Many people are so busy these days that it is understandable that when they buy a property, they want something that needs the least amount of work. Many of our clients want properties which have been recently renovated or close to brand new.
Our advice to our clients has consistently been that new does not always mean better. In most instances, older homes (particularly Federation or Californian Bungalows) are in fact better constructed than newer homes. Older homes tend to be solid double brick throughout – even the internal walls. This keeps the home cooler in summer and warmer in winter, not to mention insulate against noise to some extent. Older homes tend to have much higher ceilings and have solid floorboards.
This by no means indicates that a newer home is automatically worse. However, we always remind our clients that beauty is only skin deep and we should not be impressed only by the aesthetics or ‘newness’ of the property.
In the course of inspecting thousands of properties, our agents often see ‘flips’ – many of which are in the higher end price bracket.
‘Flips’ are basically properties which have been bought cheaply, renovated quickly and being sold with a hefty price tag. People who buy and flip can be small-time developers, builders, owner-builders or even housewives. The bottom line to keep in mind is that ‘flippers’ are often opportunistic business people who are renovating for profit – not to live. Therefore, more often than not, the quality of these newly renovated ‘flips’ are not to the same standard as homes which have been renovated for living by the owners.
Identifying ‘flips’ is quite easy. You just need to pay attention to the little details. Here are some of the things that our agents look out for when we inspect properties:
- How long have the current owners had the property? If they have only had it for approximately 1-2 years, then you can almost be certain that it is a ‘flip’.
- What type of roofing does the house have? Many ‘flippers’ these days use colourbond roofing which is easier and quicker to install rather than the more solid terracotta tiles.
- What type of windows have been used? Cheap aluminium sliding windows or timber double hung windows?
- What type of doors have been used? Solid timber doors are sturdier than hollow doors.
- If significant renovations have been done, were speaker wires and alarm wiring integrated? This is not a costly thing to do as part of a bigger renovation – but you would be surprised at how many ‘flippers’ try to cut corners and avoid doing these things.
- What grade floorboards were used? Many ‘flippers’ use cheap cypress pine timber or even floating floorboards. Whereas most people who renovate quality homes to live in would invest in higher grade of floorboards – usually Select grade timber and not the cheaper Feature grade. Some ‘flippers’ disguise cheaper boards by applying stains rather than upgrading.
- Many ‘flippers’ try to save money by only using semi-frameless glass screens instead of fully frameless ones.
- Is there central heating and cooling? Is it divided into several zones for better control?
- What countertop and splashback was used in the kitchen? Many ‘flippers’ use Caesar Stone because it looks good and relatively cheap compared to more expensive but longer-lasting options such as Corian which is completely seamless.
- If there is a swimming pool, what type of surface finish does it have? ‘Flippers’ often resurface the pool but use cheap finishes such as painting it – rather than the better, but more costly option of tiling it. ‘Flippers’ also often only use cheap fencing and not the sleeker but more expensive fully frameless glass fencing. What type of coping does the pool have? ‘Flippers’ often use cheaper rather than more expensive stones.
- Check for tiling work in the bathrooms. We have seen too many houses where the tiling is uneven and hurried. Also check on the tiling and grouting around corners and edges.
- What type of vanities are there in the bathrooms? Most ‘flips’ use cheap and ready-made vanities instead of custom made ones which are tailored to the space. Check the quality of fixtures such as taps and mixers as well.
- Do the bathrooms have underfloor heating and heated towel rails? It is actually not very expensive to put these in as part of the renovation. However, if the ‘flipper’ did not, then you would need to rip out all the tiles and essentially redo the bathroom to add this feature.
- Is there drip irrigation system installed?
From our experience, it is these finer little details which make all the difference between a $1 million house and a $2 million house. Most of our premium buyers care about these details and so they should.
So the next time you are out looking at properties and not sure if it is a ‘flip’, look at the list above and cast a discerning eye. Happy house hunting!
About Oliver Stier
Oliver J. Stier is the Director of OH Property Group, a leading Sydney buyers agency. He studied Quantitative Economics and Finance at Cambridge University (UK), University of Toronto (Canada) and Princeton University (USA). In addition to being a licensed real estate agent, Oliver also holds the Chartered Financial Analyst (CFA) designation.