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Dear Flippers, Please Stop!

Dear Flippers, Please Stop!

An open letter to house flippers:

Dear Flippers,

Please stop! You are so busy trying to get things done under time and under budget that you are turning our beautiful old homes into cheap, off the shelf, particle board infested, Ikea knock-offs. And the pace with which you move is breathtaking.

I speak to you as a neighbor of your future buyer, as a historic preservation contractor, and as a green building advocate. I realize that the latter two personas may cause you to immediately dismiss my words, but I assure you that flipping houses does not have to be contrary them at all.

I have worked with many developers of historic buildings and their focus on retaining and utilizing the valuable original fabric of these old buildings is applause worthy. I call them developers and not flippers because even when working on a very small project, they have a long term focus on the value of their investment and how to not only make the most money, but also create a beautiful and cohesive product.

What I’m against is the “Strip it bare, we don’t care” mentality that too many of you flippers have with our old housing stock. When you throw out 120 year old stained glass windows because you think they’re not worth saving and put in a $199 “energy-efficient” replacement window, you not only destroy an irreplaceably unique feature, but you kill the value of your investment. How I wish you could see that this harms our houses and your bottom line!

You’ve Been Lied to

The building industry has lied to you with misleading studies about energy-efficiency and ROI on home values. The have seduced you by hawking inexpensive products that look like the real thing but won’t last more than a couple seasons.

And when those cheap cosmetic fixes do begin to fail, I get the calls to repair them. The conversation usually goes one of two ways:

Option #1

“This was repaired in a way that destroyed the original so badly that it can no longer be fixed. If I had gotten to this sooner, it would have been easily salvageable.”

Option #2

“The       (fill in the blank)           they installed just covered up the damage and now it’s so bad that you need a whole new (floor, roof, porch, etc.)”

In your zeal to keep costs down, you fall prey to the tyranny of the lowest bidder and hire the cheapest subs you can find. These subs offer an “end of driveway warranty” on their work, but what do you care, right? It just has to look good enough to get it sold, then it’s someone else’s problem.

That someone else is my neighbor, or even me! You are hurting people by selling them a bill of goods. You are hurting our neighborhoods. The kind of empty promises your homes offer is so reminiscent of the snake oil and magical elixir salesmen of the past. These homes are lies and sleight of hand, a house of cards that you pray will stay standing until closing.

We don’t need more cheap, disposable, easily forgettable homes in our neighborhoods. We need flippers who can recognize the value of the building they’ve purchased and know where to put their money to make actual improvements not just changes.

We need flippers who restore windows and plaster and floors, not because they care about saving the history, but because they understand the value in these materials that are already installed! We need flippers who care about the next owner more than they care about the squeezing a couple hundred extra dollars out of the project.

Please stop! Stop sucking the life from our homes and selling them back to us as upgraded. Please, for the love of our neighborhoods, just stop.

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24 thoughts on “Dear Flippers, Please Stop!

  1. Thank you for putting words to something I’ve long felt. More people need to hear this. And not just flippers, but people selling/remodeling their houses too. The things I see people throw away and replace with crappy, ugly versions of the same thing is insane. I’ve seen gorgeous artwork painted over in boring shades of off white. And don’t even get me started about how those people approach landscaping, cutting down magnificent trees and such.
    My partner and I bought a house and have been slowly remodeling it. Most everything we’ve added is salvaged. We get crazy frequent texts, calls and postcards from flippers thinking they can buy it, which I find very offensive because of all the love and work we’ve put into it. This is my home! It also upsets me because of what you say about how these people destroy neighborhoods. I don’t think they have any awareness of this at all, many probably think they’re improving things just cause the “value” goes up. They don’t care about the places they flip houses at all or the people who have to live in the ugly, crappy boxes they make out of once unique, beautiful homes with character and soul. I’m going to start sending this article to them when they text or write. They probably won’t read it, but I hope they do.

  2. The acres and acres of snap together gray laminated flooring are an anathema to me. It makes me weep. Can we petition congress to make it illegal? Does everything have to be beige and gray? Is there no creativity out there? There are too many wonderful choices of finishes that are being ignored. That skinny gray and black glass tile that’s plagued kitchen backsplashes in recent years…. ugh. So awful. And what can I say about open kitchens that hasn’t already been said? Bob Villa put together a wonderful page astutely pointing out the many fallacies of them.

