What I'm Seeing Now


Flipper Fix!

Sometimes I smile and sometimes I cringe when someone calls to schedule an inspection and they say that the house was a foreclosure but an investor bought it and fixed it up and it is "beautiful now."

Well, to each his own.

This is what greeted me as I approached this three year old house!

The sidewalk has settled about 2".

This presents a couple of problems - that first step is a doozy, about 10" high.  Forget Grandma, it was hard for me! That is too high for most codes.

And secondly, as the sidewalk, and soil, settle around houses, and front stoops like this, holes are opened up which are very attractive to small animals and snakes.

Once I was explaining the animal attraction to someone when a rabbit darted out from under the stoop right through my legs!  Convenient object lesson!

There are various fixes for this kind of gapping, which I won't go into.  But, importantly, if you set out to "FIX" it, please FIX it!  Sheesh...

I don't know about you, but I can hardly see this "fix..."  I wonder what grade my shop teacher would have given me for this one!

You can bet that when I see something like this as I approach a "beautiful" flipped house, what I will find inside is often a laugh riot.  This case wasn't so bad, except for one very dangerous thing which will be the subject of another post.

My recommendation:  When you show flipped houses, have a good look.  You will probably see what is and is not properly done.  But ALWAYS hire a home inspector!  You never know what lurks in one!

Jay Markanich Real Estate Inspections, LLC  

Based in Bristow, serving all of Northern Virginia.

Office (703) 330-6388   Cell (703) 585-7560


Comment balloon 58 commentsJay Markanich • August 28 2010 06:08AM


It is important to hire a good inspector because sometimes flippers only make cosmetic improvements to the house.

Posted by Gita Bantwal, REALTOR,ABR,CRS,SRES,GRI - Bucks County & Philadel (RE/MAX Centre Realtors) over 10 years ago

And cosmetic fixes sometimes that are nothing more than lipstick Gita!

Posted by Jay Markanich, Home Inspector - servicing all Northern Virginia (Jay Markanich Real Estate Inspections, LLC) over 10 years ago

I can't wait until the real estate "flipper" tv shows go into nostalgic re-runs on the Comedy Channel.

Posted by Wallace S. Gibson, CPM, LandlordWhisperer (Gibson Management Group, Ltd.) over 10 years ago

Great post.  You're right - often people focus on the cosmetics rather than the underlying issues.  And, to fix the issues later costs more.  I work on floors, and I know a floor is only as good as the subfloor underneath it.  If there are issues w/ the subfloor (or even the joists), those should be addressed first.  If not, most likely the floor will crack or buckle or something bad.

Posted by Debbie Gartner, The Flooring Girl & Blog Stylist -Dynamo Marketers (The Flooring Girl) over 10 years ago

Wallace - I see some of those shows and see things done wrongly and especially wonder what experience or licensure some of these "professionals" really have!

Debbie - it all begins with foundation, you are right!  The foundation for the floor can be any of various ones, but nonetheless, it is the most critical thing for what is to follow.  You sound like a diligent floor-er!  "I'm sorry, sir, but we can't put ceramic tile there until we do this here..."  Yep, it costs more!  And no coming back later.

Posted by Jay Markanich, Home Inspector - servicing all Northern Virginia (Jay Markanich Real Estate Inspections, LLC) over 10 years ago

I am always a bit leery of investor houses because the cost cutting is not always the best way to handle it. My rule is simple..if paint and new flooring is not going to fix it, avoid it!

Posted by Gary L. Waters Broker Associate, Bucci Realty, Fifteen Years Experience in Brevard County (Bucci Realty, Inc.) over 10 years ago


So often investors with a "little bit" of construction knowledge know how to make the house look beautiful on the surface so they can make a good profit but they often ignore the fundamentals and safety issues.


Posted by Claudette Millette, Buyer, Broker - Metrowest Mass (The Buyers' Counsel) over 10 years ago

Good call Jay. You could probably write a book on the things you have seen doing inspections and it would definitely be worth reading. Some of the home spun fixes are hilarious.

Posted by Randy Ostrander, Real Estate Broker, Serving Big Rapids and West Central MI (Lake and Lodge Realty LLC ) over 10 years ago

Jay, there are fixer uppers and there are tried to fixer uppers.  Looks like you have the latter here.

Posted by Gabe Sanders, Stuart Florida Real Estate (Real Estate of Florida specializing in Martin County Residential Homes, Condos and Land Sales) over 10 years ago

Gary - that is probably a great rule of thumb!

