An open letter to house 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:
“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.”
“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.
Founder & Senior Editor
I love old houses, working with my hands, and teaching others the excitment of doing it yourself! Everything is teachable if you only give it the chance.