real estate

Buying a flipped home? 5 questions to ask

Is the work properly permitted?
Is the work properly permitted? © kurhan/Shutterstock.com

Professional or DIY, anything more complicated than paint or wallpaper likely requires a permit.

One sign of a flip: "The real estate agent says 'all new,' and there's no evidence of permits," says Holmes. "When I hear 'new, new, new,' I want documents to back it up."

Look under the sinks, Holmes advises. A good pro won't tie old plumbing into new kitchens or bathrooms, he says. Check the electrical panel. Wiring should be clipped and tidy, not messy, he says.

Scan places where unfinished space meets finished space: basements, mechanical closets and under cabinets. You should find good workmanship -- "neat and professional" -- whether the area is designed to be seen or not, Holmes says.

Then compare the list of permits granted to the address with the work that's been done.

Unpermitted work is a red flag, Szot says. "There's a huge chance it isn't up to code," she says. Along with safety concerns, a house that doesn't meet code can be risky when it comes to getting insurance or even financing, says Szot. And you want to know before you make an offer, she adds.

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