Ugliness is often a question of point of view. When some see it as a lost cause, others see it as a raw diamond.

This is the case with fixer-upper houses which 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 messy.

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 fixer-uppers 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 properties are not usually suitable for the typical residential home buyer.

This 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, 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. 

This someone can either live in the house, rent it out or flip it at a profit.

So, there are about 4 types of buyers 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 live there despite any financial constraints, a fixer-upper house is a welcoming opportunity to achieve the goal of living in that neighborhood.

So the reason they buy an “ugly” house is to be able to afford at least something in the desired neighborhood.

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, buyers sometimes must wait a long time to buy a finished house.

So, buying a fixer-upper house can be an excellent opportunity to access a high-demand neighborhood.

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 buy-and-hold investors in a sense.

They have the money to buy retail but have been waiting for some time to access a particular 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 allows them to access their prime neighborhood of choice.

They also do the remodeling work similar to the buy-and-hold investor.

The only difference is that later, they will either live full-time in the house or part-time and use it as a second home.

I have already seen this in tourist hot spots, such as Cape Cod.

My girlfriend’s grandmother had an older house between two trophy houses 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, which now match the neighbor’s trophy houses.

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

4) The Fix & Flippers

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

They aim 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. However, this could be an option as an exit strategy. What could happen?

They may not find a retail buyer on time or have a long-term flipping strategy from the beginning.

The latter aims to rent it for a year and flip it as an income property with tenants already in it. 

The latter approach might also have tax advantages.

How to Address the Right Type of Buyer for Fixer Upper Houses

Usually, most of the buyers mentioned above 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 worth discussing 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 know it’s a fixer-upper house, you want to communicate the flaws directly. 

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

You can also mention the flaws and 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 has suboptimal updates. The home’s original character can be restored again.
  • Ugly and dark interior design 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 on the roof.
  • A bad layout and thus small rooms can be changed by tearing down non-load-bearing walls.

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. 

It could be major structural ones, bad foundations, environmental problems, geological issues, etc.

Even at the lowest 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 a Fixer Upper House to Buyers

Suppose the property you have doesn’t need to be torn down.

To increase the likelihood of reaching the above types of fixer-upper buyers, you also want to determine which marketing methods and channels would be most effective.

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

When it comes to using property listing portals, there is not 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. Hence, the property becomes searchable for buyers on the respective listing portal.

Most of these buyers already know what to look and search for. They use particular keywords like “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:

Using these platforms 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 chance 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 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 you can use 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 or pay-per-click advertising, you need to get 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 of fixer-upper buyers. 

    As mentioned above, you can use the already researched geographic and/or contact information as custom audiences and lookalike audiences.

    Some relevant audiences/interests you could target are in combination with the respective area or neighborhood you are focusing on and the proper 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.

    Also, you need to do several test iterations to get results with potential fixer-upper buyers. 

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

    5) Content Marketing & Local SEO

    Of course, suppose you want to play the long game and focus on a particular neighborhood.

    In that case, you can also market through content marketing and do local search engine optimization.

    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 results.

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

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

    Preparation of the Actual Product, Your Fixer Upper House

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

    Yes, it’s a fixer-upper, but sometimes, you can make minor improvements that make even a fixer-upper 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 for the potential fixer-upper buyer to imagine the fixed house of the future.

    Finding the Right Price for a Fixer-Upper Home

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

    Finding the right price involves considering all the pros and cons (e.g., the current issues).

    The cons may be water damage, and the pros are hardwood floors.

    But generally, there are three approaches you can use to appraise a home:

    • The sales comparison or market data approach
    • Cost approach
    • Income capitalization approach

    These methods can also be used for fixer-uppers.

    The only difference is that you will need to factor in the repair costs and deduct them from the estimate you get.

    With the sales comparison or market data approach, you answer the question at which price properties with similar characteristics (e.g., number of bedrooms, bathrooms, etc.) have recently sold in your neighborhood.

    To do that, you can use different tools available.

    Using the cost approach, you try to answer the question of what it would cost to build a comparable house.

    You also include the value of the land and depreciation in the calculation.

    Lastly, the income capitalization approach answers the question of how much the particular property is worth when it can produce rental income. 

    This is usually the method investors use. Let’s say the property would rent out for $1,000 per month. 

    Investors typically have an annual gross interest rate they aim to get with the properties they invest in. 

    So if this number is 10%, these investors will appraise the property at $1000 x 12 months divided by 10% minus repairs.

    If it’s a 500 square feet house needing a lot of repairs, they will price it at $112,500 ($120,000 minus $7,500 (500 square feet x $15)). 

    They often estimate $5 for no repairs, $10 for minor repairs, or $15 for major repairs per square foot.

    You could use all three and arrive at a price range. But ideally, you already know your primary buyer type and use the most suited method.

    In the case of a fixer-upper, you will likely attract investors. Hence the income capitalization approach would more often be applied.

    How to Write a Description for a Fixer-Upper

    To write a description for a Fixer-Upper, we can use the same principles I covered already in my article “How to Write a Listing Description that Actually Pops,” “How to Market a Unique Property,” and “Real Estate Landing Pages – A Performance-Based Guide.”

    You can combine all three, and, as you may have guessed, it again comes back to copywriting principles with the proper preparation.

    I will give you the steps below shortly, but if you want to dig a bit deeper, I recommend you read the articles mentioned.

     

    • Know who your buyer type will be
    • Identify current and potential benefits of the fixer-upper to align them with the buyers’ needs, greed, and/or pains.
    • Convert the features into benefits.
    • Use the copywriting formula AIDA (attention, interest, desire, action) and/or PAS (problem, agitate, solve) to write the description.

      Real Estate Agents Specialized in Fixer-Uppers [How to Find Them]

      You can also work with real estate agents specialized in fixer-uppers should this feel like an insurmountable task to you.

      It is actually pretty easy to find realtors specialized in fixer-uppers.

      You can just enter “fixer-upper realtors in [location]” in Google, and you will find fixer-upper houses for sale from different agents.

      You can then contact the respective agent to work with you, whether you are an investor or a real estate agent that could co-broker.

      The property database platforms that mostly appear in the search engine result pages for this type of search are Redfin, Realtor.com, foreclosure.com, and Zillow.

      Here are, for example, the results for a fixer-upper agent search in Miami, Florida:

       

      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 can facilitate attaining renovation loans.

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

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

      This can happen if 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.

      It depends on which marketing channels you will use. 

      This article has been reviewed by our editorial team. It has been approved for publication in accordance with our editorial policy.

      Tobias Schnellbacher

      Tobias Schnellbacher