Design + Build, Interior Design

6 Things to Consider if You’re Thinking of Buying a Fixer-Upper

6 Things to Consider if You’re Thinking of  Buying a Fixer-Upper

Are you thinking of purchasing a fixer upper? Transforming an existing home into your dream home is an exciting process, and  in the mountains of Western North Carolina, it can also be one of the best ways to achieve dream location (or dream view) and dream home. However, considering purchasing a fixer upper requires looking at the home in a very honest light, and potentially engaging a construction professional to be sure you’re completely aware of the home’s potential, and needed work.


1.)  All About Location

Renovating a home can be an exciting process, but it’s also one that can require a tolerance for the unexpected. “If you want to renovate, you really need to be willing to anticipate the unexpected” says Kelsey, Interior Designer with Buchanan Construction. In many cases, building a home may be a more a more cost effective approach to achieving a dream or custom home that fits your unique needs, so if you’re interested in renovating a home, make sure your decision is driven by location, view, or proximity to things you care about. If your decision is driven by location, you’ll likely be happy with the outcome of the renovation, no matter what happens along the way, because of the benefits (like proximity, walkability, or view) that location offers, that perhaps a new construction project could not.


2.) Know the Difference between a Surface Level and Comprehensive Renovation

“If you’re thinking about renovating, you definitely  need to know your total budget, and be realistic about what you can put toward your renovation. There are surface level renovations, and there are comprehensive renovations, and they are totally different investments”  says Kelsey.   A surface level renovation is usually leaving most of the existing structure, and updating selections throughout the home (like paint, flooring, cabinets, etc.). These types of renovations are usually more approachable, and more affordable. You will likely run into to fewer unexpected costs with this type of renovation, depending on the age of the home.  On the other hand, you’re probably considering at a comprehensive or whole home renovation if you 1.) don’t like the layout of the existing home, 2.) there are obvious structural issues that need to be addressed or 3.) the home’s underlying systems (like HVAC, plumbing, electrical or even doors and windows) are out of date. 

“Be honest with yourself about the layout of the house as it currently exists” says Jessica, Buchanan’s Design + Build Manager. “If you don’t like the layout and you’re already looking at walls you want to remove, just know that you’re far more likely to be looking at a large renovation process”.

If you’re looking at a home to renovate, keep these two types of renovation in mind and be very honest with yourself about which type of renovation you’re considering. While you’re touring the home, open the notes app on your phone and make note of anything permanent, mechanical, or structural you would want to change. If this list adds up to more than 2 or 3 things, you’re considering a comprehensive renovation.


3.) Find out if “The Bones are Good”

We know, we know,  asking whether “the bones are good” is such a cliche. Nonetheless, it’s a very real process of determining what type of investment you may be making in an existing home.  Basically, finding out whether “the bones are good” involves learning about the status of the underlying structures of the home (like the foundation, HVAC, electrical, plumbing, and more).

There are a few ways to go about learning about the structural and mechanical integrity of an existing home:

1.) Ask your real estate agent to acquire information for you about the age of the home’s mechanical and electrical systems.
2.) Hire a professional inspector to come along with you to view the home.
3.) Ask a local builder if they would be willing to visit the home with you for input on the home’s current status. Any remodeling contractor will need to visit the site in order to provide you with an accurate estimate to remodel the home.  Keep in mind: contractors will want to provide you with thorough information, so try and narrow down your search as much as possible before engaging a professional.


4.) Know the Home’s Limitations, and Whether They Align with your Goals

If you’ve ever entertained the idea of renovating a home, you’re probably familiar with how easy it is to let your imagination run free. We’re all for creative imagination! With that comes the need to consider whether the existing home and property are able to accomodate your future plans.  As an example: thinking about adding onto the home?  In some areas (regulations vary by municipality of course) , if you’re adding bedrooms, you’ll need to be sure the home’s current septic permit is sufficient for the addition of extra bed rooms. Things like the home’s current electrical load capacity, the lot’s setbacks (how far structures on your property have to sit away from the property line), and the septic permit (if not on city sewer) are important considerations to ensure the existing home and property can meet your long term goals.

“Be sure and check for anything about the home that is “grandfathered” in to today’s codes and regulations. Sometimes, code updates and regulations that apply to other homes don’t apply to older homes where the cost to update them would have been challenging for the existing homeowner. However, most of the time, making updates to the home like adding on or large scale renovation can cause the home the lose it’s exempt or “grandfathered” status, and it will be required to be up to date” says Buchanan’s Design + Build Manager, Jessica Coogan. In North Carolina, if you “open” a wall in the home (like making a full wall a half wall), everything in the wall (like electrical and HVAC) has to be brought up to current code.

The same is true for the lot and neighborhood. If you have a vision for your property that includes separate structures (like a detached garage with living space above), be sure to thoroughly understand any limitations the property or neighborhood places on such additions. You don’t want to be disappointed later, when you look into making the changes or additions.


5.) Think About Where You’ll Live During the Renovation

This is one of the home important things to consider if you’re looking to renovate a home, especially if the renovation would be comprehensive or full-scale. No matter how much it might seem feasible, it’s often not possible to live in a home while it’s being renovated. Additionally, often a renovation can be completed more quickly if you don’t live in the home during the construction process. If you’re looking to renovate, be sure you’re considering where you might live while the home is being renovated, and factor the costs of living elsewhere while the home is renovated into your overall plans.


6.) Hiring the Right Professionals

Whenever possible, you want to select a contractor who has experience with renovating homes, and and ideally with renovating homes of the age and style of the home you’re looking to purchase. When selecting a contractor, look for someone who can show you a portfolio of their work, and  whose design styles align with yours. Ask to speak with a couple of their past clients to be sure the experience was satisfactory. Ask the contractor is they have encountered unexpected challenges on previous renovations, and how they handled them. You want an experienced, level-headed contractor for the renovation process who both understands your goals, and is able to guide you through the process with expertise. If you feel confident in your remodeling contractor, the entire process will go much more smoothly.

Want to see some of our renovation work? Take a look at some of our recent renovation projects like the Kimberly Avenue Modern and the Rhododendron Renewal.

Contact Us today to get started planning your dream renovation.

Buchanan Construction is a full-service, award winning construction firm offering a vast array of services including Custom Luxury Homes, Semi-Custom Homes, Luxury Renovations, Commercial Construction, and Community / Planned Development Construction. As a custom home builder in Asheville, our dedicated team of over 40 experienced professionals guide clients through the construction process from concept to completion. With an all-inclusive design/build approach, on-staff interior designers, and exclusive project management software, our team strives to provide our clientele with an exceptional construction experience.  Located in Asheville, NC, we serve Asheville, Hendersonville, Cashiers, and the greater Western North Carolina region.