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fixer-upper_home_couple(MCT)—When first-time home buyers Meghan Starr and Andrew Boerckel told their Philadelphia real estate agent that they were interested only in fixer-uppers, their agent Amanda Turske was skeptical.

Typically, clients buying their first houses these days want move-in-ready properties, said Turske, who gets about half her business from first-timers.

“Meghan was my first home buyer that wanted something that was a complete fixer-upper,” she said.

But Starr, a 28-year-old school psychologist, and her boyfriend, 32, recognized the potential in the approximately 1,080-square-foot “grandmom home,” which had wood-paneled walls and orange shag carpeting in the master bedroom.

“Don’t look at the present-day picture,” Starr said. “Visualize what it can be.”

Visualization didn’t come quite as easily for 29-year-old Alexander Zola.

When he and his wife, Stephanie, 30, began house-hunting in January, they wanted a turnkey property, Zola said. But finding a house that required no renovations and met their criteria — 1,400 square feet, three bedrooms, two bathrooms, and some outdoor space — pushed prices $170,000 higher than the couple originally intended to spend.

“I’m not going to find a wonderful 100-year-old house that is completely modern but still has a touch of character within my price range,” Zola said. “So the only other option is to do it yourself.”

The East Passyunk Square area of Philadelphia where they searched is historically known as an Italian-American enclave, an influence sometimes reflected indoors.

At one house, the decor included colonnades, shag carpeting and thick wallpaper, Zola said.

“It was like you were transported to Olive Garden,” he said. “We couldn’t imagine ourselves in it.”