Potentials and Pitfalls of a Fixer-Upper in Reno, NV

How many home buyers say they want to buy a “Fixer Upper”? Yet, when it comes down to actually deciding on which home to buy, how many discover really don’t even want to paint? In my experience, most buyers!  For those who really do want to tackle a fixer upper, potential profits (and pitfalls) abound.

Prime considerations when investing in any type of real estate include location, value and potential. Consider these questions when buying any “used” property, especially in Reno, NV:

  • Could renovations/rebuilding bring the property up to the price point of newer/nicer homes nearby homes?
  • Do you have the money and/or skills to buy and fix it up?
  • Do you want to live at the property for a few years, or quickly flip and sell?

In Reno, investing in a fixer upper gives buyers the chance to move into a neighborhood they might not otherwise afford. Living in a home after it’s “fixed” gives it time to appreciate in value.  Renovation shows on TV only hint at the reality of fixing up a property. Are you intrigued enough to consider it?

Mt Rose Highway Kitchen

Vintage mixes with dated renovations: Original fireplace, tile counters circa 1980s. 


One of my current listings at 4955 Mt. Rose Highway is a true “fixer upper” with potential:

This home in South Reno offers a great example of opportunity vs risk/reward. This area is close to Lake Tahoe, skiing and just about 15 minutes to downtown or the Reno-Tahoe International Airport. Home prices rank among the highest in the region.

In the last year, 208 homes nearby homes sold.  Of the 66 on one-acre or more, only 19 allowed horses, only 14 had RV access/parking. The median sold price for those 66 homes:  $791,250. Compare that to the $499,000 list price of the property in the photo.

Mt Rose Highway House w Mountains

Built in 1965, the original ranch house is ripe for renovation. 

This fixer upper was built in 1965 and sits on 2.35 acres. Back then, Mt. Rose Highway was considered “country” and “way out of town.”  Today, luxury custom homes, gated communities with private golf courses mix with semi-custom subdivisions prevail. For the most part, older homes are the ones with enough land and the proper zoning (no HOAs and low-density suburban) to have horses, RVs or other toys.

That’s the opportunity.

The challenge: Having the vision, energy and funds to fix it up.

Best features: Wide-plank hardwood floors and a large, brick wood-burning fireplace. The home has a natural gas furnace and water heater (vs propane). Washoe County officials say the well was re-drilled in 2003.

The Potential

This property – includes the main 2,171 square-foot house, a detached 3-car garage, and 300-square-foot guesthouse/home office. The buildings sit on the northwest corner of the level lot. The nearest neighbor to the east can’t even be seen. To the west, a greenbelt and a public access trail/dirt road borders this property, with a home beyond.

Mt. Rose Hwy View 1

2.35 level acres is zoned for horses with sweeping Sierra Nevada views.  

Ripe for renovation: The most obvious replacement priority: the wind-damaged roof. Some features appear original, or at least vintage – particularly the pink bathroom sink and the metal-framed windows. Dated, but perhaps not original: tiled kitchen counters and jetted tub upstairs. The property has a detached three-car garage of uncertain age, and a separate building that at one time was used as a guest quarters.

The pitfalls:  The property is older, with everything that could/might entail. This property borders Mount Rose Highway, a direct access route to Lake Tahoe. The level 2.35 acres is mostly open space, with natural vegetation (mostly sagebrush). Prior owners had horses, and the county allows this.

The competition

Within a 2-mile radius, of 27 homes on 1 acre or more actively for sale only eight allow RVs (seven of those allow horses).  Median list price: $1.1 million. Of the homes sold in the last year, the median price was $760,000.  Of the many ways to parse and leverage statistics, lot size, age of home and HOA restrictions are being used here.

Does it pencil out?

That’s a question only an individual buyer can make on any fixer upper — whether it is this property, or a starter home on a city lot. Certainly bringing this property into the 21st century is possible. These last two photos are of the same house — Really! The first is from 2010, when it sold for $295,000. The second is from 2017, when it sold for $700,000. Is buying a fixer upper a challenge you are ready, willing and able to tackle? Let’s talk!

Contact me, or have your agent contact me, for a private showing:


Phone/text: 775-762-7576.

Holly O’Driscoll is a Realtor® with Chase International Real Estate in Reno, Nevada. She has lived in Reno for 20+ years. 

