How to Buy a Flipped House

Buyers often assume a flipped home is like new — move-in ready and free from hassles. The newly renovated home gets top dollar, and the buyer assumes it is perfect.

How to Buy a Flipped HouseMost buyers, however, don’t realize that some contractors or property “flippers” are anxious to move on to the next job, and their work may be rushed and subpar as a result.

If you’re buying a flipped house, consider taking the following steps to ensure you don’t get any unpleasant surprises after closing.

Be vigilant

As tempting as it can be, try not to get caught up in the excitement of new appliances, marble baths and other fancy bells and whistles. By looking closely at the details, you can learn a lot about the quality of work done on the property.

Be on the lookout for telltale signs of rushed worked such as:

  • Light switch plates that aren’t flush with the wall or are at an angle.
  • Crown molding that isn’t completely matched at the corner.
  • Gaps between the countertops and the wall.
  • Gaps in bathroom tile.
  • Doors or cabinets that don’t close tight.

Cosmetic mistakes could be an indicator of larger issues that can’t be seen with the naked eye. If the flipper was sloppy on the small details, pay extra attention to other areas such as the electric panel, the water heater’s gas line and plumbing connectors.

Get an inspection

Most buyers assume that a newly renovated house is, well, new.  And, because of that, they don’t need to have it inspected. That is not a great approach. An inspector can check the contractor’s work. Were renovations done to code?  Did the contractor cut corners or do the bare minimum in places because of a tight time frame? Sure, the town/city likely would have had to sign off on the renovations, but city officials are only looking at health and safety issues. The home inspector can check the house from top to bottom. It’s worth paying for an inspection to ensure the home is perfect.

Double your due diligence

When buying a flipped home, it is more important than ever to review the disclosures. Did the contractor take out permits for the work? If so, were all the permits signed off on? If you aren’t given copies of all the work approvals or finalized permits, ask for them. If you don’t get them, look them up online or go to the local building department. Any permits taken out or applied for (and officially signed off on) are public record. Never close on a home without making sure all permits were cleared. Otherwise, as the new homeowner, you could be on the hook for illegal or bad work.

Learn all you can about the flipper

Is the flipper an experienced contractor with a good reputation in your local town/community? Ask your agent if he/she is familiar with the flipper. Good flippers have been at it for a long time, and their reputations precede them. A flipper with a solid reputation should have nothing to hide and should be open and free with disclosures and provide you with documentation and warranties. Good home flippers want happy customers, too. They don’t want calls from buyers or attorneys a year later with complaints about their work or liability issues.

In the past 18 months, there has been a marked increase in the number of homes bought simply to be renovated and put back on the market. While many times the improvements are done well, often the contractor or flipper cut corners or rushed through the project, simply to move on to the next one — leaving the new homeowner with a nightmare on their hands. Flipped homes should always be double- or triple-checked for potential issues. Inferior work could end up costing you money and headaches in the long run.

This article was originally published by Brendon DeSimone on Zillow Blog. See it here.

Brendon DeSimone is the author of “Next Generation Real Estate: New Rules for Smarter Home Buying & Faster Selling,” the go-to insider’s guide for navigating and better understanding the complex and ever-evolving world of buying and selling a home. DeSimone is the founder and principal of DeSimone & Co, an independent NYC real estate brokerage providing individualized services and a fresh, hands-on approach. Bringing more than a decade of residential real estate experience, DeSimone is a recognized national real estate expert and has appeared on top media outlets including CNBC, Good Morning America, HGTV, FOX News, Bloomberg and FOX Business. Consumers often call on Brendon for advice and to help them find a real estate agent. You can follow him on Twitter or Google Plus.

Before You Buy: 4 Questions About Home Appraisals

When you go to buy a home, your mortgage lender will want to know whether the house you are interested in buying is worth the amount you are willing to spend. They need to check out the house for anything that can devalue or increase the property’s worth. To do this, they require home appraisals for all borrowers.

Before You Buy- 4 Questions About Home Appraisals

Here are four common questions—and answers—about home appraisals.

What is a Home Appraisal?

