Home Today Right here’s Tips on how to Get Began Flipping Homes — and...

Right here’s Tips on how to Get Began Flipping Homes — and What it Truly Prices


Acquired a paint brush? A screwdriver? A hammer? Should you watch one of many many house-flipping reveals on TV, you would possibly suppose these three instruments are all you could make hundreds of {dollars} flipping properties.

“The home-flipping reveals make it appear to be it’s all about designing a kitchen or tearing out partitions,” says Mark Ferguson, an skilled Colorado flipper, investor, blogger, and writer of a number of books concerning the trade. “However the actual work is discovering the offers, which they by no means present you.”

The aim of flipping a home is to buy it after which resell shortly for a revenue, normally inside just a few months.There are two foremost kinds of flipping:

  • An investor finds a house that wants some repairs and updates. After the work is completed, the house will increase in worth and sells for the next worth.
  • In an space the place property values are rising general, an investor finds a house however makes no updates. After holding the property for a time frame, the proprietor sells it for a revenue merely due to rising property values.

Each approaches are principally numbers video games of purchase low and promote excessive, however the first kind normally will get essentially the most consideration as a result of it makes for the very best leisure and has a considerably decrease danger.

Not like on TV, not every part occurs shortly and simply throughout a home flip. It takes numerous cash, time and endurance. Right here’s how one can get began flipping homes — with numerous cautions.

The Home-Flipping Business

Dwelling flipping is massive enterprise. Based on the 2019 year-end Home Flipping Report from ATTOM Data Solutions, traders flipped 245,864 single-family properties or condos, which represented 6.2% of all dwelling gross sales in the course of the yr, a rise of two% from 2018.

“With tens of hundreds of home-flipping transactions every quarter, vital quantities of dwelling renovations are occurring, which improves circumstances from neighborhood to neighborhood, to the good thing about house owners, sellers and home hunters, and contributing to the general housing market in a number of methods,” mentioned Todd Teta, Chief Product Officer of ATTOM Information Options.

As for {dollars} in 2019:

  • Median buy worth of a flip was $155,000.
  • Median gross sales worth was $217,900.
  • Median gross revenue was $62,900, which was down from $65,000 in 2018.

Gross revenue numbers don’t take any prices into consideration since it’s unattainable to find out how a lot a flipper spent on supplies, labor, carrying prices, taxes, insurance coverage and different bills. The determine is solely the distinction between buy worth and gross sales worth. Teta says rehab prices and different bills are usually 20% to 33% of the property’s after-repair worth, or ARV.

This yr, even with the COVID-19 pandemic, numbers are nonetheless robust. Based on ATTOM’s report for the first quarter of 2020:

  • 53,705 single-family properties and condos had been flipped.
  • They represented 7.5% of all dwelling gross sales, up from 7.3% throughout the identical interval in 2019.
  • That was the best degree since 2006.
  • Gross income had been $62,300.

Flippers in San Francisco noticed the best median gross income at $171,000, whereas gross income had been solely $14,000 in Fort Collins, Colo.

“Much less-expensive components of the nation, concentrated within the Midwest and South, continued to carry essentially the most attract for these trying to shortly flip single-family properties,” Teta mentioned.

Declining income are a seamless pattern, however aren’t turning away flippers, he mentioned. The results of the pandemic, in fact, proceed.

“If demand for properties is stifled and costs flatten or drop, that might critically harm traders who purchased earlier than the pandemic hit and should minimize their resale costs,” Teta mentioned. “Nonetheless, a worth drop additionally might present alternatives. In that case, the price of investing will go down.”

The Recognition of Home-Flipping on TV

The rising curiosity in dwelling flipping coincides with the proliferation of reveals about flipping, adorning and residential enchancment.

“[Flipping] is form of like a horny factor to do after you watch it on TV,” Ferguson mentioned. “I believe that’s actually the large attraction and other people see on TV and the way a lot cash they make they usually say, ‘I’m going to go do this.’ It seems to be simple.”