Claudette - I often suggest to my clients that they try to obtain any permits pulled by the investor.  If there aren't any, beware!

Randy - considering it!  Some of the fixes really are funny, but often dangerous too!

Gabe - certainly the latter, although a lot inside was well done.  There was a serious danger in there though, which I will put up tomorrow.

Posted by Jay Markanich, Home Inspector - servicing all Northern Virginia (Jay Markanich Real Estate Inspections, LLC) over 10 years ago

I've written a few post about the things flipper often overlook.  Quality versus Quantity.  Pick the key rooms and do them RIGHT.  Sloppy workmanship is a turn off no matter how fancy the granite is in the kitchen.  My buyers would much rather see a clean house with upgraded mechanicals than the mismash of interior upgrades wtih a 15 year old rusted AC unit and curled shingles any day.

Posted by Cindy Jones, Pentagon, Fort Belvoir & Quantico Real Estate News (Integrity Real Estate Group) over 10 years ago

Very good information for those considering homes sold by investors. A professional home inspection is always a smart action. Many investors, but not all, cut corners when fixing up properties.

 Blooming for Maryland home owners.

Posted by Roy Kelley (Realty Group Referrals) over 10 years ago

You couldn't have planned that rabbit coming out when it did if you tried! Talk about perfect timing. I always advise everyone to get a home inspection. Even on newly constructed homes. You do not know who the builder hires as subs and how good they are.

Posted by Jackie Connelly-Fornuff, "Moving at The Speed of YOU!" (Douglas Elliman Real Estate in Babylon NY) over 10 years ago

Cindy - I find my clients are usually worried about upcoming expenses.  Roofs and HVAC are biggies!  If you want to really sell a house, do the necessary.

Thanks Roy.  Of course they cut corners!  And sometimes that can be dangerous.

Jackie - you are right, that rabbit was totally unplanned and very funny!  Kind of made the point.  If there is a permit, the flipper is responsible.  Without one the buyers have little recourse...  everyone would just point fingers at the other guys!

Posted by Jay Markanich, Home Inspector - servicing all Northern Virginia (Jay Markanich Real Estate Inspections, LLC) over 10 years ago

Jay, we have the same probs here too. Huge concrete steps that have settled so much you have to get a step ladder to get into the house...

Posted by TeamCHI - Complete Home Inspections, Inc., Home Inspectons - Nashville, TN area - 615.661.029 (Complete Home Inspections, Inc.) over 10 years ago

Sometimes, Michael, the stoop is so moved it's back end is actually pushing in the foundation.  I see it often.

Posted by Jay Markanich, Home Inspector - servicing all Northern Virginia (Jay Markanich Real Estate Inspections, LLC) over 10 years ago

Most Flipping Investors fixes for the buyers not inspectors. ..common knowledge . 

Posted by Fernando Herboso - Broker for Maxus Realty Group, 301-246-0001 Serving Maryland, DC and Northern VA (Maxus Realty Group - Broker 301-246-0001) over 10 years ago

Jay was this post about rabbits, snakes and dolphins? Sounds like the "builder" was constructing a menagerie. :)

Posted by James Quarello, Connecticut Home Inspector (JRV Home Inspection Services, LLC) over 10 years ago

Flippers often do what is cheapest and looks the best....they don't always do the best work.

Posted by Yvette Chisholm, Associate Broker - Rockville, MD 301-758-9500 (Long & Foster Real Estate, Inc.) over 10 years ago

I think the rabbits should have it for awhile until the "investor" aka real estate speculator actually transforms it into a home for humans again.

Posted by Emily Medvec, Realtor | Serving Santa Fe & Northern NM (eXp Realty LLC) over 10 years ago

The really sad thing is the lack of work ethics from some of the contractors that these flippers hire to perform the work. There are some things that just shouldn't be done, if not done correctly. Don't even get me started on the 'hidden' electrical issues, or the 'missing' support beams, or the 'rotten' decking of a new roof (being completed as I drove up) and almost fell through while inspecting, or... or... or...


Posted by Jeffrey Jonas- Minnesota Home Inspector (Critical Eye Property Inspections / JRJ Consultants) over 10 years ago

Not a problem.


Watch out for that first step!

I've sold two homes with sinking concrete walks or steps.  The fix was lifting the walk with concrete "pumped" into the area under the sinking walkway. 

It works wonders.  Small concrete companies can do it and it's not very expensive. 

