How to Flip a House: The Ultimate Step by Step Blueprint

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So You Want To Learn How to Flip a House? Well Here You Go, No More Excuses!

I know a lot of readers here on BiggerPockets are newbies, and many more have never done their first deal but really want to. What holds most people back is fear. Fear of failure, fear of success, or many other fears (insert yours here). One of my first articles was on overcoming your fears.  At the end of the day the only thing that can help you to overcome your fears is one simple word….Action!

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Ready, Fire, Aim

People will waste their entire lives sitting back waiting for the perfect moment to start. They make excuse after excuse and justify each of them in their minds. Let me let you in on a little secret…shhh, don’t tell anyone……THERE IS NO PERFECT TIME! If you want to invest in real estate, and if you want to do it by flipping houses, read on. Sometimes you have to pull the trigger even though you are not totally aimed! And guess what? It will be ok, you will figure it out as you go! That is what we have all done. I will make this as simple as it gets to get that first deal done.

My 12 Step Program

1 – Send out introduction letters to everyone you know or want to know regarding your plans
2 – Cheap Marketing
3 – Hang the Signs
4 – Field all Calls, using a questionnaire/script
5 – Figure out which one is a good deal by using the 70% Rule
6 – Get an offer accepted
7 – Get the Money
8 – Buy the house
9 – Renovate the house
10 – Sell the house
11 – Go to the bank to deposit your proceeds and/or learn the lessons
12 – Repeat

Okay, got it? I will give a brief description for each step, but please keep in mind – I am keeping this simple.

How to Flip a House in 12 Steps

1 – Build Your List

Make a list of everyone you know. Tell them you are looking for referrals of people that may want to invest in real estate for above average returns. Describe your plan and ask them if they know anyone that has money to invest, retirement to invest, home equity they can access to invest, etc. Help them to understand what you are looking for. Tell them you will pay them a 1% Finders Fee on however much the person invests as a one time fee. This is how we got started, we asked for referrals and in the process, the same people we mailed to became some of our first investors. Taking this side door approach to find investors to back you has proven to be very successful.

2 – Cheap Marketing

I want to preface this section by saying that I am NOT a fan nor proud of this method, but it has produced hundreds of thousands in profits to our company. They may not be sexy, but they really work! (**Note from the Editor: This method is also illegal in some areas – BiggerPockets doesn’t advocate using bandit signs when against the law and encourages you to research the laws in your local area.)  That being said, Go to Super Cheap Signs or Dirt Cheap Signs and order some bandit signs. Preferably get an answering service to answer your calls, like “Pat Live.” They can provide you with a local number that is easy to remember. Remember, people need to be able to remember the number as they are driving. Make it simple. Order at least 500 signs and go to to order a simple device for hanging the signs. There are many other methods to finding your first deal, but I have found this to be the most effective for immediate results.

3 – Hang the Signs

Choose busy intersections and mount the signs where traffic will be stopped and have time to look at them. This is no different than putting out garage sale, estate sale, yard sale, we buy junk cars, work from home, and on and on. We are just fishing for whales while the other are fishing for guppies. It is a numbers game, so get as many as you can out, but do not put them every 30 feet or you will just annoy people, so be smart and strategic. Go and replace them every Friday. Some will stay for months or years, but manage it like you would a direct mail program. Consistency is the key to a large amount of calls.

4 – Field All Calls, Using a Questionnaire / Script

After your answering service takes the call and sends you the message, call the lead and ask specific questions about the property. Develop a questionnaire that keeps you on track. Ask for all house details; beds, bath, heating, roof, tenants, rents, vacant, why selling, etc. Find out the real reason they are calling. You are trying to find the highly motivated sellers. You are looking for the people with real headache problems, so you can be the aspirin. Let them know you are an investor who does not buy at retail. Let them know you buy at wholesale prices but can offer cash and a quick easy close. See if they are open to such an offer. If they say yes, you have a nibbler! (Fishing analogy) Let them know you need to do your homework and will get back to them right away to see if you can help them. Be sure to get all of the ways to contact them including email, cell, home, if they text, etc.

5 –  Figure Out Which One is a Good Deal by Using the 70% Rule

Right here on BP are some great articles explaining the 70% Rule.

