Fix-and-Flip Worst Practices: 10 Signs of Sloppy Workmanship in a House Flip

10 signs of sloppy workmanship in a house flip

There is a significant rise in fix-and-flip investing in many areas of the country, and along with this rise in flip activity, fix-and-flip investors' average gross ROI in many U.S. markets has fallen. While there are markets where average gross ROI is more than 100%, investors in some markets are experiencing under 15% returns. Unfortunately, these market conditions may tempt inexperienced or cash-strapped house flippers to try boosting their profits by cutting renovation costs with sub-par materials and workmanship..

With instant access to Internet resources, today's home buyers are more savvy than ever about what to look for in a quality home. It doesn't make much sense to save money by skimping on upgrades and repairs, only to have your flip sit on the market for months and months, waiting for a buyer who doesn't mind paying for sloppy results.

In an increasingly competitive fix-and-flip industry, where investors at every level of expertise are vying for buyers, keep in mind that the ARV of your house flip is not just determined by the features and amenities in recently sold comps, but also in the level of quality, expertise and workmanship buyers found in those amenities.

Below are 10 signs of sloppy workmanship fix-and-flip investors should be aware of when planning, budgeting for and completing their house flip renovations:


1)  FLOORING

With recent advancements in the design and production of laminate and vinyl floor coverings, it isn't difficult to find beautiful flooring with a higher-end look at a lower cost, but no matter how beautiful the flooring looks in the showroom, if it is not installed properly, home buyers will be immediately turned off.

Professionally installed flooring should not butt up against base moldings, and there should be no gaps or imperfect cuts around door jambs. Flooring should be installed beneath baseboards and door jambs, with a seamless, visually appealing continuity throughout. Pay attention to tiles or planks with a design pattern that is meant to look random -- such as laminate that mimics hardwood flooring. Repeating patterns that are placed too close to each other will immediately draw the eye and remind buyers the pattern is artificial and that there wasn't much attention paid to detail in the installation -- which may be a signal to them that other renovations in the home are sub-par as well.


2)  TILE WORK and COUNTERS

What is the point of upgrading the kitchen counters in your fix-and-flip project to granite, quartz or marble if the countertops are going to be cut imperfectly or poorly installed? Carefully inspect your installer's work and make sure there are no gaps where the counter tops meet the back splash. Caulk or grout that is applied there should be in a neat, straight line.

Properly installed back splash tile should be level with the counter and cabinets, and the tiles should not have protruding or uneven spaces between them, uneven edges, show gaps at electrical outlets, or have missing or sloppily applied grout. Grout that is not properly removed from the surface of tiles can leave a hazy film that will be impossible to remove if not cleaned up in time.


3)  CABINETS

Whether you will be cleaning, refacing or completely replacing cabinets in your fix-and-flip property, be sure that the surfaces are free of imperfections and the cabinet doors are hung perfectly. Pay attention to the gap where two cabinet doors meet in the middle (the gaps should all be uniform) and make sure the height of each door and drawer is level and uniform with other doors or drawers on the same level. Adjusting cabinet doors is an inexpensive detail that is often overlooked, but buyers will notice if doors look wonky and unprofessional-- so don't skip this step.

Make sure the cabinet hardware is uniform, and check that the finish does not clash with light fixtures, hinges and doorknobs in the room. If it is in your budget to install soft-closing hinges and drawer stops, you'll find that it is a relatively inexpensive feature home buyers love.


4) MISMATCHED METALS

Nothing screams "sloppy" more than easily replaceable fixtures like door hinges and knobs and other metal fixtures that are in terrible condition and/or don't match or compliment one another. Definitely do not used mismatched materials simply because you got them for a great price on clearance. That decision will come back to bite you later when buyers take the haphazard fixtures as a signal that you likely skimped in other areas in the home.


5)  WINDOWS

The condition and appearance of windows in a fix-and-flip property are a tale-tell sign to buyers of the level of workmanship and the attention to detail that likely exists throughout the home.