Seller paid, OF COURSE.

Posted by Lenn Harley, Real Estate Broker - Virginia & Maryland (Lenn Harley, Homefinders.com, MD & VA Homes and Real Estate) over 10 years ago

Jay, I can see where a flipper's objective is to get in and turn it over as quickly as possible. In this case I guess they didn't think the step was a big deal unless the house is inspected.

Posted by Michael Setunsky, Your Commercial Real Estate Link to Northern VA over 10 years ago

Fix-n-flips always make me nervous especially on the low end of the market, where the investor buys a $130K for half price and only throws $10K at it. It is amazing what some flippers consider "gorgeous total remodel"

Posted by John Marshall - FORE!, Specializing in Golf Course Properties (LoKation Real Estate) over 10 years ago

Unfortunately, there are very divergent levels of quality in investor rehabilitated homes. A smart investor will pick one with good bones and have a high baseline of construction quality rather than whitewash a home with more expensive problems he hopes will be overlooked. Buyers overlook nothing in this market. 

Posted by J. Philip Faranda, Broker-Owner (J. Philip Faranda (J. Philip R.E. LLC) Westchester County NY) over 10 years ago

Hi Jay, I reblogged this. You're a fantastic writer, and take the time to write quality posts. I look at foreclosure flips with a super critical eye. We have one company here that lists their flips as "better than new" ....what kind lofty goal is that for a homebuyer? ...an impossible one. This makes my job that much harder as I'm looking for "better than new" quality, which I have yet to find. ...but I have found a moldy wet attic, leaky pipes, a/c on its way out etc.  it's window dressing only...granite countertops, stainless steel appliances and tile. This drives me nuts! jay

Posted by Jay Lloyd, Allpro Home Inspection (Cape Coral Florida) over 10 years ago

Good awareness post.

Flippers do concentrate on the key points such as the kitchens, baths, carpets, window coverings and paint job. It has been proven that if these things are addressed, the house can be quickly turned over and a profit made. The rest of the home is just cosmetically gone over. Definitely a CAVEAT EMPTOR scenario exists......

Thank you Jay....

Posted by Richie Alan Naggar, agent & author (people first...then business Ran Right Realty ) over 10 years ago

As the old saying goes:  "Have a nice trip---and better luck next fall."

Posted by Charles Buell, Seattle Home Inspector (Charles Buell Inspections Inc.) over 10 years ago

Good points. Some of the fixes may not be visible to the person walking thru the home. But some sure are!

Posted by Bryan Watkins (LRA Real Estate Group) over 10 years ago

To the uneducated and inexperienced, flip houses look like a good deal... all nice and shiney and bright.   But we all know most flippers do cosmetic work and never address problems like electrical and plumbing and HVAC.   Buyers must always get an inspection and be ready to walk away if the house turns out to be the proverbial pig sporting lipstick!

Posted by Mary Ann Daniell Realtor, Delivering Successful Results Since 1999 (Coldwell Banker United, Realtors - Subsidiary of NRT LLC ) over 10 years ago

It is interesting what inspectors uncover on flipped homes.   On a positive side I have come across some flippers who take pride in their work.

Posted by Mark Hitz (Keller Williams ) over 10 years ago

I could see why the flipper wouldn't focus on that improvement, its not exactly the new countertops or new tile work and paint that will excite a buyer, but nonetheless poses a problem when the porch starts to sink even more and create a bigger problem.

Posted by Morgan Evans, LICENSED REAL ESTATE SALESPERSON (Douglas Elliman Real Estate) over 10 years ago

The expansive soils are abundant in Colorado, I rarely come across one that dosen't have settling and undermining issues.This basement floor heaved 8"! on a 5 year old home..heaving floor Needless to say there are numerous litigations  on the subject in this area. Makes it hard to resell.

Posted by Brian Persons, Certified Master Inspector (Brian Persons Front Range Home Inspections) over 10 years ago

I always alwaysrecommend a home inspector to my clients.  Some Realtors get peeved about it, probably because they are afradi the client will want to keep looking if this one has issues.  Great post!  Thanks!

Posted by Phil Stevenson, CRMP, "Mortgage Nerd" in Miami, Florida and Texas (PS Mortgage Lending 305-791-4874 or 888-845-6630) over 10 years ago

Phil... I don't know why a Realtor would be "peeved" at someone for having a home inspection.  A good home inspector can significantly reduce  the risks and liability when purchasing and selling a home. Home inspectors are good for everyone involved, including the Realtor.

