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  • Ashley Sharum

4 Warning Signs of 'Lipstick on a Pig'

Updated: Jun 3, 2021

Over the years, I’ve seen my fair share of houses. From mansion to beat up condos, and everything in between. Years in the foreclosure business opened my eyes to property condition issues, and years of working with buyers through the home buying process have helped me to become the Realtor I am today.

There are homes that are vacant, homes that are lived in, and homes that are flipped. And with the popularity of channels like HGTV, making home renovations look simple and quick, you might be surprised to see your work colleague or neighbor dipping into the “flip” business. But a good flip and a bad flip are two very different things… and the bad flip can end up costing you quite a bit of money and headache.

Here are some issues to look out for:

Water Damage

Previous evidence of flooding doesn’t necessarily come with rainy season only. Keep your eyes open for evidence of past flooding in wet areas like under kitchen sinks, in or around the refrigerator hookup, utility rooms, water heater shelving and enclosures, and any patched areas of the ceiling that show mismatched paint or texture. Any of these could indicate a leaking pipe, HVAC issues, roofing issues and mold.

Even if the Seller has addressed these concerns with you verbally or written on the Seller’s Disclosure Notice, it is in your best interest to hire an independent contractor to check these areas thoroughly.

Kitchen Cabinets

One of the easiest (and most profitable) updates to a house flip would be investing in a ‘new’ kitchen. Sometimes this means taking the room down to the studs for total replacement, or simply updating the countertops and paint.

One of the easiest things to look for is shoddy work done with the grout and tiling of backsplash. This might mean uneven lines at the tile edge or crooked outlets and faceplates. Others might include uneven cabinet doors that were never leveled or hinges that don’t close all the way.

You also want to watch out for cabinet “flow”. The functionality of the kitchen will make or break the room, and you want to ensure not only that they open and close without hitting other elements in the room, but that they are hung at a proper height. I’ve seen dozens of homes that have the ‘replacement’ cabinets hung too high, after taking out the soffits.

Cheap Flooring

The wood look is in. It opens up a room, warms a space and gives a modern design element easily. But many flippers are not interested in sinking top dollar into upgraded flooring, and will oftentimes use laminate or vinyl flooring instead - a manufactured product that costs less per square foot.

When I see new flooring in a home that I suspect might be a flip, I’m looking for quality and craftsmanship. Having flooring that runs the length of a home is definitely optimal, but may not be cost effective for owners trying to do upgrades. It will matter to you if matching flooring throughout the house is a deal breaker or something you can live with.

More importantly, are the floors wobbly, warped or do they “bounce” when pressure is applied? Are tiles square with the room, or cut evenly? Look for baseboards to be over the flooring, not “there before” the flooring was done, which will leave you with a dust bunny nightmare in crooks and crannies that are impossible to maintain. And transition pieces between rooms and at doors tell me about a seller’s attention to detail.

Is it Square?

It’s amazing what will catch the observant eye in a quick flip, and sometimes these are the simplest of “living” details. I mean the experience of being in the home, day to day, and how your life might feel in the space. New closet rods too close to the wall mean you can’t hang a full sized hanger. Doors that won’t latch easily mean you’ll hear slams until the issue is resolved. Or a modern glass framed shower door that hits the toilet when the door is opened, with only a foot width to enter and exit. How is the functionality of the home, and does it feel solid?

As your representative, I take it upon myself to be on the lookout for these and more. Buying a house can be emotional, and your goal is to find the home that “feels” right and offers the lifestyle you want. My goal is to ensure that that lifestyle isn’t compromised by poor handiwork and cheap upgrades that could cost you more to cure in the long run.

Attention to detail is a reflection of how a home has been taken care of. If there are visible issues with home, or items that could be chalked up to blatant negligence, it gives me concern about the unseen components - ductwork, insulation and electrical wiring. When buying a product, you don’t want something that is used and abused. You deserve a home that works as well as it looks.

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