House flipping is fun on TV, and it sounds like a pretty great idea when you're shopping for a new home. But hear a few flipped house horror stories, and you're going to be looking at those re-vamped homes in a whole new way.
It's more than just a trendy idea for a reality TV show. House flipping is actually a win-win situation all the way around…well, for the most part.
"Flipping" a house means essentially re-doing it entirely, giving it new electrical and plumbing elements along with flooring, paint, new fixtures—a whole new life. A flipped house will have a lot of new and newly redone elements like new cabinets, counters, and appliances.
These new additions are definitely flashy and attention-getting, and this is why flipped houses stand in their own category as something exciting and worthy. What’s the advantage of flipping a house?
The seller gets to sell the house for more than what they purchased the property for, and the buyer gets to enjoy all this new, beautiful stuff. Flipped houses also often display the latest in the way of home design trends, another perk for the buyers.
All the flashy new stuff is impressive for buyers, and it gives the seller a lot to brag about. But there is often more lurking under the surface of all that pretty new paint.
Horror Stories of Flipped Houses
However, nothing ever goes that smoothly or perfectly. Some people cut corners, sometimes things get missed, and various flipped house horror stories prove that some homes are more trouble than they're worth.
Could one of these horror stories happen to you?
Even if you're working with a reputable realtor, it's possible the flipper of the house wasn't working with the best contractor. The internet is full of terrifying stories of plumbing being installed incorrectly in a flipped house, only to be discovered by homeowners after the fact.
In one story shared by a relator, the homeowners learned the hard way that their toilet drain pipe was connected to the kitchen faucet. So when the toilet was flushed, the water that came out of the kitchen faucet was the water from the toilet drain.
You can use your own imagination on that one. Or maybe don’t!
In another story shared on a home website, the homeowner learned that neither of their new toilets was properly sealed and attached to the floor. This, of course, created leaking problems and led to a rather uncomfortable sort of seat.
The danger here is, of course, sewer gases. The gases that are associated with human waste are actually toxic and, over time, hazardous to your health.
Improperly plumbed drains aren’t just an issue of bad odors. It is actually bad for your health and quite dangerous to be around.
Shoddy plumbing isn't the only problem you will find in flipped houses. Poor electrical work is reported by many homeowners who have shared their stories of horror as well.
One homeowner found that most of their electrical outlets were unsafe. They were not installed properly and were not safely grounded, turning each one into a potential death trap.
Seriously, bad electrical work can lead to fatal accidents. This is certainly something to be extremely wary of.
Lots of flippers focus on installing new fixtures, putting in new floors, painting, and walls, and adding bells and whistles like new cabinets and counters. These are the things that potential homeowners notice, and they are nice selling points.
However, these cosmetic changes can hide many potential problems that don't reveal themselves until after all the papers have been signed and the key has been handed over. One homeowner shared their horror story of learning that their basement was prone to flooding, well after all the paperwork and moving in was done.
The basement "flooded halfway up the walls" of the basement, according to her forum post. When the drywall was torn out so it could be repaired, mold was discovered "growing rampant behind the walls."
Talk about a horror story. The homeowner was still fighting the issue through a lawsuit three years after the fact and was still not living in her home due to the mold.
Secret dangers like mold are a fear for every homeowner. On a flipped house, telltale signs of previous flood damage can be difficult or even impossible to spot.
This can mean that a potential health hazard, like mold, is secretly hiding in a home. However, this can be true for almost any home, and it is something all homebuyers should be on the lookout for in all situations.
House flipping is often done to older homes that had outdated items inside—homes need to look modern to attract buyers. In concept, this is all great, and it gives these older homes a longer life.
However, older homes are rife with problems that you will not experience with newer homes. In one story shared by a homeowner who purchased an older flipped home, the slab had dropped and lowered over time.
This is a natural process that can happen to any type of home, no matter what kind of foundation it's built upon. The ground settles and erodes over time.
Things happen, and structures weaken. And in this case, a stream of water ran right beneath the home every single time it rained.
This is a nightmare that no homeowner wants to deal with, and it's an indication that sometimes, older homes are simply too old.
It seems like a great idea to fix up an older home and make it livable again, but those older homes have taken a lot of wear and tear over time, and in some cases, it would actually be better to tear down that old home and begin again.
Flippers do not do this. Flippers take what is already there and find a way to make a profit from it, which can lead to huge problems for homeowners in the future.
