Potential Remodeling Pitfalls

When analyzing a house to flip, be aware of hidden remodeling pitfalls that could potentially be so expensive that, if you’re not careful, knock your budget (not to mention your profits) right through the roof.

Beware the “Money Pit”

Crack in Basement Wall

Let’s say, for example, you’ve come across a house that is in obvious need of major repair, and at first glance, might think it could be a pretty good buy. The home needs the usual whole house remodeling, but beyond that, really doesn’t seem to be in too bad of shape.

After doing much homework, you decide to buy it, and then begin renovation right away. But, to your horror, you notice something different about the basement wall behind the staircase that somehow seemed to slip right by your attention before. Things such as:

  • Water collecting on the basement floor after what seemed like a higher-than-normal rainfall recently
  • A large separation crack in the foundation wall (with several old attempts at repair)
  • Evidence of old mold formation on the floor joists in crawl space just off basement wall near crack
  • You note that the house sits on a fall-away lot surrounded by a lot of running water (streams)

After a thorough professional inspection, it was determined that the water was coming in from an underground source that, with added heavier rainfall, would start to seep out of the separation in the basement wall near the floor joist, and finally onto the basement floor. The estimated cost to repair such a problem was going to run into the thousands. There was also no guarantee that the leak would not reform at some point in the future.

With the added expense, the profit potential will certainly erode. Now you’re frustrated because you’re not going to make the money you thought you would, and you’re still faced with the prospect of having to renovate the house without somehow losing your shirt.

Such are the potential remodeling pitfalls with flipping houses.

Thankfully, most flips do not end up this way. Could the potential for hidden remodeling pitfalls happen to you? Sure they could. In fact, this example was based on a similar real-life type of scenario where an owner wanted to sell her house, but because of the leaky foundation and a growing ground water problem, couldn’t do it until she properly addressed the situation head-on.

Examples of Potentially Hidden Remodeling Pitfalls

When you go look at a piece of property, keep your eyes open for certain clues as to potential problems that may exist. Things such as …

  • Leaky basements. Check all the wall for evidence of cracks and leaks.
  • Evidence of mold anywhere in the house, particularly in bathroom, kitchen, basement, and crawl spaces.
  • Wavy roof. If you notice the roof line has a slight wave in it, it might be due to some deteriorating joists and under-layment. Also, the condition of the shingles and flashing could need serious attention.
  • Sagging floor. Does the floor have noticeable sag to it? If so, there might be serious problems with not only deteriorating floor joists, but deeper foundation problems as well.
  • Condition of the windows. Depending on the size of the house and how many windows there are, it might be a very expensive endeavor to replace all of them at the same time.
  • Heating and air. Older homes are going to have old-style heating, and no central air conditioning. In today’s modern house renovation, you have to have central heating and air. Even in smaller two bedroom houses, you’ll still spend anywhere from $6000 and up to remove the old stuff, and install new equipment.
  • Weak and/or deteriorating wall structural support due to termite infestation or rotted wood framing are two good examples of remodeling pitfalls. You can’t see what’s behind drywall or plaster, so the best you can do is look for water stains, bowed walls, and sagging ceilings. If you see this type of evidence, ask the owner (or other experienced workmen such as a professional carpenter) what they think may have happened, and how to best fix the problem.
  • Be on the lookout for asbestos, particularly in older homes. You’ll see this usually in the form of older shingle style exterior siding, insulating wrap for plumbing, old flooring, and insulation in the attic. You will know it because of it’s old, yellow-coloring and flaky, fibrous texture. Also, please be aware that asbestos removal can be an expensive undertaking depending on where it’s located, and how much of it there is to take out. Use experienced, professional removal companies only.
  • As with asbestos removal, lead paint remodeling pitfalls can be potentially expensive to tackle because of the extent with which you would have to safeguard yourself, and anyone else associated with the project. Get expert advice on how to effectively deal with lead paint. Again, because of the potentially hazardous material involved, use good common sense and consult with experienced professionals only.
  • Before you attempt to landscape, or dig any type of post foundation (fence/deck), consult with your local utilities provider and phone/cable companies to determine whether you’re intended target area is safe to dig or not. It could be quite expensive to repair any resulting damage from premature digging.

Get Answers for Your Questions

As with anything regarding remodeling pitfalls, get expert advice on things you’re not clear about, or even remotely unsure of. There is simply too much at stake to rely on a “gut” feeling, or what you “think” a problem “might be”. Get help early and often before, and during the renovation process to minimize whatever problems (if any) that may arise.