We had someone buy the house across from us at a premium. He painted
it, did some brick work, removed the handicap ramp (which was
tastefully hidden by some shrubs). He upped the price 50k, he had a few
lookers. Then he cut the lot up into sections and reposted it. Had more
lookers but people didn't seem too keen on buying the 2nd priciest home
in a neighborhood when there are 2 1/8 acre lots next to it (from when
he cut up the lot - he is known for putting factory homes on the
smallest lot the city will allow). He's had the house since mid spring
and it's not moving. The last couple I saw look at it asked me about it
later, they loved the large yard and mature trees. When I suggested
they recheck the lot size they almost crapped then moved on. He had
another looker who wasn't fond of the asbestos. :P I've not seen him
in a month, the lawn hasn't been mowed in weeks.
Some further thoughts.
Knowing a trade or several trades is not the same as knowing how to
organize several subcontractors. That includes finding subs that are
skilled, organized and honest, writing contracts that work for both
parties, being able to coordinate and recoordinate schedules, lean on
folks when needed.
Buying and refurbishing a house includes, knowing markets. This
includes knowing what needs to be refurbished, to what style and level
of quality it needs to be refurbished, and, as noted by others, the
ability to deal with a house that does not move. ( I'm talking to an
owner who does development for a large and prosperous restaurant chain
who bought and refurbished a house in a hot neighborhood and can't move
It's like mining for gold. You might routinely pick up nuggets, but the odds
are against it. The people who consistently made out during the California
Gold Rush were the ones who sold shovels.
Better would be to contract your services as a "curb appeal specialist" to
somebody who is trying to sell their house.
Richard davis who started the TV craze on flip this house advises START
SMALL, bigger jobs bigger risks:(
Richard and trademark got booted in a A&E shakeup but weill be back on
the air with a similiar show on discovery.
trademark has a multi million lawsuit against A&E
Don't let all of the people says the markets are soft get you down.
People are always buying houses, so if you do it right that isn't a
concern. Timing a real estate market is like timing the stock market,
it's not a good idea. A down market is the least of your worries.
Given the right skills, training, outlook and cash, it is possible.
To start with, when you sell a house you lose about 7% right off the
top in broker fees. So you need to minimize that. So go get your
license and train to get your brokers license. That will significantly
add to your bottom line and give you a good knowledge of the local
Then go get some training. To start with, get trained in lead-safe
work practices. Then in plumbing and electric. A course on kitchen
counters would also be a good idea -- maybe from Home Depot. Get the
training you need.
Figure you won't make a profit on 100% of the houses and you need
enough money to put one house on the market and start the next one. So
figure you need enough money to do 3 houses at a time. This is money
you can safely lose without hurting your family. You never want to be
playing with money that you need.
You're talking non-owner-occupied houses and you don't have a track
record, so figure you can borrow 75% of the price from a bank.
Who knows what the market is where you live, but let's figure you can
buy a house for $100,000. So you need $50,000 plus closing costs, lets
say $55,000. Now you want to put $20,000 into it. So you are up to
$75,000. Now a wonderful person comes in and buys it for $150,000 and
you've held it for 3 months -- pretty quick turn around.
This math is sort of off the top of my head, but here we go. Other
might come to a different conclusion, but that's cool.
Expenses: Purchase $100,000 + $5000 closing cost + $20,000 repairs.
New expenses: $1,500 interest and $2,000 taxes + 10,500 real estate
commission +1,000 closing expense.
Total Investment: $140,000
Sale price $150,000 - $140,000 expenses = $10,000 profit (for 3 months
I think the capital gains rate is like 20%, so you get $8,000.
So go look at houses in your area and run some numbers and see what it
looks like. Tha'ts the only way to know.
Now two final points. First, for your house or for other homes, get
trained on lead safe work practices. You've got kids and you don't
want to harm them. Even working someplace else you could bring lead
home on your cloths. Second, notice in this calc that the real estate
broker made more money than your did. Having a real estate license
will significantly increase your bottom line. "for sale by owner
doesn't cut it".
