Your home your way: fixer-upper, move-in ready or remodel

Consider whether buying a fixer-upper, buying a move-in-ready home or renovating your current home is best for you and your budget

Would you love to live in a converted urban loft with floor-to-ceiling windows? Or maybe your own house would be beyond dreamy if it just had an extra bathroom. Whatever your vision, a dream home is one that feels like it was built especially for you—with your budget in mind.

How to find my dream home

In order to find the right house for you, think about what’s most important to you. Start by taking a look around your current home. Can you picture yourself staying? Especially with a few upgrades? Or maybe you have your sights set on something completely different. You probably won’t find the answer overnight, so give yourself some time to decide.

Couple and toddler pose on steps of brownstone.

Decide which home features are important

To help with the decision, you’ll want to think about the things you want in your house. Which home features are most important to you? Balance your most basic needs with your larger lifestyle goals—and don’t forget to decide on a budget. Here are some things you might consider when you’re ready to decide if a home is right for you.

Location, location, location

Like the old saying goes, location is everything. It’s the one thing that can’t be changed, so it will play a major role in your decision. No matter how nice your house is, if you aren’t happy with the location, you won’t want to stay.

House type

Think about the type, style and size of the house you want as well as the budget you’re comfortable with. You may also want to try to picture yourself in the next five to 10 years. While you may be perfectly happy renovating your fourth-story walk-up, how will you feel about all those stairs in three years if you have a stroller in tow?

Home layout

Do you often host parties and need a larger living area to mingle? Do you need everything in one story to accommodate your limited mobility? Some layouts can be changed, but other needs could force you to move on.

Age and condition

Do you prefer a modern home with new heating, cooling and plumbing systems? Or would you rather fall in love with an old home, complete with original transoms and crown molding? Because of the high cost of repairs, the state of a house, from its foundation to its roof, is important to consider. 

Woman waters flowers on her houseboat.

Buying a home or renovating your current home

If you’re trying to choose between home renovation vs. buying a new home, you’re not alone. Needing a change isn’t necessarily a reason to move, but if the cost or time investment of renovating to meet your needs is too high, it may be time to buy a new home.  

Pros and cons of moving

If you're wondering how to know if moving is the right choice for you, consider the pros and cons below.

Pros of moving: 

  • You’ll get a fresh start. Instead of redoing your floor plan to suit your needs, you can look for a home with all the space and amenities you want.
  • You can change your location. Do you want to live a quiet farm life, or have you always dreamed of living on a lake? Or maybe you want to be in the center of a more bustling city block? Moving is the one way you can physically change locations.
  • It could be a good investment. You may not get a 100% return on all your renovation costs, so moving could be an option to consider depending on what you’re looking to change.

Cons of moving:

  • Letting go can be hard. It’s not uncommon to be emotionally attached to your home. Every room may bring up special family memories that you don’t want to let go of.  
  • Moving can be stressful. Finding a new home (especially while selling your current home) and moving is time-consuming and stressful. These are life changes that require a lot of planning and coordination. 
  • You may not find what you’re looking for. If there isn’t a lot of inventory on the market where you live, you may not have a ton of options. This means you may have to either compromise on your dream house or deal with a remodel regardless.

Pros and cons of renovating your current home 

If you love where you are, why leave? Read on to determine whether home improvement might be more your speed. 

Pros of renovating: 

  • You can stay where you are. If you have great neighbors and love that you can walk to the center of town, why leave? By renovating, you can stay put and still get that modern kitchen you’ve been wanting.
  • You can make the space your own. If you love choosing everything from new tile designs to paint colors, this is an opportunity to get creative. It can be incredibly rewarding to reimagine a space and see it come to life. 
  • It can be cost-effective. Moving involves a new mortgage, closing costs, moving costs, taxes and more. Some renovations may be more affordable than moving. 

Cons of renovating: 

  • Life can get messy. It can be difficult living in the middle of a construction site. The novelty of ordering takeout every night won’t make up for the loss of having full access to your kitchen.  
  • There can be unexpected costs. Unexpected costs can pop up, especially with large-scale renovations such as adding gas lines, tearing down walls or replacing faulty wiring. And even on smaller-scale projects, costs of materials can fluctuate. 
  • There are limits to what you can do. Ultimately, you won’t be able to change certain things about your house. And some changes may cost more than they’re worth. So if you’re dreaming about doubling your square footage, you may want to consult a realtor or another expert.
Family eats at a table outside a small red house.

Buying a fixer-upper vs. a move-in-ready home

If you get excited about peeling paint and rooms that are a blast from the past, buying a fixer-upper may be for you. But if you’re looking to move into your perfect home tomorrow, you’ll likely be better off finding a move-in-ready home. 

Pros and cons of buying a fixer-upper 

Fixing up a house can require a lot of time, resources and motivation. But the payoff can be huge. Take a look at the pros and cons of buying a fixer-upper house. 

Pros of buying a fixer-upper: 

  • Get exactly what you want. You’ve found your have-to-have location with your move, and now you can remodel to your own taste. That can include custom finishes, personalized design and nice-to-have updates.
  • Get more bang for your buck. Buying a fixer-upper house tends to cost less per square foot than buying a newer home. You can also have a home inspector give you an estimate for all repair costs as a bargaining tool to lower the cost of the house. 
  • With age comes character. If you have an eye for historical design and architecture, buying a house to renovate may be for you. Older homes may also be located in a charming part of town.

Cons of buying a fixer-upper:

  • The costs can snowball. A fixer-upper may seem like a real deal at first, but in an older home, there is probably more work to do than meets the eye. Things like rewiring a house to meet current codes can be expensive.
  • You’ll need to consider your investment. An upscale, full-home renovation can cost upward of $200,000. To recoup your costs, you should plan on living in your home for several years. 
  • Unexpected issues can pop up. You may run into problems you didn’t anticipate once you start renovating. Try hiring a building surveyor or architect to take a look at the home before you buy it.

Pros and cons of buying a move-in-ready house

If you don’t have the time or patience to take on a project, looking for a move-in-ready home may be your best bet.

Pros of buying a move-in-ready house 

  • Move right in. Just pack up your stuff and start planning the housewarming celebration. If you’re looking for the quickest solution, this may be the way to go. 
  • Choose what matters to you. If you’re building a custom home, you can design a floor plan that suits your needs and choose all the finishing touches.
  • Lower your bills. Newer homes tend to have newer appliances and windows, which can mean savings from month to month.

Cons of buying a move-in-ready house 

  • You may not find exactly what you want. It can be hard to find a house that matches your taste exactly. If you’re looking to move right in, know what matters most to you and make sure you find it.
  • Charm may be harder to come by. A house that’s move-in ready could also feel like it’s lacking character. For example, think about how you feel about living in a neighborhood where the houses all look similar.
  • You’ll likely pay more. Updated appliances, high-end finishes and modern amenities cost a pretty penny. Make sure you’re prepared for these costs. 

Deciding if a home is right for you

There’s no one right answer when it comes to your home. So make sure you’re thinking through what really matters to you and what doesn’t. Whether your idea of perfection is renovating your current place, landing a move-in-ready home or buying a place to fix up, doing it your way will help make sure that home is where your heart is.

Related Content