How to Buy Fixer Upper and Handyman Special Foreclosures

Alright, you’re probably thinking, “Why would you suggest we buy a home that’s a fixer-upper? I don’t want to live in a crumbly shack that’s falling apart and will cost a fortune to fix!” The truth is, most foreclosures for sale advertised as handyman specials are only in need of minor repairs. Whether you repair it yourself or hire a professional, you may still spend well below market value.

Handyman specials, also referred to as fixer-uppers, are a great way to get an even bigger price break on already inexpensive real estate foreclosures. Handyman specials or fixer-uppers are especially good for first time home buyers with tight budgets. This guide will show you what to look for when buying fixer-upper home foreclosures.


  1. Image titled Buy Fixer Upper and Handyman Special Foreclosures Step 1
    Know the difference. First off, how do you know the difference between a handyman special/fixer-upper and foreclosure properties that aren’t in need of repairs? You should always contact the seller named on listings of foreclosures to make sure the listing is still current. The next section goes into how to assess the property. For now, let’s list foreclosed sales where fixer-uppers are common:
    • Government Foreclosures (GOV): Listings of foreclosures homes through The Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) will often label properties that are fixer-uppers. Finding foreclosed homes through GOV sources such as HUD can provide relatively minimal effort on your part as the potential buyer.
    • Real Estate Owned Foreclosures (REO): REOs are usually homes that have already been through the foreclosure auction process that failed to sell and fell into the lender’s ownership. Like HUD and other government agencies, lenders are not in the business of selling real estate and want to sell off fixer-upper homes as soon as possible.
  2. Image titled Buy Fixer Upper and Handyman Special Foreclosures Step 2
    Inspect the Home: Let’s say you found a foreclosure you think could be repaired at a reasonable expense. You’ve asked the lender and homeowner about needed repairs. You got permission to walk through the property to record any additional problems. Think you have all the information you need? Well, without a professional inspection you may be caught off guard by expensive repairs in the end:
    • Explore the neighborhood: The neighborhood surrounding a foreclosure should be taken into consideration. Remember, it’s better to buy the worst home in a good neighborhood than the best home in a bad neighborhood. That’s especially true if you are investing in a foreclosure. Check the proximity of the home to schools, shops, business and public commodities.
    • Hire professionals: Even if you’re experienced in home buying and repair, you may want the home professionally inspected. An appraiser will assess the approximate value of the property, and a contractor may find problems that you, the seller and homeowner missed. A title search will turn up information you won’t be able to easily find - any debts and liens on the property.
    • Secure financing: Chances are you will probably need a loan to afford the foreclosed property. This is one of the best arguments for a professional inspection. Repairs may cost several thousand dollars beyond the cost of the home. You’ll want an informed estimate of the total cost of the home and repairs if you want to spend as little of your own money as possible.


  • A lot of people are too quick to pass on a handyman special/fixer-upper thinking the amount of work they’d need to put into it and the cost of repairs makes it not worth pursuing. They end up missing out on buying a home in a good neighborhood for a fraction of what it will be worth. A few minor repairs can greatly increase the value of the property, which is especially beneficial to investors.

Article Info

Categories: Home Improvements and Repairs