What’s better for a first house, something completely remodeled or a fixer upper?

Hey guys, my fiancé and I are looking to buy our first home and we can’t agree on the said question above. I would rather get a house that doesn’t need any work done, as it will be our first house. My fiancé however wants to get a house that needs a lot of work because it’s cheaper and I’m on edge about it. He also keeps picking houses that are $70k to 100k below our budget and I don’t know how to get him to change his mind. If he wants to stay that low, there’s barely any houses to chose from. Average house price in my city is $465 k, which we are more than qualified and could comfortably manage. He keeps looking at 300k houses though. We’ve been saving our money for 5 years now and have the chance to buy a really nice house, we both make 6 figures a year, and he still keeps picking really small beat down houses on the bad side of town to save money even though we have plenty. I’m very worried we’re going to end up in one of these houses and he’s going to regret it. I’m also worried that the work he wants done will be too expensive. He’s always been kind of cheap but this is the biggest purchase of our life and I want to do it right. I’ve tried talking to him about it but he’s still very stuck on his way. I’m not totally opposed to getting a crappy house but Has anyone here bought a fixer upper as a first house and ended up just fine?


1) It’s not that my soon to be spouse won’t listen to my opinion, he just is very set in his ways. We don’t argue over it, but I would like him to see where I’m coming from. Thank you for your opinions on my relationship, but my question is about what kind of house is better for first time buyers.

2) neither of us have the time or skill to fix a house. We would need to hire contractors. I’m wondering how much money we would actually save if we can’t do most of the work ourselves. 


Update 2:

Another thing: not every couple is going to agree on every single thing ALL the time, and that’s okay! We compromise and we find a way to make it work. My issue here again, is not my relationship. It’s that we have no experience with buying and flipping houses and I want to see if others have made it work for them.

33 Answers

  • 4 months ago
    Favourite answer

    Oh boy. Unless he has the tools, the knkwledge and the skills to renovate a house, this could be a financial nightmare and force you to live in a construction zone for years on end.

    I say put it on paper. Take a piece of paper and make two headings...one pros and the other cons. Make four copies. Two with the heading: fixer upper and two with the heading: move in ready. You both get a copy of each and get writing. Then, compare your answers. This helps one another address the concerns of the other.

    The problem with a fixer upper is that all free time is not free as it will be consumed with work on the home....for years. If you plan on having a family, how will that effect the renovation with safety and time away from the child (ren)? Do you know how much money it costs to bring a house back up to building codes (everything from electrical  to railings and plumbing)? What are his construction skills? Does he actually know how much a compressor, a nail gun, saws  drills and other tools cost? Will you help tear things down, sheet-rock walls, strip, stain and paint trim, walls and floors? Do you have any idea how much one new construction window costs or how to install it or a prefab replacement window? Can he strip a fllor, know about how to move a wall  know which walls are structural? Can he reroof a house or remove and replace rotted wood? Can he fix a foundation? Does he have a clue on how much a new bathroom costs? Oh  and what about new kitchen cabinets or how to set a kitchen sink? Does he know how much a dumper cost to fill, weigh and haul away? Will you guys be earning at least a thousand dollars a month over what your mortgage payment will be? Where are you getting the tens of thousands to renovate a fixer upper?

    I am on your side, incase you did not guess. LOL

    Why not compromise and buy a house that needs just cosmetic updates, not a renovation?

    Living in a house that you are renovating takes a whole helluva lot of day to day dedication, time, energy and money...never mind living with that dusty mess.

    Even the best HGTV shows do not portray the reality of what it is like to buy aND live in  fixer upper.

  • L
    Lv 5
    4 months ago

    Unless you two are planning on getting married - DO NOT DO THIS!

  • 4 months ago

    I wouldn't do it.  I mean I wouldn't do it again.

    We got a 'fixer-upper' in a 'bad' neighborhood 5 years ago.  It cost $190,000.00 and our budget was $300,000.00 so we figured that we could hire contractors to do the big work and we would do the finishing work.  We figured ALL neighborhoods get a bad rep from time to time...but if nice people move in...it gets better.

