If you think house flipping is part-time work, you will lose before you even start.
I always say in my presentations that flipping houses is not as easy, glamorous or routine as today’s “reality” TV shows make it look. The truth is that this increasingly popular investment strategy can be downright scary!
I have been involved in buying, rehabbing and reselling homes for 21 years now, long before this strategy had a catchy name like “flipping houses.” So, I have seen and experienced enough to know what is usual to encounter — and what is the exception to the rule. The examples in this article are the expected, rather than the extreme.
At the time of writing this piece, I don’t recall where I obtained the data (I believe the numbers came from the IRS), but in 2018 some 19,000 first-time investors attempted their first flip. Of those, only 13 percent actually made a profit. According to another study in April 2019, 21 percent of those investors made a profit of less than 10 percent, which means that after carry costs such as insurance, taxes and resale commissions, those deals likely lost money, too.
So why such popularity if so many are losing money? Like any other get-rich-quick scheme, the popularity is in the pitch, rather than the reality.
The famous playwright George Bernard Shaw said, “Those who can, do; those who can’t, teach.” That statement could not ring any truer than it does in our industry. The number of coaches, gurus, mentors and workshops out there is staggering. And a large number of them aren’t even actively involved in the very strategy for which they claim expertise. Even more shocking than the exorbitant price tag on many of these programs is the fact that people are actually willing to pay it!
I heard an advertisement on the radio the other day and it went something like this: “Using my formula, I can teach you how to flip homes in your spare time.” Anyone believing they can — or should — flip homes in their spare time has already lost money, before they even set foot in that workshop. This is not some hobby you engage in from time to time. Successfully flipping houses is a full-time endeavor. My wife, my staff and I commonly pick up a nail gun, or make a trip to pick up windows, or drywall to keep crews on time and on budget.
The profit in flipping houses is not in what you do to the property, but rather your acquisition cost and how quickly can you turn it back onto the market for a retail sale. You not only need to buy right, you also need to have sufficient cash reserves to cover even more than what you think the repairs are going to cost. Those unforeseen repairs might be a surprise cost to most – and a highly unpleasant one at that, but the prepared professional understands they represent an expected expenditure and have accounted for those long before making a purchase.
As long as you can accept the fact that nothing in life comes easy and you are not going to do this in your spare time, then there are substantial profits to be made flipping houses in any market cycle.
Note: I said, “any market cycle,” not any market. My point is there are opportunities in booming times, or recessionary times. My good friend and fellow Think Realty Master Investor winner, Marco Santarelli, has trademarked the perfect term for this business: “live where you want, but invest where it makes sense. ”That could not be a more perfect way of saying it. You hear about great markets in Dallas or Atlanta and might find yourself fortunate enough to live in those areas. You want to flip in this area, but realize institutional money dominates these markets —institutional markets that require far lower returns on their investments than you do. To be successful, you are going to need to get out of your comfort zone and most likely, out of your backyard.