Flipping Houses: The Ultimate Step by Step Guide

by | BiggerPockets.com

House flipping can be an incredible way to grow wealth fast – but there are dangers. Learn how to flip houses for fun and profit in this exhaustive guide

house flipping - flipping housesI have an extraordinary hatred for puzzles.

Now, you are probably thinking “that’s a strange thing to have a hatred toward.”

Well who asked you? I can explain…

Where was I?

Oh yeah – puzzles. Ugh.

You know the kind – where you open the box and there are 1000 little pieces staring up at you with hatred.

Where do I start? The corners? Then what? Do I really have to try 999 pieces to see what’s going to fit best with that corner piece? Why is this piece purple? Does this piece look “dirty” to you?  I don’t like this … I’m going to take a nap.

Whether you like puzzles or not, there is one simple task that nearly every person does before beginning… they look at the box.

That’s right- the big photo on the front of the box that shows what the final puzzle should look like when it’s completed. If you are like me, you probably lean the box up against something so you can see the “whole picture” the whole time while you work.

You might be wondering why I’m talking about puzzle pieces in an article about flipping houses. Here’s the truth: flipping houses is often like a puzzle, and it helps to see the whole picture.

Ah… see what I’m getting at?

The internet is full of “puzzle pieces” about flipping houses.

  • ARV
  • Staging
  • Hard Money
  • Contractors

These are all pieces to the house flipping puzzle – and very important pieces at that. However, if you are new to house flipping, these little nuggets of information can look just like those 1000 little puzzle pieces on the table. It can be overwhelming.

I don’t want you to look at flipping houses with hatred, the way I look at puzzles.

So consider this post to be “the box cover.” This post is designed to be the whole picture, so you can understand what the puzzle looks like before getting started putting the pieces together.
It is my goal that you use this house flipping guide to gain a “big picture” view of the entire process. However, keep in mind that even this post (the longest most thorough blog post I’ve ever written) is just a fraction of what’s included in The Book on Flipping Houses by J Scott and published by BiggerPockets. If you are thinking of getting into house flipping, and haven’t read that book (and the bonus Book on Estimating Rehab Costs that comes with it) you need to. So read this blog post, and then go order the Book on Flipping Houses.

You’ll be glad you did.

With that, let’s get to the puzzle. Below are thirty steps – one for each day of the month. No, I don’t expect you to flip a house in 30 days (it takes much longer!) but if you focus on mastering just one of these steps each day for a month, you’ll be an expert in just 30 days!

If you have any questions, I invite you to leave a comment at the bottom and let’s talk about it!


How to Invest in Real Estate While Working a Full-Time Job

Many investors think that they need to quit their job to get started in real estate. Not true! Many investors successfully build large portfolios over the years while enjoying the stability of their full-time job. If that’s something you are interested in, then this investor’s story of how he built a real estate business while keeping his 9-5 might be helpful.

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1.) Commit to the Flip

The first step in any real estate adventure is to commit. So many people want to get into house flipping or landlording and get really excited, but they don’t actually commit to going the distance. House flipping is not a hobby – it’s a business that can affect your financial future (either positively or negatively) so don’t go into this thing “willy nilly.”  (Yes, I just said “willy nilly.” ) 

Decide you are going to do this and you are 100% committed to learning everything you need to learn to get there. Then, and only then, should you move on to step two.

Flipping Houses 2

2.) Educate Yourself on Flipping Houses

Step two is to get educated.

20 Best Real Estate Books BlogAlthough education is a lifelong pursuit, it’s also necessary to do before jumping into a house flip. I’m not advocating that you go and pay $50,000 for some kind of guru training camp – but I am suggesting you take your education seriously and buckle down to learn the basics.

As I mentioned in the intro, I can think of no better way to learn the basics of house flipping than The Book on Flipping Houses written by J Scott and published by BiggerPockets Publishing. Seriously, if you are planning on flipping houses and haven’t read this book through at least once carefully (and taken notes) you are not doing enough. If you’ve already read it – go back and read it again. Then read through “Flipping Houses for Dummies” and “FLIP: How to Find, Fix, and Sell Houses for Profit.” They are both excellent books for basic flipping knowledge.

Then, start to teach your spouse/kids/mom/dad/dog/cat what you’ve learned – as teaching is the best way to truly internalize knowledge. Don’t just look at the surface- try to get deep and understand how this stuff all works.

You don’t need to know absolutely everything in order to start flipping houses, but I’d advocate getting really good at the basics.

However, one last word of caution: Don’t get caught in this cycle for too long. You’ll never know everything… so dive into the education for a short while, learn all you can, and then move on.

House Flipping Math

3.) Educate Yourself on the Flipping Math

I decided to separate out the basic education from the math education because both are so important!

Without the right math going into a flip, you’ll never get the right money coming out of it. Understanding the math is the #1 most important trait in a successful flip, because the math determines how much you should pay, how much you should put into it, and how much you expect to get out.

To help with this, I want to encourage you to check out the BiggerPockets House Flipping Calculator. Watch the video below,and then go play with the numbers- find out how much you’ll really make on a hypothetical flip.

Then – do the numbers by hand as well, just to make sure you understand the math behind the calculators. If you are struggling with the numbers, go ahead and ask for help in the Deal Analysis forum here on BiggerPockets. There are thousands of investors in the forums every day, waiting to help.

Reach out and don’t move on until you understand the math.

For more on learning the math behind house flipping, including the popular 70% rule, be sure to check out:

Market Research

4.) Market Research

Next, you are going to want to take a look at the market and decide where the best place to flip will be. In some areas, $200,000 for a home would be absurdly cheap, where in other areas this $200,000 would be absurdly expensive. Every market is different, so you need to have a good handle on the market you plan to flip in. Ask yourself these questions:

  • How much are average homes selling for?
  • How much are bank REOs selling for?
  • How fast are properties selling?
  • What areas seem to be selling the fastest?
  • What property types/size/layouts seem to be selling the fastest?

