Lipstick On A Pig

Your new flipped house will be a disaster…probably

Man. I’ve had my run of poorly flipped houses this year. So many in fact, that they have their own hashtag on Instagram called Mr. Flipper.  If you don’t already follow me there, you should. I see a lot of crazy things every day, and I post them all on Instagram.

I have to admit, I dread inspecting flipped homes just a tad. I think it’s because most of my clients that are buying these houses are young, happy, and excited at the start of the inspection, and sad and depressed at the end of them…most of the time. Since the busy season in real estate is coming to a close, I wanted to show you some of the awful and crazy stuff I came across while performing a home inspection on a flipped house or two this past summer.  But first, lets talk about what a flip house is.

WHAT IS A FLIP HOUSE?

A flip house is a property purchased with the sole purpose of turning it around and selling it for a profit. These turn-a-rounds are done as fast as possible to minimize cost to Mr. Flipper.  The longer the home sits, the more money the flipper loses. This means the flipper has a financial interest in getting things done as fast as possible in order to make more money. Nowhere in that scenario do they have a vested interest in doing things correctly or even half-way right. Most of the time flippers buy these homes in poor condition with the plans of putting lipstick on a pig. They make it look great on the surface, but not so great underneath it all.

THERE ARE TWO WAYS OF DOING THINGS: THE RIGHT WAY, AND AGAIN.

A “good” flip job will always do a couple of things:

1. It will have the bling factor. The kitchen will be bright, shiny, and new, and the bathrooms will look like something out of a high-end Vegas hotel room. The old saying that kitchens and bathrooms sell houses is very true. We catch fish with shiny bait, and you my friend, are a 12 lb large-mouth bass to Mr. Flipper.

2. It will make you feel like EVERYTHING has been done already. I hear this line all the time: “You won’t find anything on this home, I bet. Everything has been replaced. It’s basically new.” Yeah, OK.

THE SELLERS DISCLOSURE – LOL!

Nope!  You get no disclosure on a flip house. Well, you get one, but it’s completely useless. This is because Mr. Flipper has never lived in the home, and in Kentucky (and I’d imagine everywhere else also) they are not expected or required to know anything about the home. Thus, nearly every disclosure I’ve ever read on a flipped house has “Unknown” checked straight down the page.  These documents are completely useless to the buyer, and the flipper knows this.

On a “regular” sales transaction (where the sellers have occupied the home) they are required to truthfully fill out the disclosure form to the best of their knowledge. This is where the sellers can tell you if the basement has ever leaked, how old the roof is–important stuff like that.

Just don’t expect any real info from a seller’s disclosure on a flip house.

MR. FLIPPER’S AWESOME WORK

I’ve always wondered if the shoddy work of Mr. Flipper was intentional, or just ignorance. Maybe a bit of both, or maybe I’m giving flippers too much credit. Let’s get started and you be the judge. Most of these are images, but there are some videos sprinkled in as well. Don’t forget to play them!


What can I say? This is just bad. The best part is that the bulb socket is covered by new vinyl soffit. If you EVER need to get to the wiring, you have to remove the soffit.

This listing touted a new roof. Well, to be fair, it was new. It was just very poorly installed.  Semantics, I suppose…

When I am standing in the front yard and I can see a nice new coat of paint on a chimney, my Spidy-Sense goes crazy. You simply don’t go through the trouble of climbing on the roof and painting A CHIMNEY if you’re not trying to mask something. You can clearly see the damaged bricks from spalling, which is a sign of moisture damage. These damaged bricks will need to be replaced. Basically, the whole thing needs to be rebuilt.

Like I said, a new bathroom is standard equipment on a flip house. These are usually equipped with tiled showers, and most of them leak. This disaster was discovered after running the water for about an hour. The tile job was bad, and I just had a feeling it was going to leak. My thermal camera confirmed it.

These surface-mount “sliding barn doors” are popular right now. They are very heavy, and you must hit framing when mounting the tracks. Mr. Flipper missed the mark here, and now things are pulling loose.