January and February Great Times to Buy

I am sharing this article from Nerd Wallet — it confirms my own research on real estate, homes and the real estate market in Northern Nevada: Prices here are expected to jump in March/April. Interest rates are expected to jump to 5%modern-kitchen-decor-vintage-style-1-flowers. Nationally, the median home sold in January sold for $7,003 below listing price.

Here’s the data to back it up. This article was written by Marian McPhereson of NerdWallet.

Take advantage of savings now

According to two years of realtor.com data that includes the 50 most populous metro areas, home prices in January and February are, on average, 8.45 percent lower than prices in July and August — two of the most popular homebuying months.

This trend is expected to hold true in 2017, but realtor.com chief economist Jonathan Smoke says the savings won’t be as large as seen in years before.

The fall 2016 housing market, which the National Association of Realtors dubbed the “autumn revival,” was especially strong, which means sellers didn’t feel the pressure to lower their sales prices in order to get their home off the market.

Despite this, Smoke still suggests homebuyers grab whatever savings they can get because spring home prices will likely increase more than normal.

Cold weather keeps competition at bay

According to NerdWallet, home sales in January are 47 percent lower than in June, which means less competition for buyers looking for the perfect home.

But there’s one caveat — buyers will still have to battle with low housing inventory, although the offset in competition helps.

“You basically face almost half of the competition with almost the same amount of inventory in the market,” Smoke says.

For the savvy buyer and agent, this can lead to savings through tactful negotiations with sellers. NerdWallet says the median home sold in January sold for $7,003 less than the listing price. Score!

Higher rates ahead2525 Rio Alayne Ct Sparks NV-print-001-14-01-2500x1668-300dpi

Out of the three reasons to buy a home now, homebuyers are most likely concerned about higher mortgage rates, which are predicted to rise to nearly 5 percent.

“As we look toward spring and later in 2017, that’s another reason to buy in January and February,” said Smoke. “Because rates are expected to be about 50 basis points, or half a percent, more as the year goes on.”


Holly O’Driscoll is a full-time Realtor with Chase International Real Estate in Reno, Nevada. For information on homes for sale in Reno, Sparks, Carson City and the surrounding communities, call me! 775-762-7576.

Why Reno? Lifestyle, Opportunity, Value

Cityscape taken from TMCC. Photo by Sandy Goff.

By Holly O’Driscoll, Chase International Real Estate 

Surrounded by mountains and blessed with an enviable climate, Reno and Sparks offer a breathtaking beautiful place to live, work and play.

Living in the RenoSparks area with its quick commutes, attractive and affordable housing options and its easy access to outdoor adventures attracts thousands of new residents every year. Those who already live here understand the specialness of being able to escape to the Sierra Nevada, Lake Tahoe or Pyramid Lake; to find adventure kayaking in the Truckee River or exploring the Great Basin; or to just relax in one of the many parks. Few communities in the world allow you to ski in the morning and play golf in the afternoon. From Reno, both options are within just a few miles of each other.

Here work-life balance is a reality.

Quality of life and the business-friendly philosophy attract global co2014-05-24-13-56-37rporations to the area and encourage start-up businesses. Tesla’s decision to locate here grabbed the headlines, yet many other high-tech firms, manufacturing plants, distribution facilities and service companies thrive here, plus add balance to our economy’s important tourism and special event sector.

Job Growth

In 2016, the Economic Development Authority of Western Nevada (EDAWN) reports that 25 companies relocated or expanded operations in the region bringing hundreds of new jobs. More companies — and jobs — are coming, EDAWN says.


Museums along with music and theatrical companies enrich the community and draw nationally known artists perform throughout the year. Generous local and national philanthropists support The Nevada Museum of Art, the National Automobile Museum, the month-long ARTown Festival in July.

The Pioneer Center for the Performing Arts hosts the Reno Philharmonic, Reno Opera, the AVA Ballet, as well as national touring productions of Broadway plays. Headline entertainers regularly perform at the spectacular showrooms at the many casino resorts, at events centers and at other local venues.


Sports enthusiasts fill the seats to watch the Reno Aces, the minor league baseball Pacific Coast League team play and they support the Reno Bighorns, a D-League basketball team affiliated with the Sacramento Kings. The latest pro team: Reno 1868 FC, a United Soccer League team will debut at Greater Nevada Field in February 2017.

