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—Buying & Selling

What to Look for in a Renovated House


When shopping for a new home, it’s likely that you or your client will come across at least a few properties recently renovated. The trend of flipping houses continues to bring homes to the market newly improved with all the features current buyers want. In 2019 alone almost 250,000 single family homes and condos got flipped in the United States.

Purchasing a renovated house has its benefits. The place is not only move-in ready, but should have many of the upgrades on your wishlist. Don’t get distracted by the newness of it all though. Here’s what to look for when giving a renovated house its once-over.

What work was done?

Everything in a renovated home can look new, but there’s a difference between a complete gut-job and a little shine and polish. Was the kitchen rebuilt from the ground up or did the owners add new fixtures and refinish the existing cabinets? It’s important to know either way. Ask exactly what work got done, in addition to requesting all the certificates of compliance. This is especially necessary when dealing with structural changes to the home. If a renovation included removing a wall, you’ll want to see that an engineer or architect signed off on the work .

Expect to hear that renovations happened in more than just the kitchen and bathrooms. There’s other important stuff in a home that’s part of a proper renovation, including:

  • Plumbing
  • Heating
  • Electrical systems
  • Roofing

These might be the less flashy aspects of a home, but they’re the ones you want to last a long time. Upgrades mean newer, more efficient versions of water heaters, furnaces, and more. All the stuff that keeps the house running for the long term. Having a renovated home that pays attention to these unseen details is a mark of quality.

Don’t get dazzled

Some home renovations focus more on things like fresh paint and finishes. They’re into the flash. They give the home a cosmetic makeover, but haven’t really done the work of a renovation. Be wary of this. Nothing hides a real issue better than a few coats of paint. If all the changes to a home feel superficial, it’s best to wonder enough about what’s on the other side of those “upgrades,” to take a deeper look.

Leave no stone unturned

Looking closely at a home to make sure renovations are right, means not forgetting even those spaces supposed to look a little rough. Make sure your home tour includes a stop in the attic. Yes, it’s not an actual room, but if it has issues, so will the rest of the house. Make sure the attic is properly insulated, that you can’t see any water stains from roof leaks, and that nothing stands out as a potential safety hazard. A good renovation should handle all this without you even having to ask about it.

How long did renovations take?

While you want to know the specifics of the work done in the home, there’s more to learn before you put in an offer. Asking for information on how long the renovation took can be a telling clue to the quality of the workmanship. A longer renovation often means the work was thoroughly performed. A rush job could mean vital steps got skipped or corners cut. But take this info with a grain of salt. Not all remodelers are created equal.

Does everything check out?

A visual inspection is one great way to establish that the work done during a renovation is top notch. Check for cracks, leaks, or any other foundational problems. Turn on taps, flush toilets, switch on lights, and turn on the stove. Make sure everything is working right. You can even open and close windows, doors, and kitchen cabinets if they were part of the renovation. If you notice anything out of order, it is up to the current owner to make repairs.

This is also the time when you can take a closer look at each individual room to make sure everything fits together. Verify the top and bottom cabinets match in the kitchen, and all your fixtures are the same make and model in the bathroom. A lack of attention to these details means the contractor cut corners to save money.

Even the floors need a once-over

It’s surprisingly easy to mess up flooring when putting down something new. It’s also hard and expensive to fix, and annoying to endure. Improperly installed hardwood can warp. Laminate can move as you walk on it, making it feel like you’re in a fun house. Tile can go on unevenly if not careful. Each of these issues are impossible to ignore. 

You walk on your floors everyday. You want them to be right. Eyeball the appearances of floors, but also get verification on who installed them. You’ll notice issues with tile right away since bad pieces will pop up higher, but other flooring may not show its true colors until later.

Who did the renovations?

When you find out who did the floors, make sure to ask for a list of all the contractors who performed any work. Ask if the current home owner can provide business cards or even copies of the work orders. This is something to get once you’re further along in the purchasing process of a renovated property. It’s good to have this information should any follow-up work become necessary once you’re in the home. It can also help you validate the authenticity of the work completed. 

Worth a closer look

Renovated homes make up a substantial segment of the buyer's market. They are always worth a closer look when on the hunt for a new home. They often offer amenities that exceed expectations. You can get that open floor plan, with granite counters, and upgraded fixtures at a price you can afford. Renovated homes allow you to buy an older home without having to pay for, and manage, the work yourself. However, not all renovations get completed with the same level of care. Keep a sharp eye out and don’t forget to ask questions when looking at renovations. This will ensure you find a quality property rather than a home with a cosmetic band-aid on it.