Contract Assignment 101: The Beginner’s Guide to Wholesaling Real Estate

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If you’re new to real estate investing, there is a term called “contract assignment.” If you have not come across this term or you are unsure of the intricate parts of contract assignment, I am going to spell it out. If need be, re-read this article again and again. Also do not be afraid to ask questions in the comment section below.

We are in the prime selling season in most markets. During this time, investors are normally busy trying to lock down as many properties as possible. In our market, Phoenix, we are seeing an influx of buyers looking for deals. I recently had a conversation with a group of investors looking to get their hands on almost anything that will generate a profit. It would seem that we have not learned from the previous market crash how the real estate climate can change in an instance. My philosophy is ride the storm and assign as many real estate deals as possible.

If you have sat through any get-rich-quick guru pitches, the majority of them will introduce contract assignment wholesaling, but without giving you all the steps involved. Here is what they are referring to when they say “make $5,000 in the next 60-90 days.”

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What is a Contract Assignment?

Short and simple. This is when you first find a property a seller is willing to sell significantly below market value. You then resell that property to another buyer, normally a real estate investor, at a higher price.

Can This Be Done?

Absolutely, I’ve done numerous transactions in Phoenix, although it is not as easy as it’s normally taught, however it is a proven real estate investment strategy with a very low barrier to entry.

contract-assignment

 How Exactly Does Contract Assignment Work?

1. Find a motivated seller.

First let’s begin with what a motivated seller is. This is an individual who NEEDS to sell a property normally very quickly. There is usually some sort of distress going on in their lives. There is a huge disparity between want to sell and need to sell. Knowing which category your seller falls into is the first step in identifying how to handle the situation.

If I want to sell, there is no since of urgency. There’s normally no timeframe in which to finalize the sale. However, “need to sell” sounds like this :”I have to sell this house now because I’m moving to Maryland to take care of my ailing mother, and I have no other family members in the area.” This is a “need to sell” scenario.

Meanwhile, “want to sell” sounds a lot different: “I’m curious to see what my house is worth because I may be selling next year.” As you can see, there is a reason behind the need to sell versus the second scenario, where there is just curiosity.

There are numerous ways to find motivated sellers, such as driving for dollars, newspaper ads, internet marketing, direct mail marketing, etc. If you begin to research real estate marketing, you will find many forms, but make sure you use a combination of multiple strategies.

Related: Wholesalers Get a Bad Rap — But They’re Essential to Investors for These 3 Reasons

2. Get the contract.

There are many assignment contract templates on the web; however, I make sure an attorney at least has laid his/her eyes on it and approves the document. There are two reasons this is so critical. First, you will have comfort knowing your document is legally sound. Second, you will be able to utilize that attorney as counsel in the event you find yourself in litigation.

There is critical verbiage that need to be added to your assignment contract “and/or assigns.” Why is this so critical? This verbiage authorizes you to re-trade the property to another buyer who is interested in the property. When you receive the signed contract, you now have equitable interest in the property and have some legal standing in what happens to the property.

To provide clarity to the seller if asked about the “and/or assigns” clause, I inform them that we buy numerous houses, and we often have funding partners that we work with. These partners ensure we have more than one set of eyes to run the numbers.

3. Submit contract to title.

This process may differ in each state, but there is normally either a title company or a closing attorney that will conduct a title search. The title search will check the historical records of the property to make sure there are no liens on the property. It is important not to sell a property with a defective title. The title company or the closing attorney is a independent third party hired to make sure the deal is fair as agreed upon in the contract.

scale-wholesaling-business

4. Find your buyer and assign the contract assignment.

Here is another leg of marketing. Working to find your end buyer can be daunting, but once you have a solid buyer, you can begin the process of closing the transaction. First, when you find your buyer (via Craigslist ads, Zillow, email marketing etc.), you should require a nonrefundable earnest money deposit.

Having the buyer furnish an nonrefundable earnest money deposit secures your position in making a profit. This money will become yours whether the transaction closes or not. The earnest money can be as much or as little your require within reason. I’ve seen deposits of hundreds of dollars up to $5,000. When the buyer deposits the earnest money, you then know that your buyer has a real interest in the property and is willing to move forward. This fee is normally held by the title company or the closing attorney.

5. Get Paid!

This is what most of us want to hear. We get paid when the end buyer wires in the funds for the deal. This money will cover what you stated you were willing to buy the property from the seller for, as well as your fee for facilitating the transaction. As an example, if you told the seller you would buy the house for $45,000 and you then sold your interest in the property to the buyer for $50,000, then your assignment fee is $5,000.