Residents participate in adult leagues for nearly every sport imaginable from rugby to coed softball. Area youth leagues serve even the youngest soccer, football, basketball and baseball players.

Serious bicyclists train here by peddling up mountain highways while mountain bikers hurl themselves down rocky trails in the Sierra. Hikers can find a trek to suite any ability. With 18 world-class ski resorts within a one-hour’s drive and thousands of square miles of back country skiing nearby, skiers and snowboarders use Reno and Sparks as a base camp. Golfers can tee up at more than a dozen championship ranked courses within Reno-Sparks, with a dozen more in surrounding resorts.

Buying a Home 

One of Reno’s main attractions is affordability.  Urban lofts, historic bungalows, gated golf course developments, luxury custom homes, active adult communities, horse properties and homes in subdivisions give people many choices in living style

In 2016 the median price for a single-family home in Reno/Sparks was $304,999 – which means half sold for less, half for more, according to a report from Chase International Real Estate. Condos are an increasingly popular option. On the lower end, buyers can find condos below $200,000. The luxury condo market is growing as well, with penthouses selling for $1 million or more.


The University of Nevada, Reno and Truckee Meadows Community College systems enroll more than 25,000 full-time students, plus numerous private colleges offer continuing education in many fields. Public/private partnerships with area industries are expanding curricula and training people for local high-paying careers. Entrepreneurship plays a significant role in the area economy.

Reno-Sparks has four major hospitals offering state of the artsnowman1 medical care, Carson City has a large hospital, plus the University of Nevada, Reno has a medical school and nursing program.


The high desert climate of Reno and Sparks offers four distinct seasons and basks in
more than 300 days of sunshine each year. Most of the valley sits at about 4,500 feet above sea level and the dryness of the elevation soften the seasons. Summer days can top 90-degrees, yet the lack of humidity makes that tolerable, plus most nights cool down dramatically. In winter, even the coldest, snowiest days lack the bite of dampness.

Reno History

First settled in the 1850s, Reno was originally named Lake’s Crossing. The discovery of the Comstock Lode of silver in the mountains to the east led to one of the greatest mining rushes of all time. The area boomed, the Central Pacific Railroad built a depot here and in the 1860s the town was renamed to honor Major General Jesse Lee Reno, a Union officer who was killed in the Civil War.

Though the local mining boom faded, Reno continued to prosper as a commercial and business center. Large scale mining continues in other parts of the state and Nevada ranks as one of the top gold producing regions in the world.

Sparks History

The City of Sparks was built by the Southern Pacific Railroadmichael-train and named after Gov. John Sparks in 1904. Today tourist, commercial and industrial businesses fuel its economy and its residential areas extend far to the north into Spanish Springs.

Visitors from around the globe come to Reno-Sparks for its wide range of special events, from the Reno Rodeo in June through the National Championship Air Races in the fall the area covers the gamut of interests.  Once they discover the beauty, the quality of life and the affordability, most want to come here again.

Quality of Life is more than a hope. It is a way of life in Northern Nevada.

Have a question about Reno/Sparks? Leave a comment or send me an email! Email: Hodriscoll@chaseinternational.com

Christmas is a Great Time to Buy a Home!

Selling or buying a home in winter poses unique challenges — and real estate opportunities.

Seasonal swings in home prices and number of homes on the market happen in many cold climates, including Northern Nevada. Trees lose leaves, lawns turn brown. Hopefully, there’s snow on the ground. Sellers fret that buyers can’t see and appreciate the lovely landscaping they worked so hard on. Buyers must use their imaginations or rely on photos to understand the summer beauty of a home on the market in mid-winter.

Yet people buy and sell homes all year long. Families grow, promotions or new jobs require people to move, and many other life-changing events  prompt people to list a property for sale in winter.

Whether buying or selling a home, use these tips to get the most out of this real estate season!

Are you a  Buyer? 

Fact: There are fewer homes on the market from December – Marc2525 Rio Alayne Ct Sparks NV-print-006-1-11-2500x1668-300dpih, so buyers have fewer homes to tour and from which to select. BUT those homes that are available are there for a reason — their sellers are motivated! In many cases, price points may be less than homes that get listed in spring.

