Texas Living

10 Signs of a Bad House Flip

By Peter Simek 10.30.20

There are few more exciting — and stressful — life events than buying a house. Finding the perfect home takes a lot of research, plenty of patience, and more than a little luck. But buyers beware: Sometimes that dream home in the listing photos really is too good to be true.

Rising real estate values have created an environment in Texas where many people are buying old homes, fixing their problems, updating their features, and making a tidy profit on the open market. Sometimes these real estate speculators do good work — but other times they’re working fast and skipping corners, which could leave big headaches for the buyer. And while a good home inspector should be able to spot the telltale signs of a bad house flip, there are a handful of things you should keep an eye out for.

Here’s what to look for when touring a home to ensure that you don’t get too far down the road — and too emotionally invested — before realizing the house is a bad investment.

1. Flaws in the Flooring

Those shiny wood floors may look great in the pictures, but when you visit the home, check for shoddy craftsmanship. New flooring should be flush with the molding and door jambs, and there shouldn’t be any buckling. Improperly installed floors can also allow for moisture to collect underneath. Check under the carpet to make sure renovators haven’t used it to cover up other issues.

2. Bizarre Kitchen Layouts

If you see luxury branding in the kitchen, look twice. New appliances and granite countertops aren’t always markers of a quality renovation. Sometimes home flippers slap on top-grade materials to cover up more fundamental problems — like a poorly designed kitchen. If the kitchen upgrades don’t fit, or if they inhibit the flow and function of the layout, the home may have been a rush job.

3. Stuck or Leaky Doors and Windows

Poorly installed windows and doors will stick, or that extra millimeter will leak air. Tough-to-open locks, uneven jambs, and drafts coming from windows and doors are all signs of a bad house flip.

4. Old Electrical Wiring

Even if the surfaces of a house look brand-new, its guts may not have been updated. Old wiring — or wiring that’s not up to code — can’t handle an increased load and can be costly to repair. Ask to see the permits and paperwork surrounding the home’s electrical work.

5. HVAC Problems

Like your electrical system, older HVAC units that are not up to code, or are not big enough to cool or heat an expanded home renovation, may undercut the value and comfort of an otherwise nice-looking home flip. Confirm the year of the unit, test it out, and consider having a technician check for functionality to avoid needing to buy a new HVAC.

6. Shifty Foundation

Telltale signs a foundation hasn’t been addressed include uneven floors and cracks in the ceilings or around windows and doors. Again, look for sagging floors, uneven jambs, or sticky doors and windows.

7. Shoddy Plumbing

Sure, all those new faucets and sinks may look shiny and new, but what’s under the hood? Check under sinks for leaks, bad drainage, and old or out-of-code materials. Sometimes, handyman plumbers use materials that licensed contractors avoid, which could mean future plumbing problems will not be covered by your home warranty.

8. Improper Insulation

All that fluffy stuff hidden away in your attic does some heavy lifting in keeping your home cool or warm during Texas’ extreme temperatures. Check to make sure the insulation is sufficient and that the remodeler used the correct R-value for your region of Texas.

9. Skimping on the Roof

Bad home flippers tend to focus on improving the parts of the house you see in listing photos but neglect the bits that are less visible — which are often more important. An example of this is an old roof on a new home, which creates maintenance headaches and can be costly to replace.

10. Double-Check the ‘Custom’ Cabinetry

“Custom” and “luxury” are two buzzwords real estate flippers love to use, but they are often meaningless. If the seller is advertising custom cabinetry, find out who built and installed the cabinets to make sure the workmanship is up to snuff.

When you’re nearly set on purchasing a house, have this list of property insurance questions up your sleeve.

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