95% of life is effort. This flipper failed miserably. You could not see this uncapped HVAC trunk line unless you crawled into the tight crawlspace to see the end of it. On a brighter note, the area was nice and toasty with the heat running straight into it.

Come on, man! You have to be smarter than this. Painting the bottom part of a basement wall is a dead giveaway of water damage. Plus, you know, I can see the mold on the drywall from the driveway.

To be fair, this one only shows up if you look under the house in the crawlspace. Anyone up for a dip?  I’m sure there are only a few electrical wires hanging down in the water. But there may be a few fish as too!

The most important trait of a great contractor is being able to think 10 steps ahead. When you don’t do that, you run into things like this. Mr. Flipper installed this GFCI outlet too low and then installed the vanity on top of it. When the day comes to replace this outlet, you will have to remove the sink first. In the words of Homer Simpson–Doh!

The devil is always in the details. My OCD was going nuts looking at this shower valve install. If Mr. Flipper is too lazy to center the plumbing on the shower, what kind of mess is behind the wall?

Spray foam works well for lots of things, but stopping a water leak is not one of them. What we have here is a failed SEWAGE line. The old cast iron drain had started to leak and likely needed to be replaced. Mr. Flipper dumped a can of foam on it hoping it would mask the leak.  Nope!

When it comes to HVAC vents, those that you use in your floor are much thicker and robust than those made for the walls. This is so that you can walk on them without the fear of your foot crashing through the floor.  Mr. Flipper didn’t want to spend the money on one of those sturdy floor models, so he used a paper-thin wall register instead.  Watch your step!

Pro-tip here.  If you are going to install new flooring in your flip house, be sure the door will open after it has been installed.  Mr. Flipper did not take into account that the new layer of flooring would raise the clearance height of the door.  Oops. TAP IMAGE TO PLAY VIDEO

You would think a stud finder would be a tool that just about everyone would own.  Well, everyone but me, that is. I can’t go near one without it going off, so for me, they’re useless.  ;)

Here we have the worst kind of plumbing drain.  These flexi-drains are sold at the big box stores.  The only people who use them are homeowners who don’t know any better, and Mr. Flippers who don’t care if your sink drains or not. The ribs of these pipes will cause lots of problems with draining over time. The moral of the story is that they should not ever be used.

Insulation is kinda important.  That is, if you don’t like paying super duper hefty utility bills.  This old place in in Louisville was about 120 yrs old, and has NEVER had insulation put in. While this blows my mind on many levels, it makes me angry that Mr. Flipper couldn’t be troubled with insulating during the “remodel.”

This one is all kinds of crazy. The roofers from this flip house were really rough with the flue pipe for the furnace. So rough in fact, that they caused it to pull apart in the attic. The danger here is that the exhaust gases from the furnace are now dumping into the attic, which could make it back into the living space.  If that happens, you just may wake up dead.  Carbon Monoxide Poisoning is real.

Composition shingles are heavy. Like, really heavy.  Most roofs weigh about 5.2 pounds per square foot (shingles, underlayment, and plywood.)  Now, there are a lot of factors when it comes to how big a roof is, but everything I’ve read says the average roof is about 3000 square feet. That means that your roof weighs about 15,000 pounds or about three fully-loaded F-150 trucks.  Now, when your flipper is too lazy (or cheap) strip off the old layers of roof, you get a LOT of weight up there.  The framing that is holding all that up is not engineered to hold that much weight.  This one is a video for you to see several layers of shingles topped with a metal roof.  Sleep tight!  TAP IMAGE TO PLAY VIDEO

I’ll admit it. I don’t like crawlspaces. They are usually nasty, wet, and moldy.  This particular crawlspace was extra special.  Mr. Flipper had told the buyer they had a mold problem, but it had been repaired. Once I got under the house it, was abundantly clear that the flipper had not spoken the truth. If you are looking to buy a house with a crawlspace, please take a few minutes and look under there.

You have to be really lazy to not take 12 seconds to tape off an outlet before painting the wall. Good luck plugging anything into this bad boy. Even if you do dig out the paint, the GFCI function is out the window on this one.