Related: The Harsh Truth About Wholesaling Newbies Need to Know

It is important that everything is disclosed because I’ve seen transactions stall at the closing table due to the seller or the buyer does not agreeing with you as the assignor making money. Again, this is why you inform you seller specifically that you are going to make a profit; however, ensure them that they will still receive the amount agreed upon for the price.

Other Considerations

It is standard practice that assignments are done only on profits of $5,000 or below. But if you are comfortable with the seller and the buyer, it’s possible to assign a contract for a much higher fee.

In the event you are not comfortable with all parties in the transaction, a double close or simultaneous close will keep both legs of the transaction anonymous. Be aware not all title companies will agree to conduct a double close, so this needs to be discussed in advance.

Contract assignment cannot be done on all transactions. HUD homes, REOs, and listed properties present many barriers when trying to perform this type of transaction. With many REO properties, the lender will ensure there is a seasoning period — normally 90 days — before you can resell the property.

As you can see, there are some clear benefits to contract assignment for big paid days.

Investors: Have you ever assigned a contract? Any questions about this process?

Let me know your thoughts with a comment!

About Author

Marcus Maloney

Marcus Maloney G+ is the Executive Officer of Equity Realty & Investments as well as 3rd Generation Management & Holding LLC, both are family owned and operated real estate investment firms. The firms' goal is to provide affordable solutions in real estate while providing exceptional opportunities for community redevelopment for the residents of Phoenix, Arizona and Chicago, Illinois. You can follow Marcus on Twitter

60 Comments

    • People expect that real estate agents will make money on the transaction. In my community, the commission is typically 6%. If there are no agents involved, I do not see how the seller would object to paying a “commission” to find a buyer. It seems to me the main difference is that wholesalers must be prepared to sometimes buy the house themselves and look for a buyer later. Agents do not usually operate like this.

      • Katie, wholesalers do not “have” to buy the house this is the reason for the inspection period. We normally have a 14 business day inspection period. We inform the seller that if we forsee the property is not going to move, we can cancel the contract within that timeframe. This is all disclosed upfront so they are aware of this possibility. The great thing about it is that we only had to cancel one contract in my many years of buying houses.
        “Enjoying the Journey”

      • I did not say that wholesalers have to buy the house, however other BP wholesalers have said that wholesalers need to be prepared in case they do need to buy the house themselves in order to fulfill the contract to the seller. This situation never happens to an agent.

        Your 14-business-day inspection period is great. The typical agent-prepared sales contract generally allows a minimum of 17 CALENDAR days, very difficult when home inspectors and pest inspectors want to make their appointments two weeks out.

      • Katie Rogers

        Please see Mr. Maloney’s response to Paul Huenefeld below who asked the same question. The inspection period on a wholesale is a little different than the specific home inspection conducted on a conventional sale by a home inspector (and paid for by the buyer). The term, inspection, is used more broadly here to encompass all the due diligence including you, the wholesaler, finally getting inside to look at (inspect) the exact condition of the property. Of course, if you want a professional to make an itemized list of the property’s condition, features and demerits, you should expect to pay for it.

      • Benjamin Barredo

        Marcus, do you still include that inspection period even if you already saw the house? For example, recently had a potential deal come across my computer. I was talking to the owner and scheduled a day to come see the property and had planned to get it under contract that day. Then I remembered that I’m supposed to use the 30 days (or 14 days if that’s what you do) for an “inspection period” which I use to get my numbers right, find a buyer and if all of that doesn’t work out I can walk away by using the inspection clause as an out. However, how does that work when your buyers want to do their due diligence, which they should? Can you look at the property and still ask for an inspection period? Is it okay to be straightforward with them and tell them this inspection period is to allow potential buyers or “partners” to come view the home as well?

        I get myself twisted over the details like this and I tend to freeze up. The clearer I can make all of this in my head the better I’ll be when that next deal falls in my lap. I lost that last one because I wasn’t sure how to approach it and I aggravated the seller.

    • Marcus Maloney

      Chris,

      Thanks for reading; to answer your question the end buyer pays the closing cost. So when you market the property for a buyer you need to have a phrase “the price is net to the seller”, this informs the buyer that when the transaction is complete the price you marketed the property for is the amount that you and the seller walk away with.

      Example:

      123 E. Main St for sale 98k this price is net to the seller. “Buyer must conduct his/her own due diligence and the information provided is a matter of opinion”.

      This will cover you for most liability purpose for instance if the property is 1250 sqft and you marketed the property as 1289 sqft. This is not done intentional but mistakes do occur with the tax records or mls records.

      In our example you got the property under contract for 92k and you have a 6k assignment fee, so you and the seller will walk away with what you requested. All other fees are the buyers responsibility.

