Key takeaways:

  • Milwaukee and Philadelphia stand out as prime fixer-upper markets thanks to a combination of fixer-upper listings inventory, fixer-upper discounts and more
  • The most expensive homes in need of repairs are in CA’s Tech Hubs: San Jose and San Francisco
  • The most affordable fixer-uppers are in Detroit ($60K)
  • Omaha, Nebraska, boasts the largest fixer-upper discount share (65%), a $240K deduction in prices on average as compared to turnkey listings
  • Average fixer-upper prices in at least 12 U.S. cities are higher than $500K
  • 1 in 20 houses is a fixer-upper in the 50 most populous cities

Flanked by its four henchmen – sky-rocketing home prices, bidding wars, low inventories and record-high interest rates – the current red-hot housing market has put many prospective homebuyers on the sidelines. But there’s still another card to play, and that’s fixer-uppers. They do require a consistent amount of work – and time – until they’re ready to be called “home,” but they can be a real solution for budget-minded buyers.

Finding a home with good bones is not the easiest task, however, and it depends a lot on the location you’re looking to buy in. Some places make it much harder than others to turn your homebuying journey into a success story similar to those featured on the “Property Brothers” or Chip and Joanna Gaines’ “Fixer Upper.”

To find out which cities are best equipped to support homebuyers in their search for fixer-uppers, we dug deeper than just into prices. By analyzing 61,200 active single-family listings on home search website Point2, we ranked the 50 most populous cities based on several metrics, including prices, number of active fixer-upper listings, home sizes and lot sizes. We also considered self storage costs and inventory as the service is typically useful both during the renovation process of a fixer-upper and afterwards as fixer-uppers are generally smaller (1,400 sq. ft. on avg. vs. 1,900 sq. ft. on avg. in standard homes). Essentially, we were able to determine which markets are more favorable to homebuyers looking for fixer-uppers from both an availability and an affordability standpoint.

According to our research, in the 50 biggest US cities, fixer-uppers are 32% cheaper on average than standard homes ($307K vs. $448K), resulting in median savings of $155K. Moreover, you might be in for some real bargains if you’re up for putting in some elbow grease – especially in tight markets. The price differences can amount to more than $400K in notoriously expensive urban hubs like San Francisco and Los Angeles and to over $250K in current migration hotspots such as Atlanta, Houston and Dallas.

All things considered, the Midwest holds some true gems for anyone ready to offer some TLC, and it vies with the Northeast in providing a favorable environment for snatching up fixer-uppers. Milwaukee and Detroit, as well as Philadelphia and Baltimore, fare very well in terms of holding potential fixer-upper deals.

Boasting active inventories and good prices, Milwaukee and Philadelphia stand out as prime markets for buying fixer-uppers

Across the 50 biggest cities, Milwaukee, Wisconsin, emerges as the best city for getting a fixer-upper. As a pre-industrial Midwestern city, ‘Miltown’ enjoys a generous inventory of homes that need some work before becoming a real “home sweet home.” Fixer-uppers in Milwaukee represent 12% of the existing homes for sale, double the overall average for the cities included in our study. The asking price for a Milwaukee fixer-upper hovers around $80,000 on average, 59% lower than prices for regular, non-fixer-upper homes ($195K).

In line with national trends, fixer-uppers are smaller than standard homes, but outdoor space makes up for it. Median lot sizes in Milwaukee are about 8% larger for fixer-uppers than for turnkey listings, translating to about 5,660 sq. ft. of space. Renting a self storage unit in Milwaukee – a very convenient service used during home renovations – costs about $100/month, significantly below the national average of $131/month, according to Yardi Matrix data.

The City of Brotherly Love has many aces up its sleeve: a growing economy, a thriving cultural scene and a great market for fixer-uppers. Thanks to the city’s history and architecture, Philadelphia comes first for the share of fixer-upper inventory, with 26% of active listings falling into the “needing a little TLC” category. At $145,000 on average, a fixer-upper would cost you about half the price of a home that’s ready to be moved into.

As the second-largest Midwestern city featured on our list, Detroit is also shaping up to be a fixer-upper hotspot. Thanks to its large inventory of historic homes – many of them built in the late 19th and early 20th centuries – Detroit emerges as one of the best cities to find an old gem ready to be turned into a real haven. In fact, 22% of the available listings appear to be homes in need of repairs, with Detroit having the third-largest active inventory of fixer-uppers in our ranking.

Whether you’re snagging a charming Queen Anne or Gilded Age home in Detroit, you’d end up paying $60,000 on average for a fixer-upper – almost half of the price of a turnkey listing – a very good deal by all current pricing standards. In fact, Detroit is the most affordable city on our list for buying such a property. The cost of self storage in Detroit reaches $160/month – a relatively low cost for a helpful service when rehabbing a fixer-upper.

The Midwest is well represented on our list of the 20 best fixer-upper performers, with Omaha, Nebraska, also making the cut. If you’re willing to buy a home in need of repairs, of all the cities we ranked, you’d get the highest fixer-upper discount share (65% less than a turnkey property) in Omaha. This translates to average savings close to $240K – a generous sum that can help you renovate your new home to your liking.

Similarly to Detroit, Baltimore also has a large stock of homes built about 50 years ago, which makes Charm City an excellent candidate for hunting fixer-uppers. In fact, Baltimore comes second for its share of fixer-uppers (25%).

Row houses on Calvert Street in Charles Village, Baltimore, Maryland
Row houses on Calvert Street in Charles Village, Baltimore, Maryland

Not only does Baltimore enjoy access to a considerable swath of fixer-uppers, but the savings can be hefty when following this route. A fixer-upper costs about half (49%) the price of a regular listing ($210K), which results in serious cash savings.