Posted by Felix Krynicky (Keller Williams Realty) over 10 years ago


I have exactly the same feelings when I hear those exact words. It is ALWAYS going to be a mess, isn't it?

Posted by Steven L. Smith, Bellingham WA Home Inspector (King of the House Home Inspection, Inc.) over 10 years ago

Jay, stuff like that reminds me of the old saying: How come there isn't enough time to do it right the first time, but always enough time to repair it?  Somewhere along the way, towns should adapt a policy, one which offers a revenue stream. Any foreclosure or distressed home purchase requires a building permit and code inspection for a CO is re-issued. It would stop a lot of that and get the quick flippers out of the market  

Posted by Ed Silva, Central CT Real Estate Broker Serving all equally (Mapleridge Realty, CT 203-206-0754 ) over 10 years ago

Jay  This entire foreclosure, tape them together and flip 'em is sickening to me

Posted by Art Kruschka, Manassas Woodbridge Dumfries Real Estate Sevices (Administrative Manager) over 10 years ago

I am dealing with a wonderful house that was touched by a flipper/scammer.  It is the worst workmaship I have seen period.   I know locally plenty of good flippers who do a great job, but I am appaled by this house.  What really makes me mad is that he is looking to make about $90,000.  With that kind of profit he could have done good quality bathrooms, change the roof, windows and install ceramic tile.  I will probably never show a house done by this person, and will make sure that no agent I know does.  I see a blog post coming.  To make it worse he the broker/agent/flipper won't answer his phone.

Posted by Tere Rottink (CoastalVa Realty Inc) over 10 years ago

Sometimes we call flipped homes "putting lipstick on a pig", not all, but some do this to get by cheaply.

Posted by Melanie Ross, Benicia CA & Vallejo CA Real Estate, 707-319-2828 (Coldwell Banker Solano Pacific) over 10 years ago

You are so right about hiring an inspector. Anyone who purchases property and does not hire an inspector needs to have their head examined. There are just too many things that can be hidden that a good inspector will find!

Posted by Barbara-Jo Roberts Berberi, MA, PSA, TRC - Greater Clearwater Florida Residential Real Estate Professional, Palm Harbor, Dunedin, Clearwater, Safety Harbor (Charles Rutenberg Realty) over 10 years ago

Jay - Some of the intelligence exhibited by "Flipper" seems far superior to that of some of the flippers.

Posted by John Mulkey, Housing Guru (TheHousingGuru.com) over 10 years ago

There are some good contractors flipping homes that do great work and then there are those investors just flipping the home without any improvements.  Your suggestion about getting a home inspection for the potential homeowner is good advise.

Posted by Keith Lawrence, ABR, SFR (Christie's International) over 10 years ago

Fernando - I gotta wonder if inspectors have the same bad reputations among flippers as the flippers have among us inspectors!

Jim - ummm...  That rabbit story is true too!  It was so funny!  What a lesson for the buyers.  The lady's eyes got real wide and she said, "I thought you were kidding."  Not!

Yvette - well, you are exactly correct!  Some things make your eyes roll.

Emily - lots of these flips would be far safer for rabbits!

Posted by Jay Markanich, Home Inspector - servicing all Northern Virginia (Jay Markanich Real Estate Inspections, LLC) over 10 years ago

I'm with you Jeff!  We could swap some stories, huh?  Have your secretary call my secretary and we'll do lunch.

My neighbor did that Lenn for his front stoop.  It worked great!  That is really the way to go for something like this.

Michael - it's ugly and a hazard.  Does it get any better than that?

John - it was my buyers who thought this was beautiful.  At least when they called...

Posted by Jay Markanich, Home Inspector - servicing all Northern Virginia (Jay Markanich Real Estate Inspections, LLC) over 10 years ago

J. Philip - that's exactly it.  And when I can see problems so easily, I worry the most about what I cannot see.

Jay - better than new?  What a diaper load that is.  What kind of arrogance does that take and how do they respond to you!?  Thank you again for your very nice words.

Richie - you are most welcome!  They do go over some things really quickly, that's for sure.

Posted by Jay Markanich, Home Inspector - servicing all Northern Virginia (Jay Markanich Real Estate Inspections, LLC) over 10 years ago

Charlie - I nearly had both of those things on one inspection!  I think the shop grade on that fix would be F...

Bryan - some are much more obvious than others, but I would always recommend a professional inspection.