A property appraisal is an estimate of a property’s value. Property value is based on such factors as location, amenities, structural condition and recent sales of similar local properties.

A home appraiser conducts the process. The appraiser will do a walk-through of the property, noting anything that can alter the home’s value. For example, if the house has a swimming pool but swimming pools aren’t popular in the area, it might not add much value to the property—the pool might even detract from it.

The appraiser will sketch and take photos of the property layout and will look for any safety code violations. If there are any, you may need to fix them before the lender approves the loan.

Who Performs Home Appraisals?

Appraisers are third-party certified or licensed contractors, and the lender usually hires them. They are knowledgeable in real estate and are required to know how to evaluate a property on factors such as neighborhood growth, neighborhood housing trends and market conditions.

To be safe, make sure the appraiser is certified and deals with multiple lenders. If the appraiser only works with one other lender, he may have outside interests—and you may not receive a correct assessment.

Who Pays for Home Appraisals?

The cost of home appraisals depends on the property value, location, and size of your property. They cost a few hundred dollars and typically the buyer pays the fee at closing, although you can opt to pay it up-front. A good faith estimate—also known as a GFE—given to you by the lender will supply a fee for the appraisal.

A “drive-by appraisal” does not pay as much attention to detail as the walk-through, and most lenders will not accept this appraisal. Instead of walking through the home, the appraiser drives by the property and then researches real estate records to come up with an estimate.

These home appraisals are cheaper than traditional ones, but you should ask your lender if they will consider it before you purchase.

How Long Do Home Appraisals Take?

For most loans, a typical property assessment takes a few hours or less, and a “drive-by” assessment will take significantly less time. Turnaround time should be within seven business days, although a busy market can mean a longer wait.

The appraiser will give the final documents—called the appraisal report—to the lender, who is required to show it to the buyer. Make sure you obtain a copy for your own records.

Updated from a previous article by

This article was published by  on See the original article here.

Staying Put vs. Moving Out: The Remodeling Dilemma

If there’s one thing that can mar the excitement of a home remodeling project, it’s the nightmare of living through it. Just ask the Gargers of Hicksville, NY. A planned 16-week renovation of their three-bedroom Cape Cod–style home turned into a 14-month ordeal.

Staying Put vs. Moving Out-The Remodeling DilemmaThe low point? Pick one. It could have been when the entire family — husband Tom, wife Dolores, two children and two dogs — was forced to sleep in a single room for nearly four months. Or when Tom became trapped behind a cascading pile of boxes in a storage shed for 20 minutes before managing to crawl out. “It was moments like that I had to keep a good humor about things,” he says.

Deciding whether to live at home or move out during a renovation is a tough call. The disruption of relocating to new surroundings, coupled with the added expense, is enough to make many homeowners put up with the challenges. Others, however, can’t wait to get as far away as possible from the dust, drilling and distractions.

“Despite the inconvenience of living through a remodeling, the one huge advantage is that you’re able to monitor the contractor’s progress every day,” says interior designer Linda Bettencourt, Design Director at Centerstage in San Francisco, CA. Bettencourt has lived through two renovations of her own and says that being on site to address issues as they arise can save time and money. “Requests come up,” she says. “Things happen. It’s good to communicate with the contractor on a regular basis. Homeowners get into the most trouble when they’re not there. That’s when the time frame and budget can go out the window.”

Live-in strategies

The Gargers briefly considered renting a house during their massive renovation. After all, they were increasing the size of their home by 75 percent. In the end, they say it was lucky they didn’t move. The renovation was scheduled to take 16 to 18 weeks. It took 14 months. “We’d be bankrupt,” Tom says about the prospect of paying rent on a second residence. Homeowners who decide to move into temporary digs need to factor in additional housing expenses above and beyond the cost of remodeling.

And think worst-case scenarios, advises Dolores. “The rule of thumb is to double what the contractor says,” she says. “But having lived through it, I’d say quadruple it and then double it again.”

If you decide to stay put, have your contractor set up at least one sealed-off, construction-free zone and make it your go-to place to escape the chaos and preserve your sanity. Having workers swarming your home feels very invasive. Set ground rules on crew access so you know when the house is your own and when the workers take over. “Nothing is worse than emerging from the shower to see a contractor on the roof through your skylight,” says Bettencourt.

