Picture this: You purchase a run-down old house at a local auction. The house is falling apart, maybe even in the kind of ways that require Condemned signs, and you walk away thrilled to have spent $65,000 of your hard-earned money to own it. What world is this?
This is the world of house-flipping. If you haven't heard of house-flipping, chances are you don't work in real estate.
Then again, neither do many house-flippers, at least not at first. House-flipping is the new term devised for people who buy properties in bad shape, ideally with little structural damage but plenty of cosmetic wounds. These people rebuild the houses within a strict profit margin, and use a little real estate know-how to produce a salable house, ready for the market. Then they sell it for many times the price of original investment plus construction.
With the real-estate market booming, more and more everyday people are getting involved in this business of fixing up real estate to sell. Some people live in the houses as they flip them; others just buy, buy, buy, send out crews, hold open houses, sell, and buy some more. It all depends on your budget, and the kind of flipping you're willing to do.
It generally takes a professional, with lots of investors and money in the right places, to take a truly destroyed property and make it salable. Amateurs do best sticking to houses that might have terrible paint (or no paint at all), ripped-up lawns, bad tile, and other cosmetic damage that they can fix at low cost. Once you get into the horrors that can be caused by termites, rotten wood, and caving ceilings, you're probably talking about a job for the professionals.
Of course, many shrewd house-flippers, even the ones with investment backing, won't flip a house with too much damage. You might fall in love with a rustic old Victorian and cherish the idea of restoring it to glory, but the world of a house-flipper is all about profit. Those who get emotionally involved with the properties are in trouble. Before you know it you'll find yourself in over your head trying to fix problems whose expense is going to far surpass what you might be able to sell the house for later. A true house flipper knows when to walk away.
For anyone intrigued by this new trend in the real estate market, it helps to know as much as possible about your local real estate market. Maybe a house with some fairly serious damage is still worth the cost of repair if it's located in a prime area. Informed flippers will know at a glance what might be worth their time. The world of house-flipping is an oddly shrewd one, considering the creature comforts they work with every day. These are people that are able to thrill over installing a cathedral ceiling, and walk away from it at a moment's notice if it flies over budget. These are not people who go weak at the sight of old paneling. They might go weak, however, at the cost of repairing it.
It all boils down to a numbers process. Those interested in house flipping should start slowly. Study the market, watch the numbers, and get advice wherever possible. When you make the plunge and purchase your first flippable house, congratulations. Now don't get attached, because if you do your job correctly, it won't be yours for long.