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Remodeling the “Handyman Special”

By: Allison Millar, Contributing Writer
In: Product review
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You’ve probably seen a few “handyman special” ads in your area. These houses have great style–or the potential for it–but need a little TLC. Well, maybe more than a little.

Don’t be afraid. This can be a good housing investment if you know what you’re doing. Here are four things to look at.

The Remodeling Challenge

Good Bones. You want a house with a solid structure, from the foundation to the framing to the floors. If a marble rolls from one end of the room to another without help, make sure the foundation isn’t causing some sloping inside. Those types of remodeling projects get pricey and can affect your housing investment.

The Right Things Wrong. The best type of remodeling is cosmetic. New paint, window treatments, and refinishing floors. You need a good general contractor, but not a specialized (think “higher hourly rate”) contractor. Make a list of the potential repairs and break it down by severity.

Your Remodeling Expertise. Are you a weekend warrior or simply the queen of paint? Wells Fargo suggests examining your skill level and bank account when deciding if a fixer upper is right for you.

Your Budget. You need to get a contractor to assess how much the remodeling will cost and how long it will take. Then add 25 percent just to cover yourself. Run the numbers. Can you still make a profit? As you debate this housing investment, consider what author Scott Britton has to say. You need to understand:

  • Your remodeling costs and how you’ll pay for them. There are still remodeling loans available for those who buy and do remodeling. Try this HUD link for details.
  • Your marketing costs
  • What structural problems to accept–and avoid
  • How much time it takes to manage a remodeling project

In the end, trust your gut. Can you turn this house around and make it shine with a little remodeling? If not, keep looking until you find one.

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  1. One Response to “Remodeling the “Handyman Special””

  2. Jul 25, 2010

    A lot of first time “flippers” do get in over their heads because they view the home as their dream home. They upgrade the kitchen counters to granite because that’s what they’ve always wanted, they upgrade the bathroom, etc. And pretty soon they are $40,000 over budget OR they’ve only gotten 20% of the remodel done and they are out of money. Just remember, flips are about making money, not about your “dream” whatever. Make your decisions based on the dollars and cents, not emotion and you’ll be alright.

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