Find a Mid Mod Fixer Upper

3 min read Today, get this architect’s top tips for finding the perfect fixer upper to turn into your mid mod dream home.

Some people are looking for their turn key dream house but others want a fixer upper they can make their own. Fixing up modest little ranch houses into mid mod show pieces is kind of my jam.

Here are this architect’s ideas for how to win at the house hunting game.

Here’s the short, short version for MCM house hunters in a hurry. Want more? Give the episode a listen or pop over and read this blog post: How to Buy a Mid-Century Home: An Architect’s Guide.

vintage yellow for sale sign


The first thing you need to do is get the band together. Great homes are not bought in a vacuum! Make sure you’ve got your financial ducks in a row. Befriend a MCM-friendly realtor. Enlist a like minded designer to help you envision your remodel and start asking about the best contractors around.

Because this housing market is HOT!

We are still in a pretty hot seller’s market right now. There are a lot of MCM houses coming on the market but they are being snapped up very quickly.

Be ready to jump with your offer and even include a little emotional incentive to your pitch! (More on home-owner love letters, later)

Here are universal tips for anyone looking to buy a mid-century home:

target the right Location

This is one thing that matters to everyone … and which can’t be fixed with a strategic remodel! Make sure you’ve nailed down the areas where you want to live before you start your home search.

sniff out great Site orientation

Pay attention to how the house interacts with its surroundings. Does it have a pleasant relationship with the street? Is there shade to protect it from hot summer afternoons? Conversely, is there plenty of natural daylight? Do you have privacy from adjacent houses and public ways?

Moving right along, here are some tips aimed at people searching for their very own MCM fixer-upper:

Check maintenance Status

This is a little like Goldilocks’ task. You want a house dated, dilapidated, or odd enough to be worth the work. But you’re not looking for a money pit! Pay attention to the difference between run down and broken down.

Some things are inevitable – all vintage MCM homes need some electrical and HVAC updates. Watch out for signs of underlying structural problems or water issues, though. You don’t want to blow your remodel budget on fixing those!

Seek Secret extra Space

Look for a house that has some easy expandability. Can you finish and improve a basement to double your square footage? Could you sneak a first floor laundry into a new garage-attaching-mudroom? Look for easy remodeling wins like these!

Find dreadfully Dated Finishes

Weird wallpaper, peeling paint, and bizarre toilet colors are all your friends in a fixer-upper search. Anything that makes another potential buyer click to the next listing, makes it easier for you to nail the sale.

Embrace a Weird Layout

Contrary to most house hunting advice, you actually may want to buy a house with a bad layout. Seek out the terrible entry, the dark closed-off kitchen, or strange sun porch. Just be sure you can visualize a fix! Use your x-ray vision see through walls and plan to revise the original builders mistakes!

In today’s episode you’ll hear …

  • Skip to the short version of my house hunting (for a fixer upper) tips right here [1:35]
  • Advice from a few of my favorite local realtors on the Madison housing market [4:25]
  • How (and why ) to assemble a home buying team [6:00]
  • Prepare for a hot market … even in or maybe because of the pandemic [9:30]
  • Zero in on the right location and site orientation [11:00]
  • How to Goldilocks your way to the right level of rundown. ID the difference between maintenance issues and big expensive problems [13:25]
  • How to look for secret spaces inside a house [15:35]
  • Embrace the weird and dated finishes … and a bad layout for a best buy [16:15]

Listen now on

Apple | Google |  Spotify | Stitcher

Resources to help you find your Fixer Upper Mentioned in this Episode