Dear PoPville – My Neighbor’s House Is Being Flipped, What Should I Expect?

Photo by PoPville flickr user zoeicaimages

“Dear PoPville,

I live in a row house, and the little old lady who lived next door recently sold her house and moved out. The rumors that it was being flipped appear to be true, as I just received a notice that it will be getting renovated in the near future. The notice of construction I received indicates 1) Work along the property line; 2) Addition of structure along party line; 3) Work affecting party wall; 4) Underpinning of foundation; 5) Addition of structure on party wall.

I’m happy to see the work done, but I’m a unsure what to expect. I’m sure plenty of folks in PoPville have experienced this sort of thing in the past, and I’d love some advice: Aside from the obvious construction noise, what sort of things should I be prepared for? Are there any pitfalls I should avoid? Is it worth hiring an engineer to double-check their plans with respect to my property?

Any advice or thoughts are greatly appreciated!”

61 Comment

  • Totally dependent on the contractor they are using. How expensive was the house? The more expensive, the better, because you will likely have a more competent contractor working on it.

  • Be prepared to wage a war on rodents. When this happened to me, it woke up all manner of fauna.

    • Now would be a good time to double check your house for those kinds of little tiny holes vermin can get in through, and plug or screen those you can.

    • So true! Flip underway next door as I type. We had for the the first time the “animal died behind your wall” experience. Three weeks and that room is still unihabitable. Did not see that coming but not sure how we would have prevented it either since there are no visable entry points.

    • Bay a Rat-Zapper. 50 bucks but really effective

  • Not to be mean but rats/rodents. When you start messing with their home the come out to find other shelter. Especially when there is big construction, the impact can be felt a good ways away.

  • Just went through this. Besides the obvious noise, what ever rodents/bug they may have – might seek refuge in your place. Keep an eye for new cracks on your wall, if all of a sudden doors not closing properly etc. Make sure they don’t encroach on your property line when building a fence etc.

    • Can’t agree more here. Take pictures BEFORE the construction begins and document the location in your house and the date/time of the pictures. Keep and eye on everything that seems amiss constructionwise, cracks, etc as dreal mentions above. Be very pro-active as the project progresses to alert the construction supervisor of changes in your dwelling. You might want to know who has ultimate responsibility on-site and who is the prime contractor. Email/certify mail to them with changes to your home. Good luck with this.

  • Are you sure it’s all five of those things? The neighbor notification form lists those five as options to be circled–doesn’t mean they’re all actually happening.

  • Six months of hell followed by a rapid installation of well-meaning yet tragically naive white neighbors with lots of bicycles and a fucking fire pit. I’d get out now if I were you.

  • Are you sure it’s a flipper?

    We purchased our house and did a major renovation before we moved in, which included sending these notices to our neighbors. We built an addition on the back of the house which required all of the work you listed above.

    I think the worst thing for our neighbors was the noise. But, we introduced ourselves immediately and gave them our contact info in case they had any issues.

    Be sure to allow the contractor to inspect your house for cracks, etc prior to the start of construction. Also, take lots of pictures before it starts. If any damages occurs to your house as a result of the work, they are liable — but your rights are limited if you don’t allow them to inspect prior to the beginning of the work.

  • Probably a dumpster parked in front of your house taking up 3-4 parking spots for a couple months

    • This. House being renovated on my street, and they have had a dumpster taking up 4 spots for the last 2 months.

    • Instead of a dumpster, the people doing the house across the street from me rented a giant U-haul truck and kept it parked on the street for months. We all reported them and they got ticketed, but it never deterred them. I guess it was cheaper than paying to rent a dumpster.

      • I bet it is cheaper. We just finished a huge reno, and we went through five dumpsters. They are so insanely expensive because all of my neighbors saw fit to toss mattresses, couches, chairs etc in there. I bet a Uhaul that is ticketed twice a week is significantly cheaper than a dumpster.

  • Expect your property value to rise.

  • We are dealing with this now. Last week the cold weather broke a pipe next door and flooded our basement. During construction drains are covered to keep constructions debris away so when the pipe burst the water had nowhere to go. Other than that the most annoying thing has been the noise on Saturdays. Our house is also colder because the house in construction is completely opened to the elements and has no heat. Our backyard turns into a swamp when it rains because the yard next door cannot absorb any water. It’s full of construction trash. I’ve been lucky with insects/rats so far. Although I’ve seen mice in their backyard construction trash pile. Knock on wood.

  • from the scope of work looks like a pop-up “additional structure on party wall”, I just dealt with hell and other than hiring a lawyer nothing came about. To me, DCRA is on the builder/flippers side.

