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House Flipping Reality TV Shows: Good or Bad for Newbie Investors and Flippers?

by Joshua Dorkin on October 3, 2007 · 35 comments

  

We’ve all seen the reality TV house flipping / rehabbing shows . . . Flip this House, Flip that House, Property Ladder, Flipping Out, etc. These shows, I believe, have both positive and negative implications for those watching them. Here are just a few:

Pros of House Flipping TV Shows:

  • Potential flippers are inspired to get up and get involved in the real estate investing business.
  • Potential flippers can make a lot of money rehabbing properties.
  • Newbies get to see an overview of what it is like making a living investing in real estate and from flipping houses.
  • Homeowners can get many ideas for things to do to improve the value of their homes.

Cons of House Flipping TV Shows

  • These shows glamorize what is a difficult business by showing experienced professionals in action.
  • These shows rarely detail how to purchase a property below retail outside of going to foreclosure auctions.
  • These shows don’t teach people how to analyze the financial side of a potential flip.
  • These shows rarely, if never, deal with how to finance a flip, including getting a mortgage, hard money, construction loan, etc.
  • These shows give newbie investors unrealistic time and money expectations for potential flips.
  • These shows don’t help potential flippers figure out how to budget for repairs.

Granted, these shows are simply entertainment, but for many people, they do create a false impression of life as a full-time flipper/rehabber. On the other hand, they have lit the fire under tens of thousands of people’s backsides and have inspired a new generation of newbie or wannabe house flippers and real estate investors.

With all of this in mind, I have one question for you all . . .

Do you think House Flipping TV Shows are more of a positive or negative influence on new investors?

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{ 31 comments… read them below or add one }

Josh Hohman October 3, 2007 at 5:45 pm

I watch the flipping shows, but I’m like an old man complaining about politics when I watch them. I can’t stand watching episodes where some guy fresh out of college wants to be a real estate mogul (who also appears to have no clue about what he/she is doing). Then the show proceeds to show how a house is renovated back to the studs on 30k and a 6 week schedule. The kicker for me is when I see the purchase price, say 300k, renovation costs of 30k, and then a sales price of 500k for a profit of $170k. I don’t know about you guys, but a lot of other people want to get paid before I get my ‘profit’ of $170k, including the lender for the pleasure of borrowing money from them, the title company, brokers, utilities, property tax collector, etc. to name a few… After all that ranting, I will say that I watch ‘Flipping Out’ religiously, and find it to be more realistic than most, despite all of the psychic house blessing ceremonies, cat accupuncture, etc.

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Realtor SEO October 3, 2007 at 5:21 pm

Those shows really get on my nerves since they give sellers unrealistic expectations. Do an open house get 10 offers.

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Ben Bach October 4, 2007 at 4:21 am

Great article Joshua
I agree with many of your pro and con points, but I come to a different, yet similar conclusion.

These shows are not good or bad. They’re entertainment. Some people, and this is not confined to RE Investors, have a hard time with seperating entertainment with reality. For some, these shows set unrealistic expectations. For others, they show what is possible.

As John C Maxwell says, what you see is determined by who you are.

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Tre October 4, 2007 at 1:32 pm

great article. I think it’s an interesting situation. Most of the shows give an unrealistic expectations, but most of the flippers suffer setbacks and get a dose of reality. And now some of those shows are telling the viewers what really happened ie. it sat on the market for several months and fees lessened their profits.

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Rick Jacobsen October 4, 2007 at 2:26 pm

Hi Josh,

That’s a good question. You hit the nail on the head when you mentioned that these shows simply glamorize the whole process. It’s kind of like watching poker on TV… viewers are only shown the ‘big hands’, they don’t show the dozens of hands players had to throw away as they patiently wait for that ‘monster hand’.
I used to be a foreman for a small remodeling company. We even flipped a few houses, and I can attest that there is absolutely nothing easy in the remodeling process. Sub-contractors are often very unreliable and building inspectors can be a real pain! But, I do see the value in buying low and selling high regardless of the product. I think that these shows can be beneficial, and for newbie investors.. I think a lot will be learned during the whole process (trial and error). It may all depend on the individual investor.

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Dallas Homes October 4, 2007 at 5:06 pm

Add a fence and that will be an extra $40k when you sell. SURE IT WILL! Please

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Joshua Dorkin October 5, 2007 at 6:50 am

lol Dallas . . .
I’m glad you guys generally agree on this one . . . anyone else?

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Chris October 5, 2007 at 10:19 am

Yeah, I watch these shows for entertainment. They’re usually full of bull. They build stories to make good TV watching. Here’s the formula

1) Introductions
2) Everything’s hunky dory
3) OMG!! Something’s gone terribly wrong!
4) Open House
5) 5 offers and we’re in the money!!! Whew!

Every. Single. Time.

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denverlender October 5, 2007 at 11:44 am

Some observations:

- It seems like every rehabber on these shows puts granite countertops and stainless steel appliances. Its rare to see homes that have these features unless they’re model homes.

