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Posts Tagged ‘fix and flip’

“Buyer Beware” of Newly Renovated Homes

Fix and Flip
‘Renovate’, according to the Merriam-Webster Dictionary means “ renew, restore, refresh, and rejuvenate all mean to make like new.”  When the phrase “completely remodeled or renovated” is used in the description of a listing, many homebuyers expect the entire house to be completely updated. But in residential real estate, a house advertised as “completely remodeled” may have several big-ticket items, such as the roof, HVAC system, appliances, pool, and windows that are either original or close end of their useful life.
This is particularly true with investor “Fix and Flips”. Buyers may find a newly flipped home more appealing because much of it feels new – but not all flips are the same. In any given price range, every property you’re going to look at will have its pros and cons. You certainly don’t need to avoid properties that are being flipped, but there are some things to watch out for if you’re looking at one.
You can easily tell if the home is a flip by looking at the property records. If the home is back on the market just a few months after being purchased by a new owner, odds are it’s a flip. Flipped houses may seem up-to-date on the surface, but shiny new finishes can sometimes mask shoddy work. If you’re looking at a property that is being flipped, you’ll want to be sure to get it thoroughly inspected before you close and set aside money for any problems that may crop up because of renovations that were done on a tight budget and by an unlicensed contractor.
“Let the buyer beware” or “Caveat Emptor” exists for a reason. Home inspections do not necessary note the useful life left on roof, appliances and ACs since they are only checking to ensure that they are in “working order and free of defects”.  With that in mind, here’s what to look for when a home is described as “completely remodeled” or represented as “new”.
Electrical:
The standard for household power used to be 60 amps. Today modern homes need as much as 200 amps to run all the electrical needs. High-definition televisions, computers, air conditioners, generators, and home automation devices require lots of power to run. Have a home inspector check the entry cable coming into the house and the electrical panel. If the house has original or outdated wiring, consider upgrading for safety and function purposes.
Electrical outlets all under the electrical upgrade category but it’s important to pay close attention to the electrical outlets in a home. We still see the old-fashioned 2 prong outlets in older homes. These older outlets do not have the ground wires to protect people and electrical devices in case of a fault. Today’s modern houses should have the 3 prong outlets for safety and function purposes. In kitchen, bathrooms, and exterior locations, look for GFCI outlets. These outlets protect against electrical shock. They have a test and reset button. GFCI’s are now code in all new construction.
Roof:
Depending on the size of a house and the style of shingles, a new roof can cost between $50-$100 per square foot of roof or more. The age of a roof is a very important consideration when buying a house.  Your Exclusive Buyer Agent will find out from the Seller the age of the roof or will run a permit search in advance of writing an offer. If you move ahead with the purchase of the home, make sure your home inspector gives you an estimate on the remaining life of the roof not just how old it is.
. GFCI’s are now code in all new construction.
Water Heater & HVAC:
Most water heaters and AC units have an 8- to 12-year lifespan. If the heater is a high-quality water heater, it may last longer. Take a picture of the HVAC label and Google it to determine the age. If the unit has been well maintained, there will be a label from an HVAC company with service dates. Again, this can be done when you are touring a home. If you decide to purchase a house and schedule a home inspection, the inspector will confirm the age and condition of the HVAC unit and water heater.
Plumbing:
Plumbing problems can be very expensive. When you are touring a house that you like, turn on the faucets to check pressure. Look under sinks for signs of water issues. Look up at the ceiling to see if there are any stains. You can’t always see a plumbing problem but it’s a good idea to ask the seller if they have a record of plumbing maintenance, past leaks or insurance claims.
Foundation:
Look at the house exterior for signs of moisture or cracks. Examine the landscaping to see how well the yard is graded. Water should be moving away from the house, not toward the foundation. Again, this advice is for homebuyers as they tour a property of interest. Does the home have gutters directing the water way from the property?
General Warning Signs:
  • Seller has a spotty memory ….
  • Or says things like, “I haven’t lived here long.”
  • Offers no real estate disclosure form
  • New paint, tile, or flooring here and there
Landlords, flippers, and rehabbers often claim they don’t know a property well because they haven’t lived there — but all of them know a building’s ins and outs better than the buyer, especially if they have done work to the property.
Almost all states have a disclosure form where sellers address a property’s age and condition; its water source; the nature of its sanitary sewer system; and any structural defects, as well as matters such as lead paint or termites.
Florida, has a “Caveat Emptor” or “Buyer Beware” rule, which still requires the seller or seller’s agent to disclose anything that impacts the buyer’s health or safety but only if asked.  In the case of a transactional agent, only if they have asked the Seller to tell them. There is no legal obligation to fill out a Sellers Disclosure Form and many Transactional Brokerages have a policy to NOT provide one.
What To Do:
  • Read the home inspector’s report carefully, including between the lines when the inspector uses phrases like, “a lot of issues” or “a major issue.” Ask your exclusive buyer agent to prod the sellers for more details. If the inspector couldn’t access certain places, ask why.
  • Ask for a disclosure form. Push for more answers to your questions. When a listing agent refuses to provide the standard disclosure form, I put all the questions in the form on an email and make it an Exhibit to the contract. The Seller has a legal obligation to answer questions asked directly.
Warning Sign #1: Cosmetic Cover-ups:
Fresh paint is a wonderful way to mask deficiencies. Paint can cover cracks in the walls or ceilings, mold, and water stains. New bathroom and kitchen tile hides cracks and structural damage. New carpeting is a recommended fix to cover floor tiles containing asbestos, poor sub-floors or previous leaks, but buyers likely still want to know what’s underneath.
         What To Do:
         Ask for receipts, permits, warranties  and other documentation, such as photos taken during the renovations to authenticate that the work        was done properly.
Warning Sign #2: Downplaying Problems:
Some sellers opt to move once a house reaches a certain age and requires major investment in maintenance and replacements.
  • Phrases like, “It’s always been that way,” “That’s not a big deal,” or “Show me a house that doesn’t have a problem.” ” It was that way when we bought it”
While these statements might be true, they can be indicators of large problems.
        What To Do:
  • Look for signs of irregular maintenance, such as dusty air vents, old filters in the AC system, clogged gutters, and dying grass, just to name a few. Politely but firmly ask for more details, receipts, and documentation about anything the homeowner waves away.
Warning Sign #3: Camouflaging Decor
Some buyers will try to disguise things they can’t fix with whatever’s at hand. Large area rugs hide defects in flooring. Artwork hangs over wall cracks and holes, and strategically placed landscaping hides exterior foundation cracks. Acid washing a pool will delay determining the age and condition of the finish. Candles and air-fresheners can mask odors of nicotine, mold, pets, and other musty smells that a homebuyer might not detect until they move into the home. Having the music playing inside or outside the home can mask road or airport noise.
These items may be discovered at walk-through but by that time you have a loan in place and have lost weeks and waived your contingencies. It will then be a fight to secure credits at closing or close in escrow.
       What To Do:
  • Ask to turn off the music or remove the scents and return at a later date during the inspection period.
  • Request that items be cleared from walls and garage to accommodate the inspector.
  • Don’t be rushed though the final walk-through. Is there anything that has deteriorated since the inspection? Anything that was hidden or unobservable?
Fix It, or Forget It?
It if the inspection uncovers things the seller didn’t originally disclose or explain in detail, you legally have the right to cancel the contract during the Contractual Inspection Period…..never waive this contingency. You and your agent also can negotiate for the seller to do the repairs or reduce the price so you can handle them yourself.