Do a thorough job of understanding and honing in on your local market. Walk through as many open houses as you can, and meet with local experts to discuss the state of the local economy.

Then, cycle back to the math and see if flipping makes sense in that area.

Flip Financing 5

5.) Arrange Your Flip Financing

At this point, I know you are excited to get started, but let’s not put the cart before the horse. You first need to ask yourself a very basic question :

How are you going to pay for this flip?

There are a lot of different strategies you can use to finance your next house flip. Here’s a few of the more common methods:

  • All Cash – if you have the cash in your bank account, you can simply write the check. This is obviously the easiest solution, but for most folks, this is not likely.Raising Money to buy Real Estate
  • Conventional Financing – Some people utilize a normal bank loan to flip houses, but this can be difficult if the house is not in great shape (most banks won’t lend on unfinished homes.)
  • Home Equity Loans/Lines – If you have a large amount of equity in your personal home, you may be able to tap into this equity in the form of a “home equity loan or line of credit.” If you are interested in more of these strategies, talk to your local bank or credit union.
  • Hard Money Lenders– A hard money lender is a private individual or company that lends on high risk loans (like flips) and charge high fees and interest to get the money. Hard money loans are ideal on flips, because they typically have only a one year or less maturity date.  For the web’s largest directory of hard money lenders, see The BiggerPockets Hard Money Lender Directory
  • Partners/Private Money – If you know people who have money to lend, they may be interested in partnering or lending their cash at a certain interest rate. Private money can be one of the cheapest sources for funds, though raising private money can be difficult and legally-cumbersome.
  • Combination – Finally, you can mix and match nearly all of the above methods to finance your next flip.

You have a lot of different options, but you’ll need to pick one in order to move on. Finalize whatever source you plan on using BEFORE shopping for your investment property. Try to get a loan commitment if you plan on using any of the loans listed above, so when you find a property, you can quickly jump on it. In today’s hot market, speed is key in getting a great deal.

6 Real Estate Agent

6.) Find a Real Estate Agent

At this point, you understand what makes a good deal a good deal, have the financing lined up, and you are ready to rock. However, you don’t need to do it all yourself – there is one member of your team you definitely need to find: a Real Estate Agent.  Why? BECAUSE THEY ARE FREE.

Yep, your seller is going to pay the agent, so why not use one?

The agent can open doors, write up offers, get you comparable sales (so you know what properties are really worth) and so much more. Again, these agents are free so it only makes sense to find a good one – especially an investor-friendly agent (be sure to check out How to Find an Investor Friendly Realtor).  If you just call the agent who listed the property – you’ll be dealing with the seller’s agent who has a legal obligation to get you to pay the most possible. Do you really want that person helping you? Nope. Find a good agent.

One caveat here: if you plan to use Direct Mail to get your first flip (sending letters to thousands of individuals, hoping a small percentage will turn into deals) you DON’T want an agent. The same applies if you are looking to buy homes FSBO (For Sale By Owner.)  Real Estate Agents are ideal for buying homes off the MLS (the Multiple Listing Service… a collection of all the homes listed by other agents.) If you want to learn more about Direct Mail, check out How to Successfully Use Direct Mail In Your Real Estate Business.

7 Prospective Deal

7.) Define Your Prospective Deal

Before you start randomly looking at properties, you first need to funnel all the possible choices down to some specifics. This is when the Education and Market Research come in handy. You want to flip houses that people want to buy – so what kind of homes are they buying, and where? Let your Agent know this stuff, get a list of all the possibilities, and have them set you up with some Automatic Emails when properties that fit your requirements come on the market.  Specifically, define for yourself the following information:

  • What location will you flip in?
  • What is the most you’ll pay?
  • What is the least you’ll pay?
  • What is the minimum/maximum number of bedrooms?

You should now have some specific criteria to begin filtering through all the properties on the market- mostly automatically. Keep in mind, however, that sometimes a 2 bedroom home could become a 3 bedroom or a 1 bath house could become a 2 bath – so keep your criteria a little liberal.

Potential Flip Deals

8.) Start Analyzing Potential Deals

This is a really important step in the process, so don’t skip it. It’s time to take everything you’ve learned and start doing some deal analysis on real-live properties!

This game is largely a number’s game: every property has a price that makes it a great deal. Your job: find that sweet spot.  So actually get out some paper and start analyzing some real life flips, like I do in this video.

Your goal is to find properties that are close. For example, if you run the numbers and decide that you could pay $100,000 for a particular house, and it’s listed at $275,000  – you could probably just skip that one. However, if it was listed at $140,000 for the past 4 months… they might go down to $100,000.  If it’s at $105,000 – you probably have an easy deal to put together (but there may be reasons why!)

As I mentioned earlier, if you haven’t yet, be sure to check out the BiggerPockets House Flipping Calculator, which will help you very quickly plug in numbers to see the potential of any house flip deal.

calculator-iconI’d advocate analyzing at least 20 deals before you submit a single offer.

You need to be extremely confident in your ability to judge the potential of a property.  Head over to Zillow or Realtor.com and start grabbing some potential properties that look like good options. Do you your best to make assumptions about the rehab costs and other potential expenses. It’s more important to understand the process of analyzing these deals than actually knowing the exact values. This way, when you get a real potential deal across your desk, you’ll know what to do.

In addition to running the numbers with the BiggerPockets House Flipping Calculator, I also recommend asking for help in the BiggerPockets Deal Analysis Forum if you need some extra assistance. Every day, there are hundreds of real estate investors hanging out there, willing to help (completely for free) you look at a deal. Go ahead and get specific!

