How To Spot Bad House Flipping

10:49 PM Katy 9 Comments

It seems that everyone watched all those house flipping shows on HGTV a few years back and decided to try their hand at it.
The trouble is that they take houses with loads of potential, slap bright blue carpet over the messed up floors (probably because it was the cheapest crap they could find), cram a washing machine into the kitchen, shore up the front porch - and WHAM. It's on the market!
Yes, a freshly flipped kitchen.
(or, the ones who take a messed up floorplan & exterior, throw in a new off-the-shelf kitchen with granite and stainless appliances, and call it done.)

I am so fed up with seeing these RUINED HOUSES on the MLS listings.

Here's what these guys don't think about: I can easily go on Google maps and see a picture of what that house looked like back in 2008 - I can see that foundation, that siding, those windows. And then I can compare to your "careful" renovations and see what kind of band-aids you applied. There is evidence all over the internet of band-aid rehabs.

Here's the other problem with this: they are snapping up the affordable real estate and mucking it up, and ruining the opportunity for families who really need to buy a fixer-upper. The fixer-upper was the only starter home that a lot of families could afford, and it was a good investment for them because they could live there while they worked on it.

I'm really stewing about this lately. Probably because I want to move and I want a fixer-upper. And there aren't any around here -- because they've all been flipped and look like sh*t, but you've got to pay for those "renovations". UGH.

Nicole Curtis has been pretty open about the fact that although she saves old homes and architecture with her restorations - she doesn't make lots of money from it. It's not a get-rich-quick scheme. It's a labor of love. Trent is another example of "renovating with a soul".

I have been considering my next move. I'm starting to think that bare land and new construction is where I need to stay.

{Go to the next post in this series: How to Spot Bad House Flipping, Part 2: Color Blindness }

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  1. is another who has a problem with the word flip- she does amazing flips while sinking tons of money into foundations, heating, insulation- I can't for the life of me figure out how she makes any money- she's awesome

  2. thanks for the link! I love what they are doing! but I agree -- I can't hardly believe that it's profitable. Amazing.

  3. First, Mollie thanks so much for the kind words!! And yes, it's true, I know I don't make the margins that the typical flippers do. But I love what I do and feel really good about the finished product. And thankfully after 30 years in Corporate life (Katy, I'm also a mechanical engineer!), I don't need to make tons of money for my kids college and stuff like that! BTW - Love your blog! I just ordered some Marykate from Amazon :-)
    Laurel @ SoPo Cottage

    1. Did I just introduce best new bloggy friends??? ha ha- Laurel, you are awesome, just preaching the truth, and Katy is awesome....and hilarious to boot

    2. Yeah the reason I've not run across them is probably because they are in Maine - that's like a foreign country I've never visited. lol ;)

    3. Thanks for the intro Mollie! And sometimes Maine does seem a bit foreign :-) But we love it!

  4. The problem of finding fixer uppers is pretty universal. Part of the problem is that if a house is too bad a bank won't lend. In some areas (Riverside, CA near my sis) there is a shortage of homes on the market and empty foreclosed homes that for whatever reason are not for sale yet. When these neglected homes come up for sale you pretty much need cash - which the pro flippers have. When the flippers do it well they provide a community service. They take the risk and make them marketable and I agree they usually don't make that much money. Bad ones just make a mess for the whole neighborhood. Best Loved Hubby and I have always bought fixer uppers but they needed to be just needing finishes cause in earlier years we needed a mortgage and usually needed a FHA plan that requires the home to be in liveable shape. We are currently downsizing to a house we bought from a housemover and moved it onto our property and then extensively remodeled. I think looking for a fixer upper is a bigger job than fixing it up :).

  5. Thanks for including my name/link Katy.
    I really hope you find one. I can tell you're ready to dig into something.
    Cathy is right on - I always say that finding the right house is the hardest part of what I do. I just found another & we're working toward a closing. I looked at hundreds of listings on the internet, drove by a good many of those, and toured the insides of a couple dozen that had potential. But the numbers need to be right, and when they are, that's what makes the searching and waiting worth it. With MLS being accessible on-line plus Google Maps, Zillow, and all the other resources there are now, it's easier to do homework about prospective properties at home before you drive out. However, everyone else has those tools so it's as competitive as ever.
    You're not the only one discouraged about the fixer-upper market, but I'm really hoping you find the RIGHT house.

  6. Glad to see there are people that care about flipping and soul. Hope you find something.


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