No, if you are flipping houses regularly you do not get CG treatment.
When flipping, you are "in the business" of buying, fixing, selling
A better approach is to buy a fixer-upper, live in it as your
principal and only residence for 3 or more years while
restoring/fixing it, then sell it.
That will get you a $250k CG ($500k married filing jointly) exclusion
with the rest of the gain qualifying for LTCG treatment. That is a
very good way for a young couple to build sweat equity.
I'm glad you pointed out the fallacy in the CG argument--I was going
to, but finished the thread and you had done so...
Minor point--if is principal residence, isn't it only required to be
two of last five years (altho that is immaterial in the case
hypothesized of continuous occupancy) to qualify for the exemption?
Also, I don't think it has to be the _only_ residence, only qualify as
the principal one. It's been a while and the rules could have been
changed, but that's what I was remembering...
They are SHOWS. Television ain't real life. People don't blunder
into making large profits on small investments in anything, houses
That said, people do make money by fixing and fllipping .... I'm one
who does, consistently.
You need several things going for you:
1) The first rule is that you make the profit when you buy, not
when you sell. Selling only realizes it.
You need access to listings and sales data so you can keep
current on the market. Otherwise, you won't recognize a bargain when
you see it.
You also need a strong sense of neighbourhood trends and timing.
2) You must have the knowledge and savvy to decide what renos to
do, and the ability to do them or cause them to be done. I started
buying fixer uppers as a way of providing work for my guys when we hit
a slow time ... I'm a renovations contractor.
The key is to neither under nor over improve.
3) You must be able to make the timing work. Interest expense and
property taxes can chew you up pretty good if you can't.
4) You must have deep pockets.
First, these are risk investments, and are only as bankable as you
Second, the better returns are on the higher end. It is easier
to make a hundred thousand on a million expenditure that it is to make
twenty thousand on a two hundred thousand expenditure.
My first advice would be not to get into this. First, because interest
rates are rising which will soften most markets. And second, because
given the time and risk it will take, you'd probably be better off
taking a part time job.
That said, start with your own house. Fix it, sell it. Keep doing
it, until you have a track record and a really good feel for the
market. By then, you'll have the answers to all your questions.
And you'll know whether or not it is something you can do and want to
I have a friend who does something similar. Here's how it goes.
Buys a house cheap in a somewhat run down area. Fixes it up somewhat to
make it a desireable rental house. Rents the house, then borrows against
the increased equity to make the down payment on another house. Repeat!
- No realtor commissions because its never sold
- Cheaper to fix up, because its only going to be a rental
- No seller concessions. Want to rent it fast, just cut the rent a little
or throw in a free month, much cheaper than typical seller concessions
- Tax benefits - you get to keep writeoffs and avoid capital gains
- Cheap houses are hard to find now (except in places where it may be hard
to rent them)
- Interest rates are so much higher, this directly affects your profits
- Have to work fast to get a renter to
- Hard to find workers who work cheap but good and fast
- Harder to finance, lenders are leery of fixup equity, too many have been
burned by fixup scams
So my friend has been doing this for a few years now. Its a little like a
pyramid, every time pulls equity from a rental house he uses some for his
own living expenses. To make a little more money, his wife got a realtors
license to get back some commission on purchases, and she also became a
mortgage broker to get back commission on their financing. She also does
some deals for others as well (but not full time, they've got 4 small kids
and another on the way.) Because its now hard for him to (profitably)
convert properties, he may have to get a job for income. Even if he sells
his rental houses, they are so highly mortgaged that once the mortgages are
paid off there wouldn't be much money left over. But eventually the rents
will go up, the equity will go up, the mortgages will be paid down, and
he'll be making good money. But that's years from now.
There once was a time when real estate was going up so fast that "flipping"
didn't take brains, just enough money and enough time. Those days are over.