Also, during this process it’s important that you get out there and start physically looking at homes. Walk through as many as you can to see what’s inside. Ask a lot of questions and seek to learn as much as you can. This will not only help you find the best properties, it will motivate you as well!

Driving for Dollars Flipping

9.) Driving for Dollars

In addition to looking on the MLS, it’s not a bad idea either to get in your car and start driving – looking for deals.

In the real estate investing industry, we often call this “driving for dollars.” You are usually looking for properties that are vacant or need some serious cosmetic help. Often times, if you can find the owners (through public records) you’ll find them very willing to sell for a great deal. For a great step by step guide to driving for dollars, don’t miss Driving for Dollars Bible: Finding Distressed Properties and Marketing followed by Driving for Dollars Bible 2: Tracking Down Owners & More Tips.

Perfect House for Flipping

10.) Find the Perfect House for Flipping

After walking through and analyzing dozens of properties, talking with your agent about what you want, and getting everything prepared… you are eventually going to find the perfect potential house to flip. You may find one right away, or it may take you months to find the perfect property. Don’t worry so much about the time it takes – focus on finding the best deal possible. You don’t want your anxiousness getting in the way of your financial future, so be patient and stick to the criteria you created.

At this point, there is a very important lesson you need to understand:

Don’t let emotion take over the deal.

It’s inevitable that you are going to be excited. After all, you’ve put a lot of work into this thing and you really want to see it come together. However, this is no time to toss out everything you’ve learned so far. So be calm, stick to your numbers, and get ready for the real excitement to start.

Make an Offer

11.) Make an Offer

You’ve found the perfect property you want to pursue, and now it’s time to make an offer.  Typically, in real estate negotiations, the potential buyer will present the seller with a proposal that will include:

  1. How much the buyer wants to pay
  2. What financing the buyer will use
  3. When the deal will close
  4. Who is going to pay what closing costs
  5. Important “contingencies” that the deal hinges on, like having an inspection done.
  6. and a lot more.

If you found it through your real estate agent, your agent is going to help you through this entire process so it’s actually fairly easy.  If you found the property yourself (through word of mouth, driving for dollars, direct mail, or another source) you won’t  have the luxury of a real estate agent on your side (unless the home is listen on the MLS.) Instead, you can usually pick up the “Purchase and Sale Agreement” form from a local title company or office supply store, but if this is your first time, you may want to hire an attorney or a real estate agent to look over the paperwork and make sure you aren’t missing out on anything.

Deal with Contingencies

12.) Deal with Contingencies

When you hear real estate agents or investors talk about “contingencies” we are referring to the parts of a legal offer that are “escape clauses” – in other words, things that let you walk away from the deal without losing your earnest money (which we’ll get to in a moment.)  For example, you could have a contingency that says “this offer is contingent upon my cat fitting through the cat door” – though I wouldn’t recommend it. Too many contingencies will make the seller reluctant to accept your offer, but too few can put you in a difficult place.

So what contingencies should you include?

Typically, there are several contingencies most offers should have. Here are the most common:

1.) Appraisal Contingency – This contingency typically says one of two things. 1.) If you can’t get an appraisal on the property that is at least as high as the purchase price, you can back out of the deal; or 2.) if you can’t get an appraisal on the property that is at least as high as the purchase price, you can ask the seller to drop the price, and if they refuse, you can then back out of the deal.

2.) Inspection – It’s hard to know what a property’s true condition is just by walking through it for a few brief moments. For this reason, most people will want an “inspection contingency” that allows for you to hire an inspector to do an in-depth analysis of the condition of the home to hopefully uncover any hidden problems.

3.) Financing – Many real estate contracts included a financing contingency, which means the buyer can back out of the deal and get their earnest money back if they cannot obtain financing. This is the contingency most-often waived by real estate investors, because they can often purchase with all-cash.

Keep in mind, the fewer contingencies you have, the greater chance you’ll have of getting your offer accepted. Many investors choose to avoid contingencies altogether, hoping to make their offer as strong as possible. This obviously opens the investor to greater risk, so I only recommend this for experienced investors.

For an excellent article on the different contingencies you should use, check out Contract Contingencies and 4 Rules for Using Them.

13 Negotiations

13.) Negotiations

After you submit your offer, it’s time to wait to see what the seller has to say.

Usually, they will send an offer back to you (via your agent, if you have one) that is amended to what they want to see in the transaction. This is known as a “counter offer” and you can choose to accept or send the seller a counter offer.  The seller could, however, simply accept your offer and end negotiations, though this is generally not the case in my experience.

During negotiations, it’s vital that you stick to your numbers that you determined earlier. Emotion can run high during this phase, and you may be tempted to raise your price to numbers that no longer work in order to get the deal… but don’t do this! Stick with what you will work, and be willing to lose the deal if you can’t make it work. This is a number’s game, so stick to the numbers.

If you want to read an amazing article on negotiation, don’t miss How to Negotiate: 7 Real Estate Negotiation Tips.

In the end, one of two scenarios will occur:

  1. You come to an agreement (known as mutual acceptance)
  2. You can’t come to an agreement and you go your separate ways.

If you can’t come to an agreement, don’t necessarily think the deal is lost. I’ve bought numerous rental properties that were originally turned down. I once offered $65,000 on a property, and the offer was rejected. Six months later, however, after numerous price drops, I offered $45,000 and it was accepted! So don’t be afraid to wait it out. Stick to your number and maybe later (weeks, months, years) the seller will become more motivated and may sell at a much lower price.

Earnest money 14

14.) Mutual Acceptance and the Earnest Money

Finally, when your offer is accepted and both parties agree on a price and terms, you’ll need to pay the “earnest money” to make it all official.

