FLIP HOUSE SCAMS - LEADING LAMBS TO THE PROVERBIAL SLAUGHTER HOUSE!
Lately there has been an influx of no-nothing speculators preying on unsuspecting home buyers. These unscrupulous charlatans buy run down properties with the intent on making a killing at the expense of unwary home buyers. The term used for these quick and unprofessionally remodeled properties is "flip houses".
Now I'm not saying that every so-called flip house is a money pit disaster, but from what I have seen during my home inspections of many of these properties I can say with impunity that many of them are just that - money pit disasters!
The following account is an actual case study of one such flip house.
We were recently contacted by a young, recently divorced mother of 3 to inspect her proposed dream house. This was a single family, detached two level property located in Revere, Massachusetts. Upon an initial overall view of the property it generally looked ok. However, upon closer scrutiny it became apparent that was not the case.
The owner/developer - (scam artist) was waiting for us when we arrived for the home inspection. He was all smiles as he held out his hand to greet us and gleefully chortled that he knew we would be pleased with the great work that his crew had done in restoring this old lady back to her fine accouterments. Later, about half way through our inspection, his smile turned into a blushing chagrin.
As we worked through our usual inspection modus operandi it became evident that we were dealing with a colossal failure of the owner/developer to operate under the minimum standards of workmanlike practices.
Where do I start?
Well to begin with the brand new rear pressure treated deck had the following flaws:
The handrail was not graspable,
The guard rail balusters were too wide at 6 inches (4 inches is required).
There was no light fixture and the receptacle (outlet) was not GFCI protected,
Looking under this new deck I found that the ledger board was not bolted to the building, that there was no flashing between the deck and the house siding and none of the floor joists had metal hangers, but rather just toe-nailed - which is not allowed.
Next, upon entering the basement our nostrils flared open upon sensing the pungent moldy odor permeating the air of this lower building area. It didn't take long for us to ferret out the culprit - blacken, rotting drywall, the low ends of these walls in particular were covered with a disgusting veneer of fungal growths. YUCK!
It only gets better
The second floor of this newly rehabbed building had even more surprises.
First, the 2nd floor bathroom did not have a heat source, which is both necessary and mandatory. But it did have the required window and mechanical exhaust vent.
When I saw the vent in the bathroom I couldn't remember seeing it's hood on the exterior. Sure enough when I went to check for its location on the roof surprise-surprise, it was no where to be found. So I figured that it must be terminated inside the attic.
The next non expectation, or should I more accurately say astonishment, left me silently laughing to myself. Guess what? As hard as I tried I could not find any access to the under roof cavity - commonly referred to as an attic.
Yep - no attic access! My oh my - what wonders may be lurking in this inaccessible cavern? Especially with the bathroom vent discharging its moisture directly into it.
After presenting this babe in the woods client with all of these facts, as well as pointing out several other construction errors and blunders that this questionable character had allowed to occur in this property, she took my advice and checked with the town municipal building inspector to see what permits were issued for this property renovation. I wasn't shocked when she reported back to me that no permits were issued for that property address now - or in the past ten years.
With all of this newly acquired enlightenment, my client now made the correct decision not only to just walk away from this building, but to run as fast as she could.
What is the moral of this true account?
This actual case in point tale should make it abundantly clear that just because a property has been renovated and is now being "flipped" doesn't mean that it was professionally and properly restored.
In conclusion, it is essential for all home buyers, especially those with limited understanding on how a house is constructed and how it functions, to have a licensed competent and experienced home inspector spend 3 to 4 hours (or more) providing a thorough and comprehensive inspection of the entire dwelling.
The take-away message is - failure to have a professional home inspection may make the new home owners, FLIP OUT!