Mary Ann - I sure see a lot of them there pigs!


Posted by Jay Markanich, Home Inspector - servicing all Northern Virginia (Jay Markanich Real Estate Inspections, LLC) over 10 years ago

Mark - I have run across one company in this area who does things by the book and with pride.  But that is all!

Morgan - once things move, they typically keep moving.  So this is not a problem that would go away.

Wow, Brian, that's a big deal!  What do they do to prepare the soil prior to pouring slabs?

Sometimes they do Phil.  But not often.

Felix - we are cheap at twice the price!  At least I think so...

Posted by Jay Markanich, Home Inspector - servicing all Northern Virginia (Jay Markanich Real Estate Inspections, LLC) over 10 years ago

Steve - and no matter who calls, the realtor or the client!  My heart jumps a bit and I usually try to schedule in a little extra time for these miracles.

Ed - that would probably create a "black market," "under the table," flipper market!

Art - it sure has changed the market!  For sure around here, but perhaps nationwide.

Tere - a sure way to sell a house!  People like that shouldn't be allowed to ... well, who would be the jurisdictional authority to keep him from doing this?

Melanie - I said that once on a home inspection of a flipped house and that realtor has not called back since!

Posted by Jay Markanich, Home Inspector - servicing all Northern Virginia (Jay Markanich Real Estate Inspections, LLC) over 10 years ago

Barbara-Jo - that is the idea!  Hopefully most of the hidden things will get caught, and certainly all of the obvious things.

John - a lot of the younger crowd might see that Flipper on my "flipper" posts and not know why!

Keith - hopefully it is advice that most people would appreciate.  If you know of any of those good flippers, send them here, we need'em!

Posted by Jay Markanich, Home Inspector - servicing all Northern Virginia (Jay Markanich Real Estate Inspections, LLC) over 10 years ago

You'd think that the "flippers" would have noticed the problem and taken care of it. I always recommend my clients use the services of a Good inspector.

Posted by Eric Michael, Metro Detroit Real Estate Professional 734.564.1519 (Remerica Integrity, Realtors®, Northville, MI) over 10 years ago

Eric - I think they felt this was fixed!  You can't be sure, of course, but why else would they leave it like this?

Posted by Jay Markanich, Home Inspector - servicing all Northern Virginia (Jay Markanich Real Estate Inspections, LLC) over 10 years ago

Looks like pea gravel leaking out from under that slab of concrete.  If the weight of the slab is not evenly supported,  crack.  Like your flipper.

Posted by Jack Gilleland (Home Inspection and Investor Services, Clayton) over 10 years ago

Jack - I think that pea gravel was put there to "fix" the problem crack that opened up when the sidewalk settled!  Didn't work...

Posted by Jay Markanich, Home Inspector - servicing all Northern Virginia (Jay Markanich Real Estate Inspections, LLC) over 10 years ago

Yes, flipped homes need to have close inspections.  Afterall, the investor didn't purchase to give the property away.  Many are out to make cosmetic repairs/cover ups and make a profit.  How neat that the bunny popped out.

Sue of Robin and Sue

Posted by Robin Dampier REALTOR®, Hendersonville & Western NC Real Estate Source (Coldwell Banker King) over 10 years ago

Sue - that was very funny!  What a lesson!  Close inspections all around, I agree!

Posted by Jay Markanich, Home Inspector - servicing all Northern Virginia (Jay Markanich Real Estate Inspections, LLC) over 10 years ago

 My brother is just now going to close on a having been not tooo flipped house in California...but did his homework knowing repairs..his desired updates...got quotes...after all this...accepted offer...bla bla bla...the lender claimed (he had 80% down) they could not close becuz the appraiser said there was a faucet that dripped...hmmmm...the drip has delayed the closing 2 weeks.  It gets better....neither realtor ever get this "appraiser" the combination...so he was not even in the property...ahhhh...have an outstanding labor day weekend !

Posted by Sally K. & David L. Hanson, WI Real Estate Agents - Luxury - Divorce (EXP Realty 414-525-0563) over 10 years ago

S&D - I would love to be able to inspect a house without entering!  Perhaps a satellite relay to his special receiver?

I will be working this weekend - already booked Saturday and Monday.  Sundays are very busy with church responsibilities, literally 9-5.  So my Labor Day is just that!  But you have a good one too!

Posted by Jay Markanich, Home Inspector - servicing all Northern Virginia (Jay Markanich Real Estate Inspections, LLC) over 10 years ago

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