Updated Sep 19, 2023 - Real Estate

Fixer-uppers are scaring off Chicago home buyers

Illustration of two hammers forming an "X" shape.

Illustration: Maura Losch/Axios

To command top dollar in Chicago's housing market, start by pulling up the carpet.

  • Mid-century homes here usually have coveted hardwood hiding underneath, according to Chicago broker associate Mike McCallum.

Why it matters: Homebuyers already hampered by gravity-defying prices and mortgage rates don't want to spring for a place that looks like an HGTV "before" photo.

What they're saying: "Get rid of the one thing that really dates your house as old," McCallum says: Replacing far-out faucets and removing bygone drapes are easy refreshes.

Zoom in: Even a fresh coat of paint can make a difference. Ashley Morse hired a painter to glaze her Lakeview home's multicolored kitchen backsplash with Benjamin Moore's "Linen White," to match the walls.

  • "The space instantly felt brighter, cleaner and wider," Morse tells Axios.
  • Be smart: In Chicago, Taskrabbit gig workers charge an average hourly rate of $57 for minor home repairs, according to the platform.

The big picture: Self-identified fixer-uppers are typically selling for less, and more slowly, than expected, per Zillow data shared with Axios.

  • Across the U.S., listings that mention "fixer-upper" — 0.3% of sales in the first half of the year — sold at a 3.1% discount and took 3.2 days longer to sell relative to expectations.
  • Listings pegged as "remodeled" or "renovated," which accounted for 24.1% of U.S. sales, sold at a 1.2% premium and 1.8 days faster than expected.

"Most home buyers right now simply don't have enough money left over to invest in major repairs or remodeling," Redfin deputy chief economist Taylor Marr tells The Wall Street Journal.

Share of homes that go off-market within two weeks, by metro division
Data: Redfin; Note: Metro divisions are subdivisions of metropolitan areas; Chart: Axios Visuals

By the numbers: Less than 13% of Chicago-area homes in July were snapped up in two weeks or less, according to Redfin data shared with Axios.

  • That's the smallest share among major metro divisions nationwide. Around 41% of U.S. listings were marked pending, contingent or sold within that window, Redfin found.

State of play: Houses that stay on the market for more than a month are usually overpriced or in need of major work, according to Redfin's Taylor Marr.

  • We spotted this West Ridge home, described as needing a little elbow grease, with hardwood floors and old-timey drapes. Listed for $393,500, it's spent at least 40 days on the market.
  • Chicagoland homes go off-market after a median of 49 days, remaining flat from a year ago, the Redfin data shows.

Be smart: Homes in the Chicago metro are still selling slightly over asking price, on average, compared to this time last year, per Redfin.

  • Listings that mention "fixer-upper" comprised 0.1% of Chicagoland sales in the first half of 2023, per the Zillow data, while those advertised as "remodeled" or "renovated" made up 26.9%.

Go deeper: This extreme fixer-upper on South LaSalle Street recently sold for $1.


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