Some agents prefer you give this money with the offer, but I try to wait until an offer is accepted before handing my money over to someone I don’t know.  This is especially important when you make a lot of offers. Whether working with a real estate agent or directly with a seller, this money is NEVER held by the seller themselves. This money should be kept by a third-party, typically the Title and Escrow company or attorney who will be closing the deal (we’ll talk more about this in a little bit.)

Title and Escrow Company

15.) Pick a Title/Escrow/Attorney

Once the offer has been accepted, the paperwork moves over to either a Title/Escrow company or an Attorney, depending on what state you live in (if you don’t know, just ask any real estate agent. They’ll tell you.)  From this point forward, I’ll probably just use the term “Title and Escrow Company” but if you are in a state that uses attorneys, just understand they serve the same function.

The Title and Escrow company is responsible for getting the deal closed. They will check the property for liens or other problems with the title, as well as prepare documents and schedule times for everyone to sign the paperwork.

Typically, if you are working with a real estate agent, your agent will suggest their favorite Title and Escrow company – or the seller may ask that you use their favorite. If you are working directly with a seller, don’t be afraid to ask a few agents what Title and Escrow company they prefer.

Get the House Inspected

 16.) Get the House Inspected

One of the first tasks to do once the property is under contract is to hire a professional inspector to come through and look at the property. Unless you are a contractor yourself, this is not a place to cut corners and try to save some money. A qualified, licensed home inspector can tell you a lot about the property you are about to buy – including the things you probably wouldn’t notice yourself, such as the condition of the wiring, plumbing, roof, and more.

Homebuyer CluesI’d recommend actually, physically doing the inspection with the inspector, and ask a lot of questions. The information you learn will serve you for years to come as you pursue flipping houses with more efficiency.

A home inspection typically runs between $400 and $600 for a typical single family home, and higher for multifamily properties. Again, this is no place to skimp.

One final note on getting the inspection: a home inspector’s job is to find problems, so don’t be scared when you get a 20 page list of problems. I’ve never purchased a property that didn’t have at least 50 things on that list to be fixed. No property is perfect, and if you wait for the perfect property, you’ll be waiting a long time. Instead, you want to find properties that have no major problems (roofs, foundations, etc) and/or budget to fix everything up.

Keep in mind – you may not want to fix every single thing in the inspection report, but the inspector will usually let you know what’s most important and what is just a good idea.  For example, you’ll probably want to fix a roof leak, but you may not want to fix a bent gutter on the back of the home (or maybe you do?)

After the inspection, you will have one of three choices:

  1. accepting the condition and moving on with the sale,
  2. Rejecting the condition and walking away from the deal
  3. Renegotiating the deal

Obviously if everything looks good, move forward and sign a document letting the seller’s know you accept the condition (your agent will have this if you are working with an agent.)

But what if there are serious, game-changing problems?

I would recommend not pursuing step two without at least pursuing step three first. For example, if you discovered that the home has bad wiring and needs to be totally re-wired, don’t immediately run. Instead, ask the seller to either fix the problem or credit you the cost of fixing it after closing. After all, now the seller knows about the problem and will have to deal with it in the future with another buyer anyways, so at least attempt to salvage the deal if possible.

scope of work

17.) Create Your Scope of Work

Creating your scope of work means making a detailed list of everything that needs to be completed on the project in order to get it ready to sell.

Although this step could be completed before the offer is accepted, I usually only do a “light” version so I don’t waste time on deals that won’t ever happen so instead, I usually wait until after the property inspection. Another benefit of this is that the property inspection will essentially give you a detailed scope of work that you can work off of.

If you are not comfortable with doing the work yourself, be sure to bring a qualified contractor with you to bid out these tasks. You don’t want to buy the property and suddenly realize your to-do list is much more expensive than anticipated. This is the fastest way to lose a lot of money and fail at your house flipping business.

Find Great Contractors

18.) Find Great Contractors

This step could actually be done at any place earlier in this process, but now is as good of time as any. If work is needed on the properties, and you don’t plan to do that work yourself, it’s time to find some dependable contractors. We’ve asked dozens of guests on the BiggerPockets Podcast “How do you find good contractors” and by and large, this seems to be one of the most difficult tasks for real estate investors. However, success can be found when you approach it like a business by proactively seeking out the best contractors.

hammer-iconI believe the best way to find a good contractor is through the referral from another real estate investor, house flipper, or property manager. Always get multiple bids from different contractors to ensure you are getting a good deal – but also don’t assume the cheapest is the best. In my opinion, there are three (loosely defined) types of contractors:

  • Low-end Contractors:  These are the guys who have a few tools and will do work for you on the side. They are typically not licensed,bonded,or insured, and you’ll have very little recourse if they do something wrong.  I’d recommend staying away from these guys if at all possible, except maybe simple jobs like mowing lawns, putting up signs, etc.
  • Average Contractors: These are the contractors that are licensed, bonded, and insured but typically work for themselves or for smaller companies. They are accustomed to working with real estate investors and property managers, so their rates are reasonable. I use these contractors for the majority of tasks.
  • High-End Contractors: These are the high end finish contractors who are building million dollar homes and renovating shopping malls. These are the guys that charge $2,000 to paint a bedroom because they have clients who will pay it. I’d recommend only using these guys sparingly on jobs that require high quality work (like countertops, fireplaces, etc.)

Be sure to get all bids in writing – and get them in detail. If the contractor says they will paint the exterior for $2,500 – does that include the doors? Does that include pressure washing? Get down to the nitty-gritty and get it all in writing; it will save you and the contractor a lot of stress in the future.

You will likely need several different contractors to do different parts of the job – so be sure to coordinate who will do what, when. Also determine how you will pay the contractor for the work they do.

