Choosing between a turnkey property and a fixer-upper is one of the most basic homebuying dilemmas. When determining which is right for you – or if you’re open to either – main considerations fall into financial, lifestyle and logistical concerns. Let’s look at each option.


According to the 2017 Genworth Canada First-Time Homeownership Study, 93 per cent of millennial first-time homebuyers ranked price as their No. 1 consideration. Other top priorities included being in a safe neighbourhood and home size. If those are your priorities too, a fixer-upper is the stronger option because it provides more bang for your real estate buck. A freshly remodelled home will always cost more, so for the same amount of money, you can get a bigger property or buy in a more established neighbourhood (or both!) when you look for homes in need of TLC.

Advantage: Fixer-uppers

Buying advice:

It’s imperative to get a home inspection because major problems with plumbing, electrical or foundation work are hard to catch if you’re not a pro. But those types of projects can sink a home renovation budget. According to the 2017 Genworth Canada First-Time Homeownership Study, 14 per cent of recent first-timers took on debt to make unanticipated repairs or renovations to their home. When it comes to homeownership, surprises are not a good thing, so do your research upfront.


Major renovations are disruptive. It’s usually easiest to live elsewhere while renovating, but if that’s not an option, you’ll have to live alongside the dust, dirt and debris of an open work site. Since 41 per cent of first-time buyers have children, this turns a stressful situation into a potentially dangerous one, depending on the scope of your home improvement project.

Compare that to a turnkey property, with its fully functional kitchen, baths and living spaces; just move in and enjoy!

Advantage: Turnkey home

Buying advice:

Everyone knows the old real estate mantra “location, location, location,” meaning location is the top determinant of a home’s value. But if you can find a turnkey home in an undervalued, up-and-coming neighbourhood, you’ll get the livability of a move-in ready home for less than the cost of an identical home in a gentrified community. This approach can be risky – Is this neighbourhood really on its way up?! – so working with a knowledgeable local REALTOR® or real estate agent is crucial.


Most millennial homebuyers work full time (84 per cent, according to the 2017 Genworth Canada First-Time Homeownership Study), so DIY projects will eat into weekends and vacation days. Self-employed workers have more scheduling freedom, but homebuyers with side gigs or shift work may have none at all.

The DIY route requires resources not everyone has (budget, time, tools, a vehicle, helpers), while hiring pros takes money but less time (you’ll still need to sneak away from work to check in with them throughout the process).

Turnkey homes, meanwhile, require none of this juggling.

Advantage: Depends on personal priorities

Buying advice:

Fixer-uppers offer excellent value in return for sweat equity. Ready to get busy? Genworth Canada’s Purchase Plus Improvements program will allow you to make improvements to your home immediately after you take possession, with one manageable mortgage.

Is a move-in ready home better for your needs? Genworth Canada’s Homebuyer 95 program will help you get into the turnkey home you want, with as little as five per cent down.

This article is part of our Guide for Millennial Homebuyers.

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