If you’re an avid fan of “Property Brothers,” “Flip or Flop” or “Love It or List It,” you probably feel as fully prepared as I did to purchase a formerly distressed home that has been given a swift makeover for quick sale.
But as my wife and I recently discovered after moving to nowhere, the reality of actually buying and moving into a “flip” bears little resemblance to the TV version.
That’s understandable, given that flip shows tend to focus on the remodel, plot twists (which normally involve plumbing or electrical contractors emerging from the basement with some very bad news) and the resulting financial gain/cost to the flippers, not the flipees.
Like any careful homebuyer, we performed our due diligence to learn as much as we could about the owner, the contractors and the scope of work they performed before moving ahead. We were later filled in by our much-relieved new neighbors that the property had fallen into disrepair and foreclosure after being left in the hands of teenage kids, who turned it into party central.
Granted, we picked up the home for a relative song. No regrets. But what were we really buying?
Here are seven tips to turn your flip into a hit.
1. IGNORE THE DAZZLE
Know going in that flippers have one goal: they want you to look here, not there. While it may seem like the flippers spared no expense on the brand-new stainless steel appliances, subway tile backsplash, tricked-out master bath and dramatic paint job, the razzle-dazzle is just as likely to hide plumbing, electrical or structural problems that the contractor failed to address. Go in knowing their main goal was to get out, on time and on budget.
2. BROKEN? ASK THEM TO FIX IT!
In our thorough pre-sale inspection, we noticed a handful of annoyances caused or overlooked by workers in a hurry: misaligned strike plates that prevented doors from latching, nonfunctional outlets and light switches, a dripping bath faucet and a broken garage window. Despite multiple offers, the flippers agreed to make the relatively minor fixes rather than squirrel the deal.
3. DON’T FORGET THE GUTTERS
Gutters get no respect, especially with a hasty flip. If you don’t check them out, you have no recourse once the ink dries. In our case, the gutters were ancient and leaked at every seam, so we steeled ourselves to replace and upgrade them. But if the gutters are relatively new, don’t hesitate to request a minor repair; after all, that’s small change for the flipper.
4. BRING ALL ELECTRICAL UP TO CODE
There are any number of ways that electrical wiring can go haywire, especially if a flip was rushed or the house was left vacant for some months after, as ours was. In the weeks before closing, you want a licensed electrician on your team to flag problems and inspect the solutions the flippers make, especially given they could be fixing their own work at warp speed. Fortunately, asking for electrical repairs rarely spoils a flip sale, because a) the seller is anxious to unload the property and b) all electrical must be “brought up to code” for public safety reasons in most municipalities throughout the United States.
5. GOT SPRINKLERS?
Underground and virtually invisible, a home’s sprinkler system can easily go unnoticed – and unrepaired – in the general mayhem of a flip sale. Don’t hesitate to remind your home inspector to turn the system on, run the zones and note any pipe breaks and nonfunctioning/missing sprinkler heads on their report. Short of a bad pump, sprinkler problems are typically an inexpensive fix for a flipper.
6. CLAIM YOUR WARRANTIES
Honestly, I didn’t think this would work. The all-new stainless steel appliances in our kitchen had been purchased by the flippers six months before we purchased our home. At the suggestion of our pal Pete at Lowes, we called up Maytag, explained our predicament, and lo and behold, we now have full warranties on our refrigerator, stove, dishwasher and microwave, just as if we’d purchased them ourselves. In fact, we’ve already used one to obtain a front kick plate that the flippers apparently forgot to install on our refrigerator.
7. LISTEN TO YOUR HOME
The haste and/or carelessness with which our flip was done resulted in a houseful of aesthetic annoyances, from poorly-installed closet sliders to off-center lighting fixtures to poorly-matched outlets and faceplates. Each time a gaffe catches my eye, I take a deep breath, make a mental note to correct it – and thank the universe for the opportunity to turn this flip into a happy home.