    Start here. Building code 3307.2. this states the person causing the construction has to notify you of the construction. Because underpinning/structural will be done there needs to be a 30 day notice and you should be given all drawings that were filed to receive the adjacent permit. You have 30 days to either sign the form saying the builder will be responsible for your property or you will take the responsibility your self. at the very least it should give you an idea of what is being built.

    Good luck, hope it’s not the completely incompetent/low life that’s doing a lot of work in NE that I dealt with

  • We just finished with this and it was awful! My advice is be patient, but don’t be a push over. The contractors were awful and so unaware/uncaring of neighbors. They worked many of Sundays, which we later found out was completely illegal. If you report them for working on Sundays, DC will put a stop order on their construction until they pay a fine. If they damange your property at all, report it immediately. We had to pull teeth to get them to pay for things that broke in our house from their work. It will be worth it for the property value increase. But be sure to look out for yourselves from the beginning. We were too nice, and it hurt us in the end.

  • Watch to make sure the put adequate drainage for the gutters, or the heavy rainfall could end up on your side of the property line. Standpipe connections are the best.

  • We’re going through the same process, and have been keeping an eye on issues with structural problems, rodents, etc. (None of these problems so far.) I did cover our A/C unit because debris was coming down into our yard a bit when they were doing demo and ripping off siding. Didn’t want that stuff fall into the unit, and I plan to have it carefully serviced in the spring. I asked the workers to be more careful with debris. I recommend being friendly with the workers and supervisors so that when you have issues (e.g., debris), they are open to accommodating you. Other than that, be prepared for some noise.

    We never received a neighbor notification form. Is it required? I’m guessing it probably depends on the kind of work they are doing?

    • If you never received a neighbor notification form you are dealing with shady work that’s not been permitted properly.

    • We are going through this now and we received a letter that we had to sign and send back so they could get their permits. I suggest you do a search on DCRA to see if they have the proper permits.

  • I would watch carefully to the details of the “party wall.” The three houses that flipped in our neighborhood recently did additions that turned 1) my neighbor’s back yard into a view of nothing but a three story concrete wall and 2) did a bump out in the front that expanded 6 feet causing the neighbor’s porch next door to have to no view on one side – well, except of their bump out.

    • Unless they’re violating zoning laws, there’s nothing you (the neighbor) can do about those types of additions.

      • I know, believe me, we learned the hard way. Ironically, when we renovated after this flip, we asked if we could expand our footprint just a little (we wanted 2 feet, the other houses did 14 feet), and we were denied, even though our houses had the same exact footprint before renovation. The developers got it, we couldn’t.

        • That’s crazy — do you have a garage or something else that put you over the lot occupancy limit that they didn’t have?

    • You live on Meridian by any chance? 😉

  • If you have exposed brick expect a lot of dust.

  • Maybe bring over some coffee and doughnuts a few times so that when you have to have “that” conversation with the contractor doing the work you have a good place to start from.

    • This is great advice. No need to go straight to douche mode. All of this work will likely increase your property value. And these contractors will be your buddies for a bit, so go be nice. And at the end of the day, if you don’t like how the reno turns out, it’s kinda too bad. So may as well start training on being a nice neighbor instead of a NIMBY butthole.

      • Pretty sure there’s a lot of ground between “nice neighbor” and “NIMBY butthole” that you don’t seem to accept…

  • My little block has had 6 reno’s in the last two years…we are still battling the rodent issue. It’s tapered off but not sure that we will ever fully gain control over it. With that said, I would pay careful attention to the quality of the work being done on the house. The latest flip was done over the summer and I along with other neighbors noticed the shoddy siding work that was being done. We commented to each other and even went so far as to ask the contractor’s why they appeared to be cutting corners. They gave a half-assed explanation and we left it alone.
    Well…the home sold for $125k more than asking and just this past weekend…the siding peeled off the home from the roof to the ground. It was god-awful…they didn’t wrap the building, there was no insulation above the 1st floor. They didn’t even remove window frames…they just sided over them. They also didn’t install curbing in the rear yard so now when it rains…the soil from their fancy yard erodes onto the rear alley.

    All in all…not a good flip for the new owners or the neighborhood.

  • There are a couple of approaches here on this matter. The first one is just to indifferent to what they are doing and assume nothing that is being done to the property will affect yours in a negative way. Taking that approach will definitely involve the least amount of work but can be potentially a nightmare if something catastrophic occurs. The second approach is the exact opposite where you take a proactive role in protecting your property just in case. Some of things I’m mentioning have already been stated.

    1) Document everything now; including pictures of the current state of both properties in as much detail as you can; i.e., show where the suspected property line is; clearly notate it. Show current condition(s) of everything on the property line both interior and exterior.

    2) Obtain the filed permits from DCRA ( requires a trip down to their offices in SW). As I recall the other poster is correct that work on the party wall requires signature from adjacent property owners.