Fact: In many markets, prices frequently jump in the Spring and early summer, then level out or even retreat for the rest of the year. In winter, some sellers are more willing to negotiate, if not on price, on other points. Buyers who wait until spring to start looking, may miss the boat. If prices jump again, but a buyer’s budget doesn’t, then they may have to buy less house.

Fewer buyers = better chance at getting a great property at a better price.

Timing: The weeks before and after Christmas are great times to make an offer on a house!

The reason: Many agents and many buyers take the holidays off. Less competition may mean a better deal for those in the hunt for a great home.

Are You a Seller?

Homes for sale in mid-winter fchristmas-front-doorace the challenge of fewer buyers. Make the most of what your home has to offer with these tips:

• Turn the lights on! Outside  may be blustery, cold and dreary, so make the house you’re trying to sell warm and inviting.

Home buying is emotional.  Create a comfortable environment for buyers. Add lights to dark corners, Consider installing recessed lights in dark hallways. Add lamps on a timer. Both are fairly inexpensive, yet very effective tactics to make your home sparkle on a dark day.

• Keep the heat on! No one likes a cold house. Many modern thermostats have timers for night and day. Use one, especially in a vacant house. Set the daytime temperature at about 68 degrees.  If a home is barely warmer inside than it is out, clients just won’t stay very long. Don’t lose a sale over a few dollars for heat.ornament 2013

• Consider professional staging. Smart designers can re-purpose or re-arrange your furniture to give it a better flow for touring. Decorate — but not too much. Pack up your personal items — photos, toys, games, “stuff” you are moving anyway. Look at model homes — which maximize a room’s features by strategically placing a minimum amount of furniture. Just enough to give an idea.

Odd fact: empty rooms look smaller than furnished rooms. Again, play into the emotion of buying a home. You want a buyer to pick your property over all other options. Focus on staging the master bedroom and the rooms you spent the most time using and enjoying. Kitchens: Only one item on the counters, and perhaps a small breakfast table staged with coffee cups hint at cozy conversations.

• Show the summer scene with photos!  An album, 8×10 display stands clearly show buyers how much shade the now-barren trees provide your yard. Colorful fruit trees? Glorious roses? Share photos of how lovely your garden will be in just a few months.

dollar sign artReno Market Insights: Inventory is still low. Is buying new construction the answer? Maybe not. Developers used to price homes below existing homes in Northern Nevada. Not no much today — especially when factoring in lot premiums, nearly mandatory “upgrades” plus the hidden costs of window coverings, landscaping and customized paint. Buyers who think they really want brand new, may  find their dollars go farther in “used” home — especially before the traditional spring price hike hits.

So from today through January ‘Tis the Season to, perhaps find a great deal! 

For more information, call/text 775-762-7576 or send an email to hodriscoll@chaseinternational.com

Holly O’Driscoll is a Realtor with Chase International Real Estate in Reno, Nevada. 


Interest Rate Jump Hurts Home Buyers

Since the election, mortgage interest rates jumped 1/2 percent, according to a briefing this morning from one of our mortgage partners.

“Interest rates should increase gradually during the next four years under a Donald Trump administration, which could dampen growth in the housing industry, economists and housing experts predict,” according to The Street, an online economic blog.

It’s already happening. Rates offered to borrowers with excellent credit jumped to 4.25 percent for  30-year fixed-rate loan. That’s a real shock to consumers used to rates starting in the 3-percent range. The new numbers are low by historical standards — yet psychologically, it hurts.


It also cuts into consumers’ buying power. The lender I spoke with explained that a half percent adds about $44 per month to the payment on a $200,000 loan.

That may not sound exorbitant. Over time it adds up. And, it cuts buying power for many clients. Depending on their income and credit rating, every incremental increase in mortgage interest rates means they can afford less house.

Various economic websites are using “skyrocketing” “relentless move upwards” when talking about recent spikes in interest rates. Will rates continue to rise? I have no crystal ball. In one weekly report, 50% of economists said “yes” If that happens, buyers will afford less house.

25 Back 4 10611 Buckhorn Ridge Ct. High Res (36 of 59) Back

10611 Buckhorn Ridge, Truckee, NV $2,999,000

How does that impact buyers? Higher interest rates mean higher monthly payments and it will take a higher income to qualify for the amount a consumer could get last week.