Debbie Wiener, of My Design Solutions in Silver Spring, MD, just completed two large remodeling projects in which her clients had no choice but to live through what she describes as “the early-morning noise, the dumpsters tearing up the lawn, the dust, the inconvenience, the lack of privacy and the general hell that goes with major remodeling while living at home.”

Weiner says that in order to minimize health-related problems, pack up clothing and bedding you won’t be using in space-saving, vacuum-sealed bags to keep them clean and dust-free. Cover ducts with plastic. And, “turn off air conditioning and heating systems during the day, if possible, to keep air from circulating through the house,” she says.

Insist that your crew conduct daily cleanups. Linda Minde, co-founder of Tri-Lite Builders, a residential remodeling company in Chandler, AZ, says that her crews not only put up plastic barriers between rooms and lay runners on the floor but also use portable scrubbers that purify the air of dust andchemical fumes.

Exit strategies

The reality is that living day in and day out in a construction zone is grueling. It’s loud and dirty. Your quality of life suffers, and sometimes so does your ability to function as a family. “If that’s more than people can handle,” Bettencourt says, “they’re going to have to move out.”

Some make their great escape to a relative’s home or an extended-stay residence hotel. Others seek out long-term, house-sitting arrangements or RV rentals. At a minimum, timing a vacation to coincide with the demolition — the messiest part of a remodel — is a smart idea.

Create a checklist if you do opt for alternative quarters. There are a lot of issues to consider, big and small: How will a new address affect commuting distances to work and school? Will you need to forward your mail and phone calls? Stop your newspapers? Put a hold on your cable and find a new Internet service provider, or go wireless?

From Minde’s perspective as a builder, working in an unoccupied home is a lot more productive for her crews. “We can tell a homeowner we’ll make it as easy and painless as possible, but the first few weeks are really bad,” she says. “We can get it done quicker if you’re out. We get in and we get moving.” She says it can also be more economical for the homeowner. The cost of paying for temporary lodging can sometimes be offset by a stepped-up construction schedule. And, she adds, there’s an emotional benefit to “not having to listen to it, see it, hear it or smell it.”

Professionals say that if you decide to move out, keep close tabs on the progress. Visit the property regularly to monitor the pace and quality of the work. Make sure you’re easily reachable in case there are any decisions that have to be made quickly to avoid holding up any part of the process. And, visit your home during off hours to make sure it’s properly secured.

“Treat the experience as an adventure and know that one day soon it will end,” says Bettencourt. “Once everyone leaves, you’ll have the beautiful home you always wanted. There is a pot of gold at the end of the rainbow.”

This article was originally published by Iyna Bort Caruso of on Zillow Blog. See the original article here.

Bob Vila is the home improvement expert widely known as host of TV’s This Old House, Bob Vila’s Home Again, and Bob Vila. Today, Bob continues his mission to help people upgrade their homes and improve their lives with advice online at His video-rich site offers a full range of fresh, authoritative content – practical tips, inspirational ideas, and more than 1,000 videos from Bob Vila television.

Homeownership’s Impact on Net Worth

Over the last six years, homeownership has lost some of its allure as a financial investment. As homeowners suffered through the housing bust, more and more began to question whether owning a home was truly a good way to build wealth. A study by the Federal Reserve formally answered this question.

Homeownership's Impact on Net Worth

Some of the findings revealed in their report:

  • The average American family has a net worth of $77,300
  • Of that net worth, 61.4% ($47,500) of it is in home equity
  • A homeowner’s net worth is over thirty times greater than that of a renter
  • The average homeowner has a net worth of $174,500 while the average net worth of a renter is $5,100

Homeowners Net Worth

American Family's Net Worth


Bottom Line

The Fed study found that homeownership is still a great way for a family to build wealth in America.

This post was originally published on Keeping Current Matters. See the original post here.

How to Mix Patterns in a Space

Creating a successful mix of patterns results in a balanced and beautiful room, but it takes a nimble hand. Too many patterns and the room is overdone; too little and the room is bland. It is more than just mixing and matching colors. The trick is to find just the right combination of scale and design to create the perfect effect.