- Get in business with your buddy and your flip and friendship is doomed.

- They never factor into the profits the 6% you’ll be doling out to real estate agents.

- When guys make mistakes they look like bumbling morons. When women make mistakes, they look like bumbling morons. Equality at last!

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Jim Watkins October 6, 2007 at 6:21 pm

As I say in my classes when someone asks what I think of the shows…. “I think they are the best hours of comedy on TV.”

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Peter B. October 7, 2007 at 6:10 am

Shows give an unrealistic expectations. Entertainment nothing more or less.

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Shannon Lefevre October 8, 2007 at 6:51 pm

I think these shows create a problem for our industry…we wonder why so many people come in thinking it’s going to be so easy! I wonder if police hate the show “cops” for the same reasons!?!

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Paul Meister October 11, 2007 at 6:30 am

Sounds very interesting. Acutally I did not have much time to watch those shows but I wanted to learn more about flipping. So is there one show which is better than the others or are all basically bullshit?
So which material would you recommend for a newbie to the subject. What are the 5 Books I have to read?

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Dan October 14, 2007 at 7:26 am

These shows get ratings based on drama and not the actually act of flipping houses. I agree with you Joshua there are more cons than pros of these shows for the real estate community.

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Rebecca Levinson October 16, 2007 at 1:24 pm

What about the other shows that deal with real estate on t.v., “sell my house”, “curb appeal”, do these shows also paint an unrealistic picture of real estate?

Rebecca D. Levinson

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Jeremy Hart October 23, 2007 at 7:33 am

Overall I think they’re bad for the general public because they set such unrealistic expectations sometimes, but if someone REALLY wants to get into that game there are opportunities to be had if they’re diligent and thorough. I think the thing that really drives me bonkers is seeing the supposed “cost” of a particular piece of the renovation, and then the supposed “value” it adds. That’s the point I really start to pull my hair out – Reno is different from Dallas, which is different from Elizabeth City, NC. To try and make such a broad generalization is inappropriate, IMO.

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Anonymous December 3, 2007 at 12:07 pm

I think those shows do leave out a real reality that is not always rosy.

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Colorado Home Guy December 14, 2007 at 1:56 pm

I have to confess that I sometimes watch the shows. However, what makes me mad sometimes is that they always show people making a profit in the end. They rarely show flips that go wrong.

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Investment Property December 19, 2007 at 7:57 am

I must admit, these shows have a positive effect and i my opinion must have contributed to the rise in the number of newbies buying property for profit. I agree that the shows do not give too much “technical” info about the real side of the property business but the rehab shows do give a good overview of what is involved on teh rehab side.

I even saw an old friend of mine on the property ladder and was surprised to see him do so well on a rehab (he was a commplete beginner). So yes its difficult but not impossible,

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uk property investor January 20, 2008 at 8:59 am

in the uk we have a few shows “property ladder” and others. its a shame that they don’t seem to date stamp the shows as some of them were filmed in the rising market here. you could just buy a house, keep it for 2 months and sell it on for profit.

i’ve also noticed that the more recent shows do not show us the selling price. just the agent valuations. is this because maybe.. they can’t sell??

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Keith Dobbs January 27, 2008 at 8:34 am

These shows make things seem too easy and gullible people are likely to believe they can do things that are not possible. Investing in real estate takes expertise. These shows have hundreds of experts around them. It’s unrealistic for someone to actually think they can do it on their own.

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Lake Michigan Beach Builders March 1, 2008 at 8:37 pm

sorry to bring up an old post but….

They set an unrealistic stage for the wanna-be or newbie investor. Both ways, private investor and the actual ‘flipper’/ buyer / rehabber.

Frankly, i dont think just anyone should flip houses. When i flip a house, i have a quality end product. Permits are pulled, professionals are brought in for the tasks that we dont carry expertise in. We check the plumbing, electrical and HVAC. If its not up to snuff, it gets replaced. We care that two years down the road the house could burn down or the plumbing could burst.

Too many of those shows have ‘investors’ that really don’t care about the person buying the home, they only care about their bottom line. Instead of fixing the issues they cover them up. Yes, profit and bottom line is important in any business but this business IS personal to the families that purchase YOUR product.

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renae March 19, 2008 at 5:50 pm

Never flipped a house before but I would like to. I watch the shows and I agree that there is not enough information about the financial side of house flipping and the correct way to go about it or how many people get a portion of your profits. But, I think that people should be smart enough to know that it is a tv show and there are hidden truths. I believe it would be wise to obtain a real estate courses and learn about the real estate business instead of charging into it blindly or with unrealistic expectations and no knowledge of the business and it’s pros and cons.

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Find Homes in Colorado April 16, 2008 at 12:05 pm

Does anyone actually ever follow the advice or take direction–especially difficult direction–that they see on TV? If everyone followed through after having seen an inspirational/motivational show, we would all be super-fit, wealthy rock stars with clean, organized houses and well-behaved children.

