Beginners’ Guide to House Flipping

ByNathan Paulus
Reviewed byErik Wright

Updated: March 15, 2024

ByNathan Paulus
Reviewed byErik Wright

Updated: March 15, 2024

Advertising & Editorial Disclosure

House flipping, as a real estate investment strategy, involves buying properties below market value, enhancing and selling them for a profit. Success in flipping requires dedication, adequate funding and a deep understanding of real estate market trends. Another critical aspect is securing appropriate financing options to fund the projects, which goes hand in hand with the ability to identify and renovate properties efficiently. Remember, house flipping is a calculated investment strategy rooted in precise budgeting and careful financial planning.

Key Takeaways

 
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House flipping involves purchasing a property at a lower cost, often one that requires improvements, refurbishing and then selling it for a profit.

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The house flipping process can be broken down into key steps: planning and budgeting, understanding the market, locating the ideal property, making an offer, securing financing, renovating and selling the property.

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Various financing options for house flipping include traditional mortgages, hard money loans, cash-out refinancing or private lenders.

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While flipping houses can yield significant financial rewards like profits from sales and appreciation, it also involves risks such as unexpected expenses and market volatility.

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Potential challenges include limited funds, underestimating the required time and skills, lack of market knowledge and impatience.

What Is House Flipping?

House flipping refers to the process of buying a property at a relatively lower price, upgrading it through repairs and renovations and then selling it at a higher price for profit. The strategy focuses on maximizing property value, aiming for a quick buy-low, sell-high turnaround. This investment approach has become increasingly popular in recent years. ATTOM's U.S. Home Flipping Report shows a rise in flipped single-family homes and condos to 407,417 in 2022, up 14% from 2021, comprising 8% of all home sales, the highest percentage since 2005.

Another ATTOM report reflected this trend and found that the gross profits from house flipping nationwide reached $56,000 in the first quarter of 2023, a 5% increase from the previous quarter. The most successful flips occur when investors can identify and purchase undervalued properties and sell them at the highest possible price.

House-Flipping Advantages and Disadvantages

House flipping offers an enticing blend of potential profits and risks in the dynamic real estate field. Weighing the advantages and disadvantages empowers you with better decision-making abilities.

Advantages

House flipping can offer several benefits, including:

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    Profit Potential

    With careful planning and execution, house flipping can yield high profits in a short time frame.

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    Portfolio Growth

    Successful flips can rapidly expand your real estate portfolio, enhancing your reputation among lenders and clients.

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    Economic Contribution

    House flippers can contribute to neighborhood revitalization and local economic growth by improving properties, enhancing communities and potentially increasing property values.

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    Creative Fulfillment

    Flipping houses allows creative expression in designing and renovating spaces, which can be personally rewarding and appealing to potential buyers.

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    Skill Development

    Engaging in house flipping helps you acquire various business skills, from managing renovations to negotiating deals. These skills are valuable and transferable to other investment areas.

Disadvantages

There are certain downsides to consider, they include:

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    Financial Risk

    House flipping involves financial risk. An unexpected downturn in the market or higher-than-expected renovation costs could lead to financial loss.

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    Tax Implications

    Flipped properties are often subject to high capital gains tax rates. The potential profit must be weighed against the tax burden.

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    Time Commitment

    A single house flip could require significant dedication, considering hunting a potential property, financing, renovating and eventually selling it.

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    Hidden Repair Costs

    Older properties might harbor hidden repair needs. These unexpected costs increase your initial investment, potentially impacting profit margins.

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    Market Volatility Risk

    A sudden shift in real estate trends {current swing in property market trends} could negatively impact a house flip's profitability.

How to House Flip: 7 Steps

The house flipping process starts with securing the necessary capital. Based on the property's condition, your renovations could range from minor updates to major overhauls, including adding new sections to the house. Effective house flipping is grounded in careful planning, detailed research and strategic execution. For a smooth and successful project, you might find these steps helpful:

Create a Plan and Budget

Start by creating a plan that clearly outlines your goals, identifies potential risks and estimates the budget for property acquisition, renovation and sale. Account for various expenses, including market changes and financing costs. A detailed budget helps manage these costs and prevents unexpected losses. Ensure your budget covers property purchase, renovation, marketing, and selling expenses and includes a contingency fund for unforeseen expenses.

Secure Adequate Financing

Financing options vary, from loans to using your savings; choosing the right one can greatly affect your profit. While using cash is ideal to avoid interest, it's often not feasible due to the large sums required. Common alternatives include hard money loans, home equity lines of credit (HELOCs) and cash-out refinances.

Understand the Market

Gain insights into market trends by analyzing local property prices, recent sales and housing demand in your target area. Focus on understanding the specifics of the local community where you intend to flip a house. Understanding property forecasts, like knowing if it's a buyer's or seller's market, can help you make smarter purchasing choices, target the appropriate buyers and set prices likely to yield a profit.

Locate and Select the Right Property

Consider key factors such as location, the property's condition and current market trends. Select a property with an eye for its potential to appreciate, the renovation costs involved and its appeal to potential buyers. Align this choice with your budget and what you can realistically afford.

Make an Offer

Effective negotiation often means proposing a price below the asking amount, supported by solid reasoning. Remember that the lower your purchase price, the greater your potential profit. Approach negotiations with firmness yet fairness, and be ready to walk away if the price doesn't fit your budget and expected returns. Working with a real estate agent can be beneficial in this process.

