The Perfect Fixer Upper







How about these before and after shots! Frequently, I’ll hear clients tell me that they would like a house that needs some work. They’ve heard, acurately, that buying a fixer upper is a great path toward building equity and thus maximizing their investment. The clients of mine that have bought and fixed up homes have made the most money of any of the people that I’ve ever worked with. Take the case of the house in these photos. This young man bought his first house in San Mateo Village in 2002 for $485,000…it was a fixer. He, along with his family, fixed it in stunning fashion and sold it in 2004 (with 26 offers!) for $778,000. He then bought this house in Hayward Park for $551,000…and did a whole bunch of work. We’re talking lot’s of work, roof, plumbing, electrical…you name it. I wish I could show all of the interior photos too! He sold it in 2006 for $1,288,000…and bought a fixer in Hillsborough where he lives now. From a 2 bedroom, 1 bath starter home fixer upper in San Mateo Village to Hillsborough in 4 years!

I have several other stories similar to this…and they all have one thing in common. Each individual had some degree of skill or other with being able to fix these homes up themselves. Lots of the folks that ask me about buying fixer uppers have no skill at all with repair. They would need to contract out everything. Keep in mind that there are fixers…and there are FIXERS! I’m not talking about a house with original kitchens and bathrooms that need updating, I’m talking about houses that need everything! One of these houses came up in San Carlos last week on the west side priced at $675,000 and some clients of mine got pretty excited about it’s possibilities. The problem is that what they would pay $100,000 for, a buyer who’s a contractor or other skilled person could do themselves for $30,000…plus they would be trying to live there in the midst of the work. A fixer is also not an ideal situation if you’ve got little kids either.

It’s something you really have to balance. I do think you can get some really good buys on homes that are cosmetically challenged as well…and you can live through a kitchen remodel. It might not be easy, but it’s do-able. In Foster City, recently, there was a 4 bedroom fixer on Chrysopolis that closed escrow at $838,750. I really thought that was a good buy, it’ll be interesting to see if they turn it in a few years.



  1. I saw the Chrysopolis house and thought it would be a good buy, too. You’re right though, being a contractor is how most get the margin out of it. What do you think about remodeling right now? When do you sell, and when do you remodel?

  2. I think that’s a real personal choice. Sometimes it’s more cost effective to sell and move, particularly if you want to change your 2 bedroom house to 5. Some people also LOVE their neighborhoods and wouldn’t think of living anyplace else.

  3. Jim, I agree. If you are in the construction business, you can save a dated or “in need of work” home. The cost for labor doesn’t exist. It becomes sweat equity!

  4. You couldn’t be more right! It takes a person who knows what they’re doing to get the job done.

    The before and after pics are great!

  5. Thank you for the informative post which is useful to me. Keep it up.

  6. Hello , Your blog post about remodel is absolutely great. Easy to understand it and with excellent value. I just stumbled up and dugg your site to digg as good news article about remodel on Thursday . Cheers, Mike Brown , keep up the good work !

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