I have a neighbor who bought small houses in the neighborhood, but on big
additions, and sold them for a nice profit. This is in a top suburb. I
just saw him this afternoon, its been two years since he's done one of those
If you want to try this, remember, its a job, and if you treat it like a
full time job, starting at the bottom, working your way up, you'll
eventually make some good money. Good luck!
There has been alot of good info in this thread. Here are my 2 cents:
When I was considering trying the flipping game, I took an adult
education class at a local community college called "Investing in Real
Estate for Fun and Profit". 6 or 8 2-hour classes on a weekday evening
for ~$70 was well worth it for the information gathered and contacts
made. Topics included buying rental property (and calculating profit
potential), flipping, finding bank-owned real estate and other bargain
sources. Guest speakers included a mortgage broker who works with
people who want to own or flip investments, a local businessman who
makes his money flipping, and a general contractor who talked about
some of the structural elements to thoroughly evaluate before getting
into a property. Class was run by a real estate agent. Highly
recommended if you can find a similar resource. I was living in
Syracuse at the time. (Although I explored the options tentatively, my
day job moved to NJ, so I was occupied selling my main home and buying
a new one... then the market began to sour. So I have not actually
done a flip. Maybe when the market improves, some years hence...)
Someone mentioned the capital gains exemption for a primary
residence... I believe the required residence time is 2 years, not 3.
And there is some time span in which this is required (like 24 of the
last 60 months, or some such). Apparently this is to keep you from
claiming as your primary residence a house you bought 10 years ago,
lived in for 3 years, then rented out for the last 7. If this is an
avenue you plan on persuing, look up the tax law.
This raises another point: When I began shopping for a house in 2002,
several people recommended a particular agent and when I asked what
impressed them so much, they said "Just talk to him for 20 minutes - I can't
explain". The guy's knowledge of every damned thing related to real estate
was astounding. Four years later, he's still providing service in ways that
will not make him any money (from me), but will generate referrals.
If I were considering flipping houses, I wouldn't go near the idea if I
didn't know someone like that.
Thank you all for your input and help. I will re-think this through.
According to the majority of responses, I came to the conclusions that 1)
it's not a good time now, 2) I will need a lot of money to do repairs and
allow it to possibly sit on the market 3) I need more experience in
contractor management and other construction work 4) well I'm not gonna go
on and on but I get the point.
Thank you all once again and maybe I will consider another source of income
for my family, I don't have many skills but I'll try something. I hate when
people advise me to do daycare (I'm already doing that with my own kids :).
I do wish there were good paying jobs out there that could be done at home
and not a job that I have to invent. Thanks everyone.
By investing in the long term, now is still a good time to buy.
Interest rates are still low compared to ten years ago. Long term - I
mean having tenants (that is another subject).
Your family can be a source of income/loan for your first
"investment". They can also help with any initial repairs.
"Well, it doesn't happen all the time, but when it happens, it happens
Keep looking for that part-time job. Plan on making money from your very
first sale. Here are a couple of success stories from acquantances of mine:
1. A police officer friend ruminated that since officers usually carry
clipboards, so why not a bullet-proof clipboard that could be used as a
shield? From his days as a youth working in a fiberglass fabricating shop,
he knew such a material existed. He bought a sheet of the stuff, sawed it up
on his band saw, mounted a clip. His cost, per clipboard, was like a buck.
Sells all he can make for $24.95.
2. Another friend used his woodworking skills to make trophies (bowling
league, baseball, that sort of thing) - more of a hobby than anything else.
Just on a lark, he tried marketing his work. Landed a contract with
Mongtomery Wards to make 1200 "Worlds Best Dad" trophies for a Father's Day
promotion. He made a couple of thousand dollars profit but, as he said, "I
was never so goddamn tired of doing the same thing over and over...."
Point is, good ideas are a dime a dozen. It's the marketing that makes or
breaks the idea.
I, personally, have written two books:
"Toilet Tissue Origami - The Ultimate Book for the John," and
"The Bible in Morse Code - For the Scholar Who Has Every Other Translation."
Each, no doubt, will make me a millionaire. I just haven't had the energy to
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