I recently visited a friend’s new place in a Brooklyn brownstone. At first glance, the apartment seemed beautifully updated. A sleek, modern bathroom abutted a kitchen full of new stainless-steel appliances. But my initial impression was soon shattered. Looking closely, the bathroom cabinetry was made of untreated pine and was already starting to warp. The toilet wasn’t firmly affixed to the floor, so it wobbled disconcertingly. The kitchen cabinets were installed haphazardly and were made of cheap wood. Fortunately, this amazing-at-first-glance home was just a rental, but contained a crucial lesson for home buyers: Do your homework and be incredibly choosy when looking at a rehabbed home. There may be more—or less—than what meets the eye.
Bungalo’s renovation experts, Bryan Ashley (Head of Field Operations) and Ryan Wall (Tampa Field Coordinator) know what to look for when it comes to home renovations—for both top-quality renos and poorly executed quick flips. I caught up with them to learn about what makes a good rehab and how to spot the ones that aren’t as great, even if they might look good on the surface.
What are some easy-to-spot signs of a low-quality home renovation?
Ryan Wall: Go into the kitchen and make sure all of the cabinetry is straight and that all the pulls and knobs are level and properly placed. If something’s off by a quarter of an inch it’s going to bug you for the rest of your life—and there’s really nothing you can do to fix it!
Bryan Ashley: Some red flags to look for include things like wall texture: Turn the lights off and inspect the area around the light fixture, how does the paint and texture look? If it looks like a patch, that’s a sign of a low-quality rehab. Door trim is another easy way to spot a quick flip: Was the trim mitered properly to meet at a perfect 45 degree angle or was old trim painted over before sanding? Are there gaps between the trim and the flooring? If these things are done the wrong way you identify a low-quality renovation quickly. It all comes down to detail and consistency.
If these things look OK, what should you check for next?
R.W.: It’s common to find a lot of dead switches in older homes—people will remove a light fixture but leave the switch, so you’ll have switches that do nothing. Also, look closely at the floors and make sure they are in good condition: if workers are rushed they won’t protect the floor when renovating.
B.A.: Make sure the grout lines are linear and clean. But don’t put all the pressure on yourself. We recommend all buyers complete a third-party inspection of the home during their due-diligence period. At Bungalo, we complete one at the end of every renovation and post it in the Document Vault with the listing on Bungalohomes.com to provide full transparency into the quality of the home.
Ok, now that we’ve got the not-so-good-reno stuff covered, what are some signs of a quality renovation?
R.W.: An important big-picture thing to look for is a thoroughly and clearly completed seller’s disclosure, which should be available to you at any point in the purchase process. If there are a lot of unknowns on the disclosure (you can check “yes,” “no,” or “we don’t know” line by line on the document) that’s a red flag. At Bungalo, we never mark “we don’t know” on a seller’s disclosure, we go and find out. So, you’re not going to be surprised. We try to anticipate and protect our buyers from any possible headaches.
B.A.: I tell anyone looking for a house to become a tile expert. It’s one of the most difficult trades to attract and retain top talent for, so if you see a home that has tile work that’s really top-notch, the rest of the home will likely follow suit.
What else differentiates a quality Bungalo home from a quick flip?
R.W.: We want to make people comfortable with their purchases and our Quality of Craftsmanship Guarantee is unique in the market. Guarantees come with a lot of new homes, but you don’t often see them with renovated homes. If there are little things here and there that were skipped or poorly done, and you don’t see it until you’ve actually paid for the house, you generally have no recourse. At Bungalo, we are very proud of our work and will make sure to make sure any deficits you discover are repaired properly and promptly.
B.A.: We renovate our homes and guarantee the quality of our work so you can rest assured that you’re getting a high-quality, move-in ready home. We have a 160+ point checklist that we use to inspect every house we sell. This includes inspecting everything on the micro-level like opening every door, every drawer, and checking that all light switches and plugs are tested. On a larger scale, we ensure that the foundation, the HVAC system, and the roof are thoroughly inspected to meet our age requirements. All of our homes are outfitted with new Energy Star–rated appliances and a smart-learning Nest thermostat. This level of detail really helps set Bungalo apart.