If estimating rehab costs is not in your list of skills – I’d recommend checking out The Book on Estimating Rehab Costs, which comes free with The Book on Flipping Houses by J Scott.

Did I mention this book was awesome yet?

Due Diligence Flipping

19.) Finish Your Due Diligence

There are a number of tasks you’ll need to complete during your due diligence period. For example, during this time you will want to:

  • Make sure utilities have been paid and there are no outstanding debts.
  • Sign various disclosure documents from the Title and Escrow company as they are sent to you
  • Open up a checking account and order checks
  • Purchase property hazard insurance and (if needed) flood insurance
  • Schedule your contractors to get started.

It’s also important during this period to determine your schedule for getting the flip completed. As the person in charge of running the flip, you need to ensure work is getting done quickly – which means planning the different phases of the flip with your contractors to ensure there are no “dead days” where nothing gets done.

Close on the House Flip

20.) Close on the House

Finally, all your work is about to pay off – but it’s not the end of the journey yet – it’s just the beginning!

Your Title and Escrow company will schedule a time for you to come in and sign paperwork. Depending on what your state’s tradition is, you may or may not actually sit down with the seller at the closing table. At this time, the money from your lender (or your checking account) will be wired to the Title and Escrow company who will be responsible for making sure the correct amount is paid to each party.

Finally, the Title and Escrow company will send the deed to the county to be recorded and the property ownership will officially pass on to you! Congratulations – you are now an investment property owner! Now, it’s time to get to work…

Manage the Rehab

21.) Manage the Rehab

Hopefully during the due diligence period you arranged and organized all of this, so it should run pretty smoothly (Haha… yes, that was a bit of a joke. Flipping houses is never easy!) Your contractor  should be ready to get in on day one and knock out the punch list of tasks needed to get the property ready to re-sell.

Your job (unless you hire a project manager) is to ensure the contractors are getting the work done that they are suppose to, when they are suppose to be done. Contractors are notorious for taking significantly longer than they originally said, and without pressure from you, they’ll take even longer.


22.) Manage the Financials

You’ll also need to ensure bills are being paid, including the utilities, contractors, supplies, and other expenses as they add up. Keeping a close eye on the bills will also help ensure you stay in budget. This is by far one of the most frustrating parts of house flipping if you are not prepared.

The main piece of advice I have here is this: be organized. Seriously, you’ll thank me later if you go overboard on the organization during the phase.  There may be hundreds of receipts, bids, documents, and more floating around, but take a few moments every single day to organize them and enter them into a spreadsheet so you can keep track of your spending.

Please don’t underestimate the need for systems and organizations in your house flipping business.

Punch List

23.) Make Your Final Punch List

Finally, when all the contractors have finished their work, I usually find it’s time to jump in myself and create a “final punch list” of things that my contractor forget.

No matter how good the contractor is, they will forget some small details. It’s your job to go in, create a punch list, and get those things knocked out as quickly as possible.

And don’t pay the contractor until this is all done!

Staging and House Flipping

24.) Consider Staging

Staging is the practice of placing furniture, wall art, knick knacks, and other objects throughout the home to make it look more “lived-in.” Although it may seem counter-intuitive, most real estate experts agree that a staged home simply sells much faster and for more money than one that is un-staged.

Although you could hire a professional staging company to fill your flip with furniture and more, you could also save money by heading to your local furniture rental company (the “rent to own” ones) and having them stage the home for you for several months.

If you have a tight budget, consider just installing curtains (you can get cheap ones from places like Target or WalMart) and some cheap house plants from Lowes or Home Depot can do wonders.

List the Home on the MLS

25.) List the Home on the MLS

Finally, the property is finished and it looks FANTASTIC. It’s time to see what all the work has been for – and it’s time to list the home for sale. Although you could list it “For Sale By Owner” – most investors choose to list the home with a real estate agent and place it on the MLS for maximum exposure.

You will sign an agreement with a listing agent that spells out:

  • The sale price
  • The agent commission
  • How long the listing will last
  • and more.

Before actually listing the home, your agent will likely look at the comparable properties in the neighborhood that have recently sold and come up with a great listing price. Although you looked at the comps when you started the whole process, the real estate market may have changed, so be sure to re-evaluate to make sure you are listing at a competitive price.


26.) Have Your Agent Keep Tabs

While the home is on the market, there is not a ton of things you personally can do, besides maintaining the cleanliness of the home and answering questions when they come up.

However, your agent can do quite a bit during this time, so make sure they are! Ask for weekly reports (or better yet, have a phone conversation about the progress at least once per week) and make sure your agent is keeping your property a priority.

Chances are – your agent is listing dozens of properties at the same time, but as the saying goes “the squeaky wheel gets the grease.”  So be squeaky!

Get an offer

27.) Get an Offer- Don’t Celebrate Yet!

Finally, an offer! It may feel like time to break out the champagne, but don’t yet!

In my experience, 50% of offers never turn into sales, so don’t count your chickens before they hatch.

Instead, look at the offer for what it is: a business proposal. How does it look, financially? Are they offering enough – or are they sending you a low-ball offer? What about contingencies?  Are the pre-approved for a loan? Do they appear to be serious?

Instead of celebrating, sit down and go over the offer with a magnifying glass (figuratively) and talk about it with your spouse, your agent, your partner, and whoever else “needs to know.”


28.) Negotiate a Fair Price

Chances are – you are not going to simply accept the offer presented (though, there is no rule that says you can’t.) Instead, you’ll probably want to “counter” the offer with one that is better for yourself.  Most buyers and sellers in a real estate expect a little back-and-forth, so don’t be afraid to counter with a slightly higher number – most times people won’t run for the hills.

