Ugliness is often a question of point of view. What looks like a lost cause for some, others see as a raw diamond.

This is the case with fixer upper houses that some also call ugly houses. Many, especially real estate investors, see them as great opportunities to make money.

And if you happen to have a fixer upper house and want to sell it, you will need to market it using a certain approach.

This article will discuss how you can market a fixer upper, even if it looks a bit messy at first.

What is a Fixer Upper House?

There are different names for fixer upper houses.

The one used here is rather a more gentle type. Some also call them ugly houses or houses that need work and are not in good condition.

I like the term “fixer upper” best because it already implies the intention of working on it, improving it, and thus increasing its value.

So, for the most part, these types of properties are not usually suitable for the typical retail buyer.

Which brings me to the next section.

What Type of Buyers Buy Fixer Upper Houses?

Now that we know what fixer upper houses are in the first place, in order to know how to market one, we also need to know what type of buyers buy these kinds of houses.

The definition above already implies that it needs to be someone who isn’t afraid to put in some work to increase the value and then either live in the house, rent it out or flip it at a profit.

So, there are about 4 types of buyer for fixer upper houses:

1) The Deal Hunters

Deal hunters are buyers that can’t afford the average list price but still want to buy in a particular area of preference.

To be able to live there despite any financial constraints, a fixer upper house is a welcoming opportunity to achieve their goal of living in that neighborhood.

So the reason for them to buy an “ugly” house in their neighborhood of preference is that they firstly now can afford something in the desired neighborhood and secondly, they don’t need to fix everything at once but can do the different upgrades over time and steadily increase the house’s value.

2) Buy and Hold Investor

In a strong seller‘s market and in markets where buyers sometimes need to wait a long time to be able to buy a finished house, buying a fixer upper house can be a great opportunity to access a neighborhood that is high in demand.

Buy and hold investors buy these fixer uppers to remodel and upgrade them, not to live in them but rent them out at a good return on investment.

And they might also sell them later down the road for a profit. But that’s usually not the main goal.

3) Retail Remodelers

Retail remodelers are similar to the buy and hold investors in a sense that they also would have the money to buy retail but have been waiting for some time to access a certain neighborhood of their choice.

Until now, they couldn’t buy there because of high demand and, thus, other fast-moving buyers.

A fixer upper home now gives them the opportunity to access their prime neighborhood of choice.

They also do the remodeling work similar to the buy and hold investor, only with the difference that later, they will either live full-time in the house or part-time and use it as a second home.

This is something I have already seen in tourist hot spots, such as Cape Cod.

My girlfriend’s grandmother had an older house there between two trophy houses, right in the first row on the beach.

And about a year ago, it was sold to someone from New York.

The new owner fixed it and added a second story and several other amenities, so it now matches the neighbor’s trophy houses.

And this wasn’t even an ugly house, which you couldn’t live in anymore.

4) The Fix & Flippers

Fix & Flippers belong to the more obvious group of buyers.

Their aim is to buy a house at a low price, often at auctions, then fix it and sell it at a higher price.

They are not interested in holding the property and renting it out, although this could be an option as an exit strategy should they not find a retail buyer on time, or should they have a longer term flipping strategy that aims to first rent it for a year and then flip it as an income property with tenants already in it.

The latter approach might also have tax advantages.

How to Address the Type of Buyer

Usually, most of the above-mentioned buyers already know that the respective house they are looking for is a fixer upper, so there’s no need to describe things as better as they are or exaggerate.

There will be features and related benefits that are worth talking about and a little bit of bragging about.

One of these things can be the history of the house.

Another point that can be described is what could be done with the house once it is fixed and its overall vision.

Since most potential buyers will be aware that it’s a fixer upper house, you want to directly communicate the flaws.

So again, no hiding is necessary. Hiding would be rather damaging in terms of acquiring potential buyers and your overall reputation.

By mentioning the flaws, you can also mention how they could be fixed and make suggestions.

And if you have information about potential costs to fix them, you might want to share them too.

How to Know That Your Property is Not the Best Candidate for Fixer Upper Buyers

As always, in preparing a marketing strategy (read my article on that here), it’s a good idea to put yourself in the target customer’s shoes.

And one of the things you might need to know is when fixer upper buyers discard a property because it doesn’t qualify and what they are actually looking for.

So first, the things they are actually looking for:

  • Non-existing curb appeal: This is when you might need a machete to get through to the entrance door because the landscaping got out of control and is overgrown. Also, the paint is peeling.
  • Bad shape but quality construction: In this case, the home still has good quality construction, but it got suboptimal updates. The home’s original character can be restored again.
  • Ugly and dark interior design that can be easily removed once the seller moves out.
  • Outdated kitchens.
  • Outdated bathrooms.
  • Bad smells can be easily removed by replacing carpets, adding a fresh coat of paint, and having window treatments.
  • Water leaks in the roof.
  • A bad layout and thus small rooms that can be changed by tearing down non-load-bearing walls.

Now there are property candidates that can’t be saved, and even borderline reckless investors wouldn’t consider them.

With these kinds of houses, investors just can’t see the light at the end of the tunnel.

It’s often a house that needs to be torn down and has many different issues, such as major structural ones, a bad foundation, environmental problems, geological issues, and more.

Even at the cheapest price possible, some problems could only be fixed with some serious Lord of The Rings type of magic.

A return on investment will be impossible for the investor.

how to market a fixer upper house

How to Market to Fixer Upper Buyers

Provided you have a non-discardable property, to increase the likelihood of reaching the above types of fixer upper buyers, you also want to determine which marketing methods and marketing channels would be most effective.