Florida also fares well, with Jacksonville and Miami breaking into the top 10 best cities for fixer-uppers. As two cities with a rich stock of historic homes, there are plenty of opportunities to snag a fixer-upper and make considerable savings at the same time. While in Jacksonville the fixer-upper discount slightly exceeds the national average ($156K), buying a home in need of repairs in Miami will bring you a handsome $200K in savings as compared to purchasing a turnkey home. Additionally, a fixer-upper in Jacksonville comes with 2% more space than a standard home, quite the opposite to the national trend where homes needing TLC are typically smaller than the newer stock.

Moving west, Dallas is the first Texan city to make it among the fixer-upper hotspots in our list. With median home prices skyrocketing in Dallas – currently at $585K – a fixer-upper can seem the best solution to climbing the homeownership ladder. The difference between a regular home listing and a fixer-upper amounts to $260K – that’s a 44% discount when you go for a home with a little more charm but in need of repairs.

San Antonio is another Southern city that ranks high among America’s fixer-upper capitals. The fixer-upper listings inventory is slimmer in San Antonio, but you can still find a home that combines the timelessness of the Victorian or Romantic styles with budget-friendliness. In fact, buying a fixer-upper shaves approx. $160K off the price of a standard home here. The fixer-upper discount represents about 45% of the listing price, a more than hefty saving. An added bonus is that fixer-uppers in San Antonio (8,200 sq. ft.) come with larger lots than turnkey homes (6,900 sq. ft.).

If you live in Kansas City and you’re looking to buy a more affordable home, you can find plenty of homes that are fixer-upper material. With turnkey homes listed at $389,700, a fixer-upper is worth the investment here: You end up paying $234,700 less for a fixer-upper in Kansas City. This amounts to 60% of the price of a turnkey home, making Kansas City the city with the second-highest fixer-upper discount on our list.

With Atlanta, Georgia, being one of the hottest real estate markets in the country, turning to a fixer-upper can be game changer. The deal you’d be making if you chose to go for a fixer-upper is huge and may result in a $300K discount. In other words, you’d pay 55% less than the median price of a ready-to-move-in home, which now hovers around $550K in Atlanta.

Most and least expensive cities for fixer-uppers: You’ll find the cheapest fixer-uppers in Detroit but cash in most in Los Angeles

Although providing a chance of accruing important savings, the fixer-upper market is not cheap. In fact, prices in at least 12 U.S. cities are higher than $500K. The most expensive cities for fixer-uppers are located in California, where the real estate market is extremely competitive. San Jose takes the cake for the highest fixer-upper asking price, with homes in need of repairs listing for upwards of $1.2M. For the price of a San Jose fixer-upper, you can virtually buy two turnkey homes in Austin, Texas.

San Jose is followed by San Francisco ($1M) and Los Angeles ($899K). A fixer-upper in the City of Angels is twice as expensive as one in Miami.

When it comes to the most budget-friendly markets, Detroit has the lowest prices for fixer-uppers ($60K), followed by Milwaukee ($80K) and Baltimore ($107K).

 

In terms of actual savings, Californian cities where fixer-uppers come with some of the highest price tags also bring in the fattest savings. As it turns out, buying a fixer-upper in LA yields the highest savings ($500K), followed by San Diego ($450K) and San Francisco ($405K). You can also enjoy hefty savings when purchasing a fixer-upper in CA’s Oakland ($334K).

In Atlanta, setting your sights on a home that requires some work could save you close to $300K compared to buying a turnkey home.

Pricing is the main incentive to buy a home in need of renovations, but aside from affordability, there are many other perks associated with fixer-uppers. Location is often highly valued as fixer-uppers are most likely located in well-established neighborhoods, and then there is the possibility to rebuild the property in accordance with personal preferences. Additionally, many investors see a great opportunity in flipping houses, and fixer-uppers are the greatest candidates on the market.

Through a regional lens, the Midwest steals two positions on the podium. However, it turns out that the South has the most representation in the top 10, claiming half of the spots. In most of these cities, historical neighborhoods swelling up the inventory of homes in need of repair, combined with a hefty fixer-upper discount, have pushed their respective cities ahead in the race for the best places in which to buy a fixer-upper.

See below how the 50 biggest cities compare in terms of fixer-upper potential:


Methodology

This analysis was done by StorageCafe, an online platform that provides storage unit listings across the nation.

To determine the best cities for fixer-uppers, we turned to Point2, our sister division and real estate listing platform. We sifted through their “for-sale” listings inventory in the 50 biggest US cities. To identify listings that qualified as “fixer-uppers,” we used listing “tag” filters such as “TLC,” “good bones,” “as-is,” “need of repairs” and others. Besides the fixer-upper inventory (30%), we added a series of other metrics including fixer-upper discount (30%), median home space for a fixer-upper as compared to a regular home (17.5%), median fixer-upper lot sizes compared to a regular home (17.5%) and self storage supply and costs (5%).

Self storage data comes from Yardi Matrix, StorageCafe’s sister division and a business development and asset management tool for brokers, sponsors, banks and equity sources underwriting investments in the multifamily, office, industrial and self storage sectors.

Fair use and distribution

This study serves as a resource for the general public on issues of common interest and should not be regarded as investment advice. The data is true to the best of our knowledge but may change if amendments to it are made. We agree to the distribution of this content but we do require a mention in return for attribution purposes.

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Author

Mirela is a creative writer for StorageCafe. With an academic background in English and translation, Mirela now covers a range of topics including real estate trends, lifestyle and economy. Her previous experience in proofreading academic articles has inspired Mirela to choose a writing career path. In her free time, Mirela enjoys reading, but also hiking and creating art. You can contact Mirela via email.

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