Wednesday, October 30, 2013

{Check out How to Spot Bad House Flipping, part 1}
As I cruise through the MLS listings and see house after house getting "flipped", I decided that this would be a fun series for anyone looking to buy a house. (And educational for those who want to flip houses, because this is the stuff that makes your house stagnate on the market.)

I've renovated and sold houses in the worst market in a century, and I've still managed to make a profit and not lose my shirt. (Yet.) The key to flipping is not being a licensed builder or real estate agent. It's giving people what they actually want, at the price they will pay. Sounds easy, doesn't it? (evil cackling...)

This is the photo in the MLS listing where I realized that this was a flip. (My lovely Realtor friend looked up all the details for me to make sure that I'm right.)

Those were oak cabinets. The style of the doors and hinges screams 1989. Notice how the knobs are strangely spaced far from the edge of the cabinet doors -- this was a feature on my parent's identical cabs. (I designed my parents' kitchen reno 10 years ago, and they had a similar house built the same year as this one.) It isn't hard to putty those holes and re-position the hardware to a more current look, if you are going to all the trouble of adding crown and paint.

But THEN....
The vinyl is brown. The cabinets are olive green. The walls are yellow. The countertops are black. The knobs are white. (And the flooring in the adjacent room is a red-toned wood, from the look of it in another photo).

This kitchen was thrown together with whatever Lowes had on sale. The problem is not that they didn't use fancy finishes -- the problem is a total lack of coordination. (New home builders make this mistake too, but usually their problem is that they are 5-10 years behind the design trends. Probably for cost reasons.)

For the buyer who does not have design experience, they may not be able to point out every mistake -- but they will not feel impressed.


In the bathroom they painted the old cabinets, black this time, but left the knobs in the odd position (and white, to boot - which doesn't relate to any other finishes), and glued some molding to the plate-glass mirror. Given what I know about the area and the asking price, this will not fly.
(The Realtor confirmed for me that this house has been sitting on the market for a while.)

Details matter and paint does not always add value!  It all depends.

So what have we learned today?

If you're a buyer, you won't be fooled by new surfaces & finishes that aren't coordinated, and/or half-hearted paint jobs. The days of being able to slap a coat of paint on your 1980's cabinets and have the buyer falling over themselves to give you their money are OVER.

If you're a flipper, well...  #1. Get Houzz & Pinterest accounts and look at them a lot, and  #2. The house above could have sold already if the hardwood floors were a nice medium brown color and they continued throughout the main floor without breaks, and you probably could have skipped all of the cabinet painting.

P.S. And your price should be tethered to reality, preferably under-cutting the comps.

P.P.S. - Wow it appears I have really strong opinions on this subject!!

 I do have more ~  Part #3:  Bad Bones & Staging Gone Wild - we'll see if I feel brave enough to show you that one.  I am afraid all of these flippers are going to find me. !
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Welcome to my three ring circus. Cake? Tequila? Pardon me while I cut this lumber and yell at my kids for the 100th time --

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For many years I was a mechanical engineer by day, a house renovator by night, and a single mom. I previously built a tiny house on Tybee Island that I sold in 2015. Then I lost my day job, met Prince Charming, and now work full time demolishing (fixing) his lake house. ;) Stop by for the house stuff, stay for the never-ending disasters, pianos falling out of the sky, floods, threats of financial ruin, & panic attacks. It's like house flipping meets the zombie apocalypse! with lots of kids!

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