1) Property Listing Portals (Some Only for Fixer Uppers)

When it comes to using property listing portals, there is actually not that much difference compared to marketing “normal” properties.

The main difference will be in your copy, including your headline and the description text you will use.

The headline should mention that it’s a fixer upper house, so the property becomes searchable for those kinds of buyers on the respective listing portal.

Most of these buyers already know what to look and search for and use particular keywords, such as “fixer upper” on portals like Redfin or Zillow.

But there are also property listing portals that are solely dedicated to fixer upper homes or foreclosure homes, such as:

Other portals that can attract fixer upper buyers and are more in the context of for sale by owner properties are: 

By using these platforms, you will attract all types of the above fixer upper buyers.

2) Targeted Cold Calling & Direct Mailing to Potential Fixer Upper Investors

With the help of Zillow or similar platforms, you could first determine where you have the highest chances of finding fixer upper investors.

These can be investors that plan to buy, fix and hold or buy, fix and flip.

I wrote an already more in-depth article about this topic here.

You can search there for a certain neighborhood and filter out landlords/owners that offer houses for rent in lower price ranges.

The reason for this is that a certain share of these landlords may be investors that might be looking for other investment properties.

Once you have the addresses, you can check for further contact information on RedFin or the county records.

The software PropStream might also be of help to dig deeper.

Once you have the contact information, you could either cold call them, direct mail them or target them directly with a custom audience or using the exact geographic areas by running a Facebook campaign.

With this approach, you will be less likely to attract or find the so-called “Deal Hunters.”

3) Contacting Realtors Specialized in Fixer Upper Buyers

You can also use the same approach as above with Zillow to contact other realtors (should you be one) that might specialize in fixer upper buyers and properties.

You also want to look for properties represented by realtors in the lower price ranges, similar to the fixer upper home you are trying to market.

The thinking behind this method is that realtors listing these types of properties might also work with fixer upper buyers.

Once you have the contact information, you can contact them and hopefully get to an agreement or make a deal.

4) Paid Online Advertising

With paid online advertising or pay per click advertising, you will need to get a bit more creative to target fixer upper buyers.

You could run Google Search Ad campaigns or Facebook Ad campaigns.

Both have different approaches that I discussed already in-depth here and here.

Google Search Ads

To run a Google search ads campaign for fixer upper buyers, you need to determine the most likely search intent such buyers will have.

Below, I will give you some keyword ideas that may be relevant:

  • fixer upper homes
  • fixer upper houses
  • fixer upper homes for sale
  • fixer upper houses for sale
  • fixer uppers for sale
  • fixer upper houses for sale near me
  • fixer uppers for sale near me

Facebook Ads

With Facebook Ads, you can go more creative on the different interests fixer upper buyers might have and use already researched geographic and/or contact information as custom audiences and lookalike audiences, as mentioned above.

Some relevant audiences/interests you could target are in combination with the respective area or neighborhood you are focusing on and the right age range (e.g., between 25-60):

  • real estate investing
  • real estate broker
  • real estate
  • real estate entrepreneur
  • real estate investments
  • real estate investors
  • real estate investment club
  • buying and selling real estate
  • housing
  • fixer-upper
  • real estate development
  • renovation
  • remodeling my home

Of course, you will need to use different angles, copywriting approaches, and ad creatives for each audience, and do several test iterations to get results with potential fixer upper buyers.

In the same context, I invite you to also read my article on real estate marketing on Facebook here.

5) Content Marketing & Local SEO

Of course, if you want to play the long game and focus on a certain neighborhood, you can also market by going the content marketing and local search engine optimization route.

Why the long game?

Because you won’t see immediate results such as with pay per click advertising.

Depending on the quality of content you produce and the competition on a particular keyword, it can take between 6 and 12 months for Google to rank you in a position that can bring in results.

For that, you would need a strategic content plan, so you produce the right articles or videos that will rank you for certain local search terms related to fixer upper homes or buyers.

If you like to know more about how to do content marketing for real estate, you might want to also read this article of mine.

Preparation of the Actual Product, Your Fixer Upper House

Before you start to run any advertising campaigns or start any marketing activities, you might want to prepare your fixer upper a little bit.

Yes, it’s a fixer upper, but sometimes, you can make some small improvements that make even a fixer upper a bit more appealing.

Such things could be the following:

  • cleaning the kitchen and bathrooms
  • washing the floors and the windows
  • sweeping away dust
  • removing debris from the yard and the house
  • remove unflattering furniture from the rooms

The goal here is to make it a bit easier on the potential fixer upper buyer to imagine the fixed house of the future.

Another part of the preparation should also be to determine the right price.

Finding the right price involves coming up with all the pros and cons and taking especially the cons (e.g. the current issues) into consideration.

Cons may be water damage, and pros hardwood floors.

A Bonus Advice

You might increase the response rate and/or conversion rate, at least for deal hunters (but not limited to them), if you are able to facilitate attaining renovation loans.

When getting a renovation loan, instead of buying the house and then paying for the renovation, a fixer upper buyer can get approved for a higher loan amount.

They then get the approved funds in different phases to pay for larger renovations.

This can all happen provided their credit score checks out, and they can put some money down.

Additionally, the renovation needs to get approved by a representative or consultant of the mortgage company.

So by doing that, you could include a phrase, such as “Renovation loans available at attractive conditions” in your ad copy or property description, depending on which marketing channels you will use.

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