HGTV went on the air in 1994, reaching simply 6.5 million properties in 44 markets. On its twentieth birthday in 2014, it was in 96 million properties in 69 nations.

Its reveals and people on different networks are reaching broad audiences — and creating widespread misconceptions about house-flipping.

“Should you noticed it on TV, it’s fallacious,” mentioned Luke Weber, a Las Vegas-based actual property investor who has flipped about 500 properties. “The TV reveals, even those that attempt to be as actual as potential, are all inaccurate. The TV reveals are for drama, not for schooling.”

One widespread manner the reveals are deceptive: the extent of reworking wanted on homes.

“A lot of the flippers which are doing these reveals are manner over-improving the homes as a result of it has to look fairly for TV,” Weber mentioned.

Typically, he mentioned, a home simply wants recent paint, new flooring, cupboards, and loo refreshes.

Home Flipping Isn’t Simple

Ferguson’s advice for getting started with house flipping includes knowing the market and not planning to do all the work yourself. Photo courtesy of Mark Ferguson

Ferguson began flipping houses in 2002 and has completed around 200 flips.

“Even after doing all those flips for so many years, we still lose money on deals sometimes,” he said. “The deal always looks better before you get into it because there are so many unknowns. Our number one rule is it always takes longer and always costs more than you think it will.”

Ferguson has some basic advice for those getting started house flipping:

  • It isn’t simple and it will take a lot of work.
  • Finding good deals on homes isn’t easy. If an experienced flipper tells you about a good one, your first thought should be why aren’t they doing it themselves.
  • Know the market. What is popular in one area might not be in another.
  • Good contractors are difficult to find and keep. Treat them well.
  • Don’t expect to do the work yourself. People often overestimate their skills and knowledge.
  • Know and research all costs. You’ll have to pay for materials, labor, taxes, interest, insurance, utilities, staging, commissions and more.
  • Keep good records. A spreadsheet or app can help track expenses and other items.
  • Don’t be afraid to walk away from a deal if the profit margin seems too tight.

“You have to be prepared to possibly lose money or not make a lot of money for all the time you spend doing this, but you have to look at it as an education,” Ferguson said, adding that people wanting to get into the business shouldn’t be spending their last dime doing a flip.

The Costs of House Flipping

Flipping homes takes money — lots of it.

“They always act like they have millions of dollars of cash to throw around on those shows, and I don’t know about their personal finances, but most flippers I know are using loans … financing properties,” Ferguson said.

In his market, Ferguson said it takes $300,000 to $400,000 in cash to finish a flip.


According to ATTOM’s 2019 report, 44% of home flippers used financing to fund their projects. That means 56% of buyers paid for their projects in cash.

Cash has its advantages. The deals close quickly, there is no interest to pay so you don’t have to be in a huge rush to sell. Plus there’s no debt.

“Cash is king,” said Ralph Roberts, an experienced flipper and author of the book Flipping Houses for Dummies. “Everyone wants a deal that is going to go through, and the number one deal to go through is cash.”

Traditional loans can take a month or more to close, if you can get one. Getting a loan if you don’t intend to live in the property can be extra difficult, Ferguson said, which is another reason a beginning flipper might want to think about living in a home while fixing it up.

“If it doesn’t work out perfectly, you’re probably going to be just fine. You probably still got a good deal and have equity,” he said. “If you were straight flipping it without living there, you might have lost money, but if you’re living in it, you might make money because you don’t have all those extra costs while it’s sitting vacant.”

Of course, that also depends on whether you can handle the stress of living in a construction zone.

Other sources of funding include:

  • Private money lenders: These are banks without some of the hoops to jump through. The rates are higher than those of traditional lenders and the money usually gets to the flipper quickly.
  • Hard money lenders: These are specialized real estate loans for the short term, usually six months to two years. Flippers often finance both the house purchase and cost of the repairs. The interest rate is usually very high.
  • Investors: People who want to involve themselves in the flipping business but don’t want to do the work.

