In the last few years it seems society has gone house-flipping mad. Every time I turn on the TV there is yet another show illustrating the ease in which anyone with a heartbeat can make a fortune buying a beat-up house and turning it into a beautiful modern-day wonder.
Often at the end of these shows they hold an open house and with great ease procure a buyer and close the show by sticking a SOLD sign in front of it. Then of course they do a cost breakdown for you and show you the huge amount of cash they made in just a few weeks. The speed at which some of the homes are turned from trash to treasure can be nothing less than amazing at times. Personally I wouldn’t want a home that’s been overhauled in a race against the clock, but that’s just me.
Unfortunately, as with most reality shows, there’s just not a lot of reality to it. They omit financial burdens such as interest rates, excise taxes, escrow fee’s, and of course commissions paid to any real estate agent that may procure a buyer. These costs can easily cut the “profit” in half for most of the homes I’ve seen flipped on these shows. I recently had a client call me to proudly tell me about a home they found that they felt (based on watching these shows) would turn them a 40k profit when completed. Once I went through and explained the additional cost they would incur in selling it, they said “well shoot there’s no money at all in it”.
My philosophy is that if there isn’t at least an obvious 100k profit to be made before taxes, fee’s and commissions, you’re working for free at best, and losing money at worst. With today’s sluggish sales, it’s a real crap shoot. Do not make the mistake of believing you can replicate the results seen on TV. Much of what’s shown is pure trickery.
A&E recently pulled all re-runs of Flip This House that feature Atlanta businessman Sam Leccima, who stands accused of fraud regarding the homes he “flips”. Buyers claimed his fixes to the homes were temporary patch jobs and he is also accused of having friends pose as potential buyers so he could slap a ‘Sold’ sign on his flipped homes, some of which he apparently didn’t even own.
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Finding Flips at Trustee Auctions
I’ve also had many clients in recent months ask me how they can buy foreclosed homes at Trustee auctions, because they feel that’s a great opportunity to flip a house at maximum profit. My answer is quite simple; if you want to buy a home you haven’t walked through, haven’t had inspected or appraised, and you want to pay cash for it, that’s the best way to do it.
Many such homes being sold at Trustee auctions weren’t simply lost to the bank by hard working honest people that got down on their luck. Often (more times than you think) these homes were part of straw mortgage scams and were intentionally abandoned. In a straw mortgage the buyer secures a FSBO (for sale by owner) property, then gets an unscrupulous appraiser to “push value” and borrow over and above the purchase price, pocket the difference, then walk away from the home.
The home you think your getting at 80% of the purchase price is actually worth about 70% of what was loaned on it, thus your already paying 10% more than its worth before you even begin repairing it. Therefore, before any of you jump into the house flipping business with delusions of easy money, beware of the pitfalls lying-in-wait for you. Anything that has the potential to make you a fortune has the potential to lose you a fortune. Don’t believe everything you see on TV, and don’t believe all of those homes sitting on Trustee’s web sites were truthfully bought for the amount financed.
I would suggest you practice by remodeling your own home first and get hands-on experience, and if you can’t afford to lose the money you would be required to invest, then you need to walk away.
Don’t let your Flip, become your Flop.