Fixer-Upper TV Shows and the Unrealistic Expectations They’ve Created

By on 3 July, 2018 in Real Estate, Sandra Nickel with 0 Comments

Photo by Frank Boston

Chances are you’ve seen, and may be a fan of, Property Brothers, Fixer Upper, Flip or Flop and a host of other fix-up shows classified as “reality TV.” And like the Bachelor, Pawn Stars, Hell’s Kitchen and so many other iterations of reality television, very little “reality” is included in these highly scripted and edited programs.

Unfortunately, many of the folks who are thinking about buying today have been strongly influenced by this “reality TV” and come to the homebuying process with a number of unrealistic expectations. It’s tough when they learn the truth.

Myth #1: It’s Easy to Find a Good Fixer Upper

This may have been true 10 years ago, and the market in Midtown Montgomery has really tightened up since then. Just today I received a report that shows it’s a sellers’ market all the way to $200,000 so prices are firm and going up.

“Good deals” are out there sometime, and you have to act very quickly to nail them down. And you have to be willing to meet the seller’s price in most instances.

Myth #2 You Can Make (or Save) a Lot of Money

I have a good friend, successful REALTOR and even more successful real estate investor, who has a ton of experience and who counsels, “You make your money on the front end” In plain English, he’s saying that a good fixer upper property is one with really good bones that you buy really cheaply.

We are lucky to serve a lot of real estate investors at Sandra Nickel Hat Team, REALTORS, because our properties are so much less expensive than in most other parts of the country. And the cost to renovate is another story. Many of those savvy investors complain that labor rates are higher here than in their home cities, which makes the cost of fixing up rather expensive relatively speaking.

Our team some years ago tried our hand at fix-and-flip. We bought two properties, one in Morningview and one in Cloverdale-Idlewild, both really good locations. We did some work ourselves and hired most out.  In the final accounting, we lost money on both. Needless to say, we’re not flipping houses anymore!

Myth #3 Things Will Go According to Plan

Oh, really?! Things NEVER go according to plan! And while the reality TV shows usually include one “bad news” event, the truth is that surprises happen all the time, most not wonderful! Anyone who knows me well has heard me say about renovation, “Budget twice as much money and ten times as much time as you initially thought!”

Myth #4 It Won’t Take Very Long

It will take “forever!” See previous point about time.

Myth #5 It Will Be Easy to Nail the Design Updates

Unless you’re an interior designer or architect, I’m betting you’re not particularly good at seeing past what is to what could be. And unless you’re an engineer or builder, you probably don’t know a lot about taking out walls and altering floorplans. There’s a reason folks in those trades are well paid—think about it!

Bottom line: Fixing up a property CAN be profitable—and it more likely will not be. It can be done on a schedule—but only if you have the luck of the Irish! Don’t know about you, but that’s a bet I’m probably not going to make.

Sandra Nickel has been listing and selling residential real estate for over 30 years, most with an intense focus on Montgomery’s Midtown neighborhoods. Sandra serves on the Mid-Alabama Coalition for the Homeless, the Cloverdale Business Coalition, Historic Southview, the Volunteer and Information Center, Landmarks Foundation and her own neighborhood Garden District Preservation Association.

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