Basically here it is:

Figure out the ARV (After Repaired Value) – use a few real estate agents if necessary or if you are unsure. Multiply by 70%, then deduct your repair cost. This will leave you with your MAO (Maximum Allowable Offer). Do not start your offer at this number. Your offer should be way less to see what they will accept – you may be surprised. We all have a threshold on things we sell, and the real factor is their motivation. When we HAVE to sell something we are much more motivated than when we just WANT to sell something, agree? So our goal is to figure out that number on houses we buy. You make your profit when you buy (it is not quite that simple but it is the first step of a successful flip). Be conservative with your numbers. Don’t use eraser math, but don’t be so conservative that you never buy a house.

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6 – Present Your Offer with a Cover Letter

Present your offer with a cover letter that sets you apart from any competition. Explain that you are a family owned business and your desire is to bring the home back to it’s former glory. If it is an estate, we even offer the family a private showing when it is completed. We explain that we are not always the highest offer, but we are the best option because of ease, quick cash closing, take what you want, and leave the rest for us to deal with. People will sell to you because they like you, even for less money. Again, start low so you can move up slowly if needed. Go watch Pawn Stars to learn some good negotiating skills. Get it signed and proceed to closing.

We made an offer on a house today and it was accepted. It was on the MLS for $219,900 and we offered $175K. They countered at $190K and we agreed. As a hint, good deals on the MLS only last one day, so strike while the iron is hot. I think they loved our letter about taking great care of their family home, and that’s one of the reasons they wanted to work with us and accepted an offer for $30K less on the first day. You just never know! Don’t underestimate a well designed letter to make you stand out from the pack.

7 – Get the Money

OK, now you have ammo to go and look for money.

Put together a nice package including pictures and all costs and projections. Show them in black and white how much they will make for investing with you and how their money is fully secured by a mortgage and insurance on the property. Send that to all of the people you mailed a month ago. Follow up with calls. Do not ask them directly for money, ask them if they know anyone who might be interested. You will be surprised at how many say, “You know, I may be interested myself.” We all hate to be sold anything, but if it seems like we are making our own decision, things roll much easier.

Secure the money for the closing. If you strike out here, go to a hard money lender right here on BiggerPockets. If you do strike out, now it’s time to stay the course because many of the people who say “no” now, will watch you. When you start to grow, guess what? Many will come back around once you have some success behind you. This is so important in growing and building a name for yourself. DON’T QUIT and more and more opportunities will come!

8 – Buy the House

Number eight is pretty simple: close on the house. As a tip, during the closing process, ask the seller if you can go in for planning. Take in your contractors, and anyone else you need. You want to hit the ground running on day 1. Read my article on how valuable time is when you are learning how to flip a house.

9 – Renovate the Home

Obviously I am not going to summarize this into one paragraph. Check out  the BiggerPockets “Book on Flipping Houses” and “The Book on Estimating Rehab Costs” and learn the appropriate methods for managing renovations. What I can tell you is if you are hiring out the entire project, hire a good contractor. Get references, check insurances, go see their work in person. Cheaper is rarely better.

You are going to pay one way or the other, negotiate hard up front and be in control of the deal. Contractors are like a pack of wild dogs, they smell fear, so don’t show any and be tough. Hire mature responsible adults, your renovation will go MUCH smoother and quicker. Pay them a bonus if they finish on time or early. You don’t want to be running an adult day care center so do your best to choose the best contractors up front. Spend the money to make your home stand out. Don’t do a cheap renovation or you will get a cheap buyer, or turn off potentially good buyers.

Money invested in kitchens and baths always pays nice dividends. When people walk into your kitchen, they need to have the deer in the headlights look. Once mama sees the kitchen and falls in love, you have a good chance of selling the home because most of the time it’s the woman who makes the decision – no matter what us men think! I have heard it said that the man is the head of the house, but the woman is the neck that turns the head! Make the woman fall in love and you have a buyer!

10 – Market the House.

First of all, price it to sell ASAP.

Price it slightly below the market to get immediate interest and foot traffic. Don’t be greedy because you are paying each day it sits. Again, you are paying one way or the other so price it to create a frenzy. Start with flyers to all neighbors (200-300) one month prior to completion. Offer a referral fee if anyone they know buys the house. Many times families want other family or friends to be closer to them.

When you are almost done with the house, get directional signs out leading traffic in. Have a “Coming Soon” sign out in front of the house. Have an Open House, put out ton of directional signs and balloons. Foot traffic sells houses IF it is priced right. Offer lottery tickets for showing up to the Open House. Be clever to drive people to your home. People buy off of emotions, so make all advertising designed to bring out those emotions. For instance: Stroll across your gleaming hardwood floors. Enjoy quality family time on those summer nights on your awesome patio. Create lasting memories in your incredible private back yard. Light the candles and totally relax and shut out the noisy world while soaking in your own jacuzzi tub. Are you getting the idea now? Make them have to have the home.