If you cannot afford to replace the windows in your fix-and-flip property, make sure the existing ones are visually appealing -- installing new sills and moldings if they are damaged, and new paint.  Windows should open and close smoothly, latch or lock easily, and should definitely not be painted shut. Don't be tempted to just paint over signs of cracking drywall, crumbling wood, or mold -- these are symptoms of other problems you will be passing on to an unsuspecting home buyer, and that can come back to bite your business and your reputation in the long run.


6)  DOORS

As with windows, doors should open and close smoothly and latch easily. Make sure doors do not open or close by themselves -- an issue that can easily be fixed by adjusting or replacing the door hinges.

Old doors with multiple layers of paint should be replaced -- unless they compliment the style and design of the home, and will add value to your completed flip. In that case, original doors can be stripped, sanded and stained or repainted.

Your property's front door is a focal point for buyers, and it either welcomes them in to see more, or turns them off immediately. If you are leaving an old front door on your flip, sand and stain it, or spruce it up with new paint in a contrasting color and new (or beautifully restored) hardware.

Whatever you do, don't neglect the garage door. If it isn't working, or wobbles on its tracks, repair or replace it. Just like a new front entry door, a new garage door will impress potential buyers right away--and for relatively little money. You'll be glad to know that historically, the amount you spend on a garage door upgrade improves your property value to an equal degree.


7) HVAC

One very common mistake new fix-and-flip investors make is failing to protect the property's furnace and A/C from dust during demolition and renovation, leaving the system vulnerable to major malfunction in the future.  Before beginning work on your house flip, plan ahead. Turn off the furnace or A/C before beginning any demolition, sawing or sanding. Be sure to close off all HVAC registers and vents and move any prep work that can be performed out of doors out of the home. Use dust control measures during indoor prep and vacuum regularly to prevent drywall dust, sawdust and other contaminants from entering the HVAC system.  Check filters to ensure the property's HVAC system has not been negatively impacted, and change filters, if needed, after your renovations are complete.


8)  ELECTRICAL

Faulty wiring or wiring that cannot carry the load of a home's lights, outlets and appliances is not something to ignore or downplay. Before you purchased your fix-and-flip property, you should have thoroughly considered the cost of a wiring upgrade when determining the project's viability as a profitable flip. After you own it, and are in the midst of renovations, is not a good time to decide electrical improvements are too costly. This is an area where you should consult with an electrician if you have any concerns about load capacity and electrical safety. Make any upgrades necessary to ensure the property is safe and wired to code. Do not cut costs here, as the possible loss of property and lives is not worth the savings.


9)  PLUMBING

Neglected or faulty plumbing is second only to dangerous wiring when it comes to home systems that cause major damage down the road and can cost tens of thousands of dollars in losses if not installed or repaired properly. Interior pipes and fixtures should be thoroughly tested for leaks. When addressing major plumbing issues, hire a licensed plumber and be sure to submit the proper permits for any plumbing remodel. Permits do cost a bit upfront, but are well worth it in the long run. Un-permitted plumbing can drastically lower your flip's ARV or make buyers and realtors wonder if they can trust the quality of work in other areas of the home.


10) ROOF

A brand new roof will definitely please home buyers, but if you are not planning to replace your fix-and-flip property's roof, be sure to perform a thorough inspection to ensure that there are no signs of water stains on interior ceilings , missing or damaged shingles, or any signs of daylight showing through in the attic. Also check flashings and gutters for damage and replace them if needed. If the roof is in good condition, but it is visually unappealing and does not compliment your newly renovated home, you may want to consider having the roof painted, as an ugly roof will bring down your property's curb appeal and lower its ARV.


Accurately Evaluate Your Property's As-Is Condition

For a step-by-step “how to” on what to look for during your fix-and-flip property walk-through, accurately estimating ARV, and how to evaluate your property’s as-is condition (and needed improvements), download Anchor's free e-book Evaluating Fix-and-Flip Property Value & Condition.