The paperwork may go back and forth a few times, and in the end you’ll either have a signed deal … or the agreement will simply fail and you’ll both go your own ways. Hopefully, however, you find success and can move on.

Due Diligence

29.) Allow Buyers to Do Their Due Diligence

Just as you had to do your due diligence when you bought the property, now your buyer will do the same. During this time, your buyer will probably hire a professional inspector to walk through the property and find every problem they can.

I’ll offer the same advice here as I did earlier:  an inspector’s job is to find every problem. Even after a complete rehab, the buyer will likely get back several pages of problems that you will need to address. The buyer will probably ask you to fix the majority of those problems, and the choice is yours as to whether or not you will. If you don’t – they may walk away from the deal, so consider each repair carefully and do what you can to keep the deal together.

Additionally during this time, the buyer will be finalizing their financing and doing the necessary steps needed to buy the home.

You will likely communicate several times with the Title and Escrow company (or attorney) concerning topics like loan payoff amounts and other details. Be as prompt as possible in returning phone calls and ensuring the sale goes as smoothly as possible on your end.


30.) Close on the Sale, Pay Taxes, and Move On

Finally, on the day of closing (or several days before) you will sit down at a big table and sign the closing documents at the Title company. Be sure to look over this paperwork carefully and inspect it for mistakes – which can be common. If you find any errors, immediately address them with the closing agent.

The Title and Escrow company will handle all the payments, accepting the incoming funds from the buyer and paying off the loans that you have on the property, giving you a cashier’s check (or wiring your bank payment) for the difference.

One final note about these funds … they are not all yours to keep. Instead, any profit you make needs to be shared with the government when tax time comes. House flipping is generally considered “active” income and therefore taxed at the highest levels. However, with good tax planning, you can often avoid a good portion of the taxes due so be sure to seek out a qualified tax professional BEFORE selling your flip.

Finally, take your profit and sink it into the next flip or use it as cash infusion to buy rental properties or to buy real estate notes. House flipping can be a lot of fun – but it IS active income, so continue to build up your passive income at the same time to build real wealth.


Flipping Houses Conclusion

There you have it – 30 steps for completing the perfect house flip!

As I mentioned in the beginning, if you are serious about wanting to flip houses – don’t rely on this blog post alone. Dive into the educational world of house flipping by checking out The Book on Flipping Houses by J Scott here on BiggerPockets. Seriously… like, right now.

If you have any questions or comments, I invite you to jump into the conversation in the comments below and let’s chat!

Finally, I would like to ask a favor. This post took weeks to write – so if you found it valuable, I ask that you share it on your Facebook, Twitter, G+, Linked, or whatever other social network you use!  Just click one of the social media below to share this with your friends!


About Author

Brandon Turner

Brandon Turner is an active real estate investor, entrepreneur, writer, and co-host of the BiggerPockets Podcast. He began buying rental properties and flipping houses at age 21, discovering he didn’t need to work 40 years at a corporate job to have “the good life.” Today, with nearly 100 rental units and dozens of rehabs under his belt, he continues to invest in real estate while also showing others the power, and impact, of financial freedom. His writings have been featured on Forbes.com, Entrepreneur.com, FoxNews.com, Money Magazine, and numerous other publications across the web and in print media. He is the author of The Book on Investing in Real Estate with No (and Low) Money Down, The Book on Rental Property Investing, and co-author of The Book on Managing Rental Properties, which he wrote alongside his wife, Heather. A life-long adventurer, Brandon (along with his wife Heather and daughter Rosie) splits his time between his home in Washington State and various destinations around the globe.


  1. Ben Leybovich

    OK. The good thing is that this is going to drive 500 from Google a year from now. The bad thing – I’m really worried about you…you need a vacation – wanna came to Lima?

    Wow – simply skimming this was a chore. I can’t imagine what it took to write this monster. Good job Brandon!

  2. If that article does not scare away the lazy, the quick buck artist, and the insincere wannabe I do not know what will!

    Wholesaling is a JOB, takes time, takes capital, takes experience.

    Bird Dogging for a year, (meaning finding houses for Wholesalers), reading for a year, keeping your job for a year, that might be a good idea!

    Brandon, that article is going on my blog!

    Thanks soooo much!

  3. Brandon, very comprehensive post. One point to make clear is to have the sales contract have the inspection clause as an out to get out of the deal. The terms should be structured in favor of the buyer.
    From a tax perspective, sometimes a Section 1031 qualified like kind exchange can be used to defer gain. A tax attorney should be consulted for the details.

  4. Great article Brandon!
    REI is a serious business and treat it like a business (Biz plan, execution, administration) and it all comes down to experience and hard work but payout is great. You laid it out very well step-by-step. I am in learning phase and have not flipped a single property yet. The more I learn the more humble I get because there is a whole lot to learn. I do have rentals in DETROIT Brandon (sorry) but it is working fine for me.
    Thanks again. Keep up the good work.

  5. Outstanding overview of the process! I hope this opens the eyes of all those real estate wannabees watching re-runs of “Flip this House”. That show makes it look so easy, even a caveman could do it. Then again, I do have some Cro-Magnon tendencies.

      • Perry E. Tucker on

        I have long been interested in real estate investing, but I’m just an $80k per year truck driver with very little time to spare.
        I do have hands-on experience in several aspects of home remodeling, but would love to make it a full-time business.
        I see some fluffy comments that don’t add any encouragement to those who could seriously make a successful effort in the business. I think we refer to those as “internet trolls”?
        Anyhow, very thorough article for those who are truly interested.
        My only concern is the capital required, and whether or not I need to be licensed as a general contractor to do my own work, and who, where, or how to get hard money financing with an initial business plan?

  6. Very good and detailed information. Though I have been investing in real estate since 2001, I have never spent a dime on education in real estate investing. This is another good source of information. Main source is a public Library.

