Joanna and Chip Gaines begin their hit show Fixer Upper on HGTV each week with that question. I love their show and others which depict people taking on a fixer upper property and making it into something wonderful. You might say I’m addicted!
So, to answer the question, “Do you have the guts to take on a fixer upper?” My answer is yes, I do! This week I successfully negotiated a contract on a fixer upper in the mountains about 40 minutes from my home.
The original cabin with a stone fireplace was built in 1938. It is a one room structure built on a stone foundation. In 1989, former owners crudely built an attached two-story addition to the cabin. This addition was not permitted and later deteriorated beyond livability. The cabin has electricity but no running water or septic. It has a primitive outhouse up the hill for the owner’s convenience.
So why am I buying this property?
First, I can afford it and it is a good investment. The property was listed “as is” for $98,900. I offered $85,000 and the sellers accepted. Other fixer uppers we have looked at have been listed around $200,000 with major work needed. Mountain properties in the area typically go for $120,000 and up for smaller lots and cabins. Once I fix this property up as now planned, we could probably list it for over $200,000. The financial risk of taking on a fixer upper at this price is fairly minimal.
Second, it could become a source of income. I am hopeful demolition, rebuilding and restoration will be completed by about August 1st next year. At that time, I would like to offer it as a Vacation Rental By Owner, VRBO. The property is near the Estes Park area and I would market it to people who are looking for a quiet place in the woods for their short-term stay.
Next, the thought of being the general contractor on this project is exciting. I have already learned a lot from visiting with the planners at the county building department, a structural engineer and visiting websites on codes, permits and even sealed vaults for septic. Designing the new structure will probably be my favorite part of the process. I have already drawn a rough sketch of the proposed layout of the new addition. Fun stuff!
Lastly, I have always (since about seventh grade) wanted a home in the woods. Since moving to Colorado over 20 years ago I have wanted a cabin in the mountains. Since I have a passion for taking on a fixer upper and I have always wanted a cabin in the woods, this one is a pretty good fit.
So how can I buy this property if I’m retired and living on a fairly fixed income?
The area in which I live has seen a tremendous increase in property values over the past two years. My current home has appreciated in value, therefore my equity has also grown. This equity and my great credit helped me qualify for a Home Equity Line Of Credit, HELOC, to buy and fix up the cabin with cash. Home loan interest rates are still relatively low so payments will be manageable.
Since I work part-time as a substitute teacher my schedule is pretty flexible and I will have the time for this project. This fall the plan is to demolish the unpermitted addition, clean up the land, repair the stone foundation and fireplace, and maybe reroof the original cabin. The demo will leave an opening to the main cabin so that will also need to be closed up for the winter.
God has provided me the opportunity of taking on a fixer upper for personal growth and it will be by faith that I pursue this dream. Along with guts!
Do you have what it takes?
I’d love to hear if you have ever taken on a fixer upper. Please leave your story and/or comments.