Renovating a Flipped House

Our kids (daughter and son-in-law) bought their first house in Dallas last year and we are already renovating a flipped house. I use the word “Flipped” loosely.

The odds were stacked against them when they bought this home. The real estate market was crazy and their apartment was turning condo so they had to be out of their 600 sq., ft., high-rise downtown apartment. Rentals were as difficult to find as homes.

They had just gotten married and really wanted to own a home instead of renting. It was the best option for them at the time.

This picture was taken when they moved in. The house definitely has some curb appeal.

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Buying in A Seller’s Market

Interest rates were so low that everyone was wanting to buy a home. It was a hot housing market and home sales were going crazy.

Potential buyers were making offers above the asking price and market value. A lot of people ended up paying too much money for their homes.

A real estate agent could also have been taking advantage of home buyers. It seemed like they were partly to blame for creating fear and a sense of urgency to pay top dollar.

I was like nothing we’d ever seen before.

When our kids bought this house they were new to the city. They had no experience with purchasing a home. They were far away from a family member who could be a second eye on the property. Tommy grew up in a high-rise in New York and this was completely foreign to him.

House Flippers

House flippers were also taking advantage of the situation.

What is a house flipper?

Unless you’ve been under a rock or don’t watch HGTV, you should be aware of the house flipping craze.

House flippers are real estate investors who buy homes in need of repair, fix them up and then turn around and sell them.

Their goal once they buy the house is to fix it up as quickly as possible and resell it at a much higher purchase price. Consequently, many “flippers” typically do the work themselves or use cheap labor.

They tend to fix up the kitchen and bathrooms. Paint the whole house builder-grade gray, throw down cheap flooring, and then put it up on the market.

Basically lipstick on a pig!

I am not saying that this is the case with every flip project. There are experienced flippers who do it the right way. However, there are also home flippers who just trying to make a quick buck.

picture of Annie and Tommy on moving day
Annie & Tommy on moving day!

Doing Your Due Diligence

  • Check with your neighbors. Has the house been vacant? Does it appear that the house is the current owner’s primary residence or did they just do work there?
  • Find a home inspector that guarantees their work.
  • Check to see if any building permits were pulled with the city or county for the property. They are public records.
  • It’s a good idea to take time to drive around the neighborhood at different times of the day. This will give you a sense of the neighbors. Are there young kids etc? You want to live in the right neighborhood where you will fit in and make friends.
  • If the home is owned by an LLC, chances are it is a flipper house.
  • If possible, find out from the current owner who was the general contractor who worked on the home and check them out.
  • If the property seems to be an older renovated house, ask for the seller to provide home warranty insurance and check what it covers and for how long.
  • My best advice: Buy the worst house in the best neighborhood and fix it up yourself. As you fix up your house, you know how it was done and by whom. You will also be the one who profits from the home improvements.

Kitchen Remodel

We went to Dallas to put a new kitchen in for the kids. The current kitchen was old cabinets, just painted white. The refrigerator didn’t fit in the spot that they had for it. They didn’t like much about the kitchen.

There were many different kinds of flooring throughout the house. The main living space was a wood look tile that started peeling after the first cleaning. There was another type of tile in the kitchen and a third tile in the front entryway.

We actually found beautiful red brick under the front entryway tile but it was very damaged from the tile the flipper put over it and really didn’t match with the esthetic of their home.

red brick flooring under flipper tile
We found beautiful red brick flooring in the entryway but it was damaged from the tile that the flipper put over it.

Our Renovation and Timeline

We got to Dallas on Christmas Eve around 10 pm. The plan was to leave earlier but the weather in Chicago prohibited us from driving with a truck pulling a trailer full of kitchen cabinets.

Once we left we drove straight through in one day.

This was our Christmas in Dallas. Right after opening the presents, we started the demo on the kitchen

On Christmas Day the demo began and that’s when things started taking a turn from what appeared to be a straightforward job of just taking out cabinets and replacing them to taking the space down to the studs.

We couldn’t find a breaker that was turning off the power to one of the walls in the kitchen. As it turned out two breakers had to be turned off to cut the power. This is the result of electrical work by someone who wasn’t a licensed electrician.

Once “Handy” took down the drywall to see what was going on we also found exposed live wires in the wall. This is a life-threatening situation. So work stopped until an electrician could come out the following day and fix all of the issues. There were more than we anticipated.

We also found holes to the outside when the walls were opened, which explained a situation with mice and bug infestation issues.

“Handy” used foam with a repellent in it to fill up the holes before he replaced all the old insulation and put up the proper kind of drywall.

We also found mold that we had to deal with. What a mess!!!

This flip house was clearly a rundown house that we are pretty sure was vacant at some point. The investor got a great deal on this older home and then did some shoddy work and made a lot of money. A great deal for them but at the end of the day, a not-so-great deal for the buyers.

