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Move-In Ready vs. Fixer-Upper: How to Choose What’s Best For You [Tips from Local Realtor Lindsey Samuelsen]

Banner image with a headshot of Lindsey Samuelsen on a background of two people paintingWith popular TV shows like “Fixer Upper” and “Flip or Flop”—plus a myriad of DIY house-flipping YouTube channels—the idea of buying a fixer-upper seems appealing to many prospective homebuyers, especially if they’re able to buy that home at a lower price than a move-in-ready option. 

But according to Lindsey Samuelsen, a local REALTOR® brokered by Vanguard Properties: 

  • Renovations aren’t as easy as they seem on TV
  • The cost-savings don’t always pan out as you might expect
  • Homebuyers are wise to weigh all the options when debating between buying a fixer-upper or opting for a move-in-ready home

We sat down with Lindsey to hear how she’d advise her clients in this situation.

Here’s what she told us.

SOMO Village: What are the main considerations for homebuyers when debating between a move-in ready home or a fixer-upper? 

Lindsey Samuelsen: There are two categories of fixers—you’ve got cosmetic fixers and what we like to call a “true” fixer. 

A cosmetic fixer is a home that is dated but livable. It may be an older style or need some aesthetic upgrades, but it’s livable and you can move in right away. 

A true fixer is when there are things that need to be done in order to make the property livable. 

The reality is that, for many homebuyers, it’s hard to get approved for a mortgage on a true fixer. Because of this, they’re generally only of interest for experienced investors or contractors who have the finances—plus relevant knowledge or experience.

On account of these challenges, most homebuyers should stay away from a true fixer and focus only on something that needs cosmetic fixes, at most.  

How would you help guide a homebuyer through the decision between a move-in ready home and a fixer-upper? 

People sitting around a table looking at paint swatches and home designsIt all depends on your goals for the home and what you’re ultimately looking for, along with your financial situation. 

Overall, I would caution people that building and renovating—especially where we live in Sonoma County—is a pricier endeavor than a lot of people realize. 

If you’re going into this process to save money, but you’re planning on doing a ton of work to the home, you’re probably not saving money in the long run. 

It’s probably more financially beneficial to get a home that’s a little pricier up front, but has everything you need and like so you’re not spending money working on the home. Every renovation you do or contractor you bring in requires out-of-pocket payment and that means spending cash out of pocket. 

Unless you are an experienced professional, most people who buy fixers don’t save money. You don’t know what you don’t know a lot of the time, so there could be unanticipated problems with more expenses as you begin the process. It’s also a lot of hard work and inconvenience, too. 

Some other things play into this besides finances, too: 

  • Location: Some buyers love a specific location, so they’re happy to take on a fixer to buy in that area. 
  • Style: Some buyers don’t like the style of new homes and want something with more character, even if that means it’s outdated or needs some work. 
  • Energy efficiency: Older homes sometimes have outdated features and appliances, and can be less energy efficient, which can also cost money in the long run. 

On the other hand, if you don’t mind an older home, you don’t feel any pressing need to update it, and you can find one at a great price, that’s a great choice for you too. 

How do pre-construction homes fit into this conversation? 

Buying a presale home is a good option because you often get some input into the finishings and customization of the house. In a way, you get to upgrade your home without having to go through the renovation process. 

And, where we are in Sonoma County, there is a larger inventory of new-builds, so the prices are more competitive than what you might find elsewhere. That means potentially getting a well-priced, brand new home with customized finishings, without the hassle of doing any upgrades yourself.

If you’re considering buying a home in Sonoma County, reach out to Lindsey today. You can reach her at or 415-971-7437.

Learn more about Sonoma County’s best presale homebuying opportunity. 

If you’d like to learn about presale homes in Sonoma County, download our project brief to find out why SOMO Village might be the perfect community for you.

Lindsey Samuelsen, Sonoma County RealtorAbout Lindsey Samuelsen 

Lindsey Samuelsen is a licensed REALTOR®, brokered by Vanguard Properties. She has helped dozens of people with new home presales, resale homes or selling their property. Lindsey specializes in presale homes, land sales, first-time home buyers, real estate investing, and probate sales. Being a Realtor is her dream job and she loves helping people find their new place to call home. Lindsey grew up in Petaluma and now enjoys living in a newer Rohnert Park neighborhood, so she really knows the ins and outs of living in Sonoma County!

In her spare time, Lindsey loves experiencing Sonoma County by hiking, going to yoga, trying new restaurants, or checking out local live music. 

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