“I call them my lending partners,” Weber said. “[They’re professionals] who’ve got money and understand that real estate is a really good way to make money, but they might not have the time, patience or knowledge to make that money themselves. So they invest with me.”

Finding the House to Flip

Location, house characteristics such as a new roof and good wiring, and homeowner needs like adequate storage space are assets to keep in mind when looking for potential houses to flip. Photo courtesy of Mark Ferguson

Experienced flippers say doing the work is the easy part. Finding a home to flip is what’s difficult.

In the early 2000s and especially after the housing market crash a few years later, the plethora of foreclosures made flips easy to find. That has changed.

When Ferguson started flipping in 2002, 95% of the homes he bought were foreclosures or public trustee sales and he was competing with no more than five other flippers. Now there are at least 20 other serious flippers nearby, meaning more competition for the best houses.

“There are still good houses to flip, but they’re most likely not going to be bank foreclosures sitting out there waiting for people to invest in them,” he said. “You’ve got to do a lot of work yourself to find those deals, find motivated sellers and look in different areas.”

Besides foreclosures, there are several ways to find homes to flip:

  • Auctions: Take any tax liens, etc., into account when looking at an auction property.
  • General listings, either by owner or on the MLS.
  • Home wholesalers who buy properties and then sell to investors.
  • Lawyers: Partnerships with probate, bankruptcy and real estate attorneys can be good ways to find leads.
  • Networking: Let people know you’re looking for houses to flip. Real estate agents and others often know of homes that are about to go on the market or people looking for quick cash sales.

If you find a good candidate for flipping, keep in mind some things buyers look for:

  • Location. Proximity to work, stores, restaurants and transportation are important. Is there a good view? How is the neighborhood? Do people seem to walk, bike, play and take care of their homes?
  • General home characteristics. Buyers look for size, a new or repaired roof, working HVAC and electrical, good lighting and windows.
  • Customer needs. Storage, bedrooms, a good kitchen and clean or new carpets.

“[Buyers want] a clean, safe place to call their own, something that is comfortable for their family,” Weber said, adding they don’t want to do much more than move in furniture and maybe change some paint colors.

He says it’s important to look at a house’s after-repair value or ARV, which is how much the house will probably sell for once it is finished.

“Once I know what I can sell a house for, that helps me understand what I should buy a house for,” Weber said. “You really make your money when you buy the house, not when you sell it. You collect it when you sell, but you make it when you buy, so you have to buy the house at the right price.”

Estimating The Cost and Time

Remember Ferguson’s number one rule about house flipping? That it always takes longer and costs more than you think it will.

“I think people underestimate how long it will take by about half,” he said. “They forget how many things can go wrong and just the general process of fixing a house.”

He estimates a typical flip of a $200,000 house costs about $100 a day to maintain.

Contractors don’t just show up on day one ready to work. You might even have to replace them during the project. There are plans, permits, inspections, shipping delays for materials and weather disruptions. Once the work is done, there is cleaning, staging, listing, showing, real estate commissions, closing costs and more.

Ferguson said he sees people who say their flip will take three months. Then when it takes six months or more because of the unexpected, they’re surprised and upset.

“When they make that mistake, they’ve got property taxes, insurance, utilities, yard maintenance, interest on your loan, all compounding every single month. So that makes the whole project cost tens of thousands of dollars more than you anticipated, because you messed up your timeline,” he said.

So, how do the experts suggest estimating costs and time?

  • Add up the total of all costs you will need to carry including interest, utilities, taxes, insurance and lawn maintenance.
  • Get a home inspection. Paying just a few hundred {dollars} for an inspection might prevent hundreds.
  • Take a notice of every part that must be fastened. Beauty adjustments don’t take too lengthy. Roofs, swimming pools, foundations and additions can take weeks or months. Perceive what wants a allow and what doesn’t.
  • Know what it takes to get a allow within the space the place you’re working. Some municipalities are simpler to work with than others. The identical goes for inspections.
  • Discover out what constructing supplies price and get them organized in sufficient time to obtain them earlier than your deliberate set up date.
  • Hold observe of comparable gross sales, aka comps, out there. If issues change throughout your flip timeline, you would possibly must make some adjustments.

