Fixer Upper or Move In Ready

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by Farhaneh Haque

If you are torn between looking for a brand-new home that doesn’t need any work and financing a fixer-upper you can renovate to suit your taste you’re not alone. Many Canadians were equally divided on the matter. According to the 2011 TD Canada Trust Home Buyers Report, half of those surveyed said they would prefer a new home because it hasn’t been lived in before and everything will work perfectly, while the other half prefer older homes, which they feel offer better quality and have more character. With good arguments for both sides, this 2-part blog will review tips to help weigh the pros and cons of a fixer-upper versus a move-in-ready home and smart ways of financing a home renovation.

The fixer-upper

Opting to buy a home that might need some work to bring it up to your standards and taste has some distinct advantages, but you need to be aware that it will add to your total home ownership cost. Renovating a fixer-upper could mean weeks or months of dust and upheaval, as well as unexpected costs or surprises along the way. On the positive side, however, it can also create opportunities. Here are some of the potential benefits:

  • Secure land in your desired neighbourhood. A home that obviously needs updating or renovating may be priced more affordably than other homes in an in-demand neighbourhood. Also, if you are handy and plan to do any part of the work yourself, you may be able to save some money.
  • Build value. Whether you choose to do it all at once or plan to stage your upgrades as you grow into your home, renovations may add to your home equity in the future.
  • Build to suit. In renovating a home that has “good bones” you will be able to put in the finishes that are to your taste and budget as opposed to someone else’s.
  • Be more sustainable. Upgrades to doors, windows, heating systems and appliances can boost energy efficiency and if done well, they may even lower utility costs.

Bottom line: Know what needs to be fixed. Before you make any home-buying decisions, a professional home inspection can help reveal areas of concern and can help you estimate the costs of any needed repairs or upgrades.

Move-in-ready

Move-in-ready might mean a newly built home or a resale home that’s been given a fresh, new update that may suit your tastes and your family’s needs. Some people might not like the cookie-cutter design of houses or condos in new developments or the higher price tag that may come with a turnkey home but, either way, there’s also a lot to say on the plus side:

  • Check off your wish list. If it’s a new build, you may get to choose all your finishes and appliances in advance, giving you exactly what you want when you move in.
  • Enjoy new finishes and upgrades. In a new home or in an older home that’s been fully renovated, you can enjoy peace of mind knowing that everything is in working order and major repairs or upgrades aren’t likely to be needed for some time.
  • Be energy-efficient. New or recently upgraded homes can be more efficient on heating and fuel costs. R2000-rated homes, in particular, go above and beyond code for a healthy, energy-efficient home.
  • Modern design. New homes tend to offer you more open free flowing entertaining space, taller ceilings and updated finishes that are indicative of current decorating style but sometimes lack the charm of old design

Bottom line: It’s still wise to budget for regular upkeep. Move-in-ready condition typically comes with a higher up-front price tag, but you can anticipate spending less for renovations down the line. Deciding between the two options will depend on your personal preference, lifestyle and budget. After weighing the pros and cons of each, critically evaluate your finances and examine affordable financing options before landing on which suits you best. In my next blog (August 22), we will examine the various financing options and online resources available to help make your fixer-upper (or renovation) project more manageable.

About the Author

Farhaneh Haque is the Director of Mortgage Advice with TD Canada Trust, a leader in residential real estate mortgages and home equity lines of credit. With over 18 years of lending experience, she is entrusted with the responsibility of offering mortgage advice to help Canadians make informed decisions about home financing and ownership. 

Farhaneh and her team draw upon research commissioned by TD Canada Trust, which reveals consumer attitudes and behavior related to home ownership such as choosing and buying a first home, renovating and greening a home, as well as understanding gender, regional and other demographic preferences. They also have access to proprietary research from TD Economics on topics such as Canadian interest rate forecasts and Canadian housing market insights 

In her personal time, Farhaneh is an active member of community groups promoting youth education; in particular helping high school students in securing funding to pursue post secondary education.

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