Home Inspection when purchasing a flip

5 Replies

Hi All,

I am a first time home buyer and going to be putting an offer in on a flip and wanted to include a home inspection. the issue is the basement is partially finished so access to walls is limited. Does it still pay to have an inspection done?  I would consider offering substantially less with not having a home inspection as a contingency. I just don't know how I would buy a flip and not have an inspection done.

As a home inspector, these so called flip houses have some of the worst problems we come across. There are many good home flippers, but more times than not, flippers cut corners on repairs in order to make the most money. There are many other issues that a inspection will uncover besides what is behind the partially finished basement walls.  I would get an inspection done if I was in your shoes.

As a home inspector I agree with @Barry Cohen that evaluating the structural integrity of a foundation is only one of many reasons to get a home inspection.  There are many defects that can cause a homeowner big problems. 

To make a comparison to the medical field, home inspectors are like a general practitioner.  So rather than spend a bunch of money and bring in a specialist inspector for all the different trades (electrical, plumbing, HVAC, roof, etc) you can bring in a generalist at a fraction of the cost to evaluate the whole house looking for a broad range of problems.  When we identify a problem (for example: a fire hazard in the electrical panel) we'll recommend a specialist (an electrician) to fully evaluate the problem and prescribe the most appropriate fix.

Back to your specific question:  if the basement walls and ceilings are covered it will be difficult for anyone (including a structural engineer) to evaluate for structural issues.  Other things you can do:

  • Talk to neighbors with similar housing types and ask about foundation issues -- if the houses were built by the same developer sometimes there will be common themes throughout a development
  • Determine the type and age of the foundation. A home inspector or a structural engineer will be able to advise you on common problems for that type

As a plumber I often get a couple of calls a year from people who are first time home buyers and end up needing major repairs done. They all had inspections performed (as I think is a requirement here in Texas) The problem with a home inspection is it will not address some major cost items that could be financially stressing for a first time buyer. I’m speaking strictly for plumbing. You need to have on top of the general inspection a plumber come and inspect this home. He needs to run a camera in the sewer clean-outs and check for bellies and roots and separations. Have him inspect the gas service by doing a pressure test of the house. The water service lines need to be inspected as well and if they are galvanized that would be a deal breaker for me (unless the price is real sweet) I mean this is probably one of your biggest investments if not the biggest. Do you really want to skimp on the inspection process that is your only test drive before getting the keys yourself? Would you buy a car without test driving it? A used car at that? This is coming from the owner of a plumbing company who has seen buyers dreams turn into nightmares behind this stuff. $10k-$12k sewer line replacement 6 months in will kill the “our new home” mood real quick. Personally I’d only buy a flip home if there were no rentals around for 50 miles. I’ve seen the work that most people put into them and it’s just hackery. I say some because I do know a couple that are straight up and honest and do quality flips.

I have to agree with just about everything said above... some of the worst violations I've seen are in flip houses. My sister once rented one that didn't sell in NY and it was a mess. She called me because the picture window in her living room spontaneously exploded and the owner (also the failed flipper) blamed her, well come to find out this genius cut a big hole in a load bearing exterior wall for this window but had neglected to put a header in so when a big heavy snow came, the pressure was too much for the window and it followed the path of least resistance. this happened 2 consecutive winters. a home inspector would not have caught that because it is hidden behind sheetrock but if the work had been permitted, it never would fly. my point is that an inspector can only inspect what they can see and that many flippers either have no clue what they are doing, are trying to cut corners, or don't care. there ARE some good and responsible flippers but when I know a house has been flipped, I am always suspicious.