What does it really take to make a fixer upper into a home again.


The housing market is out of control once again.  At least here in California.  I read an article about this the other day.  In some areas, it takes one person’s whole income for the year to afford a house.  breadMeaning that it would take their whole paycheck each month to pay the mortgage plus some.  You need two highly paid people to afford the bill or parental help.

Do you really want to live like that?  Being a frugal and thrifty gal, I decided when I married that we should live so under our means that we could live well on one income…just in case we had a child or lost a job.  All those things happened.  Over and over again.  These are long stories you can read in my books.  The point is that this is advice that comes from many a wise financial advisor and frugal people.  Life happens and you don’t want to be in a situation that if one of you loses that job from layoffs or illness, you lose your house too.

Right now, with housing prices soaring, your best hope would be a foreclosure, short sale, HUD home, or fixer upper.  We found a HUD home and had a whole house inspection.  It had good bones, roof, and only minor work that was needed on the electric and plumbing.

What the home really needed was a deep cleaning, lot’s of mowing, pruning, and paint.  That was really it along with little repairs and tweaks here and there.  Here is our house before and after.


We did go to the extra expense of a front fence and a back yard fence because we have kids and dogs.  Not everything we did has to be done.



We planted a lot of trees, both shade and fruit.  We planted gardens and strawberry patches.  I water everything green that is coming up and I’ve fed and tended to all the trees and plants that were already there.  This is only 6 weeks worth of work.  In a year this place with look amazing.

We painted and cleaned and planted lots of green stuff.  It’s crazy how cheap you can be and make an old place look like a million bucks.

This was simply tearing out carpet, washing walls and windows, painting inside and out, tree planting, mowing, pruning.  We signed up for a PG&E Weatherization Program and had all sorts of weather stripping on the doors and caulking, LED lights, and more for free.

We took 6 weeks with my husband working and only one man helping us.  The cost was around $15,000.  But we did some extras like a nice wooden fence around our property and a picket fence and that was $3,000.  Paying someone to help was $4,000 for more.  We also painted the whole interior with a special lead paint sealant since our house was 1941 and more than likely had lead paint which is very harmful to children and everyone.  That cost $1,000.  So, if you did it all yourself and didn’t do the nice fencing all around, didn’t do the lead paint sealant you’d save $8,000 and the job would have cost $7,000 to renovate the house.  This is painting each room a different color, painting the exterior, new tile in the kitchen, all the trees and soil, seeds for gardens…

When buying an old house it will sometimes have great wood flooring under the carpet.  Many old houses built early 1900’s have great “bones”.  Homes were built to last back then.  You just have to scrub and put some touches to it.

Even if you don’t get an old home, you can do so much with some simple gardening, painting, cleaning, and replacing of little things.

You can get free compost and mulch at your local landfill sites or recycling centers.  Some energy companies will give you free trees.  Not to mention all the things you can find on Freecycle and Craigslist if you have that in your area.

Some other ideas are going to paint stores and finding their discounted paint.  It’s called the Oops! section and it’s paint that wasn’t mixed right or returned but just fine.  You can also find discounted plants and trees at Lowe’s and Homedepot that are looking wilted.  They can be brought back to life with some care.  They are usually not being watered well and that is the only issue.

Take a chance.  The neighbors will love you for improving their street and view.  The home will serve you well and with gratitude that you came along and loved it back to its former beauty.

4 thoughts on “What does it really take to make a fixer upper into a home again.

  1. Congratulations! The transformation is adorable! Home indeed. During the market crash I put in a bid on an antique cottage on Florida which had a very similar front yard. A cash buyer swooped in so it wasn’t meant to be but it was fun to dream!

    Liked by 1 person

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