We were 19 and 20, married for 3 months with a baby on the way and we bought a 1901 fixer-upper.
“We are going to save sooooo much money and have a huge, beautiful, old home!” I rambled on to my friend about how wonderful it was going to be. While her husband was in the corner singing a different tune to mine.
“Don’t do it, man. It is not worth your marriage.”
It took me a few months to fully understand what this friend of ours meant. What could be so bad that our new marriage would be in jeopardy?
Yes, we all drool over the gorgeous restored farmhouses that we see on Pinterest. We might do daily checks of Circa to see what old house we could call our own. Unfortunately what is not pictured is the blood, sweat, and tears that created these homes.
I have known several people who buy old homes with the hopes and dreams to make it theirs without actually realizing what they have to do. We cannot see past the what it could be. That was definitely the case with this home.
This home was built in 1901. It had lead walls that had to be completely torn down, old electric to be replaced, completely new plumbing, central air and heat put in, and the foundation fixed.
Did I see any of that? Heck no.
Within 6 months of living and working in this home, we had enough and decided to call quits. Here is why…
1. You Will Always Be Working
Saturday night football? Gone. Date night? Gone. Family dinners? Gone. You have to always be working on the home with a deadline in mind. We found that anytime we were not working on it, we felt extremely guilty knowing we had to get it done.
2. Things Go Wrong
Turns out… old houses have a lot of problems. If you have a home that has not been touched since the early 1900s you probably do not have plumbing. Before 1960, and your electric will need to be changed. Sinking corners, you have to rebuild the foundation. Things will pile up that you were not planning on.
If you have holes in your floors or an old cellar for a basement, you will have animals. During our time of living in the one fixed up bedroom in the home, we had snakes, raccoons, stray cats, birds, and even a homeless man.
4. Might Get Stuck
If you buy a fixer-upper, instantly regret it, and decide to sell it, there is a high chance you won’t be able to. Which leaves you stuck in this home or stuck with a small mortgage. Fortunately for us, my father in law owned the home and we were paying him. Although, once we decided we were done with it, it took him over a year to sell it.
Expect every spare bit to go to the house. They call these homes “money pits” for a reason.
6. Living Space
If you don’t have a camper or money to live somewhere else you are going to have to make due with what you got. For us, that was taking plywood and nailing it to the studs to create a small room on the top floor. We had running water in the bathroom tub across the hall. I did dishes in a bathtub. Our kitchen was a microwave on top of a mini-fridge.
In my young and naive mind, I thought we could fix this place up by the time the baby was born. What was so hard about putting walls up, flooring down, and a kitchen together?
In all reality, these projects can take up to 10 years. My in-laws bought an old fixer-upper 11 years ago that is probably only 1200 sqft. They are just now finishing it and my father in law has worked on it every day for 11 years. He has even taken time off work to finish it.
8. Your Marriage
Working on a home day in and day out while trying to keep finances in order is extremely stressful. My husband and I constantly argued because I felt one way and he felt the other. We had no downtime to relax which just always left us on edge. For us, the home was not worth it.