Browse the Real-Estate Market
For some reason, when a property is advertised as a fixer-upper, or as-is, we immediately think, “It's a deal,” because we've been programmed to expect that the price tag is a reflection of the condition of the property. Look closely, and you'll find that many so-called fixer-uppers are actually not priced too far below market value. It takes some research to determine which properties have the most potential — and can be bought at a discounted price.
Real-estate agents can tell you which locations and types of houses are in most demand in your area. Agents also have an excellent feel for the features buyers are looking for. They know if one type of buyer outweighs the others who are looking in that market, and whether it's mostly families, professionals, senior citizens, or a mixture of buyer types.
If any one type of buyer greatly outweighs the others, it might be a good idea to focus on the types of houses they are looking for. Here are the kinds of things you should consider:
Seniors like one-level homes with few — if any — steps.
Families might want a house on a street where there are other children.
Families might be looking in specific school districts.
Professionals want a house with creature comforts — one that's close to shopping and entertainment.
Don't spend all of your time looking for distressed houses — you can't recognize a good value unless you know the typical selling prices of all types of properties in your real-estate market. You'll find you also get plenty of decorating ideas from faster-moving real estate.
Read classified ads and all of the real-estate magazines that are published in your area to find out which features are mentioned most often. When multiple real-estate agents repeatedly talk up a feature, you know it's something in high demand locally. Features that are popular in nearly every area include these:
A split bedroom plan, where the master suite is on the opposite site of the house from other bedrooms.
A nice view of mountains, a forest, city line, or the ocean — it varies greatly by market.
Basements are an important feature in some areas.
Privacy is a must for many buyers.
Every market has its own set of popular features. Study local advertising materials and network with agents and buyers to find yours.