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Last week, we talked about some of the most important things to consider when buying a fixer-upper. This week, we want to dive into the next stage — fixing your fixer-upper. You got organized, conducted a careful search, and found the property you’re going to transform. Once all the papers are signed and the house is legally yours, what’s next? Here are some of the most important steps new owners of fixer-uppers should take:
Find the Right Contractor
Notice we didn’t just say find a contractor. This person will likely play a large role in your renovation, so it’s an important decision. A great place to start your search is with family and friends. Word-of-mouth referrals (or warnings) can be great guides for finding the right contractor for the job. Whether you have any in-person connections or not, the next best step is looking online. Check out their site if they have one, and more importantly, seek out reviews from past clients. Once you’ve narrowed it down to a couple of reputable contractors, meet in person to make sure you connect and are on the same page. You need to trust this professional to do the job right, so you want there to be a connection from the start.
Set Your Budget
Many first-time fixer-upper owners will rely on estimates. Sometimes, this is necessary. A new roof? You’ll likely be given a clear estimate for the job. When you’re remodeling or renovating an entire room, though, you want to take control with finances. Fixer-uppers can become a slippery slope if you’re not careful, and staying on top of your budget is essential. When you let a contractor or other professional give you an estimate for a room or project, you’re letting them control your budget. Instead, it’s best to know what you’d like to spend on a given area. This means you’ll need to know your overall budget and break it down into different sections. Let’s say you’re working in the kitchen, for example. Give your contractor an idea of where you’d like to be in terms of budget. You’ll need a bit of flexibility here, so don’t just throw out your max amount. Letting your contractor have a clear idea of your budget is just as important as giving him a clear idea of what you want to happen in the room. From there, he can tell you what’s possible in that price range so you’ll know what to expect.
Create a Timeline
Renovations are notorious for dragging on and doubling and tripling their expected duration. Simply saying you’d like the house to be complete in 6 months won’t cut it. Start with creating your own timeline for the space. Do certain rooms need to be done first? When would you like the entire project to be complete? Can you allow for several months of flexibility? Once you have your idea of a timeline drawn up, it’s time to consult with your contractor. This is one reason why it’s so important to choose a contractor you trust. You want someone who will look at your timeline and tell you what’s realistic and what isn’t. If you’ve never done a large renovation before, expect your contractor to have some changes to your plan. By the end of the discussion, you should have a detailed timeline that feels realistic and acceptable for you both.
Envision Your End Goal
What’s your plan for the house? Are you designing your family’s dream home, or are you flipping to make a profit? It’s important to keep your end goal in mind as you go through the process and communicate that to the professionals you bring in. If this will be your home, let professionals get a sense of your lifestyle so they can make suggestions to help you design the right fit. If you’re flipping, you’ll want to think about things that have broad appeal, and you’ll want to carefully balance quality with price. Skimping on even subtle details can knock your sale price down, though overspending where it’s not necessary can set you back as well. If you’re not sure about something, talk with your contractor or another professional to get a knowledgeable recommendation.
Know Your Role
Finally, how do you fit into this project? Will you be living in the house? Do you plan to regularly be on the job site while work is being done? Do you want to have a hands-on role in the renovation? It’s important to have an idea of this before the project begins. You don’t want to be constantly hovering and looking over your contractor’s shoulder. On the flip side, you don’t need to spend additional money hiring a painter if you’re comfortable getting your hands dirty and doing the work yourself. Assess your skill set and how much time you have available, and get a sense of how you’ll contribute to the project before you kick off.
If you want to get off on the right foot with your St. Louis fixer-upper, it’s important to consider some important details early on in the process. Many owners are eager to dive right in, but taking a bit more time to prepare and get organized can really pay off. Have you ever purchased a fixer-upper? Share your experience with us in the comments.