Stage the home, put up curtains, tables with knick knacks, etc. In our early days we made fake beds with milk crates and blow up mattresses covered in bedding. Easy, simple and gives the buyers the perfect vision for their new home. Get a buyer on the hook and work it hard to get a deal closed. If you have no success or this is not your cup of tea, hire the best agent in the area. Negotiate the best commission based on future business. Tell them to use the methods I have shared above. By the way, those of you who buy and hold, can use these tips in rentals to bring in the foot traffic too.

11 – Go to the Bank to Deposit Your Proceeds and/or Learn the Lessons

The main part of number 11 is this: whether it is a huge hit, a decent hit, a break even, or you lose a little – NEVER forget to learn the lessons. You will get stronger and stronger with each flip you do. You will get better and better, every so often you hit one out of the park and your life changes. Always learn the lessons and apply them to the next deal, which leads me to number 12.

12 – Repeat

Go do it again, and again, and again.

Flipping Quit Tip: Trapping Yourself

This is a great trick in taking action towards your goals: trap yourself.  You start with a simple thing like sending out letters letting everyone know what your plans are and that you are looking for funds. You have now started to trap yourself. People will be asking, and your pride is on the line. Next, you put out bandit signs, another good trap because the phone will ring and you must do something about it. Then you have to make an offer, and guess what? Eventually one of them will be accepted and then you are trapped to find financing. Next you close, and you are now really trapped to get the renovation done. When they are complete you are trapped to sell it asap! Just start. The ball gets rolling and you are forced to make decisions and learn as you go. The secret is in starting. Start small and watch the momentum pick up as you go.

Overcome That Fear

I know learning how to flip a house is not quite that simple. As I write this, I think we are up to somewhere around 130+ houses bought and sold. It seems like yesterday we were as nervous as you may be about starting. I can tell you from experience that we are so glad we overcame the fear and just started. We figured out how to open our chute while we were falling!

Do not put it off anymore!

You have all the knowledge you need, and what you need to do is simply begin. We all have fear, but the difference between the ones who are doing it and the ones who want to is simple: action. Action trumps fear any day of the week.

I dare you to take my 12 step program to learn how to flip a house. It can change your life. Remember how I ended my last post, “Start to move boldly in the direction of your dreams and strange and mighty forces will come to your aid.”

Have a great week and please let me know of your success stories and leave any questions or comments below in the comment section!

Photos: David Hoffman

About Author

Glenn Schworm

Glenn and his wife Amber are the owners of Signature Home Buyers , located in upstate New York. They have bought and sold over 100 houses and counting since beginning in 2008. They are also the proud parents of 3 amazing kids and love to travel the globe, scuba dive, skydive and basically live life to the fullest!


  1. Glenn, great article, inspiring. This came at exactly the right time for me. I am on the cusp of my first purchase, looking hard at deals all over my area and trying to find the best way to finance it all. I know, I know, just jump in and the financing will fall into place. My expenses are very high (22 yrs old, fresh out of college, $60k student loans, wooo) so I have to be certain it will work. What do you think you would change about this guide for renting/buy and hold? I certainly want to make upgrades to the place, but I feel the best of both worlds would be to upgrade a bit (like you mentioned, kitchen and bath for the moneymakers), rent out for a year or two or three, and then sell. You get rents to cover upgrades and repairs (hopefully more) and then sell for appreciable gain as well.

    • Glenn Schworm

      Hey Andrew,

      I am not the best guy to ask about buy and hold deals. I like to get my cash out now instead of waiting for years, but that is just me. If I were you I would consider doing a few flips to get the bad debt off your back, then work into a solid buy and hold strategy. Again, I am sure others will have different advice, but I can only speak for what works for me. I hope that helps. You are starting young so time is on your side, use it brother, you will be really glad you did when you are double your age, wait, that is how old I am!!!! I don’t think I like you anymore! 🙂 Just kidding, I think starting at 22 is awesome!


    • Glenn Schworm

      Thanks Sharon,

      I know it was over simplified but in reality, this is what we did so I know it works. We all get so focused on, as you put it, the shiny things 🙂 that we forget the simple basics, and just putting one foot in front of the other. Have a great week!


  2. Trapping yourself! It’s like you read my mind, I prepaid the printer/mailer for 4 months, that way I can’t stop the calls.

