Home Buying in Burbank>Question Details

Lynn Stevens, Home Buyer in Sun Valley, CA

In real estate lingo, what's the difference between "fixer" and "needs TLC"? Are there degrees of fixes needed and where does TLC fall on that scale?

Asked by Lynn Stevens, Sun Valley, CA Wed Jan 16, 2013

Help the community by answering this question:


Fixer can be anything from outdated kitchen and baths to major concerns including exterior issues. Much broader implications.
TLC may be referred to a home that is simply a bit outdated, needs some touch ups, maybe paint, floors, minor updates if desired, maybe the landscaping has been ignored, etc.

The key is, aside from visual inspection, to always hire a professional property inspector once your offer has been accepted and you enter into escrow. They will check everything from plumbing, to appliances to foundation.

Feel free to call me with any other questions.

Linda Dye
(818) 321-3311
0 votes Thank Flag Link Tue Jan 22, 2013
The terms are often used interchangeably. Neither has any specific meaning.

TLC can mean anything for paint and carpets to “Toilets, Lights and Ceilings.”
0 votes Thank Flag Link Thu Jan 17, 2013
Flag Fri Jan 18, 2013
Dear Lynn

A fixer needs a lot of work.

TLC can mean, needs paint and / or new carpet.

If buying a home always do a thorough property inspection.

Best regards

Web Reference: http://ruthandperry.com/
0 votes Thank Flag Link Wed Jan 16, 2013
Hello Lynn,

I see your son is looking for move in condition, which is great but do also consider that these come at a higher price. I would still say don't ignore the TLC properties, the work that may need to be done may be minimal and might get you the best bang for the buck..

Like I tell my buyers.. if there is a home that they love that has everything they are looking for and move in condition. Then there are probably 10 other buyers that feel the same way about that home and vice versa. So just be prepared to maybe go higher on the price to get the home they are after.... especially in today's market. Where anything that hits the market that is decent, move in ready, priced right, will have 8 offers in two days.


0 votes Thank Flag Link Wed Jan 16, 2013
Wow. Great answers, all. Although it's discouraging to read, it's important to know there are no industry standard terms.
I was especially interested in the comment on who the agent wants to see as buyers.
My son is looking now and says he and his wife want move-in condition. As one contributor pointed out, that might include something that needs cosmetic fixes. Expands his range of choices. Thank you!
BTW, he's ripped out a bathroom to the studs and replaced all the plumbing, done the floor leveling, tile work, etc. He had a summer job in college painting houses. I've been working on a 117-year-old house for the past four years -- repairing plaster, gutting a kitchen to the studs and redoing, repairing wooden windows (I'm state-certified in that), exterior and interior painting, etc. -- so I am familiar with both hands-on work and hiring contractors. He hasn't dealt with contractors yet.
Thanks for the tip on inspectors. I hear you! The so-called inspector my realtor urged me to hire never entered
the attic because it didn't have a floor, ignored the spalling brick chimney base (water leaking from bad roofing) and missed carpenter ant damage so severe it threatened to collapse the back porch.
0 votes Thank Flag Link Wed Jan 16, 2013
Hi Lynn,

Now that you know how subjective the two terms are you may be asking yourself what your next step might be.

At the very least, I would suggest you find a personal friend with a little experience in remodeling that can tour homes with you.

Better yet, use Trulia to search for Realtors® with hands-on building / remodeling experience (and the physical and financial scar tissue that goes with this experience) would be a good move.

Finally, search for the best darn property inspector you can find right now! You don’t want to be searching around for this person once you have already entered into contract and your inspection contingency has started. By the way, one DOES NOT need to be licensed in CA to be a Property Inspector. So, I would suggest you find someone from one of the three property inspection associations below:


0 votes Thank Flag Link Wed Jan 16, 2013
Hy Lynn,

You've already read that "fixer" or "TLC" can mean many things.
One Preston's TLC, can be another's fixer.
It's just in your perspective.

I always advice my clients to see homes and have them make their own judgement.

Douglas Lagos
Realtor, CHS
Coldwell Banker
Web Reference: http://www.douglaslagos.com
0 votes Thank Flag Link Wed Jan 16, 2013
It comes down to the agent and who they are trying to draw into the property. Some agents will say what they really see the property needs... others know that if the property sounds like it needs a lot of work, then it may cause them to not get as many leads off the property. Investors are looking for the true fixers to flip.... First time home buyers want the TLC properties to slowly fix and move in right away. So it comes down to the agent and what they are trying to do and also the other words that are being used in the description of the property. With all these websites that agents pay to advertise on, the more leads they get off the property the better, even if we know this property doesn't work for the buyer we can switch them over to the other property that will work.

Either way as a buyer they need to see the property, cause "like I have found out" what one might consider a fixer or needs TLC, to an other, the home may be perfect.

Good luck,

Shadow Hills resident for 32 years.
0 votes Thank Flag Link Wed Jan 16, 2013
I believe that both terms are subjective, Saying a home is in need of some TLC could mean anything like "needs paint and carpets"....Saying a home is a "fixer" might mean that there is infrastucture problems. Or the other way around, it gets very confusing,
0 votes Thank Flag Link Wed Jan 16, 2013
Ms. Stevens,
You are probably getting the idea from the responses that there is no real definitive answer.

It all depends on the agent that lists the property. I have seen the whole spectrum. One property was a complete tear down but the agent referred to it as needing TLC. In another one, it was pretty much move in condition but the agent wrote fixer.

The best thing you can do is look at the property yourself. You know what you can live with and what you would like as far as your taste is concerned. If you are planning to list your property and know that it is basically in good form but needs a little work, you can discuss with the agent about wording before you list it.

Please call or send an email if you need help with any of your real estate needs.

Tommy Lee
DRE #01723594 SFC (Short Sale & Foreclosure Certified)
Premier Service® Professional
говорю порусскии
0 votes Thank Flag Link Wed Jan 16, 2013
The best thing to do is go look at the property. TLC and Fixer can be used in various ways and mean different things to each person. personally, fixer means it is suitable for a contractor or someone with contractor experience. TLC can mean outdated, deferred maintenance or cosmetic type items.
0 votes Thank Flag Link Wed Jan 16, 2013
As mentioned below it's completely subjective terminology, generally speaking the difference is as follows:

A place that needs TLC probably has some deferred maintenance and/or needs updating.

A fixer is more of a contractor project that requires extensive repairs and/or structural work in addition to upgrading.
0 votes Thank Flag Link Wed Jan 16, 2013
We use all sorts of terms that mean the same things, I am not sure there is any standard ranking of good to bad with them. TLC, Needs Help, Needs A Hug & Kiss, Owners Have Lost The Love, Fixer-Upper, and Needs Updating can all mean the same thing which would be Property Is Not Prime.
0 votes Thank Flag Link Wed Jan 16, 2013
So "needs interior paint" ranks the same as "needs complete re-plumbing"?
Flag Wed Jan 16, 2013
Great question...

These are subjective terms that can mean the same thing or something completely different. As a buyer, whenever I see that, I would suggest asking the listing agent for specifics of what the home needs.

There are indeed different degrees of fixers ...some are merely outdated and need a 'face lift' and others have systems and house components that really aren't working. Thus, it's critical to get the facts of the home in order to truly understand how the listing agent is using the term.

Hope that helps.
0 votes Thank Flag Link Wed Jan 16, 2013
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