Why You Should Live in a New Home Before Renovating

In competitive markets, savvy consumers gravitate toward fixer-upper homes. Why? They can customize the home to their requirements and at the same time, build some equity. But before you start knocking down walls, here’s why you should live in a new home before renovating it.

1. You may change your mind

By the time you get the keys, you may have grand visions for what you’d like to do to a home, based on its condition and your priorities. But until you’re actually living there, it’s difficult to know exactly how you’ll use the house, what will work for you and what won’t. And the day-to-day experience should inform your home improvement decisions, vs. early notions of how you want your everyday experience to be.

2. You’ll need a break

Buying a home is a massive project, an enormous change in your life, and a shock to the system—as well as to your bank account. I’ve seen buyers jump through hoops, spending months looking for a home. It’s often like having a part-time job, in addition to your full-time job. And a home renovation can be yet another big and stressful project, with all the decisions to make and contractors with whom you’ll deal. So I recommend taking a break from the stress of buying your new home. At least for a while.

3. You need time to plan

Any renovation, no matter how small, should be planned with care. That means speaking to multiple architects, contractors or designers to get their take on your ideas and options—which is a time-consuming process.

An hour with a well-qualified contractor can uncover opportunities you hadn’t foreseen. For instance, even though it may be an added cost now, moving the laundry machines from the garage to the top floor during a larger renovation may save you time and money down the road.

Conversely, hiring architects and contractors while under the constraints of an escrow period is likely to cause problems for you later.

Of course, some buyers want to start renovations as soon as possible. They feel like they can’t live in the home while it’s under construction. And they don’t want to pay rent and a mortgage at the same time. While this may make some sense economically up front, it can still cause costly problems later.

Often, buyers who said they didn’t want a home that requires any work end up buying a home that needs at least some work. It’s the natural evolution of the buying process. Rarely does someone end up buying the home they started off thinking they wanted.

While you should be open to doing work on a home, don’t feel stressed about getting it all done at once. Live as-is for six months to a year. Take the home for a test drive and see how it runs. You may be surprised at how your perspective, and your priorities, change once you settle in. In fact, you may end up spending less on renovations in the long run, because you’ll have realized some of the big changes you had in mind just weren’t necessary, or desirable, after all.

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