Staying real looking concerning the time you’ll be able to decide to the mission can also be necessary.

“It’s not one thing [most people] can simply do on the weekends. It’s loopy how many individuals suppose ‘oh, I’m going to complete this in a month or two simply engaged on the weekends,’” Ferguson mentioned.

Treating flipping as a part-time mission, he mentioned, will take at the least 3 times as lengthy and can hold you away from your loved ones and the stuff you get pleasure from doing each evening and weekend.

Doing the Work

The aim of any flip is to get somebody to purchase the home, and meaning making a home individuals wish to stay in.

“You must do the landscaping first and get that carried out as a result of curb enchantment is every part,” Roberts mentioned. “If individuals like the surface, they’re going to wish to see the within.”

Bear in mind you’re designing a house for quite a lot of patrons.

“Folks go overboard with how they design a home and spend manner an excessive amount of cash and make it manner too particular,” Ferguson mentioned. All three specialists suggest holding issues impartial however not boring to enchantment to essentially the most patrons. No loopy paint colours or patterns.

In addition they suggest:

  • Small adjustments like paint, up to date {hardware} and new landscaping could make an enormous distinction with out an excessive amount of price.
  • Keep in mind, that is an funding. Don’t over-design for the market. Elaborate lighting fixtures and have partitions look good on Instagram, however they don’t all the time match right into a purchaser’s style and infrequently price some huge cash.
  • Depart electrical, plumbing and something with gasoline to professionals.
  • Don’t use the lowest-level supplies, however not the best both. Folks need good high quality, nevertheless it doesn’t should be the very best product potential.
  • Know your market. In some locations, carpet belongs in bedrooms, however not in all areas. Some patrons count on fridges, others don’t.

“You wish to be happy with your work and be prepared to say, ‘I might stay on this home,’” Roberts mentioned.

So simple as it sounds, Weber mentioned it’s additionally necessary to finish the flip.

“I get a kick out of it when individuals rework a house, however they depart one or two main issues undone,” he mentioned, like solely transforming two out of three of a house’s bogs as a result of they ran out of cash. “That one toilet is what the patrons are going to recollect.”

Promoting the Home

After the work is finished, the house does not just sell itself. There’s setting the selling price, finishing little details, cleaning, staging, photographing, listing and marketing. Photo courtesy of Mark FergusonAfter the work is finished, the house does not just sell itself. There’s setting the selling price, finishing little details, cleaning, staging, photographing, listing and marketing.

The selling process begins by setting the price.

“Most neighborhoods have a certain cap, an amount where it’s just really hard to sell houses for more than a price” Ferguson said. Also, if the house doesn’t appraise at your price, buyers might have trouble securing financing.

Remember: During the time it sits on the market, you’re still paying for everything.

“The house isn’t going to sell the first day — it might, but it might take a few weeks or longer for the house (to go) under contract,” Ferguson said. “Then you have to wait a month for the house to close … and there’s always the possibility that contract might fall through and you start the whole process over again.”

Additional costs to factor in:

  • Real estate commissions: If you’re a real estate agent, great, you can save some money on commissions. If not, be prepared to pay.
  • Closing costs: These can include fees for attorneys, title searches, title insurance and lender costs.
  • Staging: Many sellers stage homes by adding furniture and other touches to show how each room could be used and allow buyers to visualize themselves living there.

Ferguson said he never used to stage homes until the market began to slow down. Now he says it works so well, he should have been staging from the beginning.

In the end, flipping is a business that is filled with highs and lows.

“It’s fun. It makes a lot of money if you do it right,” said Ferguson, adding he doesn’t do any of the work himself anymore. “It can be a great business. It can be exciting, it can be fun. You just have to realize problems will come along.”

Tiffany Sherman is a contributor to The Penny Hoarder.