CNBC recently ran an article warning would-be home buyers about the potential dangers of buying a flip house.
Apparently, there are house flippers out there that don’t always do things the right way.
Turns out, there are shady house flippers, much like there are shady lawyers, financial advisors, doctors, newspaper reporters, and virtually every other profession in the world.
In the CNBC article, a couple bought a three-bedroom, three-bathroom condo “in a historic Washington, D.C., row house”
The couple admitted that there were no problems until six months after it was purchased and a city housing inspector walked through the house and began pointing out compliance issues. And, the flipper had not filed for permits for a two-bedroom, two-bathroom addition.
First of all, how in name of Pierre Charles L’Enfant (Historical Note: L’Enfant was a French-born architect who designed the streets of Washington, D.C.) did someone build a complete addition “in a historic Washington, D.C., row house” without permits and without getting busted?
But, that’s not the issue.
I’m not going to recount the entire article, but it’s basically a big warning about the dangers of buying a flip house. There are dangers in buying an owner-occupied house, too. Owners are as likely to hide defects as a flipper, but that’s not as good of a story.
Let me tell you, Jefe and I go to great lengths to make sure everything is done correctly. Because we do the great majority of the work ourselves, we often come to loggerheads with buyers who want to see documentation from licensed contractors.
Buyer: “We would like to see receipts from your licensed contractors.”
Us: “We didn’t use contractors. We did the work ourselves.”
Buyers: “Are you licensed?”
Us: “No, but we’re smart enough and competent enough to do it ourselves, and we have combined more than two decades of experience.”
Buyers: “We would really like to see the receipts from your licensed contractors.”
Us: “Let’s try this again. We’ll talk slower this time.”
If you’re flipping a house, here are some things you can do to eliminate the angst a potential buyer might have with a do-it-yourselfer.
1) Take a lot of photographs – before, during and after.
Neighbors love to sabotage your flip. It’s true. I think they’re offended that other people are out there working and making money. In one case, the neighbor told potential buyers that the house “was black with mold,” before we bought it and that we had covered it up. Another told potential buyers that the basement had been full of water up to the first floor. Both lies, and fortunately, we had taken a lot of photos that showed the before and after work. Both sold.
2) Keep track of your permits and have them ready to show potential buyers.
If your work passes city/county inspection, it doesn’t matter who did the work.
3) Give buyers ample time to conduct their inspections.
Do not, however, get the house inspected on your dime. That is the responsibility of the buyer. Many times – many times – potential buyers will have a home inspected, then come back to us and ask for a chimney inspection or a mold inspection or a radon test. That is not our responsibility. That’s why there is an inspection period. It is the buyer’s responsibility to check things out.
4) Don’t try to mask problems.
It will give us all a bad name, and it will cause you heartache in the end. If you’re flipping housings, you’re going to run into unanticipated problems – foundation issues, termites, mold, etc. Bite the bullet and do it right. That is why it is important to give yourself a financial buffer when flipping.