      I hope I didn’t complicate things. If you have any more questions just shoot.

      “Enjoying the Journey”

    • Lydia T.

      I would say yes it is possible, but it is probably not the best idea. Motivated sellers typically want quick closings and obtaining bank financing is not a quick process. If you cannot purchase the property yourself and then sell to your buyer that needs a loan, I would suggest that you find an investor that you can wholesale this deal to.

    • Marcus Maloney

      Pamela,

      This is possible like @Lydia stated and motivated sellers are looking for a fast transaction, however it is likely. There are many options for this but here’s a few:

      1) You can inform your buyer that you need to extend the close of escrow. You can get it extended to about the time the buyer will be able to be approved for the loan. Then close the transaction. I did a transaction that had a close of escrow date a year in the future. This will not work in many situations but if the seller is not in an extreme hurry this can be done.

      2) You can request your buyer to get a short term hard money loan and then refinance out once the VA loan is approved. I have numerous buyers use this strategy. This way you help the seller and the buyer and yourself.

      Hope this helps. “Enjoying the Journey”

  1. Ricardo Cortes

    Thank you for writing the article, i did the mistake of sprinting into my real estate career, thinking i can go to all REI events in my area and come out with something.

    I now know this is a marathon, i trying to keep a good pace by reading.

  2. Ayse K.

    What about seller is no urgency but called to sell about market price. What to say to seller that time. You know I give advertising saying “I buy houses” Should I say to seller no thanks I’m only interesting if you want to sell desperately. I’m curious about how manage other than urgency seller. In the meanwhile thanks for article.

    • Ayse,
      Great question, your marketing is great you do buy houses however not every house fits your buying criteria. We have a few options for your situation. First we are license Realtors so we can recommend listing the property for them so they can receive top dollar for their home. This is why I strongly recommend getting a license. Secondly if you’re not a Realtor you can refer the seller to a Realtor, this will help you build rapport with the Realtor and he/she will then refer clients to you that are motivated and have urgency. You help the seller and build your network.
      Hope this helps….Thanks again for reading.
      “Enjoying the Journey”

      • Benjamin Barredo

        I’m planning on getting my license for that reason and also to get access to the MLS.

        I hesitate on doing it because of the fact that I need to also have money for marketing……or don’t I?

        If I got my license and only wanted to do it to represent sellers that wanted full market value and to access the MLS, do I need to have a lot of money for advertising? Also, do I need to hang my license with a firm and how much does that generally cost? Are they upfront costs or a percentage of my commission after closing?

        • Marcus Maloney

          Benjamin,

          Even if you saw the house you still want to incorporate the inspection period, this will give your buyers’ contractors an opportunity to walk the property. Any seller will allow an inspection period you just have to inform them that you want know exactly what you are buying and to present them an offer.

          Also getting a license is a good idea but focus on your marketing first, this will bring you closer to a deal.

          “Enjoying the Journey”

  3. Phil Scheiris

    Ive been having trouble understanding the escrow part of this transaction. I have little money to put down myself and thats why I want to in the first place do the assignment (to make some cash to do more deals). In my understanding when you sign the initial contract with the motivated seller, you also have to put down a deposit of some sort for escrow to them to show you are serious and then you find the buyer. Are there ways around this like in your contract putting escrow to be paid by end buyer or would that not get you a contract at all. This is my only dilemma in moving forward right now I have all other components in place.

    • Ok ways around earnest money….there is no strategic way around this. I’ve learned that in most cases if you do not mention EM you do not have to add it to the contract. You can have the EM as low as you can possibly can. Remember everything is negotiable and use that as a tool to negotiate with.

      I’ve made 20k with EM AS LOW AS 100 bucks, and I’ve done deals I had to put up a 1000 it depends upon how savvy your seller is.
      Let me know if you need clarity, I can help you out.
      “Enjoying the Journey”

      • Phil Scheiris

        Ya as a new investor and im sure many have the same issue, i have been hesitant on making any offers because i know that I don’t have alot to put into em. what would be your advice on moving forward. Just to call talk to them make my offer verbally just to see if were even on the same page, then if we are to write out a contract to assign and leave out and not mention EM and it’s possible to get a contract this way? Then if they do bring up the EM I can negotiate what I can afford and if they want more either just stop the negotiations or could i put in the addendum of the contract that the buyer I assign the contract to will put a EM deposit in my place? I know this might sound so simple haha but it’s the only thing stopping me from moving forward. Ive talked to buyers learned the numbers game and all else just this part is baffling me. Thank you for your patience and advice Marcus! (P.S. our sons name is also Markus.. with a K so funny how here you are helping us!)