  3. Hi. I am (was) one of the sensitive flippers you say you need.
    First- I abhor being called a flipper because flippers are indeed what this article states and I can’t agree more. It breaks my heart every time. I LOVE old houses and have enhanced/restored two beautiful four square homes.
    Unfortunately (where I live), NO ONE wants to pay for a well-done beautifully crafted/restored home. They see it, oooo and aaaaaah over it, and then go on to buy one of the piece of shit flips discussed here.
    The amount of money I made both times was pretty dismal for the amount of love, thought, and care that went into the projects. Which made me see that it isn’t profitable (again, where I live, Midwest). Too bad as it is my passion.
    I’ve now been on the lookout for a home with character for my family. Unfortunately real estate agents come in, tell the owners to do renovations and rip out the character, and then put em on the market. Agents need to STOP telling buyers to basically “flip-to-list”. We end up with the same issue caused by flippers.
    3 years later, still looking for a period home that hasn’t been destroyed just prior to listing 🙁

  4. ABSOLUTELY 100% STOP!!!
    *Home flippers, you did not design the home, a professional architect did-stop tearing out walls and changing layouts!
    *Home flippers, you destroy our nation’s history because you do not RESTORE/FIX what was originally there in our antique and vintage homes, you REPLACE/”UPDATE” or basically just plain DESTROY what is in perfectly acceptable condition and MOST PEOPLE WANT THAT ORIGINAL WORK!
    *Home flippers, you create TONS of unnecessary trash per flip.
    *Home flippers you are driving up the cost of housing, including rentals to the point nobody can afford a roof. Thanks!
    *Home flippers, you screw people over with shoddy construction, slapstick cover-ups, numerous code violations and ugly, cheap, impractical fixtures and materials.
    Stop. Just stop. Live in and restore these homes or let someone ELSE live their DREAM OF RESTORING AN OLD HOME ALREADY!!!!

  5. What can be done to stop these “flippers” from destroying? I can think of no other words to describe what is being done. Everything is open concept! Easier and cheaper to build new or prep to flip. The Real Estate Commission should
    form a group to give permission for a home to be flipped. A permit to be issued FREE to a flipper and thereby awarding that party for being a responsible contractor by adding him or her to a list made public of respected contractors for hire.
    I have been disgusted seeing these beautiful period homes destroyed for years. They rip all the original hardware, woodwork, doors, floors, trim work and light fixtures out, toss it into a dumpster to be destroyed. What they are doing
    is ignorant no caring or clue to the value the irreplaceable items that are artwork. AND they think they do a great job.
    There is nothing to be proud of if you call yourself a flipper.

    1. I wish there was a law against it. It’s irresponsible to the future homeowner, who doesn’t know that they are buying what once was nice, but is now a POS. It’s irresponsible because they price it as if they have added value, when in fact, they have taken away value by using cheap crap and cheap possibly incompetent DIY labor. And, we’re left with inflated housing prices because of these very inept flippers.

  6. It breaks my heart to see the heart and soul ripped out of the craftsman homes in my neighborhood. They rip out beautiful built-ins and glass French doors for that “open concept.” If you want open concept, don’t buy a craftsman.

  7. If I see one more kitchen wall with a couple of “floating” shelves where a nice wooden cabinet used to be I’ll scream.

    1. Haha we love hearing our readers input on things like this and everyone’s specific cringe worthy things. Just like fake shutters!

      Thanks for reading and commenting!
      -Alyssa at The Craftsman Blog

  8. Here in the Pacific Northwest the trend is to buy a classic bungelw, strip it of all character and install “Condo Character”, making the interior look like a 10th floor condo, grey laminate floors, small to no trim, Milgard vinyl windows and doors, grey synthetic finishes, stainless appliances …
    PLEASE, STOP!!!!
    If you can’t afford to do it RIGHT, don’t do anything, the house will live longer, trust me.

  9. I can address one thing about painted trim in pre 1950 homes: often the original wood had a natural varnish on it that the later owners simply painted over with enamel or latex. If you heat it up with a heat gun (wear a respirator mask for fumes) the varnish layer underneaths melts and the entire layer of paint sloughs off like scraping frosting off a cupcake. I stripped entire painted window and door frames down to clean wood in my first 1925 Craftsman Bungalow. The thicker the paint, the easier it all comes off. You need a bunch of flat scrapers and lots of old cans to discard the removed gunk (which hardens into weird modern sculptures as it cools). Then I wiped the stripped wood down with fine steel wool soaked in varnish stripper (keep that respirator on!) The wood looked like it was installed the day before, but because there was still some of the original finish exposed in other rooms, and they had used the “comb” method of dragging strain on it to create a strong “tiger oak” grain appearance, I had to recreate that to match. I could have just stripped that off too with solvent, but it was so cool it was worth the effort to teach myself the graining technique.

