CINCINNATI AND THE FLIPPED HOUSE
In Cincinnati there is a flipped house or two for sale in every neighborhood. You know what I’m talking about. That “Completely Renovated” or “Freshly Remodeled” home. It’s beautiful and it has been completely redone. I mean, it’s practically like buying a new house. What could go wrong?
In my experience, nearly everything. Most of the time a flipped house has/had a fundamental problem that likely contributed to the fact that it was able to be purchased so cheaply by the house flipper. You know the old saying… “Something is only worth what someone is willing to pay for it.” Your hypothetical dream home, purchased for $45,000 just a year ago, likely had some SERIOUS defects beyond cosmetic updates that prevented someone from paying more for the house. It’s quite possible that $45,000 was too high. Today that same home is listed for $239,000! They must have done everything!
Not so fast.
A quick search at https://cagis.hamilton-co.org/opal/ shows not one single permit was pulled on this flipped house. NOT ONE SINGLE PERMIT! Not for the electric, plumbing, HVAC, structural modifications… Would you hire a bunch of contractors to work on your home that were either unwilling or unable to pull permits from the City?
THE HOME INSPECTOR AND THE FLIPPED HOUSE.
You, of course want to know if everything is OK. Is this house a good house?! Is this a safe investment for my family?!
These questions create the expectation that home inspectors are not only able to perform the role of home inspector, but also perform the role of State Electrical Inspector, State Plumbing Inspector, State HVAC Inspector, Structural Engineer, and City Building Inspector! In the scope of their inspections, all of these inspectors would have made multiple visits to the flipped house and would have seen the work before and after the work was hidden inside of the walls. All of these inspectors would have verified that the contractors were appropriately licensed in their respective fields. All of these inspectors would have signed off on the work as meeting or exceeding current building codes.
Does this sound like a reasonable expectation for a home inspector alloted 2 – 4 hours in the house to do the job of 6 people?
If all of the proper procedures were followed I could perform a home inspection on a flipped house to clean up the details: Does the roof look OK? Is the foundation in serviceable condition? Do the appliances work? I could do this inspection adhering to the limitations in my standards of practice and provide you with some assurances; A written report of the condition of the home.
ELEVATED RISK ON A FLIPPED HOUSE
Ultimately my clients want to assume that I have the ability to find most, if not all, of the defects present in a flipped house (This is not true for any house, but we can talk about that at another time). I can tell you from experience that I imagine I find no more than 60% of the defects in a flipped house with no permits. And the defects I find are stunning to say the least. Most of the things I find are just unimaginable and others are outright intentionally hidden. A few things that come to mind:
- Termite damage in the attic (subterranean termites come from the ground) with no repairs made.
- Water lines installed near external walls with no insulation (The line froze and burst and water was coming out of the walls on the second floor).
- Chewed electrical wiring intentionally hidden by insulation and advertised as “added insulation to the attic”.
- Water heater and furnace venting inside the block foundation wall.
- Water heater venting into a chimney that was removed above the roof. (I’m guessing it vented into the attic, but the attic access was removed).
- Atypical foundation repairs done and covered up with wood.
- Multiple plumbing leaks in the same house. (Drain, shower, sink, dishwasher, etc.)
- Damaged foundations hidden by finishing the basement or caulk and paint.
This is just a small sample of some of the things I’ve seen on a flipped house. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve seen a shower arm installed incorrectly (using the wrong fitting inside the wall) which was allowing leaking down into the wall. If I hadn’t pulled back the little cover piece and checked, this type of thing would not manifest itself for weeks, or months, depending on frequency of use.
CONSIDERING A FLIPPED HOUSE?
When you are looking to buy a flipped house, ask for the permits from the seller or call the city to see if they have everything on record. If you can not find physical proof that everything was done appropriately it may be best to keep shopping or understand the risks. Should you go ahead and proceed with a home inspection and ask for repairs based on that inspection, I recommend requesting independent, verifiable contractors make evaluation and repairs as necessary.
Even when your seller says they will fix “everything” don’t believe it! Most of the times I’ve returned for a follow up inspection on a flipped house and the work either wasn’t done, didn’t get better, and sometimes got worse. Also, remember that your home inspector can never find all of the things wrong with a flipped house (or any house). Even the best of us have our limitations.
Check out our article to better help you make a decision on your new home.
At this time we are not scheduling home inspections on flipped houses unless we can verify the permits and inspection process was completed for the scope of work done to the home.