Five ways to fix a fixer-upper

10th Nov 2014By: Peter Switzer

With rising house prices, as an investor or first home buyer, you might have found yourself making a purchase on something a little more affordable that needs some TLC. Affectionately called a ‘’fixer-upper’’, properties that are slightly below your desired aesthetic, can be brought back to life with a few simple steps that can boost their value too.

1. Perfect floor finish

Do you have quality timber hiding under that old, raggedy carpet in your lounge and bedrooms? You can restore the floors in an old house by ripping up coverings and sanding back all the stains and patches on the timber underneath, before polishing them back to near-new. Timber floorboards look great with all types of furniture, and will never date, so it’s an investment that is well-worth the cost and effort.

For those on a budget, property expert Margaret Lomas says you should consider a timber laminate or timer-look vinyl floor. “This will truly add a whole new perspective to a tired house,” she says.

You can also try doing it yourself, but you might be surprised by how affordable it is to get a professional in to do it too.

2. Overhaul the walls

If your walls are flaking, stained, or have dated fruit bowl wall-paper running down them – it’s probably time for some paintwork. Firstly, patching up any holes or damage is essential for adding value to your property, but making sure you do a good job of the paintwork is also a must. If you’re not confident with a pot and brush – it might be an idea to hire a painter!

But what colours should you choose?

“At present, stone colours are fashionable and it can be really easy to paint walls a nice stone grey, paint all of those old timber skirting and frames crisp white and add some inexpensive white timber blinds,” says Lomas.

“It’s amazing how suddenly you can turn an older looking home into something fresh with this colour palette.”

3. Tear it down

A good way to modernise a home is to create an open-plan, but do make sure you’re not downsizing a three-bedroom house to a two-bedroom one as this can really devalue your home. Instead, you could knock down walls that separate two living spaces to create the illusion of more space, and you’ll also have a larger entertaining area to work with. If you can’t afford to knock down an entire wall, you could have your archways squared off to modernise those traditional half-moon types.

4. Brand new

Do you have a little cash to burn? Completely restoring a kitchen or bathroom can add loads to the value of your property. But if you have foundational work to do like plumbing and electricity, do this first – you don’t want to damage any new fixtures just because you jumped the gun. Remember you bought a fixer-upper so you could afford to create the house you want – so take your time.

And if you’re thinking to yourself, ‘I can’t afford to start from scratch’, Margaret has these tips for the budget buffs;

  • On the bathroom – “If you can easily have the tiles painted by a professional, go for white. The same goes for coloured baths which can also be successful painted. Change the shower screen to a semi-frameless – it’s cheaper than frameless, but still looks good.”
  • On the kitchen – “Consider a granite veneer overlay for the bench tops and have a professional ‘two-pack’ your cupboard doors in white. This basic white palette allows you to add any colour you like with soft furnishings.”

5. P words

There are lots of materials starting with the letter P that can help enhance the look of your home’s exterior. The first is obvious – paint, for giving a facelift to things like fences and mailboxes. You could also use pavers as a border around a nice garden feature. A porch with a wooden deck to draw away from the older face of the house can also add value.

And some final renovation rescue advice from Margaret – don’t worry about keeping up with the Jones’ when you’re giving your house a facelift.

“I’d be really careful about anything ‘on trend’ unless you are prepared to do it all again in five years. This is why I always recommend a basic white palette as this can be made to look on trend easily through decorating, or soft furnishings.”