Renovate the Property

Most homeowners prefer a move-in ready home, requiring investors to invest significant effort in renovations. Carry out necessary home repairs and upgrades to boost the property's value. Depending on your skills and budget, you may hire professionals or opt for DIY approaches. Set a detailed timeline and maintain continuous oversight. Poor management can result in cost overruns and delays, diminishing investment returns. Avoid exceeding your budget or timeline, as this can significantly reduce potential profits.

Sell the Property

When selling, ensure you showcase the renovations you've completed. Employ marketing strategies like competitive pricing, staging the home for showings, utilizing digital platforms for listings and investing in professional photography. These tactics can help attract potential buyers. Consider working with your agent during this step to optimize the selling process.

Here are some selling methods to consider:

Selling Method
Pros
Cons

Direct Sale

  • No commission fees
  • Total control over the process
  • Time-consuming
  • Requires marketing knowledge

Real-Estate Agent

  • Access to multiple listing services (MLS), buyer networks and handles paperwork
  • Commission fees
  • Less control
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70% RULE IN HOUSE FLIPPING

The 70% rule suggests that an investor should pay no more than 70% of the property's After Repair Value (ARV) minus the cost of repairs. For example, if a property's ARV is $200,000 and needs $20,000 in repairs, the maximum payment should be calculated as follows: $200,000 x 0.70 - $20,000 = $120,000. Consider using a house-flipping calculator to assist in determining your maximum offer.

How to Get a Loan for House Flipping

Securing the right loan can significantly impact the profitability of your flip. There are many options to consider, each with its advantages and disadvantages. Be sure to thoroughly consider all available loan options and consult with financial professionals to secure the best terms for your project.

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Traditional Mortgages

Traditional mortgages, loans provided by banks or credit unions, can offer a cost-effective way to finance house flips due to their lower interest rates and longer repayment terms. However, they come with stringent qualification requirements and often a lengthy approval process. Consider your financial status and the project's feasibility, as defaults on these loans can lead to foreclosure. Also, some traditional banks offer loan products commonly referred to as Rehab Loans, which will lend up to a certain amount of the purchase price and estimated rehab costs.

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Home Equity Line of Credits (HELOCs)

HELOCs offer an alternative financing method for house flipping, allowing you to borrow against the equity in your current home. This option typically comes with lower interest rates than hard money loans and provides flexible access to funds. HELOCs are especially useful for flippers needing ongoing capital access for various projects or unexpected expenses. Remember, this type of loan puts your home at risk in case of default. Also, HELOCs often have variable interest rates, meaning repayment amounts can fluctuate. Carefully consider the stability of your income and your ability to manage variable expenses before choosing this option.

3
Cash-Out Refinance

Cash-out refinancing allows you to refinance your existing mortgage on your home for more than the owed amount, offering a lump sum that can be used to finance your flip. This method differs from a HELOC, which provides a revolving line of credit based on home equity. Cash-out refinancing allows you to leverage the equity in your home for a one-time cash infusion. This method is particularly beneficial if you have considerable equity in your home and follow the Buy, Rehab, Rent, Refinance, Repeat (BRRR) Strategy. Your lender will reassess your property's value to determine new interest rates and payment schedules. However, be aware that it increases your loan amount, which could complicate repayment if the flip fails to yield the expected returns. Also, remember that current mortgage rates may be higher than your original loan.

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Private Lenders

Private lenders, such as individuals or small companies, offer loans for real estate investments like house flipping, typically with higher interest rates and shorter terms than traditional banks. They can be sourced through networking, online platforms or referrals. Verify their credibility and terms and consult professionals before proceeding. Also, carefully review contracts to avoid hidden pitfalls and costs.

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Hard Money Loans

Hard money loans are short-term, high-interest loans used frequently in house flipping. These loans can be approved quickly, allowing you to seize investment opportunities faster. They're ideal for experienced flippers who can pay back quickly but can lead to substantial losses if you default. On the downside, they come with high-interest rates and potential loss of property in case of default, which could trigger foreclosure.

Common Mistakes in House Flipping

Avoiding common mistakes in house flipping can mean the difference between a profitable flip and a costly misstep. Below are the most frequently encountered errors:

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    Insufficient Funds

    New investors often underestimate the total cost of a flip, including renovation, taxes and fees. Lack of funds can halt a project and lead to losses. Always plan thoroughly and secure enough funding before beginning.

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    Underestimating Time Commitment

    House flipping requires active involvement in property search, renovation management and sales oversight. Misjudging the time needed can increase carrying costs and decrease profits. To optimize profit margins, schedule each project phase carefully, including time buffers for unexpected delays.

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    Lack of Necessary Skills

    Effective house flipping demands skills like construction knowledge and financial savvy. Skill deficiencies can mean higher costs and longer renovation times. Enhance your skills through resources like online courses or local real estate seminars to streamline the flipping process

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    Insufficient Market Knowledge

    Inadequate market understanding can lead to poor investment choices or delayed sales. Improve your market knowledge by researching trends, consulting experts and networking with experienced investors. A solid grasp of the market helps mitigate risks and enhances flipping success.

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    Lack of Patience

    Impatience can result in hasty, unprofitable decisions. Develop patience through thorough research, waiting for the right market conditions and preparing a comprehensive budget, including contingency funds for unexpected expenses.

Additional Resources

Here are valuable resources that provide insights into property investment to help you get started in house flipping:

About Nathan Paulus


Nathan Paulus headshot

Nathan Paulus is the Head of Content Marketing at MoneyGeek, with nearly 10 years of experience researching and creating content related to personal finance and financial literacy.

Paulus has a bachelor's degree in English from the University of St. Thomas, Houston. He enjoys helping people from all walks of life build stronger financial foundations.