Lipstick on a Pig – A Warning Before Buying ‘As-Is” Properties

By Jack Burns

The appliances were stainless steel and beautiful. The countertops were a new, pho-granite green. The interior paint was the fresh, ‘go-to’ beige with white trim. Hardwood floors were looking good. The price was right. This flipped house had all the pretty elements that would lure a new homebuyer in for a deal. The description on the MLS read:

“Charming remodeled Tukwila available! Inviting floor plan with throughout. Kitchen features new cabinets and granite counter tops. Three bedrooms and one full completely updated bathroom. Large open lot with plenty of off street parking. Property being sold “as-is”.”

I had the opportunity to go there with an agent friend, the potential buyer, and her inspector. She was ready to make an offer in this hot market and move in ASAP. Having flipped several homes myself, I looked forward to watching the end buyer in action.

But when we pulled up to the house, I got this sinking feeling in my gut Something wasn’t right. At first glance, I noticed the line from the power pole on the street, sagging against the front section of the tin roof. Whoa! Really? I wasn’t even sure we should touch the doorknob. So I walked around the house first. Ten steps later, there was the meter box, pried open, with a power cord stripped and connected to the mainline. In other words, someone was robbing the power from the street. I followed the cord and that sinking feeling got worse when I realized the cord ran right into the house.

Wait a minute. Let’s back up. This was a flip that supposedly had been “fixed up” and ready for an end buyer. We worked up the courage to walk inside the house. The aroma of dog permeated through the main room. If I had dropped a marble on the floor, it would have rolled down toward the kitchen. Then there was a 2×4 wedged against the back door, which was mounted so crooked you could see daylight at the top. The stairs still featured the old carpet. “Well that’s where the dog smell is probably coming from.” I said.

The shower sprayed everywhere. The toilet leaked into the crawlspace. The foundation had settled in the middle of the house. Stepping out the back door, there was no railing whatsoever on the plywood porch. There were obvious dirty holes in the exterior (telltale signs we all know). The attic was crawling with rats. The inspector was shaking his head when he read the list.

As house flippers, we have an obligation to make the basic things right. If you’re marketing the house as move-in ready, you have to assume that the buyer might be a single mother who’s not good with tools. And her child’s well being is in your hands. You are your brand and respect comes your way when you show dignity. It’s like cleaning the bathroom before company comes over; sneezing into your elbow; washing your hands before cooking a meal, etc.

Forgive the bluntness, but this property was disgraceful as a flipped house. If the buyer didn’t have a good agent who insisted on getting an inspection done, they would have moved in as-is. The potential was there for fire, electrocution, disease, break-in … the liability list goes on and on. I can’t imagine how I would feel if it were my child moving into such a house. Integrity is apparently missing in this house flipper.

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