While many home buyers are looking for turnkey properties that are move-in ready, there are just as many who are seduced by the allure of the fixer-upper. Sometimes coded in listings as a “handyman’s dream,” these are houses even the listing agent (who has an incentive to be optimistic) knows isn’t really liveable as-is.
Jake is particularly well suited to helping a buyer select a viable fixer-upper. “I went to St. Lawrence College for carpentry, worked for a year as an apprentice, and then went on to Algonquin to study heritage carpentry and millwork, the only program of its kind.” Jake gave up building after 10 years to spare his back but says he loved the job and the skills he learned continue to serve him well as an agent. “I’ve got a leg up on this. For instance, I can look at the structure and tell if I’m looking at a load bearing wall.”
But how do you decide if investing in extensive renovations is for you? “It can be a full time job, you have to ask yourself if you’re truly ready for tackling such a big project,” Jake says.
When selecting a fixer-upper, location is probably the most important factor. “Every house can be fixed – it just depends on how deep your pockets are and how much time you have,” says Jake. “But locations can’t be changed. Buying in the right spot is important – but you also need to be aware of your budget, you might be over-investing in the area.”
The most common major repairs often involve bringing wiring and plumbing up to code, and this usually means taking out all the drywall or plaster, what they call a complete gut-job. And more often than not, there are surprises lurking inside those walls that will add time and money to the project. But guts also provide opportunity to change the layout and possibly discover hidden gems in older homes, like original floors and beams.
When renovations are this extensive, unless you are extremely experienced, you’ll probably want to work with a contractor. And finding a good one isn’t always easy. “The good ones are booked way in advance,” Jake says. “You may have to be willing to wait. Or maybe you take a chance on someone new. There are young workers out there, but they do great work and need to get started. You might get a price break too.
But cover your bases. It’s a huge investment of time and money, if you’re hiring someone, you should interview and vet them. Ask for references and call those references.”
It may sound intimidating to take on such a big project, but it is rewarding. “It can be a really incredible experience, but it’s going to take a lot of time, blood, sweat and tears.”
If you are thinking about looking for a home with fixer-upper potential, call Jake and get him to check out those load bearing walls.
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