Buying a flipped house? Consider these 7 red flags first

Posted at 6:00 AM, Sep 12, 2016
and last updated 2016-09-20 01:07:05-04

COVINGTON, Ky. -- Buying remodeled homes, regardless of age, can be a really good thing -- if they’re done right.

If not, you could be taking on problems that will need to be fixed eventually, if not right away. And if you’re the inexperienced home flipper, you could have trouble selling or recouping your investment.

Area remodelers and expert flippers offer the best advice before buying: Get a home inspection.

“I’m working on (a house) now where the floor was bowed,” said Bill Butt, owner of Bill’s Remodeling and Electric in Walton. “It was flipped, but the inspection still found five things wrong with it.”

The biggest repair? The foundation required a steel beam to support it. Butt said there also was a hole in the soffit so animals could get into the attic and shingles that hadn’t been trimmed.

Home inspectors also will check to make sure the electrical panel is up to code (they can’t see what’s behind the walls) and will give a buyer information on the condition of the furnace, air conditioner, water heater and windows plus dozens of other things, said Butt.

Here are some other things to look for when you're considering a flipped house:

1. Structural issues. It’s hard for the average person to know if there are structural issues, said Tom Withorn, owner of Craftsmen by Design in Union. Cracks in concrete or, in Butt’s case, bowed floors are red flags. Don’t hesitate to have a foundation expert give an estimate on the repair.

2. Wiring. The inspector should have feedback on what he or she can see, such as the electric box. But easy things to spot are updated electrical plugs anywhere near water sources. All those outlets should be GFCI plugs that allow a reset at the plug site, said Butt. Look for any exposed wiring as well.

3. Paint. Is it sloppy? “If there are multiple layers of paint, drips, bubbles or patch jobs,” it has not been done correctly, said Withorn. Sometimes homeowners try to do their own patch jobs, he added, and it’s obvious.
Lee Bledsoe, a Covington Realtor who also flips houses with his mother, said buyers should also watch for paint over the top of wallpaper.

“It means they haven’t done a good job,” he said.

4. Mechanics. Air conditioners and furnaces can cost a lot to replace, said Bledsoe.

Check to see if the mechanics are new or if the contractor is trying to make a 20-year-old furnace work.

Same for appliances, he said. Old appliances could also suggest that other corners were cut in the flip.

5. Flooring. One of the worst things is a cheap laminate flooring,” said Bledsoe, noting that there are some nicer ones on the market, but “they’re still not hardwood.”

Buyers should also check the installation, he said. Are the joints tight? Are there gaps?

6. Cabinets. “Look more closely,” said Withorn. “Dig a little deeper as for the quality.”

It’s easy to see what’s on the surface in terms of color and style, but consider whether it’s particle board or hardwood, look at how drawers open and shut, look at the hardware.

7. Craftsmanship. Pay attention to details elsewhere in the home, said Butt.

“Things like mitered corners should be less than the thickness of a dime. Concrete raised more than one-eighth of an inch is a trip hazard,” he advised.

If you can, meet the contractor or flipper, said Bledsoe. Is this their first house or 10th?

Withorn also suggested taking someone with you who is in the business. It’s worth whatever a contractor would charge to point out things or offer feedback on what you’d like to change.

Why not spend $100 and take a registered remodeler with you?”

“It’s really not hard to spot a less-than-quality job,” Bledsoe said, and that's why the inspection is crucial.