Homeownership is the ultimate American Dream, but it comes at a high cost. In today’s economic climate, homes rarely sit on the market more than a month before some deep-pocketed investor swoops in to nab the most lucrative turnkeys. But there are still ways to get a bargain on your first home if you’re willing to roll up your sleeves.
Where to Begin
Start your home hunt by finding the right real estate agent. This will be an individual who is experienced with first-time buyers and knows the ins and outs of the market. Your agent should have a track record of success and be someone you’re comfortable spending time with because you’re in for a long ride together.
Once you have an agent in your corner, you can begin browsing local properties. Even if you’re just gathering information and “seeing what’s out there,” your agent can send you complete MLS sheets and help you narrow your search to the part of town that’s best for your budget and lifestyle. Overall, San Antonio has remained affordable, with a median sale price of $220,000.
Many of the most affordable properties are “fixer-uppers” and are not ready for a family. These tend to stay on the market since investors want move-in-ready homes that will start producing an ROI immediately. And although it may seem intimidating, many of the most common repairs are things you can probably handle yourself. Things like squeaky doors, cracked or broken grout, and leaky toilets are typically minor issues, according to the DIY Network.
Larger home renovations also aren’t usually as daunting as you might think. When you look at a home in need of renovation, consider it a blank canvas, albeit a potentially very dirty and unkempt one. A good cleaning and a fresh coat of paint will go a long way toward making a rehab house a livable home. If the floors are in bad shape but the subflooring is intact, consider installing laminate flooring. Lowes explains that this requires a jigsaw and circular saw along with a few non-power tools such as a hammer, pull bar, and tape measure. Having the right tools is essential for any DIY repair, so always gather your tools and materials before beginning.
While cosmetic repairs can be tackled with elbow grease and determination, there are certain issues that should spur you to steer clear of a property no matter the price. Foundation failure is one. A home’s foundation may be the result of uneven weight distribution throughout the structure, overloading, or problems with the ground upon which the home was erected. Structural engineering blog Sturdy Structural goes into greater detail on foundation failure in this post. Other major issues that might trigger a revised home search include problems with the home’s electrical system, mainline plumbing, and certain insect or spider infestations, which can be difficult to remedy even with regular pest control. Termites are another creepy-crawly problem that can be cost-prohibitive to eliminate and repair (the average cost nationally to get a termite treatment is $1,300 to $1,500).
Investment or Home?
You may not consider your first home as an investment, but you should. This is especially true if you’re a young homebuyer without other responsibilities or obligations, such as young children or elderly parents to care for. When you buy a fixer-upper home, you have the time to make the needed repairs while saving money for a down payment on a second home. Your first home can pay for itself while you save the difference between your mortgage and your rental income.
Buying a fixer-upper home can save you money if you are willing to put in the work yourself. But remember, partner with someone who knows the area and market conditions and avoid properties where the damage equates to more than the mortgage.
Contributing Author: Danny Knight of fixitdads.com