You know what they say when you’re hunting for love? Look closely. When you don’t, or if you intentionally ignore the red flags, there can be major trouble ahead. The same is true in real estate. If you don’t look closely when shopping for a home, or you don’t know what to look for, it can end very badly for your wallet.
I asked five Sacramento Realtors for their take on what buyers should look at carefully during the home-buying process, especially when purchasing a flipped property. I see these things all the time on appraisal inspections, so this is definitely important to pay attention to.
Max Boyko – Realtor: Here are some things that get missed that I would consider important: Insulation (although can always be blown in later); Remodeled home but may have original plumbing and electricity which may leak; Roof leaks may get covered by paint on the inside; and Showers and bathtubs are rarely tested to make sure they are leak proof.
Sheri Negri – Realtor: Here are some things I help my buyers look at in general and especially on homes that have been flipped and are poor quality: I look for signs of dry rot inside and outside the home. Sometimes dry rot is masked by a bad paint job, but even then you can tell if you look closely and feel the wood in most cases. I look at any water stains on the ceilings or walls that indicate a leak somewhere. I look to see how stable or unstable the fence is in the backyard and whether or not any repairs need to be done. I look for potential FHA flags such as: is the firewall completely drywalled, are the junction boxes covered, is the hot water heater strapped, are there any leaks in any of the toilets, do faucets work, potential roof issues, areas that need caulking, etc. I check underneath the sinks to ensure there are no major leaks. I check to make sure the bathrooms don’t have any signs of water damage. I take a close look at the water heater and HVAC to see the visual condition. I look at the roof from the front and the back to look at the visual condition to see if there are any major issues that might need to be repaired. I look for any cracks inside and out that might be more than the house settling. If a flipped property, I look for how they remodeled the cabinets, counter tops, flooring, doorways, trim, and the like. I also look for room additions where they may not have put heater/air vents, or electricity. Many flippers do a poor job at finishing bathrooms and kitchens, so I like to point out any flaws I see to my clients.
David Yaffee – Realtor: In today’s real estate market, many buyers are quite excited to see a flip property after viewing foreclosures and short sales, as a lot of foreclosures & short sales need cosmetic work or more. Flips can seem like a dream as you are getting a mostly updated home, but it is important that buyers keep in mind these homes are not perfect. Don’t let new appliances, flooring, paint etc stop you from looking at the home in detail. Some of the people who flip homes do not obtain permits for the work done, use non-licensed workers, and change the original layout of kitchens & bathrooms. This does not mean the home is going to fall down or the work is bad, but it is important to make sure you properly inspect the property. During your inspection make sure to ask your inspector if the work appears to be up to code. I often see that the type of vent or flue pipes used being called out by home inspectors as they are not the proper type. I also encourage my buyers to looks at the quality of the work because if it looks poor, chances are there are other flaws with the work done. If it is not provided to you when receive disclosures, have your agent ask the listing agent for any documentation that can provided on the work that was performed at the property. Investor flip properties are often beautiful homes and great opportunities for buyers, but you still need to inspect and protect yourself from potential issues.
Jeff Grenz – Realtor: All these items I see regularly in flips – as in I saw all these in the last 10 days on 3 different homes. All are code violations and so simple and well understood by licensed plumbers and building inspectors that if missing or improper, they are clear signs of problems.
Water Heater Installation problems: Vent in direct contact with a combustible (aka wood) as the requirement is 1″. Straps are loose and/or the tank moves in any direction (it must be braced or snug at rear also). Missing TPR (temperature and pressure relief) line -OR- it requires water to flow uphill (the TPR exits the water heater usually on the top and water must flow level or down hill until it exits outside, normally with a copper line).
Walking through homes with recent rehab, I look for steps that are even, consistent and feel like I expect them, stair railings that are firm, hoods that are at least 30″ above and the full width of gas ranges below (check manufacturers specs). Toilets set firm.
Another easy check, go online for building permit records vs. age of roof, water heater, HVAC. If there are no permits within the past 20 years, but any of those look newer, its time to inspect more closely, as lack of permit is a pretty good indicator of lack of license and skills.
Bruce Slaton – Realtor: Exposed white PVC outside, is this the correct grade for exposure or could it lead to broken pipes? Duct tape on anything electrical or for that matter anything. If they walk into a room and it reminds them of a patio or the materials are different from the interior of the house, could be a red flag of a converted patio or addition. Any cracks that they can stick a quarter in. Dirty AC filters, this could: a) Be a sign of deferred maintenance; and b) Could lead to a home warranty repair denial later. Pet urine damage on exterior of AC condenser. Storage in the rafters of the garage. Lofts in condos being used as living space. For that matter, hot water heaters in rooms. Fences that look like they are at the end of their life, good idea to talk to that neighbor before and see if it will be your cost or shared. Last but not least NEVER accept your agent telling you “don’t worry about it, the home warranty will cover it”, chances are it will not because it is pre-existing. Always get a professional home inspection.
I hope this was helpful. I’d love to hear your thoughts in the comments below.
Questions: Anything you’d add to the list? Have you ever bought a home only to find out something was wrong? What will you look at more closely during your next home purchase?
If you have any questions or Sacramento home appraisal or property tax appeal needs, let’s connect by phone 916-595-3735, email, Twitter, subscribe to posts by email (or RSS) or “like” my page on Facebook