    • Marcus Maloney

      Adam, the best way is to have buyers list of creditable buyers you can market the property to. So many gurus try and tell you its good to have thousands of buyers but you will find that you only need a handful that close deals consistently with you. If you do not have a buyers list, post the property on Craigslist….the first few deals I did were from CL buyers and that help build my buyers list. Also you can get a free account with postlets.com and post it there it will also post on zillow.com so you will have tons of eyes on it. Finally you can contact a wholesaler in your area and joint venture on the deal and get it sold. By doing the latter it will give you a resource and can possibly start out to become a mentor for you. The name of the game is leverage; leverage others talents, time, and resources, and don’t worry it is reciprocal you will be leverage for them at some point. Give it a try it works and if it don’t work this time keep trying it will eventually become gold for you. I am a witness to that.

      “Enjoying the Journey”

  4. Hi Marcus, this is great information. We are very interested in starting to wholesale properties but wondered if there were any online courses you would recommend to further our education.

  5. Tomas Sablon

    This article is great. Very good general outline of wholesaling. I don’t wholesale yet but from my readings it seems it depends more on the persons drive and hustle to really earn. Thanks so much for writing this article!

    • Marcus Maloney

      Tomas,

      Thanks for reading, you are exactly right the principles are simple but you have to be able to hold yourself accountable and push through adversity.

      When you’re ready to get started and have any questions please feel free to contact me. Again thanks for reading.

      “Enjoying the Journey”

    • Marcus Maloney

      Andrew,

      I’m glad you were able to get something from the post. I believe a lot there is a ton of good content in the comments as well.

      If you have any questions you know where to find me my friend. Good luck!

      “Enjoying the Journey”

  6. Hi Marcus!
    You mentioned a double close….would this be what I would need in this situation………..We have the seller and a buyer. the seller knows we are assigning it and will make a fee in doing so. We do not what him to know HOW MUCH of a fee we are making however! Is this where a double close comes in? How does that work?
    Appreciate the article – you are the first one i read that mentions a double close!

    Lara

    • Lara,

      You are exactly right when doing a double closing everything will be confidential, however you have to pay 2 sets of closing cost. We normally only double close transactions that are over 10k unless we have done numerous deals with the buyer. Even then we may still double close so the seller does not know the fee we are making on the transaction.

      The double close is where the buyer wire in the funds for the B to C (you and the buyer) transaction and then the title company or attorney (depending on your state) will then use those funds to close the A to B transaction (you and the seller), and you keep the spread. In some states and some title companies will not do double closings. If that is the case then you can seek transitional funding.

      Transitional funding is where you will get a lender (hard money or transnational) to fund the deal between the A to B transaction (you and the seller, for a fee of course) and then you immediately close the B-C transaction with your buyer, and the lender is paid out of those proceeds. The transnational funding is just what it means; funding only for the transaction, so its temporary funds.

      So in essence you will have 2 closings on the same day in both cases. Hope this helps and let me know if you have any other questions

      “Enjoying the Journey”

  7. Tracy Sharpe

    Hello Marcus,
    Thanks for all the information and answering all the people who have posted. My question is concerning the contract. First, the assignment contract between me and the person that I found that is wanting to sell or assign their house to me for a particular price. Do you have an example of how that looks. Second, the contract that would be between me and the buyer. Do you have an example of that contract that you can lead me to. I found something on BP but am not sure if that is what I will need. Of course, I will screen it through an attorney but I just wanted to see how this looks so that I can get a better understanding. So, if you can refer me to or post an example of both, it would probably benefit everyone. Again, it’s just an example. I understand. Thanks, Tracy Sharpe, Fort Worth, Texas.

    • Tracy,

      First off thanks for reading and getting started. Inbox me and I will be able to provide you with both. I am a licensed Realtor in AZ so I have to use the dept of real estate contract when doing deals at home, however when I’m doing a deal away I have a standard contract that I use which was reviewed by my attorney and a standard assignment agreement. I still highly suggest they are review by an attorney in TX but laws are different from state to state.

  8. NaTarrio Jones

    Great Article @Marcus Maloney…I was looking into wholesaling because a fellow investor presenting an deal to me which includes a very motivated seller…My business partner got the seller to agree upon a price that is around 60% of its appraised market value.. The home is in very good condition however ever it is very outdated. The home is 3800 sqft SFR 4 bed 2 full baths 2 half baths in Beaumont TX… I’m certain this is a good deal but I’m a bit apprehensive because, for 1) its outside of my Houston area Market so overseeing a rehab would be quite difficult 2) With such a large home we would face some financial challenges with doing a complete remodel. We entertained the idea of immediately listing it on the market without doing updates which lead me to wholesaling…Could you offer any advice or recommendations as to what steps I should take from this point? Thanks in advance.

