If you haven’t noticed, flippers are back in full force. It seems everyone wants to get into property flipping these days, even those who have never done so or may not have a good sense of what they are doing. If you are a buyer or know someone looking for property – whether a home, second home or investment property, you need to be careful when you come across flipped properties.
Let’s start with defining a “flip.” This is a property that has been recently purchased and then remodeled, oftentimes very quickly, in order to put back on the market and make a profit. There are all kinds of flippers – from experienced to do-it-yourselfers, and many different levels and degrees of remodeling. As a buyer you need to be very careful when considering writing an offer on these properties. There are several different types of flips, and I have categorized them to make it easier to understand:
Types of Flips:
1. Quick Flip or “Eye Candy” Flip: This is the most common type of flip that I see when showing property, and it is very easy to do and the cost is minimal. This type of flip often involves new paint inside and usually outside, a major cleanup, new (usually inexpensive) carpet in carpeted areas, new hardware to freshen up cabinetry, new light fixtures, and often new kitchen appliances. It gives the illusion of newness, but usually upon deeper inspection one finds that there are many items that need attention – furnaces and water heaters that need to be replaced, electrical issues, landscaping, and many others. If the home is older oftentimes the flipper does not replace the windows, which is an expensive job. Each home obviously differs in what is needed to make it look great to a buyer, and these quick flips often get the “oohs” and “ahhs” from buyers, but they may still need a lot of work.
2. Full Flip: These types of properties address replacement, or partial replacement, of most appliances and other issues, along with a remodel. They typically involve more than just painting and putting in baseboards and new kitchen appliances. Many flippers these days do not do this type of flip, because it is not cost effective. but for a buyer this is obviously the best kind of flip property to buy, because it is not just eye candy and things have been properly attended to. These flippers often address issues that quick flippers do not, like replacing old windows, flooring, cabinetry and sinks, appliances, landscaping, and any other issues that a quick flipper might pass over.
1. Get a home inspection: Keeping in mind that not all home inspectors are alike, it is a good idea to do your research – most real estate agents know inspectors who do a thorough job. If not, contact a few and get names of people who have used them. Talk to those people and see how well the inspector did. Also, check their credentials and make sure they are certified by either CREIA (California Real Estate Inspection Association) or ASHI (American Society of Home Inspectors); if you live in another state you can check with that state’s licensing board. My favorite inspector is a licensed civil engineer and a licensed general contractor as well, so I feel very confident my clients are getting the best inspection possible.
2. Get a home warranty plan. Home warranties are great for the first year, in case any appliances break or you have other issues that are covered under your policy. You can write this into your purchase contract and ask the seller to pay for it. You may want to ask the seller to include upgrades to the policy, like roof, pool (if relevant), air conditioner, etc. That way you are covered, and you can extend the policy at the end of the first year should you desire. Discuss this with your real estate professional.
In order to avoid having to waste time on a home that is a low quality quick flip, you should look beyond the “eye candy” that paint and fresh baseboards and appliances may present. Look inside cabinets, check the furnace and air conditioner (if there is one), as well as the water heater. Look for any signs of prior leaks (although paint usually does a good job of covering these up for a short time). Really take a good look at the home to see if there are other potential issues that may need to be addressed, either immediately or in the future. Have your agent ask questions of the listing agent if you need. If you feel comfortable in making an offer than you will find out more when you have your home inspection.
The bottom line is to hold off on getting excited about a flipped property until you have all the facts and can verify that the home will not end up in need of a lot of work soon after purchase. As always, if you do your homework you will likely avoid making mistakes…buying a flip home can be wonderful if you are careful. Happy home hunting!