Over the years, Tarek and I have been home buying, and we’ve seen every nightmare possible. From vandalism to faulty foundations – and even cement mix in the toilets – we’ve somehow made it through all of our house flips without going completely nuts or losing our shirts in the process.
Here is our home buying guide
From all of our crazy experiences, I’ve learned that there are a lot of things that can set you back when you’re buying and flipping houses, but most of them aren’t going to be deal breakers – if you do your research and plan your rehabs right.
With that said, if you’re buying a house for yourself or you’re worried about a tight rehab budget for a fix-and-flip house, there are definitely a few things you should look out for, and many of the big ones are in the kitchen.
Some of these problems can be deal breakers and leave you wishing you had waited for a different property.
1. Water damage
Water damage is an important thing to look for in any room of the house, especially in the basement and ground floor, as previous evidence of flooding can foretell some serious woes down the road.
However, in the kitchen, water damage isn’t necessarily just a sign of flooding and potential problems if you get a rainy season.
In fact, when you see water damage in the kitchen, pay attention. This could indicate a problem with the plumbing, like a cracked or leaky pipe or sink.
Even if the owners swear that they had the cause of the water damage taken care of, you’ll want to take a really good look. Have your inspector or contractor give it a once-over to ensure that you aren’t going to be looking at more extensive repairs down the road.
Even if the cause of the water damage has been addressed, there’s still a chance that the damage could be deeper and more expensive than you think, especially if there’s water damage to the floor.
Have an objective pro look at it for you, and see what they say before you move forward.
2. Asbestos pipes
Back in the day, asbestos was used to insulate pipes and keep them from freezing in the winter. If asbestos hasn’t started to break down, it isn’t that dangerous.
But because any house you find with asbestos pipes is going to be older, you can expect the asbestos to start breaking down in the near future, even if it isn’t now.
Worse yet, if you have kids who like to get into everything (like mine!), you’ll have to worry about them getting in contact with the asbestos, as well.
In general, unless a house is an absolute steal with a lot of room in the rehab budget for improvements, I try to avoid any property that has any asbestos insulation. If you see it on the pipes leading to the kitchen sink, you might want to rethink this deal.
3. Cabinetry problems
Kitchen cabinets can be a problem in many different ways. The most obvious is if the kitchen’s cabinets are rotted and need to be replaced.
If you’re planning on putting some work into the house and you’re looking forward to some fixer-upper time, then this definitely isn’t a deal breaker. However, you might want to use it as leverage to bring down the seller on the asking price.
After all, if you have to spend money to replace the cabinets, the house obviously isn’t up to its full market value.
Another of the woes that can come with kitchen cabinets is their shape and size. I’ve walked into houses with cabinets that looked absolutely beautiful, but when I opened them, I was in for a rude awakening. They were so shallow that I didn’t think a full-sized plate could even fit in them, let alone a serving platter or anything larger.
Sometimes, to make a small kitchen look bigger, a designer will try to maximize space by installing shallow cabinets.
This is a pretty awful trick, if you ask me. So always be sure to check out the actual height, width, and depth of the cabinets before you buy.
Chances are the seller won’t lower the price on the house just because you don’t like the size of relatively new cabinets that are in good shape. However, you can see if there’s room in your budget to get cabinets installed that will be better for your needs.
4. Cheap flooring
This is not the worst thing you could find, especially if you’re planning on renovating the house after you buy it.
But if you walk in and see cheap linoleum flooring, you’ll have some real work cut out for you with the house if you buy it. Cheap flooring can be really expensive to pull up and redo. It’s a good idea to know exactly what you’re getting into with renovations if you go that route.
Hassles vs. hazards
If you’re going to buy a fixer-upper, most of these things won’t be huge problems, especially if you’re planning on doing a lot of renovations.
However, water damage and asbestos pipes are issues that you absolutely have to deal with to prevent injuries, illness, and/or major damage to the house that will cost a lot more money later on.
The other things I’ve mentioned here are really just hassles that can be fixed later if you plan your budget right.
However, if you notice more than one of them, take some time to think about how much a full kitchen renovation is going to cost, and see if you can get the seller to come down on the price to cover some of the cost.