MLS Decoded: What exactly is a “renovator’s dream”?


There’s no getting around it: we realtors love our code words. After all, what is one man’s untameable backyard forest is another’s “relaxing backyard garden just waiting for your personal touch.” While some of these descriptions take things a bit too far (come on, guys, no one is buying that the “Upper Upper Beach” is a real neighbourhood), some are all too accurate.

Case in point: the renovator’s dream. If you see this (or its variants…ie. “Attention builders and renovators!”), there are a few key points to keep in mind. Typically, these are houses that have had the same owner for many years, and they often haven’t bothered to maintain key mechanical elements. Sagging roofs, ancient furnaces and warped floors are fairly common. If the house has been vacant for a while, expect these issues to be compounded, and keep in mind that you may need to wrestle a raccoon or two.

Not to say that they’re all terrible; I’ve worked with couples who were first-time buyers on a limited budget who managed to roll up their sleeves and turn straw into gold, so to speak. So, how do you tell the difference between a house with tons of potential and one that you should run away from?

1) Look at the neighbourhood: are there many houses being restored already? Are you going to have to battle with 8 builders to buy the house? Who already lives in the area and who’s moving in? Are there any planned improvements to infrastructure that could see home values rise in the coming years?
2) The condition of the house: there’s a big difference between replacing a furnace and waterproofing a foundation. Can you live in the house while the renovations are taking place? Make a list of what you plan to do as you’re walking around the house and take the time to consult with experts if you don’t know the cost of these repairs off the top of your head.
3) Time: Are you selling a home in order to buy this property? If so, can you afford the mortgage on both houses while renovations are taking place?

All in all, while these houses aren’t for the faint of heart, they can be a worthwhile investment for those willing to roll up their sleeves and get a little bit dirty. If you want to be kept updated with listings for these types of homes, drop me a line.