    I put on my office wall Goals:
    Do first marketing campaign
    Take first phone call
    Make first offer
    Put first house under contract
    Sell first house
    Cash First Check!

    Thanks again Glenn, talk to ya soon. Once again let me know if you need any Salesforce help.

    • Glenn Schworm

      Epic? Wow, thanks Brandon! The cover letter has worked well for me over the years, really gives us a face instead of a ruthless blood sucking investor. Makes them want to do business with us if we are close with the numbers. Good luck on the wholesale!! They can be some easy money, cash on cash return….infinity!!


  3. anthony cecchini on

    every thirty feet lol. I am currently setting up all of my marketing so when i move in the next few months to where I will be investing everything will be set up and ready to go.

  4. As for #1 on the list… I am under the impression that according to SEC regulations it is illegal to pay any sort of fee to anyone for finding investors. That even an employee that solicits for investors cannot be paid for performance – ie. cannot be paid commission – they must be salaried only.

    • Hi MJ,

      Let me start by saying I am NOT a lawyer nor do I play one on TV. 🙂 A private investor in my world is a person who loans money and gets a mortgage in return as security. This is not regulated by the SEC. Where people get in trouble is when they solicit a lot of smaller amounts from many investors and pool that money to do a deal. Again what we do is simply get private lenders to out up the money like a bank would. As for referrals, same thing, what we do is private lending, not public funding. I hope that makes sense and again I am not a lawyer and have never heard of any problem with what we do from dozens of attorneys and professionals.

  5. Great way to simplify Glenn and the #list is always good. Like Sharon said anyone new should print this out. I like your statement on fear and the best way to conquer it is to just take action.
    The perfect time never comes. I can remember some of those feeling myself. Paralysis analysis because I wanted it all to be perfect and I had to know it all. You never know it all and after 5 years I learn something new all the time.
    Heres to your success and many more!!

  6. Like Sharon said “print it out”.

    Would be awesome if you guys created a print article function for all articles. I would love to start a biggerpockets binder if my favorite articles that I can go to, and I generally prefer the physical copy over the electronic.

    You guys rock,


    P.S. I just completed my first flip and started my letter sending to probate and absentee leads, and partial credit goes out to biggerpockets and Sharon for those adventures.

  7. Great article and simply spot on. I was very nervous to start my first rehab project, especially since it was 1,500 miles away and located in a state I had never even visited before. Although it was a struggle and almost everything possible went wrong, we eventually got it completed and it is now on the market. It was such a good deal that even with all the issues we had we will still make a decent profit on it. Even more importantly we learned so much more by doing rather than if we would have just analyzed and never gotten around to pulling the trigger…Needless to say we are more confident now and every process of this business has been easier since doing project #1.

  8. That was a great article about flipping! I have found that getting $300,000+ property at ARV(70%)-(repair costs) value is nearly impossible, as that it is about a $90,000 discount. But in states like NC or Georgia, where home prices could be under $100,000, a 30% discount may only represent $20-30k, which is where you may have the most luck. Thank you for your suggestion on Pat Live, also, I have never considered using that kind of service.


  9. By far one of the best articles I have read so far on entering the Flipping houses business. I am just now getting my head around all of the steps needed to get started and am about to come to the point where I just need to take action. Loved all of your suggestions which I will be trying out. And I agree with Sharon about printing it out. I am doing it right now. Thanks again Glenn.

  10. Wendy Black

    This is not how to flip a house. It’s about how to find a house to flip: you market or advertise to find possibilities; run the numbers; make an offer on an appropriate property; find financing; buy it (if the offer’s accepted); renovate it (and this is not usually a small thing– even cosmetic changes can go wrong); and then you sell it.

  11. Guillermo Martínez

    Hi Glenn,
    Wonderful work. However, out of curiosity, I have a question … on Step 6, house listed for $219,900.- , your first offer was $175K, after counter offer you end up paying $190K, … sorry I might be wrong of course but, in what moment did you applied the 70% rule ???

    • Glenn Schworm

      Hmm, that was 3 years ago, and about 150 houses ago so I am not exactly sure which deal it was, :-). If we paid $190K, I am sure we sold the house for over $300K when it was all renovated and ready for sale. It is not 70% of the listed price it is of the ARV (After Repair Value) that makes the difference. Hope that clears it up…

  12. Aaron Jones

    Hi Glenn, Great article and I really like how you laid out the steps. I wondered, as I was reading, if there was any possibility of getting a generic copy/format of the letter you send in Step 1. 🙂 Great article, Thanks again.

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