I have seen 1 year renovations take 3 years with significant cost over runs which is exactly in line with the old adage in the contruction business - "it costs two times as much and takes three times as long" as the best estimate you get. Obviously that isn't always true, but too often it ends up being true.
In the bubble years everyone became a fix and flipper, and most failed. It just is not as easy as it looks.
It ultimately depends on the cost of the home and the work it needs. Typically, it's better to buy a fixer than a house that's all "done". I sold a house in SF last summer that needed a lot of work. My client spent a reasonable amount in preparing the property for sale (and we did it in less than 6 weeks) and had he not done that, he would have gotten 3 to 5 times the amount he spent less had he not done the work.
I'd be happy to talk more about your options if you like.
Rich Bennett - 415.305.4911
Zephyr Real Estate
2500 Market St.
San Francisco, CA 94114
Typically it's better to buy a fixer and then renovate it. There are several variables (sq ft of house, sq ft of land, and neighborhood). The subdistricts associated with that zip code (94131) all vary in desirability.
If you are looking to flip a property, one thing you can do is see how much the fixer costs in the subdistrict you are looking, see how much it would cost to renovate it and see what it could be sold for once the remodel is done. Just make sure that the fixer you buy has a good foundation, see how the roof is, plumbing and heating. Those are costly items so make sure those are good before you go in. Also, check to see if the termite inspection doesn't have any red flags.
Make sure that the fixer is in a good area that others would want to live in for resale value if you decide to sell the place afterwards. You can change the house in a year but it takes years to change a neighborhood.
DiPali - 650-566-5766
This answer assumes that you will be able to renovate the home effectively, if you were looking at paying a premium to purchase the home renovated, or to renovate it yourself - you would find typically that you would pay a premium for the renovated home - that premium may be attributed to the convenience of the delivery.
1) Which home has the better location?
2) Is the already-renovated home improved to your standards?
3) Is the older home at (or near) the end of its economic life? In other words, can you expect higher than usual maintenance costs due to the age of the home?
In almost every instance, it's better to buy the better location. If they are equal, go with a home that has the lowest overall cost of ownership.