Can a Home Inspector Detect when a Flip is a Flop?

Canadian investors have been flipping houses at a phenomenal rate.  As real estate prices continue to rise, flipped houses have become more common on the market. Realtytrac, a real estate hub, recently reported that 6.6 percent of all single family home and condo sales in the first quarter of 2016 in the U.S. were flips—a 20 per cent increase from the previous quarter and 3 per cent higher than the previous year. Rates in Canada are likely similar.

Contractors are competing to buy old, non-updated houses, driving the prices up, leaving less money to do the necessary upgrades. The building code states that the building is brought up to the current standard when it is renovated. This is sometimes not the case. Often it is the electrical and plumbing that is hidden behind walls that is not updated.

So how do you know if a flip is a lemon?

Become a sleuth. Look closely at whether or not the home has been cosmetically renovated. Ask lots of questions! 

Can a home inspector help? Can inspection professionals have x-ray vision on a cosmetic renovation or a flip?

The bad news is: not really. A home inspection is visual – if all the defects of a home are covered up, there’s no evidence.

The good news is: we’re pretty good at looking for clues. While we have to work harder at putting 2 and 2 together, there are often indications that a home’s systems are not up to snuff.

Looking for Clues of a Flip

Sometimes there are obvious indications, for example, an old electrical panel, or a leak, but other times, it’s really not that obvious.

Example of a Clue in Electrical

Grounded plugs – As an inspector, we test plugs to see if they’re grounded. If none of them are, and all the wiring is covered up, there’s a pretty good chance the wiring hasn’t been changed. Beware: sometimes, even the electrical panel has been changed, but the wiring has not.

Example of a Clue in Plumbing

If we turn on the water at the highest point in the house, and find low water pressure, we know to look for other clues to tell if the plumbing might be outdated—but low water pressure could also mean that the plumbing supply line between the main and the hot water tank has too many bends and turns or too many plumbing connections–but when you’ve got an old 1930’s house, and the water stream is the size of a pencil, we usually suspect galvanized plumbing.

In some cases where there has been an extensive renovation, we have seen that the galvanized supply plumbing gets upgraded, but not the waste plumbing.

Example of a Clue on the Exterior of the Building

Form the outside of the home, we can often see a crack or movement of the building. In more than one case, we’ve seen a beautiful finished basement, but then as we look around at the outside of the house, for example on one house we noticed that the foundation had moved inward by about an inch, possibly making it unstable. Basement renovations should not be done before the building is deemed solid.

The fact is, inspecting a flip is tricky. We use as many detective skills as we can to use the clues to come to conclusions and build a story. For example, if a floor slopes down a bit, we might look for other clues that would indicate a rotten floor joist, or sagging beam, even if the floor is shiny and new.

While inspectors don’t have x-ray vision, they have seen more signs and signals of trouble than any other real estate professional. True, we can’t tell for sure if the home is a rotten flip, but we can use all the knowledge in our toolbox to help detect the signs.

For the biggest purchase of your life, you want to do everything in your power to find out if that flip is a flop.

When your emotions are running high, it’s easy to miss the small stuff. Getting an expert eye to take a look might just save you making a risky choice.

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Lay Chan Wee
Lay Chan Wee
01:19 31 Aug 21
I was impressed with the service provided by Rui Su. He was organized, explained in detail area that I am not familiar... with. He provided a good report. I will recommend him if you need home inspection.read more
Mary Jane Caro
Mary Jane Caro
14:25 27 Aug 21
I am always pleased to recommend Carol Mose from Mose Home Inspection Services to my clients who have had offers... accepted on residential real estate properties. She is knowledgeable, thorough, provides clear explanations, and delivers comprehensive reports.read more
Massimo Pannunzio
Massimo Pannunzio
22:05 25 Aug 21
Michael has got to be on of the best home inspectors in all of Quebec. It was amazing working with him and he had my... best interest at heart when making a life changing decision. He made sure I had all the answers and made it easy to work with him. I will be using Mose inspection for any moment that I need an inspection done that's for sure!read more
Amanda Lee
Amanda Lee
19:14 16 Jun 21
Amazing experience with Carol Mose who helped me with a pre-purchase inspection! She was very approachable and... observant, and informed me of all her first impressions on-site. This gave me greater understanding of any conditions as I was able to ask any quick questions on the spot. Her reports are the most thorough that I've seen and include diagrams to help explain what any physical signs mean and potential consequences. Could not have asked for a better inspector!read more
Maeghan Banks
Maeghan Banks
15:38 14 Jun 21
Carol was wonderful to work with for our pre-purchase inspection. She was professional, thorough and communicative,... taking the time to explain her findings as we went through the house. After the inspection, we felt we had clear knowledge of the condition of the house (both pros and cons), allowing us to move forward with the purchase with confidence. Highly recommend!read more
Ryan Chalupovitsch
Ryan Chalupovitsch
13:43 01 Jun 21
Carol Mose is the best home inspector in the business. Approachable and extremely knowledgeable. She did an... inspection for me and really took the time to explain her findings and help me understand the home I was looking to purchase. Cannot recommend her enough. Don’t hesitate.read more
Elisabeth Faure
Elisabeth Faure
21:16 29 Apr 21
This is the second time I have used MOSE, and they are always really amazing. Very nice, very professional. they came... to have a look at my roof and let me know if we were due for a repair - I was very satisfied with everything and would recommend them to anybody!read more
Hannah S
Hannah S
22:05 16 Apr 21
I had a great experience with Mose home inspection. My husband and I are first time homebuyers and so had a ton of... questions about the process. Everyone we talked with was really informative and helpful. Michael was our inspector and was phenomenal. The inspection was very thorough and he explained everything in detail with realistic next steps for us to take. We came out of the inspection feeling really informed. Plus, he is just an absolute delight! He had very contagious enthusiasm and made the inspection a really positive experience. Would highly recommend!read more
Gabriel Lukuc
Gabriel Lukuc
03:05 16 Apr 21
Michael was amazing. He took the time to explain to us what’s really important and the reasoning behind it. We’re not... very handy nor savvy when it comes to home construction so we really appreciate him taking the time to explain to us all aspects of the inspection. Also, Michael was friendly, professional and timely; he provided the report over a holiday and a weekend.read more
Stephanie Ballard
Stephanie Ballard
14:24 19 Mar 21
MOSE is the best in the business. Once again we were happy with their inspection services - they are professional,... friendly and knowledgeable. Would not hesitate to recommend to friends and family (and have)!read more
Rodrigo Morales
Rodrigo Morales
18:27 10 Sep 20
Home inspection
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