    I am fortunate to live in a city where we have a HUGE non-profit architectural salvage and recycling warehouse full of building materials both new and removed from old homes, businesses and churches. In fact, they have crews that will come and remove entire kitchens and architectural features from your home or building if you ask them to do it so they can be resold and repurposed.

    I buy something in there nearly every week. I mounted an 8′ wall of beautiful vintage solid wooden walnut stained kitchen upper cabinets above the long desk worktop in my guest room/office — all of them together cost me $55 and they provide great storage for office, sewing and craft supplies. They have old wooden double hung and casement windows, solid paneled doors in frames with transom windows, stained glass, pillars and wainscot panels, bronze radiators, tin ceiling panels, vintage light sconces and chandeliers, whole butler pantries — never know what you will find. Unlike cities where overpriced “antique” dealers snag these for only the hoi polloi and their designers to glean, here the average home owner can afford them.

    And when I have removed original items from my houses (like a tiny wall hung porcelain powder room sink) i donate them

  10. I know I’m a year or more late, but if I don’t vent somewhere, I’m going to pop. I’m in the earliest preliminary stages of buying a house. I already want to rip my hair out because of the number of houses with painted fireplaces – not just brick, even stone fireplaces are painted – effectively ruining that feature of the home. And the latest senseless trend of ripping out cast iron tubs and replacing them only with a shower thus destroying part of the functionality of the bathroom. A person can bathe or shower in a tub, but if you only have a shower, bathing is not an option. Why is that so hard to figure out? The “best” part is that these numb-nuts want top dollar for the damage they’ve done because the house has been “remodeled!” Why would I pay extra for a house I can’t even bathe in? It’s illogical to the point of being outrageous and absurd.

      1. Except in New Orleans, it’s 100 plus year old houses being totally ‘renovated’ by leaving from wall standing while rest of building is replaced by particle board, ‘energy efficient’ metal windows… where windows are even put back in… no provision for allowing air flow when the power goes out (as it frequently does in New Orleans… but when the so called Landmarks Commission reviewed the permits the builder assured them we’re not doing anything to this lovely old house except adding on a camelback …they didn’t care,Monet talks… but when the town becomes a total Disney land version of itself perhaps these people will care… but they’ll probably move on to the next ‘it’ city..

  11. You make an excellent point. The flipping craze has gone a bit overboard. It is important to retain quality in anything, especially preserving old elements that are truly original and hard to come by these days. Also, a flip job done sloppily will just be a can of worms in the long run, and not help the home value in the least. Thank you for your post!

  12. I totally agree about the painted trim. One of the things that make people jaws dropped when they walk into my home is the stained wood trim. They can’t put there fingers on what it is but I know. It’s that when your norm is white painted trim, the alternative is much more luxurious.

  13. I’m guilty of some of this in my own renovation, like removing some plaster & the original kitchen cabinets. It made it much easier to replace the knob & tube wiring and insulate though. & the kitchen cabinets were made into a bathroom vanity and medicine cabinet. I live in a rural area and finding people who want to deal with old house features is difficult.

    I just wish people would stop painting the beautiful wood trim and built-ins. Just stop already! I yell at the tv every time some decorating show does this. I’ve yet to walk into someone’s home and comment on their beautiful painted trim, but nearly everyone who comes into my home comments on the wood trim.

  14. Amen! I can’t watch when I see what they do to some of those houses. It is painful to see beautiful features lost forever. And…if they must get rid of the “not-current” kitchen cupboards, why do they destroy them? There are so many people out there who would love to have them.

  15. This is everything I’ve been saying in Los Angeles for the last 10 years and it got worse during the recession. Just because I didn’t have all cash to buy the house at $200,000, they would rip all of it out with cheap upgrades and sell it for $350,000. Upgrades that made me neuseous. Upgrades that felt sterile and I didn’t want. They are ripping through Historically Protected zones like mine in Jefferson Park because the insides are unprotected and even when the HPOZ tries to enforce changes to the exterior, most of the time they ignore them, sell the house and make it someone else’s problem. It’s so depressing. FLIPPERS! STOP TAKING OUT THE BEAUTIFUL CRAFTSMAN CHINA HUTCH FOR A F*#@!KING OPEN FLOOR PLAN!!!! HGTV is warping people’s minds.

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