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Flipping decreases in housing market, still turns record profits

Why work when you can turn $90K slapping in granite countertops?

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The year 2013 should be known as the year flipping returned, when irrational price increases in key markets brought a return of both smart home investors and fast-buck artists who are now making more in average profits than ever before.

So far 2014 isn't shaping up much different, except in the details. 

Redfin reports that many homes were being flipped for more money than ever, pushing to an average of $90,200 per home.

The volume of flipping has slowed some in 2014, but not by much.

Redfin crunched the numbers all the way back to 2001 to see how flippers fared before and after the housing bust, and found that they have fared particularly well lately.

“It’s worth noting that gains are not profits. Home flippers, whether they’re banks, companies or individuals, generally make improvements to a home before selling it,” Redfin says. “Those improvements can range from simple cosmetic changes to completely gutting an entire home, which makes it difficult to pinpoint actual costs for each of the homes in this analysis.”

According to Remodeling Magazine, replacing a door would cost somewhere between $1,000 and $3,000, while a major kitchen remodel could cost $55,000 or more.

Redfin agent Al Medina, an experienced flipper himself, says that success in home flipping doesn’t come without careful planning and cost consideration.

“People see house flipping shows on TV and think it looks easy, but it’s always way more work and time than they anticipate, and there is a ton of risk inherent in house flipping,” he said. “It takes an experienced eye to determine a proper scope of work and even with that there may be some unforeseen expenses. Rehabs can range from basic improvements, such as painting, re-carpeting, and updating kitchen and baths to full gut jobs, which can range anywhere from $60 to $120 per square foot.”

Dr. HousingBubble has a less generous take.

“Flipping a house is a rather easy process. You buy an ugly house in a good neighborhood, slap on some paint, granite countertops, throw in some stainless steel appliances, tear out the carpet, put in some recessed lighting, and add in some plantation shutters and you are good to go,” he writes. “Oh, and make sure you sell into a market experiencing a mania. Oh, and make sure you time it right. In other words, you better have some luck and timing on your side. 2013 brought on a different sort of mania. A mania brought on by a lack of supply and investor demand.”

Click below to view the chart.

The doctor also has a warning.

“Flippers are also like a canary in a coalmine. They are usually the first to taste the cold shoulder of a turn in the housing market,” he writes. “You see this when days-on-market start increasing with no bites. You also see the monthly, then weekly price reductions setting in.”

In 2013, bank real estate owned (REO) properties fell to their lowest levels since the foreclosure crisis, according to data provider CoreLogic (CLGX). 

In 2013, only 35.2% of house flips in these markets were bank-owned, compared with 72.2% in 2008.

This year, bank REOs are up 15%, signaling that they may be more active participants in the flipping market in the second half of 2014.

Click below to view the chart.

In 11 of the markets analyzed, the average gain from a flipped home was well over $100,000. San Francisco (average gain of $194,600), Long Island ($152,500) and San Jose ($152,000) were the three markets where home flippers saw the highest gains.

On the other end of the spectrum, home flippers in Atlanta and Las Vegas saw average gains of $50,200 and $53,000, respectively.

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