Patterns are an integral part of the overall look of the room. Patterns on fabrics are the most obvious usage, but there are also inherent patterns in furniture shapes, wall coverings and statement area rugs, too.


Patterns come in many different styles. Naturalistic patterns are realistic renderings of natural forms, such as flowers — and as of late, birds. Stylized patterns simplify natural designs to capture their essence; the fleur-de-lis, for example, is a stylized iris. Geometric designs include stripes, checks and plaids. More modern versions celebrate trellis-like patterns in large formats. Abstract patterns are loose artistic interpretations of realistic or geometric designs and gate-like designs.

Source: Kerrie Kelly Design Lab. This rug features a geometric chevron pattern.

Source: Kerrie Kelly Design Lab.
This rug features a geometric chevron pattern.


The scale of a pattern is determined by the size of its motifs or designs. Small-scale patterns can read as a texture rather than as a pattern and can be a place for the eye to rest when used in rooms that include larger patterns. Medium-scale patterns are versatile and seldom overpower other elements. With large-scale patterns, which work well in generously-proportioned rooms, make sure you have a large enough area to display several pattern repeats so the design does not look truncated.

Source: Kerrie Kelly Design Lab.  A large-scale print works well on a big area rug.

Source: Kerrie Kelly Design Lab.
A large-scale print works well on a big area rug.

Thinking about how patterns interact makes the job of choosing and combining patterns easier. Looking at the way professional designers combine patterns with great flair — often defying rules while doing so — will offer design inspiration. Here are some guidelines that will help as well.

Tie patterns together

Take as your inspiration the one pattern you are most attracted to. Then choose two or more that work with it. Three patterns provide plenty of variety; more than three can be overwhelming.

Use color to unify

Patterns with light backgrounds open up a room. Those with dark backgrounds make it more intimate or moody.

Source: Ashley Whittaker Mixed patterns are all found in a similar shade of green.

Source: Ashley Whittaker
Mixed patterns are all found in a similar shade of green.

Vary the patterns

Choose a variety of styles and use patterns that are different in scale. For example, try a large-scale plaid with a medium-scale abstract leaf pattern and a small-scale stripe that combines the colors from both.

Keep your room in mind

When choosing patterns, think about where they will be placed. Will they create both a sense of movement and a feeling of equilibrium?

Source: American Dream Builders.  A large print is on the rug, a medium print is on the drapes, and the pillows are a mix of solid colors and smaller prints that work with both.

Source: American Dream Builders.
A large print is on the rug, a medium print is on the drapes, and the pillows are a mix of solid colors and smaller prints that work with both.

This article was originally published by Kerrie Kelly on Zillow Blog. See the original article here.

Kerrie Kelly is a Northern California interior designer and the founder of Kerrie Kelly Design Lab ( She is an award-winning interior designer, multimedia consultant and an author of two books: “Home Décor: A Sunset Design Guide” and “My Interior Design Kit,” with Pearson Professional and Career Education.

150 Square Feet on Wheels

When Derin Williams was a kid, his crayon-house creations turned out the way you might expect: a triangle roof with a small window and a door.

As co-owner of Shelter Wise, the Portland, OR resident has now made a career of bringing his childhood drawings to life.  He has been building tiny homes in Northeast Portland for two years.

from Zillow

from Zillow

The Miter Box
For sale: $35,000

The Miter Box is a 150-square-foot tiny home with a triangle roof, a few small windows and a door. Named after a woodworking tool used to make precise cuts, the home boasts a sleek, minimalist design.

from Zillow

from Zillow

“Most tiny homes are rustic, cabinesque,” Williams said. “I took a Northeast salt box and added modern finishes.”

But don’t confuse minimalist for simplistic. From super insulated walls to sound-proof windows and hidden storage, a lot of the home’s detail is in what you can’t see.