Downspouts are critical to the health of your house.  They must be able to drain the water away from the house. I’m pretty sure this one is not draining at all. If anything, this is going to wash out the soil under the driveway. Things will get real ugly in a few years if this is not addressed.

Mr. Flipper could not be troubled with a real cap for this SEWAGE line, so he used a large piece of rubber and a hose clamp to seal the end of the pipe off. I sure hope someone doesn’t poke at it with anything sharp, or you will have poo water draining onto the floor!

To be fair, this is not a real “problem.” It’s just incredibly stupid. Who would install cabinet doors like this?

Mr. Flipper was too cheap to install plywood before installing the vinyl siding on this garage. Plywood sheathing does a couple of things for a building.  1.) It gives the wall the structural support it needs to not rack back and forth (it ties all the 2×4 wall studs together). 2.) It acts as a backer for the siding. Anything coming at this siding at a high velocity will punch right through it.

I find lots of leaking tile showers. One of my tricks is to place toilet paper along the walls and run the tiled shower for 20-30 minutes. You’d be shocked at the number of bad installs I find doing this.  TAP IMAGE TO PLAY VIDEO

Mr. Flipper wanted to install a larger refrigerator in this house, but the kitchen cabinet above the spot was in the way.  No worries, he’ll just cut the bottom floor out of your cabinet.

Mr. Flipper’s tile skills are shining here. This is a whole new level of, “I don’t have talent, and I don’t care.”

Over the years, I’ve come to find out that folks care about things like insulation and being comfortable in their house. Too bad Mr. Flipper doesn’t care about those things for you. Here, via thermal imaging, you can see the glowing hot spots in the wall where he didn’t insulate things well.

7 Comments

  1. OMG I’m so happy I found this site.
    I’ve spent the last three months bidding on one house after another. 95% of them flip houses. I lost every bid but the most recent one. Actually had the inspection which most people are foolishly waiving just to get the house. I got my insp. report back and it was 243 pages of things wrong with the house. The house was built in 1970 and when they did the dryer vent they sawed completely through one of the floor joists. All the other joists were starting to crack. Two support columns in the attic were twisting and falling over. No insulation in the attic and I’m in MN. So…huge ice dam issue there. The basement stairs have to be redone. The treads were 1×10 and had shims in every step under the staircase. Two of the windows in one bedroom had no glass pane. And the rest of the windows were literally falling out of the frames.

    The outside of the house was no better. The sidewalks around the house had a negative slope that needed to be fixed or all the rainwater and snow melt went right to the foundation. Gutters were all leaking. Garage door couldn’t even be opened. Trim on the garage was missing that was about four inches in height. Rodents, insects could come and go right in and out of the garage.

    What really gets me is that he bought the house 8 months ago……EIGHT…….all he did was slap on a new roof, some new siding and some plank flooring. No new appliances either. He paid 140K and I won with a bid of 291K.
    He installed new siding but didn’t even bother to reattach the doorbell, the porch light or the mailbox or even the house numbers!
    He redid the bathroom but didn’t bother to attach the toilet to the floor or caulk around it. He put in a new vanity but the pipe below was leaking as was the one in the kitchen. Two of the electrical outlets had signs of fire damage.

    The entire hvac system needed to be replaced. All of this was just the first 50 pages. There’s another 190 pages of crap. I literally ran away screaming. The seller (another realtor) surprise, surprise was shocked that I was backing out. I asked him to repair the windows, the staircase and the joist. He said he’d put replacement glass in two windows and fix the joist. Said absolutely not to the stairs.
    He also left a huge mirror in one bedroom, a washing machine under the stairs, two huge filing cabinets and told ME to haul it away. I told him to fix the outlets…..he told me to hire an electrician. I told him to fix the bathroom…..he told me hire a plumber.
    My realtor started yelling at me telling me how unreasonable I was being……I can’t even type what my reply to him was.
    NEVER BUY A FLIP AND NEVER WAIVE THE INSPECTION. EVER.
    I might be out 1,300.00 for the inspection but at least I’m not out 300K for what is basically four walls and a roof.
    Who pays 300K for a house with broken windows and no toilet?
    But hey……he had another buyer lined up almost immediately who took the house “as is”. Congrats dude. LOL I hope they had at least 50K set aside for immediate repairs. Especially the hvac. Furnace is short cycling and the inspector had to shut it off due to the dangers of that.
    Oh and the mold and radon came back as acceptable so there is that…..
    I’ll repeat……NEVER BUY A FLIP.

