How to prepare for a fixer-upper first home

The pathway to your dream home begins by getting your foot on the property ladder. Buying low can make getting that first foot up easier, but does come with its own set of challenges. For the innovative spirit, buying a fixer-upper first home is an opportunity to turn old into gold and sell up. You might even discover your dream home has been lying beneath that battered drywall all along.

If you're thinking about buying a first home that needs a little bit of TLC, there are some steps you should take to keep things rolling without a hitch.

1. Find the right fixer-upper

Not every project is equal. Some homes may require very little work, but have certain limitations which render the investment of time and money to be not worthwhile. Browse through the listings here on using our comprehensive property search tool. Include keywords like "renovate", "TLC" or "do-up" and specify your preferred areas, number of bedrooms and other parameters to find potential projects.


Think carefully about what kind of renovations your first home might need.

Remember to consider:

  • Scope: Think about how much needs to be done. Will renovations be more extensive than you're prepared to deal with? Would you have to live somewhere else while work is in progress? Cosmetic changes like repainting or changing floors can be relatively easy to enact compared to structural tasks like removing walls or refitting kitchens.
  • Location: Remember that the renovation isn't everything. Just like every first home buyer, you should think about the location of the property in terms of its convenience to your lifestyle and its potential for appreciation.
  • Restrictions: Before deciding on your do-up project, it's vital you look into any covenants or planning restrictions which may impede your legal right to carry out renovations or further developments. To find out, request a Land Information Memorandum (LIM) from your local council, as well as a property file.

2. Understand the future requirements

While a fixer-upper may help you save money upfront, renovations down the line won't be without some costs and time commitments.

It pays to do your research into other peoples' renovation stories. Doing up an old home isn't always cheap, but with the right creative mindset you can cut costs to renovate on a budget. Upcycling old floorboards or repurposing an unwanted door for a statement benchtop, for example, can add a unique, personal touch to your home as well as help save money. You can also approach your local council for financial assistance with some renovation aspects. For example, Auckland council's Retrofit Your Home program can help to pay for insulation and heating, with the costs added to your rate payments.

Often financial savings come at the cost of time. Consider Hannah and Connor's cottage in Frankton, which took three years to renovate, with small breaks throughout winter. DIYing your first home can be a sizeable commitment, so passion for the project is key.

DIY renovations

Remember to consider the costs and time commitments of your fixer-upper first home.

3. Brush up on your DIY skills

Remember to be realistic about what you can and can't do yourself. Cosmetic changes may be doable without experience, but structural changes will often call for some construction expertise. Reach out to family and friends who are experienced with renovations or work in construction if you can.

If you're just beginning your home buying journey now, why not start watching renovation shows? Whether you're watching free to air TV or dedicated streaming services, you'll most likely find programs that can be both inspiring and informative to help you tackle your reno.

4. Come in with a vision

Turning your dream into a reality is what makes do-up homes so rewarding. When setting out on your first home journey, build a mood board. This is a collection of images that you'll draw inspiration from in your reno project. You can build this online with websites such as Pinterest, or cut out your favourite photos from home and living magazines, property circulars and catalogue.

Having a vision of your dream home can help to guide your buying process, and keep you pumped for what's to come.

Once you're ready to find your perfect fixer-upper first home, you can't go past the huge selection of property listings right here on

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