“It’s for a minimalist who is very particular about having minimal belongings in sight,” Williams said.

from Zillow

from Zillow

from Zillow

To make this possible, almost everything in The Miter Box serves a dual purpose. The kitchen has a hydraulic dining room table that converts into a bed, while a “wet bath” is designed as both a shower and lavatory with a flushing toilet.

from Zillow

from Zillow

from Zillow

from Zillow

from Zillow

from Zillow

These design choices make the house feel bigger, which is especially important in a space the size of some people’s closets.

“We are bombarded with buy, buy, buy,” Williams said. “If you limit your living space, you have to make smart decisions about what to fill it with.”

After visiting Africa with his wife and seeing how people live with less, Williams was inspired to design more space- and energy-efficient houses. To keep building costs down and make his designs portable, Williams’ tiny homes are also on wheels.

from Zillow

from Zillow

“People just keep asking us to put them on wheels,” he said.

His typical customers are from a “younger, hipster crowd,” but Williams says he also gets a lot of women in their 40s who are reevaluating their life and looking to downsize.

“Tiny homes appeal to people who have had a rough go and are trying to start over,” he said. “They could help a lot of people.”

This article was originally published by Catherine Sherman on Zillow Blog. See more pictures and the original article here.

Catherine Sherman, a real estate writer for Zillow Blog, covers real estate news, industry trends and home design. Read more of her work here.

7 Steps to Carving Comfortable Home Office Space

Being able to work from home, whether you telecommute or have your own business, can be wonderful—unless your workspace isn’t.

7 Steps to Carving Comfortable Home Office SpaceBut creating a comfortable home office where you can do your best work takes more thought than just snagging a few cheap Craigslist hand-me-downs.

In a survey conducted by Herman Miller Inc., 500 office workers of all types ranked “having an office that is comfortable to work in” as the most highly valued workstation attribute.

How do you bring that comfort level to your home office space if you can’t tap the expertise and resources of a corporate office manager or ergonomics expert?

Well, here are a few places to start.

Design Your Home Office for Comfort

  1. Make a list. What will you do in your home office? What equipment will you need? What standard things, like a fax machine, could you do without? How’s the lighting? Will the room have any other uses? Will you need a video conferencing setup? Can you adequately keep noise —or small children and other distractions—at bay? All of these questions, and others unique to your situation, will help determine how you furnish your space for maximum comfort.
  2. Choose the right chair.  Ergonomic experts know where you sit has a huge impact on your health, including your back and neck alignment as well as your arms and shoulders. A chair should be comfortable but also be positioned at the correct height for your feet to reach the floor—and the right angle for your arms when you work at a desk.
  3. Make your desk work, too. Your desk should fit all your needs for a working area and storage, as well as the home office space itself. You don’t want to skimp on a small desk that doesn’t support the large-screen monitor you need for graphic design work, or one that only fits in a hard-to-light corner that makes video conferencing a challenge.
  4. Save your eyes with the right lighting. Experts recommend having more than one light source—place one above and another beside a computer to even out the lighting and lessen eye strain. Windows are best—if you spend a lot of time inside, natural light improves your mood as well as your workplace view.
  5. Create lounge space. If you have the room, a place to sit that’s not at your computer desk can give your eyes a break. The slight shift in space could open your mind to looking at things in a new light, and your body might welcome the physical shift from on seat to the other. A comfortable chair, a sofa, a bean bag, a guest bed so the space has more than one use, if needed—there are a host of options to fit your budget, decor and size.
  6. Make use of color. Sanitarium white or industrial gray may not exactly inspire your process. A soothing green might offer the right touch of creative warmth. Or perhaps a bright accent wall could stimulate your senses. Since you’ve ditched the corporate world, why not trade that drab office carpeting for a punch of color on something your feet delight in touching? After all, you don’t need shoes in a home office.
  7. Add a few personal touches. One of the benefits of a home office is you can do whatever you want with the space. You don’t have to wait for the occasional late night alone in the office to surreptitiously blast a little Grateful Dead. Get your hippie on with a small stereo. You don’t have to fret over being “that mom” with too many family photos, or “that guy” with a penchant for plants. Embrace your space. What’s the fun of working from home if you can’t indulge your inner deity a little?

This article was originally published by  on See the original article here.