How does it impact sellers? By shrinking the buyer pool. Will it hurt list prices for homes?  Not immediately. Logically a sustained increase in mortgage rates has to effect sellers.

  • Will it spur buyers to lock in a rate before they climb even higher?
  • Will it price buyers out of the market?
  • Will sellers have to lower the property price? Will they negotiate more?

What do you think? Let me know!

Holly O’Driscoll, Chase International Real Estate, Reno, Nevada. Call/text: 775-762-7576



Remodel vs Flip – Details Count


Remodel vs. Flips — understanding the difference matters in a long-term home investment.

Reality: Most home buyers want a home that’s “move in ready.” Investors, listing agents and savvy sellers know homes that show well sell faster and for more money.

Opportunity: No home is perfect. Those in need of updating or sold “as is” may offer buyers the opportunity to save significant money, if they’re willing to invest their time and elbow grease.


Challenge: Some “flipped” homes consist of little more than “slapping lipstick on a pig” and jacking the price. Examples include cleaning, painting and re-carpeting. If that’s all a home needs, then great … it’s a win-win. Some homes need much more and cosmetic fixes merely put a veneer on a sub-par property.

In older neighborhoods, buyers may want to search for a home that’s been “renovated” which, for today’s article means, its had extensive work done to professional standards. Quality counts. Google home renovations to read expert advice and data regarding projects that payoff, and those that don’t.lwk_3554

Location matters. The seller of one of my listings in Reno decided to buy and renovate a 1970s-era five-bedroom property zoned for some of the city’s most established schools. She intended to live there for years, then sell. She did a huge renovation. Professionals replaced the roof, furnace, a/c, water heater and updated the electrical. Inside, professionals installed new hardwood floors, gutted and remodeled kitchen, remodeled all the bathrooms, painted, updated light fixtures and more. Overall, more than $200,000 in updates brought this old home into the 21st century. The home shines.


2985 Rustic Manor Circle, Reno, NV 89509: Five bedrooms, 3 baths, 3,070 total square feet. Price: $600,000

The cost: At $600,000, this home’s features and amenities now compare favorably to many newer homes in the same zip code — plus it has RV parking and the advantage of not being in an HOA.

Whomever buys this home will have the best of both worlds — a quality-renovation of a home with character set in an older neighborhood near popular schools. The list of upgrades completed by licensed professionals makes it it so much more than a flip. If this appeals to you, contact me for a private showing!

Interested in learning more about this home or about real estate in Reno? I can help. Contact me! Email: hodriscoll@chaseinternational.com. Office phone: 775-850-5900.

Holly O’Driscoll is a Realtor at Chase International Real Estate in Reno, NV.

Real Estate Makes People Crazy!


My listing in South Reno recently sold for $269,500. This 1,738 sq/ft, 2-bedroom + loft condo has a 2-car garage. It was in contract 3 days after listing.

Rational, intelligent people become unreasonable, inflexible deal-killers when buying or selling a home. Why? Because money is emotional, and these days, real estate involves a LOT of money.

In northern Nevada, $250,000 (a quarter of a million dollars!) or less doesn’t buy much: most likely a tiny, older home, a manufactured property or perhaps a condo. Homes $250,000 – $300,000 buys a bit more. Most homes are higher. In many California cities, that wouldn’t buy a thing.  

Add to that the fact that even the most straightforward transactions usually have at least one “bump” in the road, and people panic.  The size of the investment dwarfs nearly any other transaction. It’s scary. I’ve had clients threaten to walk away from a $400,000 home over $150 in repairs. 

Realtors earn their commissions — at least I do! My services includes massive orchestration to transfer a home from seller to buyer. I manage 20 or more people per transaction: My client, the other client’s agent, the lender, the title company, the appraiser, various inspectors, the office people, and the repair people. Emotional support, mediation, discretion all play rolls.

Every transaction includes a learning opportunity — digging through county assessor records to discover when an easement was put in place, helping out of state buyers find good repair/remodel contractors, the list goes on and on.  

Experience matters. Service matters. Commitment matters. That’s what to look for in a Realtor!  Call/text me with real estate questiHolly O'Driscoll_AA_260x300 (1)ons! 

Holly O’Driscoll
Chase International Real Estate
Reno, Nevada