    Go for it. Thanks for the info.

  7. Jeez, Brandon, I was just about to launch my new FLIP LIKE ME guru seminar and here you go and give all the secrets away for free! NICE WORK! My only feedback would be in regard to Step 10. I think it’s a big challenge to find any good deals on the MLS in most major markets in the U.S. today – not impossible, but investors should be prepared to pay more (for MLS-listed properties) than those found via marketing directly to motivated sellers for deals.

  8. Michael Woodward on

    Wow. Excellent article Brandon! Now I know what to get you for Christmas! 🙂

    Your puzzle analogy is a perfect example for this business. I’m the type that enjoys puzzles and the satisfaction of seeing my progress as I get big sections completed. Seeing the business develop and mature is even more exciting because of the lifestyle and benefits that come with it. In my opinion, everyone needs to draw their own business “puzzle picture” (lifestyle planning) so they will know where to put the pieces that re-create that image. This is an analogy that will stick with me. You obviously put a lot of effort into this article. Thanks!!

  9. Awesome job, Brandon. I’m so appreciative of the quality and depth of the information. I hope people realize how useful it is and that it’ll save them thousands on some of the “courses” (I use the term loosely) out there. Bookmarked for future reference!

  10. Carolyn Lorence on

    Brandon, this is amazing work! Thank you for all your hard work and sharing with the rest of us – and at no charge! You really have a unique talent for simplifying a complex subject, and without any hype. If only you would have written this two years ago! 🙂

    Do you ever sleep? Keep up the good work!!

    And thanks, again.

  11. General question I guess that made me think of this as I was reading. I’m new so trying to learn things still, but is it a bad idea to have more than one real estate broker sending me leads or should I narrow it down to one agent?

    Great article!

  12. Great Article. I am definitely adding this to my favorites. While I have yet to get my first deal, I feel more confident because I was thinking all of this stuff already. Thanks for organizing it for us. Figuring out which comes first, the financing or the deal, has really been holding me up. Thanks again.

  13. “And don’t pay the contractor until this is all done!”

    This can’t be repeated enough times. My last contractor had a pregnant wife and dropped off the face of the planet the moment the last check was in his hands.

    Thanks for a great, comprehensive, and thought provoking article!


  14. Terry Roberts on

    I’ve flipped for 30 years. There are recession years I don’t count. I do small remodels during recessions. I’m also a general contractor.
    You’ve done a lot of writing. I’ll read it and see. My usual take on flippers is there are very very few good ones. Most are wanta-bes.
    Just from casual perusal, I see too much here which really doesn’t work if you want to make good money instead of having a hobby.

  15. Great article. Has anyone found great software to manage their contractors and keep them on task. Something that updates them as well and reminds them of their due dates and such. Or when one contractor finishes it updates the next that they can start.

  16. Brandon as a newbie this was really a helpful overview….a great extensive outline. Thanks for all the time you put in on it. You don’t make flipping/rehabbing seem at all simple which tells me there is a lot of truth here. This is the place to be to get grounded in reality and meet great people. I am already meeting with an investor next week to look at his latest rehab and talk about the biz. Thanks so much for all your help.

  17. Brandon, This was a great read and you humbled me. I have done a flip and I wish I had this resource a few years ago. I have met some knowledgeable folks on this site to get me started again. Thanks you for all the great help you provide!

  18. Excellent resource! One thing I would add, especially for new investors, is to search out a good real estate investment club that’s local. A good club will meet monthly and have tons of networking opportunities. And generally, they’re all really nice people that are willing to share information freely. I definitely wouldn’t have been able to pull off my first flip without the resources I “stumbled” on when I attended my first club meeting. I was introduced to hard money lenders and some really decent contractors. And also a list of contractors to avoid like the plague!! Priceless info!
    Driving for dollars for direct marketing opportunities is a great way to start looking for your first flip, as it also helps you become familiar with your properties’ neighborhoods. Can’t say enough for finding good school districts with rehabbing opportunities. Oh…and never buy a house across the street from either a convenient store or a motel!! Great info guys!

  19. I’m only exploring flipping houses and this was incredibly helpful! I’m sure I’ll refer back to it many times when I officially enter the world of real estate investment. Thank you!

  20. Heath Lester

    I know this blog post is a couple of years old, but is very valuable. I’ve slowly realized that I need to do a flip or two in order to get resources for the rentals and passive income. Thanks to this article and my new purchase of “The Book on Flipping Houses” and “The Book on Estimating Rehab Costs” I believe I will be better equiped going in. Thanks Brandon!

  21. Ronald Logan

    Sometimes I am a “Just jump in” type of guy and sometimes I am an “Analysis-Paralysis” type of guy. This article really gives a great list type format of what to do and when. This is a significant help for me. In addition have also purchased the recommended books and are beginning these to build upon my education. The part about being patient also hits home as I feel that all of the analysis that I have been doing (with no results to show) has gotten me to wonder however this article really emphasizes the need to be patient and wait for the right deal. Not deal is better then a bad deal, So ultimately, Thank you so much Brandon for putting this together.

  22. Christopher Hamlett

    Great article Brandon! I am new to investing and flipping houses is one of the first niches that I plan to get started with. This article has helped to lead me in the right direction. I also ordered The Book on Flipping Houses by J Scott (comes with the Estimating Rehab Cost); i’m definitely looking forward to reading them!

  23. Ben Wendt

    Agree with all previous posters: this was an excellent article. Having read through The Book on Flipping Houses by J. Scott, I can say that it’s worth the buy. Thank you for an easy to red, generalized breakdown of the flipping process!

  24. Robert Martinez on

    Gurus and Renatoos must be seething about you giving out information they charge thousands for it.

