An open letter to house flippers


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Photo credit: SCOTT SIDLER

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 knockoffs. 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 let me assure you that flipping houses does not have to be contrary to them at all.

I have worked with many developers of historic buildings whose 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 flippers have with our old housing stock.

You’ve been lied to.

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

And when those cheap, cosmetic fixes you do begin to fail, I get the calls to repair them. In your zeal to keep costs down, you might fall prey to the tyranny of the lowest bidder and hire the cheapest subcontractors 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, and 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. We don’t need more cheap, disposable, easily forgettable homes.

We need flippers who can recognize the value of the buildings they’ve purchased and know where to put their money to make improvements — not just changes.

We need flippers who restore windows and plaster and wood floors not necessarily 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 squeezing an extra couple of hundred dollars out of the project.

Please, won’t you help us?

Sincerely,

Your Orlando neighbors

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