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Love Live DC: To Flip or Flop?

This weekly column is written and sponsored by D.C. real estate agent and Edgewood resident Jessica Evans. Email her questions at  [email protected].

With open floorplans, shiny new appliances, and modern conveniences like central air, it’s no surprise that renovated homes are a hot commodity in the DC real estate market.

The District had the highest number of home flips in the first quarter of 2017, with no signs of slowing down anytime soon. Unfortunately, some of these homes have expensive hidden issues, where developers or contractors (whether intentionally or unintentionally) cut corners or masked over costly problems that buyers may not detect before purchasing.

Below are my top 10 tips for how to determine if a home is a flip or flop:

1. Check for permits — The DCRA Property Inspections Verification System website is your friend.

2. Check for inspections — inspections are part 2 of the permitting process, certifying that the permitted work was done correctly. The DCRA website (above) may not include 3rd party inspections, ask the seller to provide written documentation.

3. Have a home inspection done — use an inspector who is experienced, and familiar with inspecting renovated homes, ask their opinion of the quality of renovation.

4. Check all major systems — a home that is advertised as “fully renovated” should have all a new HVAC system, roof, and the electric panel should be upgraded to modern capacity.

5. Run all of the water in the house — do the shower floors have the correct slope to drain? Are the drains slow or backing up? Is there water coming out of any drain?

6. Attic or crawl space access — this should be included in the renovation. If not, ask the seller to add it. Without it you can’t see the condition of the crawlspace or attic (and neither can your inspector), both are important to be able to access.

7. License info — ask for the license and contact info for the contractor and subcontractors (electrician, plumber, HVAC etc). Even if you don’t find issues upfront, this is information you are going to want to have if something goes wrong in the future.

8. The small stuff — Many small issues could mean larger issues that you don’t see. Do the cabinets open and close properly, are there visible or uneven seams in wood trim, does the overall quality of craftsmanship appear to be good?

9. Waterproofing is critical — where does the water from the roof drain? Is there any type of waterproofing system in the basement? What is the grading around the house? The inspector should use a moisture sensor to check basement walls.

10. Trust your instincts — If you buy a house that was improperly renovated the cost of fixing the developer mistakes is going to fall on your shoulders. While no house is perfect, if it seems like a flop, don’t buy it.

Want to learn more? For additional tips and recommendations check out my full blog post here.

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