    Caveat, this article is for a perfect flip, no way this applies if the flip is not perfect. Is there a perfect flip?

  25. Ron Biggs


    Great article where were you when I started doing this business almost 40 years ago…….oh yea you weren’t born yet! Well I just couldn’t wait and got started with out you but wow would I have loved to have this info a few decades ago!

    Ok I am going to stop as I am making myself feel old! But great great work!


  26. Julia Bobe

    I’m a new member in BiggerPockets, I just joined about 2 weeks ago. First I want to say I totally love your style, I really enjoy reading your articles, they are very informative, direct to the point and fun at the same time.
    I have a question about the calculator, I wonder why you use 6% as the agent fee for your flipping deal example. I thought that if I am a Real Estate agent and I’m selling my flip without using an agent, I only had to pay 3% (the buyer’s agent fee). I’m considering getting my Real Estate license but I won’t if I don’t need to. Please, help me clarify this. Thanks!

  27. Kyle Smith

    Hi Brandon love this post and all that comes along with BiggerPockets. I found BP Sunday evening after completing a 3 day workshop with FortuneBuilders. I was upset I didn’t have the required funds to further my education with them. However I know what I wanna do and that is becoming a successful real estate investor. I got online and found BiggerPockets after about 3 hours of looking into real estate investments. Since then I’ve been on my computer non stop learning and collecting valuable information, attended the webinar last night and upgraded to Pro today. Brandon, thank you for this opportunity I have a lot of work to do !

  28. Grant Gildner

    Newbie here – reading blogs, guides and listening to pod casts on the way back forth to the W2 and while driving my selected neighborhoods. The info on BP is amazing, its like trying to get a drink from a fire hose, awesome!!! Just put offer #2 in this morning on first potential flip. Offer #1 was on a different house, didn’t get that one. I guess that just means someone else spent too much money. Brandon thank you, keep on educating

  29. Ahmed Hamza

    I know its definitely an amazing article when I hold my pen and notebook to start taking notes. Very helpful info in here for anyone who’s learning and exploring the market like me or even a pro who’s already flipping.

    Thanks Brandon!

  30. Mike Rohr

    Thanks BIG TIME for all your great information, here and throughout BP. You totally ROCK!

    BTW, this is Sherrie Eberle, Mike’s business partner. We are just starting into investing, educating ourselves and looking forward to writing our first deal. So glad I came across BP and signed Mike up! Hoping to get him to go Pro today.

  31. John Mathewson

    Awesome guide to those who are looking to get started in the flipping business. It takes a lot of work and most of the time the construction will take longer and cost more than you plan but if managed correctly it can be very beneficial.

  32. Brendon Grover on

    Awesome read! I am beginning to look into this new occupation very carefully and with A LOT of ambition and motivation. I have family and brothers in the military that are real estate agents, licensed plumbers, electricians, carpenters. It is a very intriguing lifestyle. Brandon- out of all of the information and knowledge and experience you have gained over the years, what would you say is the single most important thing to become a successful “house flipper”? I thank you for your response!!

  33. alex kamunya

    Really great post. I bought the book which I like too! The really good thing about your lay out walks you through the process step by step and give you practical advice. You can tell it is from someone that has done it before as opposed to being desktop due diligence.

  34. Travis Smith

    I’m new to the real estate game, but so far, the BP podcasts, blog posts, and forums have been invaluable sources of not only knowledge, but also inspiration and motivation. Thanks for everything you guys are doing!

  35. xavier mc holder

    Good evening i recently attended a 3 day seminar on real estate investing and the strategy they suggested we utilize to get started was not wholesaling as i have heard many other times but by Flipping foreclosures, would any of you suggest the same for an individual with little cash reserved? and if not what would you suggest?

  36. I listen to past episodes of the BiggerPockets podcast in my car every morning. In one episode, someone mentioned that to find a good contractor, he goes out to the Home Depot at 6:00 AM on a weekday morning. Responsible contractors are usually buying or picking up materials early in the morning. I used his advice and got a few business cards. I sent my project’s scope of work to 6 different contractors and had 4 of them visit my property. I liked two, and decided on the one with the better references. He’s been my contractor since then.

  37. Stephanie Williams on

    Do you have any advice on buying REOS? I have an connection with a bank so I receive a weekly list of REOS. I want to take advantage of this opportunity. I am looking to start a company that buys these properties and fixes them up and rents them out! Any advice?

  38. I have a question. We are flipping my husband’s childhood home. This is our first experience doing this. We are getting a hard money loan and hiring a general contractor. I read in the article about opening a checking account? Is that something we should do even though it’s not our plan to make flipping a business? Do the checks from the mortgage company get made out to us or the general contractor? Thanks!!

    • Delon Hall

      Opening a separate checking account is great for keeping the money thats reserved for renovations and your personal cash separated. And come tax time when you sale the property its much easier to print out the bank statements to show the IRS what your expenses were, without having to shuffle through reciepts and highlights on a personal checking account. Believe me your accountant will thank you for it.
      As far as who the checks are made out, always check with your lender. Some lenders may make it out directly to the contractor, but most lenders make the check out to you especially if your using the draws method.

  39. Brandon Rigelsky

    This is my first encounter with BiggerPockets, and I must say I am intrigued. As an experienced real estate agent, and contractor, I can confirm this information helpful, informative and accurate. I am currently educating myself and preparing a traditional business plan for presentation to institutional and private lenders. My goal is to open a development company to include real estate and construction with flipping houses and growing into ground up projects.

  40. Linda Fotia

    Brandon, great write-up. I’m new to the flipping business and Bigger Pockets and I found this article very helpful and informative. I’ve also purchased the J Scott book. Love the blogs as lots of good information from others.

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