Are Flipped Properties Always a Good Deal?

While many buyers these days have gained more knowledge about obtaining disclosures when buying a property, they don't always know what to ask for.

Walking in to a clean, newly painted home with brand new flooring and granite counters in the kitchen and bathrooms is often a time of easy decision-making, largely because of the assumptions made by buyers and oftentimes their agents. 

The buyer is urged however, to look more closely, because many flipped properties were bought out o foreclosure by an investor.  Investors are just that--they are looking for ways to maximize profit by buying homes they can realize a profit on, so if they buy a "fixer", they are usually experienced in knowing how much money to spend in that local market in order to come away with cash after the sale.

In some cases, property enhancements are reasonably good quality, after all, no one can expect an investor to fix up a property with the most expensive custom  features available.  However, buyers need to still take a careful look, and ask for as much information as possible from the seller.  Just because it's an investor doesn't mean he/she is exempt from disclosure.  One of the fastest ways to find the prior condition of the property is to look for the previous listing's photographs (but many times there is only one exterior photograph, the required minimum for the MLS) and property remarks, which may be revealing.

There is not necessarily a horror story behind every foreclosed property, but more commonly there may be prior deferred maintenance because the prior owner could not keep up a property due to long-term financial problems which led to the foreclosure.  And, the prior owner may have blown his/her budget and spent a lot of money upgrading the house, and then ran out of money.  Either way, the current buyer should go to some effort to find out as much history as possible on a flipped property.

Barbara Nichols, owner of a general contracting firm in Beverly Hills and an expert witness for real estate lawsuits, advises buyers to ask such questions as:
  • What was the property's condition when it was taken back in foreclosure?
  • Are there receipts from licensed contractors for work performed by seller?
  • Is there written documentation on what was done to correct defective conditions?
  • Were there unrepaired defects?
  • What work was done by a handyman? 
  • What work was done with permits, and what work was done without permits?
Finding out if work was done by a licensed contractor is significant, because if the seller is claiming that thousands of dollars of improvements were made, it should be done with permits and not by a handyman.

Will all flippers be able to answer these questions to the buyer's satisfaction? The buyer will have the chance to find out, and then decide if he/she wishes to go forward with the sale by the time their contract contingencies are acted upon.

See the story here.

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