4 Little Things That Could Signal You’re Buying a Hurriedly Flipped House

published Apr 14, 2021
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Buying a flipped house has a lot of appeal: They’re usually attractive, move-in ready homes with updated fixtures, appliances, and finishes. However, the quality of renovations done during the flipping process is a big factor for a potential buyer to consider. While some home flippers do top-notch jobs and pay attention to every detail while updating a property, others do it in a rush to make a quick buck — sometimes with subpar work.

While an inspector should point out the major flaws in a home before you buy it, such as roof or foundation issues, there are smaller red flags you can look for while touring a property that indicate it may have been flipped in a hurry.

Darin Bruck, an Atlanta home inspector with 20 years of experience, recently posted about this topic on TikTok. In his video, he says some surefire signs of a too-quick flip include loose railings that have been poorly reinforced, painted-over water damage under sinks or on ceilings, painted-over dust in air vents, smoke detectors that weren’t replaced, or leftover renovation debris remaining in the home.

I also turned to Delaware flipper Robyn Kessler, who has been buying and selling homes since 2005, for some pointers on shoddy flips as well. Here are four things she says to watch out for.

Cracked tile

You might spot a cracked tile and figure that’s an easy fix. However, it could indicate a much bigger problem: the flipper might not have laid the subfloor correctly, Kessler says.

“This one particularly makes me angry because putting in the correct subfloor and adhering it well so it doesn’t bounce when you walk on it would not have cost more than a few extra dollars to do it right — so it can hold the tile floor and whatever is going on top of that,” she says.

She remembers one scenario where a heavy clawfoot tub was going to be placed in a tiled bathroom with a faulty subfloor. “That would have been a scene from “‘The Money Pit,’” she says, meaning that the tub would likely have crashed through the weak floor and fallen to the level below as it did in the 1986 Tom Hanks/Shelley Long movie.

Crooked cabinets

In the kitchen, don’t just look at the amount of cabinet space or the quality of the hardware. Check to see if the cabinets are properly aligned vertically and horizontally. If not, “that’s a sure sign they weren’t level and even all around,” she says.

Ceiling spots

Always look at the ceilings for signs of water damage, Kessler says. If there’s been a leak, you can usually tell by spots, patches, or discolored paint. Be sure to check around light fixtures, where water is likely to pool. If you see signs of water damage, ask the seller what happened, because it could indicate a problem with the roof that might not have been properly addressed — leading to costly expenses down the road.

“Go to the attic, and look up at the inside of the roof, if you can,” she says. “Roofs are expensive to replace, and if there’s a leak, you’ll see it there.”

Shoddy painting

If the flipper spent the time and money on a proper paint job, you shouldn’t notice things like uneven edges, errant drips of paint on fixtures or the floor, or electrical outlets and light switches that have been painted over instead of removed first. “These items are really cheap to buy and easy to change out, so I don’t know why some people do this,” Kessler says about the outlets and switches. She also advises looking closely at the baseboards and checking to see if they were cleaned before being painted.

Kessler’s advice to potential buyers of flipped homes? “It’s important to be informed,” she says, regarding quality workmanship, how to spot it, and how much it costs. “If you don’t like to get your hands dirty and fix things around the house, then homeownership may not be for you.”