If flipping were as easy as finding a cheap house online, buying it, and selling it for a profit, we’d all be real estate billionaires. You must educate yourself before you even start looking at homes. Here’s what you need to know.
Learn Your Market
First, research your local real estate market. Where do people want to live right now? What kind of house do people want to buy right now? Don’t speculate about up-and-coming neighborhoods. Remember, you want this house sold fast.
Understand Your Finance Options
Next, become an expert on home financing options. Will you buy a house with cash? Will you apply for a home mortgage loan through a company like Lending Tree or take out a HELOC? Make sure you understand the ins and outs of home financing before you apply for a loan or make an offer on a house. This will allow you to make the best decision for your circumstances.
Follow the 70% Rule
Analyze how much house you can afford and how much you can afford to lose on any deal. Experienced flippers follow the 70% rule when analyzing how much they’re willing to pay for a house. This rule states that investors should pay no more than 70% of the after repair value (ARV) of a property minus the cost of the repairs needed.
This rule is a good guide to follow when you first get into house flipping as it can help you avoid overpaying for a home.
Learn to Negotiate
The less money you invest in a house, the more money you can earn during the flip. Good negotiation strategies will help you effectively haggle with contractors and other workers.
Learn How Much Average Projects Cost
Do you know how much it costs to recarpet a 1,000-square-foot home? Rewire a house? Build a deck? Landscape a yard?
Every project is different, but with some experience, you can learn how to estimate the costs of many home renovations and get an idea if a particular home is a good buy or not. One of the best ways to build your experience with this is to do some renovations on your own home. This can also give you a general idea of the type of projects you like to do and which projects you’re better off hiring out.
Know which home improvements increase a home’s value and focus on these projects first. These might include upgrading kitchen appliances, repainting the home’s exterior, installing additional closet storage space, upgrading the deck, and adding green energy technologies.
Network with Potential Buyers
Network extensively and talk to potential buyers before you even start looking for a house to flip. Do whatever you can to build relationships with future buyers. If you have a buyer lined up when you purchase an investment home, the home sells as soon as the updates are completed.
You can also save money long-term if you take the time to get your realtor’s license, which will enable you to broker your own deals and avoid paying another agent.
Find a Mentor
If you know a successful house flipper, ask if they’d be willing to mentor you. You might even want to consider offering this person an incentive to be your mentor.
For example, ask if they’ll mentor you in exchange for a small percentage of your first successful flip. This way the mentor is motivated to tutor you, and you’ll be sure to get a high-quality education. Offering a financial incentive also enables you to approach experts you don’t know personally since being compensated for their efforts will make them more receptive.
Research Listings and Fore-closures
You can also find foreclosure listings through real estate company websites like Re/Max. Under search filters, select the option for “foreclosures.”
Your local newspaper is another source of foreclosure listings. Legitimate auctioneers put notices in the legal section of local papers, and you can usually find their specific listings by visiting their websites.
Another way to find foreclosures is through a bank. Search for a particular bank along with the letters “REO,” which stand for “Real Estate Owned.” This simply means that the homeowner no longer owns the home; the bank does. This search will take you directly to each bank’s foreclosure listings.
Once you find a home you want to buy, check out its background with BuildFax. For $39, BuildFax provides a comprehensive background check on a home. You can review extensive details about the home’s history, including repairs, remodeling, and additions. This can help save you money.
For example, let’s say you want to buy a home whose listing indicates its furnace was replaced 10 years ago. When you run a report on BuildFax, you learn the furnace is closer to 20 years old. You can now go back to the seller and negotiate a much lower price.
Make an Offer
Once you find a home you like, it’s time to make an offer. If it’s a great house selling for a low price, you might have competition. For many flippers, flipping is a full-time job, and they will likely know about this house too. You can sneak by the competition by targeting a neighborhood and going door-to-door making offers.
Before you make an offer, make sure you know the highest price you can pay for a house and still make a profit. This includes your estimate for repairs, interest, and taxes. Remember to pad your estimate by 20%. If the homeowner or bank won’t sell to you for this price, walk away. It’s better to keep looking than risk going broke from a bad investment.
Find Good Contractors
If you have some solid DIY skills, you might opt to do some or most of the renovations yourself. This can save you a significant amount of money – if you know what you’re doing.
Knowing when to DIY and when to hire a contractor is crucial. You should only tackle projects you’re sure you can do well and on budget. For projects you can’t do on your own, you need to find a great contractor.
A general contractor, or GC, is a building professional who manages the whole renovation project and hires their own subcontractors to do the necessary work. Hiring a GC can be expensive; they’ll add 10% to 20% onto what their subcontractors charge when calculating your final bill. However, they can be worth their weight in gold if you find a great investment opportunity, can’t do the work yourself, and are willing to incur the extra expense.
A good contractor can help you avoid costly renovation mistakes and save you a significant amount of time on a project. This means you can get the house up for sale faster and make fewer mortgage payments. If you’re flipping a house while working a full-time job, hiring a GC is probably a necessity; someone has to be available at the house to oversee the work at least part-time, or the project will never get done.
A general contractor will also be in charge of obtaining the necessary building permits. This means their name will be on every permit, and they’re responsible for making sure the job is done right for every inspection. Make sure to apply for permits as soon as the sale is final to save time and get the process moving.
Start building a network of contractors you trust, including plumbers, electricians, and landscapers. Services like Handy.com, Angie’s List, Porch, and HomeAdvisor can help you find reliable professionals in your area. When you interview a contractor, ask yourself the following questions:
- Did they arrive on time? Contractors who are habitually late will waste your time and slow up your renovation project.
- Do they have quality references? Ask for references and call them. If a contractor doesn’t provide references, don’t waste your time dealing with them.
- Did they reschedule your appointment multiple times? Again, if they have a problem with time management, it will affect your renovation.
- Are they organized? Disorganization wastes time.
Can they supply a professional, accurate bid? Any bid they provide should be detailed and on paper. A verbal quote and a handshake won’t cut it with a flip, at least at the beginning of a relationship when you’re just learning whether you can trust this person.
It’s a smart idea to start building a network of quality contractors before you make an offer on a house. Remember, it can take a long time to find good help, and you don’t want to start this process after you invest in a home and are making two mortgage payments each month.
Keep in mind that most experienced flippers try to have a home bought, renovated, and relisted in 90 days. That’s a quick turnaround time, and for your first few flips, it might be out of reach. But the longer your home is tied up in projects, the less profit you stand to make; that’s why it’s so important to carefully weigh whether you should do the work yourself or hire help. Doing it yourself might save you money upfront, but if it takes you three times longer than a professional, it might not be worth it.
Relist and Sell
Many flippers end up listing their homes with a realtor. Realtors eat and sleep real estate, have access to buyers, and can list your house in the Multiple Listing Service (MLS) database. They also know the current market fluctuations and have the skills and network to get you the best price quickly.
You can also choose to sell your house yourself. You’ll save money in realtor fees, but in some markets, you might end up waiting a long time for the house to sell. In addition, listing and showing a house takes time. If you can’t be available every time someone wants to see the house and you don’t want to host open houses, working with a realtor might be the best choice for you.
There’s no doubt that flipping houses is a risky business. If you make smart decisions, you can make a lot of money flipping. But you can also lose everything if you make a bad investment.
Before you get into the world of house flipping, do your research to make sure it’s right for you. Books like “The Flipping Blueprint: The Complete Plan for Flipping Houses and Creating Your Real Estate-Investing Business” by Luke Weber can tell you everything you need to know to get started and avoid some rookie mistakes.