    Not always.We also thought that we could "live in the dining room, and use the kitchen and down stairs bathroom" while the rest of the house was being renovated.  (when we walked through we were told the kitchen had just been renovated...and it looked great.  the dining room was solid and the downstairs bathroom had new fixtures...)Any work they had done to sell the place was cosmetic.Within 2 months we had to move in with friends.It took another 6 months before we could move back in.EXACTLY 17 months after we bought the place we ran out of money.  So basically we were stuck occupying  600 sq feet of dining room, kitchen, bathroom and living room...but there was no electricity in the living room so  that was only good in the daytime.We spent another year and another $38,000.00 and learned to do a lot ourselves.But the neighborhood got worse...if anything...and even though we fixed up the place, we could never do enough to sell it  for more than $250,000.  There was no way we could rent it.So we sold it and took the loss.We could have had a nice townhouse...jogging distance from my job...for $300K.  Instead we have a 2 bedroom condo and we are AGAIN working to save up for a place that is safe for a child.

  • 4 months ago

    Although it can be really rewarding to get a fixer upper and do it up to suit you, it takes a great deal of dedication, and lots of time. You won't have the house you are comfortable in for a while--that's a given. It's tempting--no doubt about it--but it's also something you have to fully commit yourselves to right off the bat. You can't just lose steam in the middle of the renovations. So my advice is NOT to do the fixer upper but to buy a house you can AFFORD and that you are happy with NOW.  One that doesn't require repairs--just redecorating. THAT can be rewarding too. 

    When you buy a fixer upper, you absolutely MUST have it inspected and evaluated by professionals in order to find out if you can even fix it up. Houses that need re-wiring may turn up asbestos--houses that have inadequate HVAC systems can cost you thousands.  Houses that need new roofs may break your budget, even if it is $75K below your top. There's no harm in looking--but are you willing to put in the effort, money and time it will take to get the house where you want it to be?  It will take both of you--not just your fiance. How much of the work can he handle? 

    Maybe you could put it to him this way:  you either spend the budgeted amount and get a house you DON'T have to work on, OR--you spend far less, get a fixer-upper, and STILL spend the money in other ways. Either way, you're spending pretty much the same amount of money. Hope that helps. 

  • What do you think of the answers? You can sign in to give your opinion on the answer.
  • Mark
    Lv 6
    4 months ago

    First, turn of HGTV..  Seriously, they make it look all too easy.

    A cheaper house with "good bones" (Yes, that's the title of an HGTV show), that's perfectly livable, but just needs updating is a good idea.  Paint is relatively cheap.  A kitchen makeover w/o changing any layout is reasonable.  But, if you need to knock out walls, do major electrical and hvac. has structural issues ... not a good idea. It will cost twice as much and take twice as long as you think.

    Unless he's a contractor himself, I would try to get a house that you can live with that you can improve over time.

  • 4 months ago

    A brand new one...…...

  • Anonymous
    4 months ago

    The problem I see in your question is the location. A moderately beat up house, one that is still livable, is a good idea, provided it's the ugly duckling house on the block. What's the point of having the best house in the neighborhood? You will not get your money back, it's called over-improved. 

  • Anonymous
    4 months ago

    I have done what your fiancee wants to do with three houses in my life. It all depends on what kind of skills he possesses. If you have to pay contractors to do the work it won't end up being a profitable investment which it sounds like is what his goal is. If he is capable of doing the work himself and has the time and financial resources that is a different story. The fact remains that if he won't compromise or listen to your opinion in the matter maybe this isn't someone that you need to be married to. Buying a house is the largest financial commitment people can make. Making such a commitment with someone that is going to ignore your opinion is a very foolish thing to do, in my opinion. In my case my wife and I bought our first house as a VA foreclosure. We looked at dozens of homes before we came upon one that she could envision as a place she wanted to live. I spent about 6 weeks working on it before we moved in though. It was like a new house on the inside. But there were plenty of other houses that I could have done with the same effort but she could not see their potential as I could so I was patient and waited until she saw something that we both agreed upon. That is a married couple working together. What you are dealing with is not there yet.

  • Anonymous
    4 months ago

    If the two of you cannot sit down and work together as team to make a decision you are both comfortable with, you do not yet have the maturity or relationships skills necessary for marriage.

    As far as the house goes, no one here can tell you which one is better.  There are pros and cons to each.

    My own person opinion is that location is very important both for quality of life and future value of your investment.   You can fix up a house, but you can't fix up the neighborhood.      IMO it's better to buy a fixer in a good neighborhood than a great home in a crappy neighborhood.   And of course those aren't the only two options...

  • Rick
    Lv 6
    4 months ago

    is he handy with a hammer ???  You DON'T want one so run-down you can live in it while you work on it ..........

Still have questions? Get answers by asking now.