    • Marcus Maloney

      Natarrio,

      JV, JV, JV, (joint venture) I would find a wholesaler in that area and let them know you have a property under contract and ask them to send it out to their buyers’ list. You can do a 50/50 split or you can negotiate the split. I would not advise you to do the flip especially if its not within your area.

      Before jving I would put it on craigslist or zillow to see if you can sell it outright first. This will be challenging if you do not have anyone in that area to show the property. Again this is where joint venturing comes in handy.

      I hope this helps, get it under contract and worry about find the buyer after step one is complete.

      “Enjoying the Journey”

  9. Ryan Goer

    Great article Marcus. I am a newbie with no real estate experience but i would like to start wholesaling houses and apartments. Were should I start? I was thinking about bird dogging starting out. Is that a good Idea? Last question, how can i find a good real estate mentor? Peace and blessings!! Ryan Goer Dallas,Texas

  10. Paul Huenefeld

    Hey Marcus,
    I’m wondering about the inspection process in wholesaling.
    I know that the inspection can be an exit strategy if the deal turns out to not be so great or you can’t find a buyer.
    Who pays for the inspection normally? If that is me (buyer), then I’m assuming I would be out that money if I decided to pull out of the deal?
    Thanks!
    Paul H.

    • Marcus Maloney

      Paul,

      Great questions Paul, this inspection period is not a formal inspection where you have an inspector to come out. This is basically you’re doing a walk-through taking pictures of the property and estimating the repair amount to get the property to turn key status. There is a great book on estimating repair cost here on BP. During this time you market the property to your buyers list to see if there is any interest. You do not have to pay for a formal inspection.

      Hope this helps.

  11. Bohdan Shumenko

    Hello Marcus,
    I read some of your articles including the one about newbies. However, I am still stuck. I don`t really know where to start from. Do I just get the all the papers and begin looking for a property? You are talking a lot about taking actions and getting necessary experience, but how to feel this edge where I can say I am ready to start? It is still unclear to me. Maybe you could refer me to some more material such as articles. Thank you.

    • Marcus Maloney

      Bohdan,

      Sorry for the slow response, here are a few things you can do:
      1. Learn how to comp properties
      2.Learn the basic wholesale mathematics: ARV*.72-Repair Cost-Your Fee=Maximum Offer Amount
      3. Call craigslist listings or For-Sale-Buy-Owner listings and call those sellers and work on your approach
      4. Call those listings back and make an offer.
      5. Find all the major wholesalers in your area and let them know you are getting started and ask if you can review possible deals with them and split the profit 50/50

      Try that, I will also send you a link to a great book about getting started later on this week. Please make sure you remind me.

      “Enjoying the Journey”

    • Marcus Maloney

      Donovan,

      Its always good to have an attorney review your contract. Each state has different laws and for your protection it is good to have the backing of an attorney. You find one on the web and use it as a rubric to start from and then your attorney can modify it to your needs.

      “Enjoying the Journey”

    • Marcus Maloney

      Donovan,

      I because I have been having so many people request a mock contract I’ve uploaded the one that I use strictly for wholesaling. Go to equityrealestateblog.com and you can get numerous free resources. I’ve provided this simply as a tool to help newbie wholesalers and birddogs there’s nothing being sold.

  12. Hello Marcus,

    Thank you so much for all the great advice!! I was about to purchase a set of training videos costing $500!! Just reading this article along with the questions everyone has been asking and the excellent responds you have provided I truly believe I am able to give this a trying without the use of the training videos.

    To piggy back off a question Bohdan Shumenko had asked, you mentioned you were send a link to a great book about getting started. Any chance you are able to provide that information?

  13. Thank you for the awesome article Mr. Marcus…. I’m just starting in this wholesale/investing business. I see a listing for a nice house under market value on an mls its a REO. Who should I get in contact with about getting the house under contract for to resale?…… I see different listing agents for the same property but is that the person I contact to begin the process? I found out what the owner’s name was but by it being an REO its more than likely the lender of the property but us that the person look for?…. I know I have a lot of questions but can you help me please, thank you sir!
    Sincerely,
    Jeremiah

    • Marcus Maloney

      Jeremiah,

      It can be challenging to wholesale an REO property when your just getting started, also its hard to wholesale a listed property. I could answer these questions here but to get the in-depth information to answer these questions you can go to equityrealestateblog.com. I have a free book there where it answers many questions regarding this topic and many others.

      “Enjoying the Journey”

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