We pulled the trigger on purchasing our fixer-upper farmhouse nearly four years ago. Several months ago, I shared our renovation realities and those are still very much true. If you’ve ever toyed with the idea of buying a fixer-upper, we’ve learned a few lessons and are happy to share our tips. Here are some things to keep in mind if you’re seriously considering buying a fixer-upper of your own!
Expect the Unexpected in a Fixer-Upper
On reality shows, they always air that one bad phone call that has to be made to the owners. It’s usually about a wall that has to be removed and will cost the owners a lot more money. In those shows, the grumbling is minimal and everyone goes on their merry way five minutes later. When you’re doing the work yourself, though, you always hope AND PRAY for the best, but the unexpected seems to happen regardless. ?
With old houses, you usually don’t have the benefit of access to blueprints or the history of prior remodeling projects. For example, when Matt demolished our dining room, he took out the large closet that seemed out of place and a piece of wall that jutted out too. After a few knocks into the wall, he hit bricks. Turns out, behind the jutting wall piece just happened to be another old chimney that we never knew was there! We took that out too, but needless to say, I’m a bit apprehensive about taking out other walls in the future. I don’t need more surprises like that one, especially when they have to do with the structure of our home.
We did find this old German doll head in the process, worth about $300, believe it or not.
I’m not gonna lie, it kinda creeps me out. The history of this house continues to astound me, though.
We get a good amount of rain in Northwest Ohio. That’s a bad thing when it comes to getting outside chores done when the weather decides not to cooperate. Been there, done that, and it’s not fun. However, a wash-out weekend is also an opportunity to finish up little projects that may have been pushed aside. Take advantage of the spare time that does fall into your lap, because any spare time in a fixer-upper is a gift, friends.
Fixer-Upper Timelines? Ha ha ha!
We made decisions on our flooring months ago and hoped to install it over Christmas break. Matt even got the stair treads done to match it.
Then, we found out the flooring was on backorder with no definitive shipping date. It finally came in after being back-ordered for half a year! It’s currently stored along a wall in the basement. Of course, I’m getting antsy about the installation, but first, we have to level our floors. Yep, not surprisingly, our 1890s farmhouse floor runs a tad downhill in parts. And creating a flat floor? It takes multiple steps, and therefore, time. Do you see a pattern here? Even with a timeline in your head or on paper, the unexpected things tend to stick a wrench into your best-laid plans. The distance between Point A and Point B on a project can suddenly feel like miles, and that can translate to another month of work on a calendar.
When we first started renovating our farmhouse, we were a bit all over the place. Our projects tended to overlap so we had a few rooms in flux. Let me tell you, the more little projects you have going on at once, the more chaotic everything feels. I finally feel like we’re back on track to renovating room by room. And thank goodness for that! I highly advise sticking to one room at a time for your own sanity.
Prepare For a Few “I Wish” Feelings
In Ohio, mowing season tends to start in April and doesn’t stop until the end of October. And, since we both have full time jobs and live on 3 acres with distinct yard areas, mowing takes a big piece out of a weekend day. Here’s the front yard alone.
When our riding mower recently had to go to the shop for repairs, a neighbor let Matt use his more expensive model with a 360 turning radius. Matt had our lawn mowed in half the time! Since we have LOTS of projects going on, I wish we would have purchased a faster, more efficient model to start with, even if it meant spending more money at the time. I’m sure we’ll have more “I Wish” moments in the near future, too. Live and learn!
You’ll Likely Spend Money on Things You Never Invisioned
For us, HVAC and a water treatment system were two huge investments we didn’t see coming. I wanted a cute little attic and a basement we could use as living space too. However, paying $500 each month in the winter to baseboard heat an old farmhouse made zero sense. So I said goodbye to the cute little areas and focused on them being functional instead. Then, after 5 new homes sprouted up around our property, our well water was compromised. Therefore, we had to bite the bullet on a Kinetico water filtration system. We love it, but it was not cheap. If you’re considering a fixer-upper, you’ll want to budget for a few big extras because they’re guaranteed to happen!
The Fixer-Upper Fun Stuff
When we first got started on renovations, I got into this bad habit of buying decorative items for rooms far too early into projects. Sadly, most are sitting in the basement next to that flooring we need to install. I’ve learned to hold off since then. To make finishing a project more celebratory, I recommend waiting until a remodeled space is ready for your special touches. You’ll also likely save some money!
There are huge joys that come with purchasing a fixer-upper, regardless of the knocks you may take once renovations start. You’ll have the gratification of doing the work yourself, at a pace you set. You’ll become the best problem-solver of odd situations you could ever imagine. But most of all, you’ll be rewarded with a home that will be full of memories you make along the way. Enjoy the journey, just buckle up for those speed bumps!
Have you ever done home renovations on your own? I’d love to know what you learned in the comments!