Home Improvement

A New Life: X tips for renovating a fixer-upper house

Fixer-upper houses, properties needing repairs or renovation, have become increasingly popular. These homes attract buyers for various reasons, including their lower initial cost, the opportunity for customization, and the potential for a significant return on investment. On average, a home in Pittsburg (as of October 2023) sold around $250k, showcasing a considerable increase of 6.4% compared to last year. Hence, renovating a worn-out house in a thriving real estate market could result in significant ROI. 

Apart from an increase in home value, renovating a fixer-upper can be a rewarding journey, transforming a neglected property into a cherished home. Here are some essential steps to breathe new life into an old home.

1. Assessing the Potential

The first step in renovating a fixer-upper is assessing its potential. This involves thoroughly evaluating the property’s structural integrity, layout, and overall condition. Engaging a professional inspector is crucial; they can uncover hidden problems like foundation cracks, roof damage, or outdated electrical systems. This assessment helps distinguish between cosmetic fixes and major structural work, guiding the direction and scope of the renovation. It’s about identifying what can be preserved and enhanced and what needs a complete overhaul, ensuring that the house’s charm is preserved.

2. Setting a Realistic Budget

Renovation projects often entail unforeseen expenses, so setting a realistic budget is essential. This budget should include a contingency fund, typically 10-20% of the overall budget, to cover unexpected costs. It’s also important to prioritize spending based on what adds the most value to the house. For instance, a modern kitchen or bathroom can significantly increase a property’s appeal. Consider hiring an expert remodeler in Pittsburg to ensure everything goes smoothly and within your budget.

Cost-effective solutions such as repurposing materials or doing work yourself can help decrease expenses. However, it’s crucial not to cut corners on essential repairs and quality materials.

3. Prioritizing Renovations

Prioritizing renovations is key to managing both time and budget effectively. Start with structural and functional improvements like fixing a leaky roof or updating old plumbing. These are not the most glamorous aspects of renovation but are vital for the home’s longevity and safety. After securing the structure, focus on high-impact cosmetic changes, such as painting or refinishing floors. It’s advisable to approach renovations sequentially; completing one project before starting another can prevent the chaos of living on a construction site and help manage resources more efficiently.

4. Preserving Character

One of the charms of fixer-upper homes is their unique character, often lost in modern constructions. Preserving original features like wood floors, fireplaces, or moldings can add immense value and appeal. When renovating, consider how new additions will blend with these existing elements. Using period-appropriate materials and styles while integrating modern conveniences can create a harmonious balance between old and new. Respecting the house’s historical context preserves its unique character and maintains a connection to its past.

5. DIY vs. Professional Help

Deciding between DIY and professional help is critical in the renovation process. Simple tasks like painting or minor landscaping can be done by most homeowners, saving money and adding a personal touch. However, complex projects like electrical work, plumbing, or structural changes typically require professional expertise. Hiring qualified contractors for these tasks ensures quality and safety and can prevent costly mistakes and delays.

6. Updating Essential Systems

One of the most crucial aspects of renovating a fixer-upper is updating its essential systems. This includes the electrical, plumbing, and HVAC systems, which are fundamental to the house’s functionality and safety. Older homes often have outdated systems that don’t meet current safety standards or efficiency requirements. Upgrading these can prevent future problems and make the home more energy-efficient, leading to long-term cost savings. It’s also important to ensure these updates comply with local building codes. 

7. Maximizing Curb Appeal

The exterior of your fixer-upper is the first thing people see, setting the tone for the entire property. Improving curb appeal can significantly affect how your home is perceived. Simple updates like a fresh coat of paint, new siding, or updated windows can drastically change the exterior’s look. Landscaping, too, plays a vital role. Well-maintained gardens, a tidy lawn, and attractive walkways can transform an unappealing facade into a welcoming entrance. Remember, first impressions are lasting, and curb appeal can significantly influence a property’s value.

8. Creating a Cohesive Interior Design

Once the structural and exterior updates are in place, focus on the interior design. Creating a cohesive look throughout the house is essential. This involves choosing a consistent color scheme, flooring, and finishes that flow seamlessly from room to room. This doesn’t mean every room should look the same, but a harmonious balance should exist. Consider the house’s overall character and how modern updates can complement its original features. Thoughtful interior design makes the space more enjoyable to live in and appeals to potential buyers if you decide to sell.

9. Sustainable Renovations

Incorporating sustainable practices in your renovation is not only good for the environment but can also be economically beneficial in the long run. This could involve using eco-friendly materials, such as low-VOC paints and sustainable wood, or installing energy-efficient appliances and fixtures. Solar panels, energy-efficient windows, and proper insulation are other ways to make your home more sustainable. Many governments offer incentives or rebates for eco-friendly home improvements, which can help offset the initial costs. Sustainable renovations can increase your home’s value, appeal to environmentally conscious buyers, and reduce your carbon footprint.

10. Boosting Resale Value

Every renovation decision should consider its impact on the home’s resale value, especially in a fluctuating real estate market, especially if you have plans to sell in the future. Focus on renovations that offer the highest return on investment. Kitchens and bathrooms, for instance, are key areas where renovations can significantly increase a home’s value. Adding additional living space, such as finishing a basement or an attic, can also be beneficial. 


Renovating a fixer-upper requires a balance of practicality, aesthetics, and strategic planning. These renovations bring personal satisfaction and contribute to the vibrancy of neighborhoods and the broader real estate market. Whether in Pittsburgh or elsewhere, transforming a fixer-upper is an endeavor that can yield substantial rewards, both personally and financially. The key is to approach each step thoughtfully, ensuring that every update enhances the home’s functionality and charm.


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