Do not buy a flip home without a good home inspector

Ray Wilson's picture
Watch out for 'flipper' homes

As a licensed home inspector covering Long Island and the five boroughs, I get to see a myriad of different homes from multi-million dollar sprawling estates in the Hamptons to 2 bedroom condos in Manhattan to little bungalow homes in Rocky Point. No matter what the price range, I find issue after issue - especially after a 'flipper' has done his thing.

These home buyers are looking for a quick buck, and rarely pay attention to building codes. These are people who think they know what they are doing with plumbing and electrical, as well as other things, and these areas are where I usually find the most problems.

I recently inspected a home in Levittown which was purchased by a flipper, and I found enough problems that the buyer walked away. The seller/flipper was listing this house as 'completely renovated', but I soon found out this was not the case.

Home Inspection Specifications for Old Houses

Many homes in the late forties and early fifties, like this house, had their service panel in a bedroom closet, and ungrounded wiring to these panels is not always replaced when renovating by a flipper. In modern construction (and for many years now) service panels aren't allowed to be installed in closets, pantries, or in places without at least 36 inches clearance in front of it. I often see walls in front of panels with only 18 inches and sometimes less room in front of the service panel. The panel should have been moved out of the closet, especially since the exterior service needed replacement and could also have been moved to accommodate the panel in a new location - not in the closet.

The kitchen had only two of the four countertop receptacles upgraded with GFI protection, and the two that were not were not even grounded. How can you spend bunches of money on granite tops and pretty cabinets without replacing the wiring in the wall to make it grounded and therefore safe? Ungrounded wiring from the 1950's should be replaced with grounded wiring.

At least half of the wall receptacles throughout the house were also not grounded, and to replace the wiring, the walls would have to be opened up to run wiring. This was of course not the case, and was documented in the inspection report as needing updating.

I found replacement windows installed in old houses that are often not sized for proper egress, but in bedrooms a window that has a sill that is 5 feet above the floor and only 18 inches high is not going to be a viable emergency exit if a fire blocks the door and hallway to that room. The flipper replaced the windows with the same size bedroom window, and was of course written up in the report as deficient. Of course it is more work to install the right size bedroom window, but it must be done and is usually not.

So when buying a flip home, make sure a competent inspector is hired to avoid the pitfalls of buying a home that is sold as completely renovated, but is not.

Ray Wilson is a Home Inspector, covering all of Long Island (Nassau and Suffolk), the 5 boroughs of NYC and now upstate NY. For any home inspection related questions he can be reached at Meticulous Home Inspection Corporation.


Submitted by Arden (not verified) on
How do I know if a home is flip home or no before considering to buy a house Ray?

Submitted by Ray Wilson on
First thing is ask!! The real estate agent should tell you who is selling, and if the sellers are not living there ask why. Look at public records and the listing sheet to see whose name is listed with the selling office. Again, ASK! If the house was purchased in the past few years and is being offered for sale again, you should be suspicious. Ask the neighbors! They will usually let you know if the house has been renovated recently, and if anyone has lived there for the past few years. Anyone living next to or across the street will want a good neighbor to move in and appreciate the neighborhood. Flippers care only about ONE THING. How to make the MOST MONEY WITH THE LEAST MATERIALS AND LABOR COST!

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