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Repossession Info April 18, 2008 at 6:08 am

Overall I think they’re bad for the general public because they set such unrealistic expectations sometimes, but if someone REALLY wants to get into that game there are opportunities to be had if they’re diligent and thorough. I think the thing that really drives me bonkers is seeing the supposed “cost” of a particular piece of the renovation, and then the supposed “value” it adds. That’s the point I really start to pull my hair out – Reno is different from Dallas, which is different from Elizabeth City, NC. To try and make such a broad generalization is inappropriate, IMO.

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entertainment videos July 7, 2008 at 10:31 am

I think these types of shows give unrealistic expecatations for most people

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Bob September 29, 2008 at 10:55 am

I watch these shows just hoping to see huge failures. That’s the entertainment for me. I love when they get some family friend to pretend they are going to buy the house. On one show they even got the same person to say they were going to buy the project house on two separate episodes. It was the contractor who worked on the job too! Laughable.

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DH August 21, 2009 at 10:03 pm

Take it from someone who has tried, flipping houses might be a great rush and a really fun project when it goes well, but it can turn disastrous very quickly. You can’t believe these shows depict the real world of real estate anymore than entourage depicts the real world of acting.

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Mansfield January 22, 2010 at 9:14 am

I have to agree with a lot of these comments. Many people set unrealistic goals for flipping houses and end up losing a lot of money. I think what people need to understand is that it takes not only a lot of work..it takes a lot of research (something too many people skip out on)

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Paul September 4, 2011 at 11:41 pm

I agree to almost everything everyone said on here, although I did not read every post. I am one of the few that took action and enrolled in one of the programs offered by one of the gurus from these TV shows – Armando Montelongo. My experience in the real estate (overall) has taught me a handful of things…good and bad things. I have to say, I am proud to be a student of Armando but after knowing what he’d offered compared to what other gurus have similarly, I was quite disappointed. I’ve paid over $30,000 for all his courses to learn all the “glamorous” techniques he uses daily to run his business. However, like all business and professionals, they hold back the keys to success, in which I must say, I have to spend over $30,000+ to learn from other gurus and other resources to fully understand and start my own businesses. The only reason why I said I was disappointed was because of the price I’ve paid with Armando. After learning what the business is really about, I’ve found other successful gurus’ offering same courses (maybe more) for far less than what Armando charges. However, I mustn’t say that because I have not taken their class to fully compare.

Again, I have spent over $65,000+ in this business just because I’ve watched their TV show and decided I want in. To all of those who believe that it’s not reality, it’s really not! However, I see it as a CONCEPT, and with a concept, I can take it into my own hands and make it better. So far, I have made several thousand and looking to make more! I have MUCH to say but it’s dragging a little too long, so I’ll talk about the highlights and end it.
I’ve been told, “it’s too good to be true” or “if it’s that good, how come everyone’s not doing it” — I just tell them, “If they can do it, why can’t I?” Robert Kiyosaki, one of my favor authors, coaches, mentors, figure, role model said “Don’t let people tell you what you can and can’t do. You’re responsible for your actions.”
My buddies that are in this business that got into this business one year ahead of me are now making over 6 figure incomes. They inspire me and so does the concept. You just have to think that TV shows aren’t just not for entertainment. It’s real people and real business. LEARN from it. They make money somehow, and boy, if you are not motivated by money living in this lifetime and in this world…I’d seek advice from you. Money is EVERYTHING in this world. So to wrap this up, I just got to say, everything is a risk factor. Take risk if you believe in it. Heck – driving a car have risks, and guess what? Everyone’s eligible take action of their privilege to drive when their risk involved. This world, especially USA, is for risk takers. Do what you have to do and learn from your experience. Remember, anything is possible. In conclusion, I PERSONALLY THINK WATCHING TV CAN MORE POSITIVELY INFLUENCE ONE’S LIFE. PEOPLE LEARN FROM THE MEDIA, AND IT ALL COMES DOWN TO THE PERSON’S INTENTION, INTEGRITY, PERSEVERANCE, AND WHY, WHY THEY CHOSE TO DO THE THINGS THEY DO, SUCH AS WATCHING THESE TV SHOWS?! People have to stop thinking negatively and stop critiquing others, and STEAL their idea and make it ever better. That’s the only way you can become successful. Truth is, if you know someone well enough to critique them, they are doing better than you are. The end! Happy investing to everyone! :) HINT HINT: Real Estate is not going to disappear for a long long long LONG time (We need a roof over our heads – DUH.), but guess what will? Investors and Gurus. It is to your benefit to understand and take advantage of the market and make your share of it. There are way too much real estate for 1,000,000 investors to handle. Paul in and out. Reply if you have any questions, comment, concern. I will not waste time debating, but happy to provide insights and confidence to determined individuals. I am worth $1,000/ hr. BYE!

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Omni Chaparala December 17, 2011 at 6:53 pm

Experience is a must in flipping houses. TV shows cant give you that experience in their segments. It takes a lot of understanding real estate in the area, market values and also knowledge of what changes to make.

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