The 10 Best Cities to Purchase a Fixer Upper
New data reveals the top places where home buyers can get the most bang for their buck.
If you’re like me, you've probably thought about moving to Waco, Texas on more than one occasion while watching Fixer Upper (and not just because Chip and Joanna Gaines are miracle workers when it comes to home renovations). According to Zillow, the median listing price for a house in Waco is $169,900, which is an extremely reasonable amount considering I’ve spent most of my adult life living in major cities where home prices typically start at $500k. (And let’s not even talk about how little space that amount gets you, either.)
Fixer Upper Hosts Chip and Joanna Gaines gave the front exterior of Margie and John Bowman’s house a facelift by cleaning the brick mailbox, adding decorative wood shutters, touching up the landscaping and adding potted plants, and installing new outdoor sconces, as seen on HGTV's Fixer Upper. (After 18) Front exterior.
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With many first-time homebuyers looking to save money and personalize to their liking, fixer-upper properties are more popular than ever. But they do come with some drawbacks. A recent study by Zillow Digs analyzed nearly 70,000 fixer-upper listings to see how their list prices compared to their estimated values. They found that the average fixer upper lists for only 8-percent less than market value. That translates to a savings of $11,000 for the median fixer upper.
“While an 8-percent discount in upfront savings on a fixer upper is certainly a good chunk of change, it likely won’t be enough to cover a kitchen remodel, let alone structural updates like a new roof or plumbing, which many of these properties may require,” said Svenja Gudell, Zillow chief economist, in a statement.
One of the factors you should consider if you're looking to purchase a home that needs significant work is a fixer-upper discount, which is how much a property is listed for below what it would be worth if it didn't need renovations. The difference between the discount and list price is your renovation breakeven, or the actual dollars you'll save that you can put back into the home for renovations.
Keeping Up With the Joneses
Homeowners Jeff and Sara Jones were Baylor sweethearts who moved to Tennessee after college but then decided to return to the Waco area. They were looking for a home where they could one day raise a family, and their wish list included three bedrooms, an open living space and a large backyard. Their budget, including renovations, was $235,000.
Sara's tastes run toward a nouveau classical look with an affinity for ornate furnishings and French antiques. The combination presented a decorating challenge for Joanna who frequently leans more in the direction of farmhouse country and rustic themes. This new foyer – highlighted by black and white marble floors, rich textures and dark gray paneling – offers a mix of contemporary elements and old world touches making for a carefully integrated look that marries comfort and style.
Dining Room and Kitchen
The dining room in the newly renovated Jones home was at the front of the home with the living room in its place, but a wall was removed between the living room and dining room creating an open concept. Some key elements are the restored fireplace, piano, dining table, and chandelier, as seen on Fixer Upper. (after)
The marble of the kitchen island creates the focal point for this Fixer Upper kitchen. After Chip and Joanna removed walls and opened up the kitchen space, they had room to add this large kitchen island with extra seating. To accent the gray cabinets, Joanna chose a gray and white marbled tile that provided a durable solution for the family and really made her rustic industrial design pop.
The kitchen of the newly renovated Jones home has been completely transformed. A wall was removed to increase the size of the kitchen and to add to the open feel of the home. Some key elements are the stainless steel appliances, farm sink, pantry, and subway inspired tile on the backsplash, as seen on Fixer Upper. (after)
Behind the Scenes: Meet the Parents
Chip and Joanna meet Sara Jones' parents Max and and Denalyn Lucado. Max Lucado is a well known author and a minister in San Antonio. The prayer he authored and delivered at Jeff and Sara's wedding became the inscription on the original art piece that was a housewarming gift for Sara and Jeff.
So, let's pretend you can move to any city in the country and you're in the market for a fixer upper. Here's where you should look:
1: Cleveland, Ohio
Fixer-Upper Discount: 31.9 percent
Renovation Breakeven: $22,000
2: Cincinnati, Ohio
Fixer-Upper Discount: 25.3 percent
Renovation Breakeven: $23,000
3: Pittsburgh, Pa.
Fixer-Upper Discount: 21.2 percent
Renovation Breakeven: $15,000
4: Columbus, Ohio
Fixer-Upper Discount: 18.0 percent
Renovation Breakeven: $19,000
5: St. Louis, Mo.
Fixer-Upper Discount: 16.9 percent
Renovation Breakeven: $16,000
6: Baltimore, Md.
Fixer-Upper Discount: 16.6 percent
Renovation Breakeven: $23,000
7: Chicago, Ill.
Fixer-Upper Discount: 13.8 percent
Renovation Breakeven: $19,000
8: Philadelphia, Pa.