    3) Know the zoining for the property; i.e., R4; historic status etc. Are the owners requesting any variances

    4) Find out who the owners are and who the contractors are. Do background checks on them and find out as much as possible. For the contractor make sure they are licensed in DC and have liability insurance (which is a requirement of being licensed)

    5) Have a consultation with a attorney who specializes in Real Estate issues. I only mention this to start a relationship with one in case something is to occur or if they recommend anything else.

    6) Have a professional surveyor come out and locate the exact property line so no encroachment occurs (ranges anywhere from $1500 to $4000 depending on your property conditions)

    Is the 2nd option overkill – hopefully it is but if anything goes wrong you and your attorney will be in far better position to resolve the issue eventually then if you have done none of the above. I only say to do this as the work being performed — underpinning and direct work to or on the party wall can have significant negative results to your property. If it were me I would want to know that the owners and contractors both are carrying current liability insurance to address any issues. Note most homeowners plans generally have a limit on liability to around $300k or so. Depending on your property you might want to see something greater then that amount. Also make sure your current homeowners insurance is up to date and covers replacement cost on all your personal property and any recent renovations/improvements you have made.

    Good Luck

    • Also note If something does happen to your property that you need addressed by the owner and they refuse to address the matter your best recourse is to file a lawsuit before the property gets sold. If there is a pending lawsuit on the property the title company will not allow the transfer to take place which will put you in the strongest position to get your grievances resolved.

  • I am very interesting in this thread considering I believe the abandoned house next to mine is finally about to be demolished and flipped. It is a total disaster right now. I know squirrels live in there but I cannot in any way, shape, form or fashion handle rodents. What can I do to prevent them from coming in? Are rodents more or less of a concern considering no one has been living there for 5 years and they have no food? This is a dealbreaker for me, I will sell my house before I live with any rodent inside my house! Freaking out!

    • You should get a thorough inspection of both the interior and exterior of your place by a professional exterminator and a handyman. Make sure all cracks, holes, and seams are plugged up so the vermin have no point of entry. The little bastards can fit through the smallest of spaces in search of heat and food. Ensure that your garbage is properly sealed and that your cans are in good condition. Have the exterminator plant bait traps on your property AND the abandoned property.
      Since its an abandoned property, there’s a very high chance there’s a rat colony and they will be disturbed by the construction. Plan ahead for the inevitable.

    • I recommend getting a cat! 🙂

  • Do make sure you put in writing that the contractor will not do any digging to undermine your common wall. If you permit it it may have some effect on the structural integrity of your home. This includes them walking on your roof. Went through same thing and had to get common wall repaired from 2nd floor to 1st floor because of a crack as well as water damage. Fore warned is fore armed!! The dollar value of the sale does not guarantee the renovators know what they are doing. Same house had workers who demolished the front of a “historic” home and the renovators found out the hard way how much it cost them to replicate it back to the rest of the homes!

  • I endured one of these. Construction lasted 4 or 5 months. There are laws regulating when they can work so if they work on a Sunday for example, and it’s waking you up, then you can ask them to stop or go to DCRA. I reported it to DCRA and it stopped. The other thing I got a lot of was traditional Mexican music. It sounded like a Chi-Chi’s next door. The sound issues are really magnified when they gut it. The other thing that really annoyed me was performing work really early in the main bedroom, which I share a wall with. They were using a reciprocating saw about 2 feet from my head. Obviously I wasn’t in danger but it’s a little jarring early in the morning when you’re trying to sleep. You might want to ask them to refrain from working in rooms that share a wall with your bedroom until a little later in the morning, particularly on Saturdays.

  • My next door neighbor is also doing a full gut renovation, and everything was interior (and therefore I didn’t get a postcard, although I looked it up and permits have been pulled for an interior renovation) and going fine, not impacting me except for some noise and some dust that blew into my yard. However when I came home from work today I saw the entire back porch/addition on both stories was completely gone! I wasn’t expecting that. Should I have received a notice? It shouldn’t affect the party wall because it’s the wood-framed addition part, not the original house, but what if they widen towards the property line? Any advice welcome. Thanks!

  • Thanks to everyone who responded with advice or thoughts. I’ll definitely be on the lookout for “fauna”, as it were, as well as take lots of pictures beforehand.

  • I echo the other comments about rodents. A house is being flipped 2 doors down from me, and mice invaded us. First spotted in the backroom/laundry room, probably came in through the wide open gas dryer vent. I heard some in the dining room ceiling at dinner time and in my bedroom wall in the middle of the night. Traps seem to have worked though, or was it the polar vortex.
    When asked what they’ve dealt with from the construction, the neighbors right between ours and the flipped house said “lots of mice!”

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