    Needless to say…..I’m renting till I can afford a new home.

  2. Holy cow! Like the other commenter, my husband and I had a contract on a house that is a flip. It’s in a gentrifying neighborhood where people aren’t really selling to cash in on their equity; they either have to move or else it’s a total reno/teardown. So there are few houses available, and probably 80% are flips.

    Anyway, we really liked this house, a brick ranch with a finished basement. The inspector started off by showing us that there were zero building permits on file for this house. He continued by pointing out that the cabinets and range had been installed such that the dishwasher would only open to 45 degrees before it hit the oven. He said something like “five dollars to do it right, five thousand to fix”. There was a beautiful marble countertop with w/cutout for the sink, so it couldn’t be moved.

    There wasn’t enough room to shift the dishwasher one inch to the left to allow the door to clear the range. The whole below-counter cabinetry probably was going to have to be redone, or else a new range (the one installed was brand new) with a shallower depth would have to be installed. The water heater vent pipe wasn’t hooked up….a section of pipe stuck up from the top of the heater and went nowhere. A big section of drywall was going to have to be removed in order to hook up that pipe.

    The lovely full bath in the basement was not plumbed to the house, but through an ancient, half-buried sump pump in the back yard. The inspector also noticed some holes in the front yard. He turned on the water and went outside to look, and if you looked down into any of those holes, you could see the water flowing by.

    The entire line from the house to the street (cast iron) was going to have to be replaced, which would have involved tearing up the new driveway. There were numerous other issues such as doors that wouldn’t close, outlets without gfci, etc. Our inspector said “if the flipper didn’t address these things that we can see, what’s behind the walls that we can’t see?” He was super uneasy about what was lurking in the finished basement. Anyway, it was all too much for us to deal with. We terminated. We now have another house under contract that the same inspector has looked at and he feels much better about this one, which is not a flip and was lived in until a few weeks ago. Some other sucker has the first house under contract. What I wonder is, do the flippers ever go back and fix this stuff before relisting? Or do they just relist and hope some fool eventually buys it?Thanks for this fascinating blog and Instagram which makes me sooo happy we bailed on the flip!

  3. Hi Ben…great information. We have been in the market for a downsize but…we live in Louisville and after seeing this mess…I would never buy a flipped house and you made me love my 60’s ranch more than ever. At least it’s a devil I know. I also hate solid grey flipped houses with every single ounce of character stripped from them

  4. Hi Ben! Your posts are amazing! Wish I read this before buying. My husband and I recently bought a home that technically wasnt flipped as the family lived there for 12 years but as we are learning more and more, it seems they flipped a lot of it right at the end of their ownership just to sell. So far we have found:
    – poured cement to cover a sump pump
    – an additional layer of stucco on top of presumingly failing stucco
    – drywall everywhere hiding lots of mold. Took some drywall down because I was concerned there was a leak as the drywall was peeling. Plumber says just poor workmanship from you guessed it mr flipper!
    – an overloaded breaker
    – mold growing on recently painted garage

    I’m not knowledgeable about homes, contracting and the like so before you say I’m foolish, hear me out. We trusted our agent. She said the home had been beautifully maintained. She reassured that although we couldn’t know for sure, the owners would have known about stucco or siding issues based on new windows placed and they had nothing on disclosure. Help! The repairs alone are so far 40% of the home. Given all the concerns, we had to move out. What advice would you say for us and other readers?!

    1. Hi Ashley – I am sorry to hear about your troubles. I’m afraid this is an all too common thing with folks buying these houses. At this point, I would find a really smart home inspector to go through the house and help give you a realistic idea of what you are up against. If things are bad enough, there is always the courtroom to help make you whole. It really stinks that people place money in front of everything else. If I can help you guys in any way please give me a shout!

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