Fixer-Upper Discount: 13.7 percent
Renovation Breakeven: $17,000
9: Virginia Beach, Va.
Fixer-Upper Discount: 13.1 percent
Renovation Breakeven: $19,000
10: San Francisco, Calif.
Fixer-Upper Discount: 9.5 percent
Renovation Breakeven: $54,000
The most surprising city on this list is San Francisco, which is notorious for its astonomical housing market. With the median home value at a whopping $1,106,400, even with a 9.5-percent discount, most will find it difficult to enter this housing market.
Another data point that's important to look at is how many fixer-upper listings are available in a particular city. What good is a discount if there are no homes available? Of the locations listed above, only Philadelphia, Baltimore, Cleveland, Pittsburgh and San Francisco are in the top 10 for highest percentage of fixer-upper listings. Los Angeles-Long Beach-Anaheim, Calif. tied with Philadelphia with the most fixer uppers available with 2.7 percent.
For those who might be curious as to what city offers the lowest discount — well, that would be Phoenix, Ariz., which offers a 0.4-percent discount and a $1,000 renovation breakeven. Other cities in the top five for lowest discount include Riverside, Calif., Los Angeles-Long Beach-Anaheim, Calif., San Diego, Calif. and Miami-Fort Lauderdale, Fla.
While Chip and Jo may not be bringing their talents to Cleveland, Cincinnati or any of the other top cities any time soon, you can still find a great property that will give you the most financial flexibility to design your dream home.
Chip and Joanna cut a wide archway to open up the kitchen and dining room, letting light flow throughout the space. They also created industrial-style open shelves made from plumbing pipes and reclaimed wood.
The Kitchen Island
Now that's more like it — new appliances, industrial pendants and updated cabinets give a distinctive look to this space. A brand-new island and bartop, plus a stunning marble tile backsplash, add a hint of color.
A fresh coat of paint throughout the space, white subway tile backsplash and updated fixtures brighten up the formerly dreary kitchen.
The New Bar
Chip and Jo made clever use of otherwise wasted space by extending the kitchen's new bar seating into the living room. We're big fans of the floating shelves, too. See more from this episode.
Walls were removed to open up the kitchen, effectively tripling its size. New recessed lighting and pendants were added as well as new cabinets and wood flooring.
Other new features in the kitchen include white cabinets extending to the ceiling, concrete countertops, subway tile and an antique copper vent hood.
Modern accents, like the cement countertops and subway tile backsplash with a dark grout, contrast beautifully with the space's vintage look. See more from this episode.
The black subway tile backsplash and wood-covered vent hood add unique charm to the family's new kitchen.
The New Breakfast Bar
The kitchen's new pass-through gives the impression the kitchen, living room and foyer are one contiguous space while also making room for a breakfast bar. The wooden barstools were custom made by craftsman Clint Harp who specializes in using vintage and reclaimed woods for his unique furniture creations.
Joanna and Chip completely transformed the dated, dark space. The gorgeous new kitchen features brick walls througout, black granite countertops, industrial pendants and a custom-built island.
The Hidden Charm
Furniture artisan Clint Harp fashioned the island's surface out of shiplap salvaged from one of the home's original walls. See more from this episode.
Chip and Joanna reconfigured the kitchen's layout, removing a formal dining room in the process, to take advantage of a large picture window and create space for a long kitchen island. The old tile floors were replaced with wood and the cabinetry was also updated. The new light fixtures also give the space the French flair the couple were looking for. See more from this episode.
Knocking down walls made room to give the kitchen the sleek, open layout it deserved. The new flow of natural light throughout the space allowed Joanna to make a bold choice of black cabinetry with brass hardware. A marble backsplash, countertops and and a waterfall edge island keep things nice and bright.
The Coffee Nook
Another perk to opening up the kitchen? Chip and Joanna were able to create this stunning coffee nook with a view. New windows and glass doors were added to this corner space adjacent to the kitchen. The floating bar top with bar stool seating is the perfect spot for morning coffee and savoring the view. See more from this episode.
Joanna recommending taking the kitchen to the next level, literally: The kitchen was moved to the upper floor, giving it an open, central location in the home.
Mosaic tile in shades of turquoise and green fit the bill for the coastal theme the couple was looking for.
The Butler's Pantry
Back downstairs, the couple was also given a sleek addition to their space—a former mudroom was converted into this butler's pantry with barn doors painted in a beachy blue. See more from this episode.
The duo brightened up the kitchen with new white and gray custom cabinetry, twin chandeliers, white stone countertops and a subway tile backsplash. They also added a butler's pantry that hides behind an antique wooden door. See more from this episode.