another home needing some TLC. We sold this 1911 Dutch Colonial in 2016.

About 95% of all homebuyers get a home inspection before they close a deal. Why, on earth, would you not?

Well, you might not get a home inspection if you know a lot about home repairs. You know how to assess condition, you know what to expect and you know how much it will cost.

Or, maybe, by skipping the inspection, you’ve clinched the deal. After all, according to the National Association of Realtors, home inspections are the #1 reason real estate deals crash and burn. The sellers accepted your offer to avoid just that.

Still, you don’t want to find out the foundation is cracked or the roof needs to be replaced after you move in, do you? Besides the visible flaws in your fixer-upper, what about the issues you can’t see?

4726 Castle Place, Cincinnati. Sold in 2016, this one had a lot of charm and potential.

2) Don’t Be Shy…Negotiate

“In business, you don’t get what you deserve, you get what you negotiate.” – Chester L. Karrass

Negotiation should be part of any real estate sales transaction. Your home inspection results came back with a list of  flaws 3x longer than expected? Consider a counter-offer for fixable flaws. Separating the “nice-to-repair” items from “must-repair” will also help you keep a clear head during this step.

Curious what the best real estate negotiation strategy is? Don’t be afraid to walk away.

325 McGregor Avenue, Cincinnati. We sold this Victorian in 2016. It had been gutted but most of the woodwork was salvaged.

3) Be Prepared for Anything

Expect the unexpected. Pipes leak, electrical work becomes outdated and furnaces fail—get used to it. This shouldn’t come as a surprise, most of these are simply the “joys” of homeownership.

If you think old houses equal more problems, sometimes that’s not true. Even new-construction homes can come with issues!

4) Be Honest

This is an extreme example but, honestly… Sometimes you just need to bring in the professionals for repairs!

Just be honest with yourself. If major repairs are required, you’ll either have to do them yourself or bring in the professionals. Some people can handle it; others can’t.

Even before you make that “nice-to-repair/must repair list”, how about making a “can’t have” list before you even put an offer on a fixer-upper?

5) Don’t Buy Someone Else’s Problems

The bottom line is, don’t buy someone else’s problems unless you can fix them!

Find a fixer-upper you love, but consider all its pros and its cons—objectively as well as emotionally.

Don’t get in over your head!

To show you that there is light at the end of the tunnel, check out our “Rose Hill Restoration” page. The photo gallery has some of Adam’s best “before” and “after” photos from his 1896 Queen Anne fixer-upper restoration journey.

If you missed it, Adam is busy restoring his 6th fixer-upper: 3071 Sidney Avenue, in Cincinnati’s historic Camp Washington neighborhood. Check out our blog series documenting his experience!

Revised from September 2019.