When buying a house, choosing a fixer-upper can be a cost-effective way to personalize your dream home or squeeze into an up-and-coming neighborhood.
But it can also be a huge undertaking, one that depletes both your time and your finances.
A first-person essay published by Toronto Life on Monday titled "We Bought a Crack House" makes that point clear. The story chronicles the $1.1 million renovation writer Catherine Jheon and her husband, Julian Humphreys, undertook to gut and refurbish their family's new home. The effort nearly bankrupted them.
Jheon explains that she and her husband, who were parents to one child and expecting another, put in a $560,000 offer on a dilapidated three-story Victorian, which was at the time being used as a rooming house. The house seemed like a good deal, and in their eagerness to pounce, they neglected to take certain factors into account.
Only after making the agreement did Jheon realize, "We had just spent more than a half a million dollars on a house I had never seen."
They thought of themselves as capable of making the needed upgrades, though they didn't have any direct experience. Until they found the Parkdale home, "we scoured the listings every day, searching for a fixer-upper that we could renovate ourselves to save money," Jheon writes. "We weren't particularly handy, but we'd seen all the home reno shows, and it seemed like everyone in the city was doing it. How hard could it be?"
As anyone who has gone through a renovation could have told them, the answer turned out to be, "Very."