Windows and Doors
The internet is absolutely full of stories about homeowners who found that windows were installed upside-down or without proper sealant, or that the wrong types of doors were installed.
Interior doors used in exteriors, doors installed on the wrong side of the frame, and additional problems have plagued many homeowners who purchased flipped homes.
Improperly installed windows and doors can lead to huge energy losses that drive up the cost of your bills and increase your utility costs, which is no good.
Doors and windows that are improper for their location or not installed the right way in the first place are also serious safety hazards that should not be dismissed.
What Can You Do to Protect Yourself from a Flipped House Horror Story?
You don't want to wind up on the internet or at a party sharing your horror story with someone. You want to make a great purchase on a great home and live there happily with no major repairs or expenses, of course.
So what can you do to protect yourself from becoming the lead in one of these awful stories? How can you avoid being a flipped house horror story?
First, have a full inspection conducted before you purchase a home. And choose an inspector of your own rather than one recommended by the realtor or the seller involved in this real estate deal.
Make sure the inspector checks for signs of flood and termite damage, and does things like inspect the roof. The inspector should also examine the foundation of the home and check for damage and potential future problems here.
Do your homework and your research. Find out exactly how old the home is and if possible, ask around the neighborhood to find out about any major floods, earthquakes, tornadoes, or other natural disasters that have struck the area and how much damage these events caused.
Many homeowners discover something about their home only after the property is already purchased. This can happen to anyone, but in the case of flipped houses, it is often harder to spot and takes a little longer to discover.
The pretty cosmetic changes of a flipped house can outshine problems that are lurking beneath the surface. Do what you can to thoroughly inspect the property and keep a sharp eye out for even the smallest potential red flag, because even a tiny warning sign can signal something much worse and much bigger.
Flipped House Horror Stories
You don't want to become the center of a horror story about a flipped house. Don't be dazzled by all the new stuff, and remember that it's the infrastructure of a home that truly matters, even if all the extra additions are quite nice.
Take the time to peel back the curtain and look under the pretty surface of what you see in a flipped home, and hopefully, you will avoid becoming a flipped house horror story.
House Flipping FAQ
How long does it take to flip a house?
There's more to flipping a house than simply having the work done to fix up the home. Flipping a house includes the entire buying process and selling it as well, since the end result of a successful flip is the final sale.
Flipping a house is a highly subjective process that can take much longer for some properties than others. However, for the project to be cost-effective and efficient, it is standard for a house flipping to be performed in around 6 to 12 weeks.
Most flippers do not want to own a home for several months before making a sale. The name of the flipping game is to buy houses, flip them, and sell them quickly in order to turn a profit.
This means that flippers are highly motivated to sell, and sometimes, it means that flippers might cut corners or skip steps in order to more quickly get to that final sale and make their profit.
Ask how long the flip took when you’re purchasing a flipped home and ask what sort of work was actually performed, because it always pays to know as much about your potential new property as possible.
How much more does a flipped house cost than a fixer-upper?
Should you avoid a flipped house and look into buying a fixer-upper home instead? A house that needs work done will be much more affordable than one that is all done up with new cabinets and appliances, and fixtures, so this can be attractive initially.
However, remember that a house that is a fixer-upper must, in time, be fixed up. You will have to pay to upgrade the plumbing, electricity, fixtures, cabinets, counters, and anything else you might want to change in the house.
The cost of you doing this yourself may end up being more than you would pay for a house that is already finished. Realtors often have special working relationships with contractors and other trade professionals that make their flipping costs much less than your cost to fix up a home, unless you plan to do a lot of work on the property yourself.
Should you flip a home yourself?
Should you attempt to flip a home? Anyone can learn how to do this, and reality TV shows make it looks easy sometimes.
If you have a lot of DIY skills and you know something about construction, plumbing, electricity, or all of the above, you have the skills needed to be good at house flipping. You can also learn these skills and learn how to become good at flipping homes in time.
Like everything else, it takes a lot of time and learning if you want to start flipping houses. You will make mistakes and run into unforeseen costs and perhaps even collect some horror stories of your own.
But if you love fixing up homes and you have a varied DIY skill set, flipping homes can be a rewarding and enjoyable way to make money or improve your personal home.
Further House Flipping Reading
5 Common Causes of Basement Flooding
Common Mold vs. Black Mold
Flipping Houses: Common Mistakes to Avoid
How to Flip a House
How to Prevent Plumbing Emergencies
How to Rewire a House
Troubleshooting Plumbing Drain Problems