Flipping a house means buying a home with the intention of fixing it up and selling it within six months for a profit. Americans flipped 26,947 single-family homes in Q3 2014, accounting for 4 percent of all home sales in that period, according to real estate data firm Realtytrac. The average gross return for investors was $75,990 per home, up 2 percent from Q2.
Flipping houses can be profitable, particularly when home values are rising and interest rates remain at historically low levels. The Federal Housing Administration stopped enforcing anti-flipping regulations—which prohibited insuring any home for less than 90 days—in 2010. If you're looking to get into the home flipping business, follow these four guidelines for the best chance of success.
Build a Bankroll
Everything in life requires money, and house flipping is no exception. You could take out loans to buy properties, but then you are just creating debt in the hopes of making money. A smart house flipper who wants to profit immediately will often use his or her own money.
The best way to build a bankroll is by saving over time. Consider selling your own home if the proceeds will pay off the mortgage and leave you with enough to get started. Those currently receiving regular payments from a structured settlement or annuity can consider selling their future payments to a company like J.G. Wentworth for a lump sum of cash now. Make sacrifices like selling off an extra vehicle, disconnecting cable television and giving up the $5 lattes in the morning to pad your bankroll further.
Buy at Discount
You'll make the most money if you buy a house for less than its actual value at the time of purchase. The best way to do this is by seeking out motivated sellers. These are people who need to sell quickly to relocate for a job or simply need to make fast money.
Use your social media networks to generate referrals. Inform friends and followers that you are looking to buy properties. Knocking on doors in prime neighborhoods can also generate leads—target homes with "for sale" signs and distressed properties that appear neglected.
The total value of all homes in the U.S. was $27.5 trillion at the end of 2014, according to data compiled by Zillow. That represents a 6.7 percent increase from 2013 and the third consecutive year of positive gains. But certain markets are doing even better.
Miami, Atlanta, Houston, Orlando and Las Vegas experienced the largest gains for 2014, with each up at least 11.5 percent on the year. These markets offer the largest margin for error for those flipping homes, particularly with a major housing market correction being predicted by several economists for 2015. This is mostly due to the Federal Reserve ceasing its quantitative easing program and no longer artificially inflating the markets.
A good rule of thumb when buying in areas that experienced low or negative year-over-year home value change (i.e., Indianapolis and Phoenix) is to only purchase homes at 10 percent or more below current market value.
DIY Where Possible
You'll likely need to hire plumbers, electricians and other contractors to tackle major home improvements. But the more you do yourself, the higher your profits will be. You and a few friends can install new sinks and countertops and even shingle a roof. Youtube has hundreds of instructional videos that cover everything from replacing water heaters to installing shower faucets. Creative landscaping can increase the value of a property by 13 percent, according to a study by Virginia Tech University. The DIY Network has several ideas for easy landscaping projects that anybody with a little ambition can complete.
House flipping is a cyclical endeavor that is only profitable when economic conditions are positive. Now is a great time to get started.