In today’s market, many buyers forego "fixer-uppers" for move-in ready homes. As a result, significant opportunities abound in prime locations as homes that need work linger on the market.
In competitive markets, savvy consumers gravitate toward these homes that nobody else wants. Why? They can customize the home to their requirements and build equity along the way.
That said, I often recommend that buyers live in a new home for a while before undertaking any expensive remodeling or big home improvements. I’m not talking about lighting or plumbing repairs necessary to make the house habitable. Rather, I’m referring to discretionary remodeling, expansions and other improvement projects.
Here are three good reasons to at least consider holding off on the big home improvement projects until you’ve had some time to settle in.
1. Living in the home can change your mind
You may have grand visions for what you’d like to do to a home, based on its condition and your priorities at the time you buy it. But until you’re actually living there, it’s difficult to know exactly how you’ll use the house, what will work for you and what won’t.
Ultimately, it’s this day-to-day experience that will inform your home improvement decisions, instead of early notions of how you want your everyday experience to be.
2. After buying a home, you deserve a break
Buying a home is a massive project, an enormous change in your life and a shock to the system — if not your finances. I’ve seen buyers jump through hoops, spending months on end looking for a home. In some situations, it becomes a part-time job.
A home renovation can be yet another big and stressful project, what with all the decisions to make and contractors to deal with.
My recommendation: Take a break from the stress of buying your new home.
3. You need time to plan
Any renovation, no matter how small, should be designed with care. That means speaking to multiple architects, contractors or designers to get their take on your ideas and options — a time-consuming process.
An hour with a well-qualified contractor can uncover opportunities where you least expected them. For instance, even though it may be an added cost now, moving the laundry machines from the garage to the top floor during a larger renovation may save you time and money down the road.
Conversely, hiring architects and contractors while under the constraints of an escrow period is likely to cause problems for you later.
Some buyers want to jump into renovations because they don’t want to live in a construction zone or pay rent and a mortgage at the same time. While this may make some economic sense upfront, it can still cause costly problems later.
Often, buyers who said they don’t want a home that requires any work end up buying a home that needs at least some. It’s the natural evolution of the buying process. Rarely does someone end up buying the home they started off thinking they wanted.
While you should be open to doing work on a home, don’t feel stressed about getting it all done at once. Live as-is for six months to a year. Take the home for a test drive and see how it runs. You may be surprised at how your perspective and priorities change once you settle in.