"Handy" and Tommy working on putting up new drywall while renovating a flipped house

Tools you’ll need

Replacing the Floors

Before we even got to Dallas, Annie started installing floating flooring over the cheap tile floors that were in the living room, dining room, and kitchen. She got about 1/2 way done before we got there and when we left the only thing she still has to do it the front entryway, the pantry, and the laundry room.

Because the floor was replaced, all of the existing baseboards had to be removed and the door jams had to trim down. When we were working on this it was apparent that the door jams were never attached properly to a 2 x 4’s

Plumbing Issues

The day before we were leaving, the next-door neighbors alerted us to water coming from the house and flooding their side yard. On future inspections, it appeared that there was a drain pipe (not the correct size) that was not capped which was where all the water from the kitchen and laundry room was coming out. Again, the work was not done by a licensed plumber.

Annie & Tommy had noticed some wet areas there before but never of this magnitude. This was clearly an issue that didn’t rear its ugly head when it was just the two of them living in the home and working for long hours during the day.

With 5 of us in the house all day, every day for a week, we were pumping out more water than usual and it became a big issue.

picture of an uncapped drain pipe coming from a flipped house to the outside

The End Result

Truth be told, the kitchen isn’t done but after 10 days, we all needed to get back to Illinois and back to work. Once the plumbing issues are addressed, the countertops and hardware are installed, they will have a beautiful new kitchen.

A bit messy but the best picture I have of the new backsplash

They wanted a white and blue kitchen with the bottom cabinets being navy blue and the uppers being white.

The upper cabinets go to the ceiling with beautiful crown molding. The bottom cabinets are mostly drawers (my favorite kitchen must-haves) and very much like my kitchen.

They have a pantry wall now that houses their refrigerator and microwave. Again it is a copy of what I have in my kitchen. It’s so functional and their kitchen triangle is actually perfect. I’m a bit jealous!

They are putting champagne-colored hardware on the cabinets and it’s going to be beautiful.

Frequently Asked Question

Is it worth it to buy a flipped house?

A flipped house can be a good buy, especially if you’re not interested in buying a fixer-upper and putting in the time and money to repair it yourself. However, house flippers tend to work on homes with the goal of making a quick profit, so the condition of the flip depends on the skill of the flipper and/or their contractors.

Is Buying a Flipped House Risky

According to Rocket Mortage:

There are risks to buying a flipped house as well. Just like making any large purchase, one must do their due diligence before taking the plunge. While the house might look all shiny and brand-new on the outside, it’s important to make sure the quality of the renovations meets the standards set by the city you live in.

How do you Identify a flipped house?

If you go through the points I outlined above that will give you some clues. You should also look for the following:

  • New Kitchens and Baths
  • New Carpet or Flooring
  • New Fixtures & Appliances
  • The grey & white palette (my personal observation)

In Conclusion

Buying a flipped house has the advantage of you being able to move your stuff into a home and start living.

However, the home flippers are the ones who are making the money on the improvements and you also have no idea what you are walking into unless you’ve had the time to really do your homework.

My perspective is so different because I’m married to “Handy” who can do just about anything and I’m no slouch myself.

Before I met him I took on a really large historical home renovation project with just myself and my then 6-year-old son. I like to think of myself as the original flipper.

It was actually one of my favorite homes when I was done with it.

my farmhouse on Raymond ave in Barrington

Peace and Love,

I have a great post on home renovations HERE

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7 Comments

  1. Did they not have the house inspected before they purchased it?

    1. They did have a home inspector who found issues that were fixed but he certainly didn’t find everything (especially things that are behind the drywall). He also had a clause in his contract that he was not responsible for anything he didn’t include in his report. We didn’t know that until after the fact.

  2. Great information. The kitchen looks amazing. The kids are so lucky to have you. Hugs to you.

  3. Aye, yai, yai! What a. week you had!!! But the results are fabulous!!! Merry Christmas to Annie & Tommy!

  4. Lynn-
    It looks amazing already! You guys did so much in such a short time!

    Happy New Year!

  5. Oooh! This is a VERY helpful post.

    Back in 2011, when we were house-hunting, we fell in love with a beautiful little flipped house. It was so cute.

    We put in our offer that same day (it was a crazy market), and then we checked for permits. We discovered that ONLY 2 PERMITS HAD BEEN PULLED FOR AN ENTIRE HOUSE FLIP!

    We “noped” out of our offer as fast as we could, and never looked back. We ended up buying the cheapest house we could afford in a great neighborhood. We’re so happy with our decision.

    Best of luck to your family with their new home.

    1. You are so smart! I hope this post helps other new homeowners make the right purchase. Hope all is going well!

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