If you’re a buyer in the market for a move in-ready home, you’re bound to see a few properties that were purchased with the intent to be sold as flips. A flipped house is one that has been purchased by someone (typically an investor), fixed up, put back on the market, and sold for more money. The most successful house flippers do this as quickly as possible.
“Flipping is all about speed, cost, and impact, says Laurie March, remodeling guru and HGTV and DIY Network alum.
But bringing an older property up to date so it meets buyers’ standards can take months that most home flippers don’t have. In this situation, some flippers might be tempted to cut corners when choosing materials or making improvements to the house.
So just like you would look under the hood of a car before buying it, you should also scrutinize that Pinterest-perfect kitchen with its updated cabinets, gleaming countertops, and shiny appliances.
Here are some signs of a cheaply flipped kitchen that warrant investigation.
1. ‘Custom’ cabinets
As long as your kitchen cabinets are pretty, modern, and spacious, that’s all that matters, right? Wrong.
“Oftentimes cheaply flipped kitchens are remodeled without the end user in mind and do not provide optimal access to the items in the cabinet for the homeowner,” says Scott O’Hara, vice president of operations at ShelfGenie.
Be on the lookout for cabinets with blind corners that have a lot of hidden space that’s not accessible, as well as the cabinets above the fridge or double oven that are usually installed out of reach for most people.
O’Hara also recommends making sure there are no large gaps between the cabinet doors and the frame.
2. Poorly made drawers
Open the drawers and look for dovetail construction in the corners, which can signify it was made durably and is of superior quality.
“When looking at the drawers, it’s important to pay attention to what rails are used,” says O’Hara. “A lot of cheaply made drawers have aluminum rails and plastic wheels, which can crack or wobble with age.”
“In one kitchen we worked on, the previous owner had installed hardware on two drawers in the corners in a way that they couldn’t bypass each other, so one drawer was completely useless,” says March.
3. Off-brand counters
The kitchen is one of the most high-traffic areas in your house, so it’s important to feel confident that the materials used in this room will withstand wear and tear over time.
“A flipped property might boast quartz countertops because of their popularity, but they’re not all the same,” says Massimo Ballucchi, vice president of Kitchen & Bath Business for Cosentino North America.
That’s why you should make sure to ask specific questions about the materials used before you buy a flip.
“Cheap quartz is quick to chip and stain, while quality surfacing from a trusted brand like Silestone offers durability and usually comes with a residential warranty,” Ballucchi says.
4. Lack of attention to details
There is no truer test of a flipper’s attention to detail than the corners of a space.
“How are the crown molding and baseboard corners? Do the cuts line up?” says March. “What about the paint job? How did they do in the corners of the room and the ceiling? Did they clean and paint the corners of the various closets in the house? Looking in the corners of a home will tell you a lot about the workmanship of DIY home flippers and their tradespeople.”
Another red flag is the kitchen floor.
“Look at the bottom front of the dishwasher. Does the flooring go underneath the dishwasher or just stop right at the base?” asks March. “Nothing is more frustrating and expensive than having to rip out the countertop or the flooring to replace a broken dishwasher that you can’t get out—and it happens more often than you think.”
5. Poorly installed appliances—or the wrong appliances altogether
Do the kitchen appliances open properly and clear all handles and cabinets?
Another sign of a cheaply flipped kitchen is when appliances don’t have hinges on the correct side based on the layout of the room. There’s a chance the flipper installed appliances that weren’t specifically ordered for that house.
6. Old outlets
Electrical outlets are probably the last thing you look at, but they’re oh, so important.
“A flipper who didn’t bother to replace the older smoke detectors, switches, and outlets is someone who probably skipped a lot of other meaningful updates as well,” says March. “A made-over kitchen with old outlets and switches is a no-no for me.”
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