Top 5 Must-Haves For Flipping Houses

By Glenn Curtis AAA

Many people assume that they can simply 1) buy a house, 2) apply a fresh coat of paint, 3) trim some bushes, and then 4) resell the home at a profit. Unfortunately, this process, called "flipping" is not that easy. After all, if it were, everyone would be doing it.

There are several skills and people that every potential investor/flipper should have in place before even considering entering into a real estate transaction of this nature. In this article we'll look at the top five "must-haves" you'll need to succeed in this endeavor.

1. A Group of Experts
While a house flipper can certainly go it alone, it will certainly help to retain individuals that are familiar with the legal, accounting and construction ramifications of flipping houses.

Flippers typically work against the clock, so they must renovate a home on budget and then turn it around and sell it before the financing costs eat up their profits. In any case, a bevy of experts including a real estate agent, an attorney, a contractor or renovator, an accountant, a home inspector and an insurance agent can ensure that the work is completed in a timely and efficient manner.

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Watch: Flipping Properties

2. A Handyman or Knack for Home Improvement
The house flippers that make the most money buying and selling homes tend to be handy people. That is, they have the ability to step in and lend a helping hand when time or money constraints kick in. Most flippers can do things like change a sink, install a countertop, do basic electrical or plumbing work, and/or shingle a roof.

Why is being handy so important?
The obvious answer is that if you can do the work yourself, you won't have to pay someone to come in and do it. However, there are other advantages to being handy as well. For example, there are times when it will be impossible to get an electrician to install an attic fan on short notice. There are also times when a job must be completed without warning at the last second in order to obtain a certificate of occupancy. In these instances, having the ability to navigate your way around a tool box is very valuable.

3. A Good Lay of the Land
The buyer should know about the area in which they are buying property. A buyer should know, for example, what characteristics (acreage, number of rooms, type of home, etc) are the most desirable in the area in which they are looking to buy. Equally important is knowing what houses in the general vicinity have sold for and if there is likely to be any future development in the community (such as a new school, condominium or shopping center) as this could affect supply and demand.

4. A Good Estimator
By definition, house flippers attempt to buy a property and then resell it at a profit in relatively short order. In order to do this, however, the flipper must typically make some structural and/or cosmetic changes to make the property more appealing to the next buyer.

If the flipper underestimates the costs associated with the refurbishment he or she may be exposed to large monetary losses. Therefore, a flipper should be familiar with construction materials (their use and their cost), as well as local construction codes, the cost of local labor and the time it should take to do a given job.

This is no small feat. In fact, it takes even the most seasoned construction professional many years before he or she is aware of all the nuances that exist. In any case, before becoming involved in "flipping", be certain of your abilities to estimate a job in terms of both cost and time. (To decide what needs to be done, see Fix It And Flip It: The Value of Remodeling.)

5. A Dose of Patience
One of the biggest obstacles to making money in the real estate market is that buyers tend to overpay for a given property.

Why do buyers overpay?
Typically, buyers become emotionally attached to a property or develop some other bond with it, which in turn forces them to enter into a contract on less than favorable terms.

However, savvy flippers have the ability to avoid emotional purchases, and the desire to find diamonds in the rough and properties on the cheap. They also understand that if they aren't buying a property at a favorable price and with favorable terms, it makes sense to simply move on to greener pastures.

The bad news is that patience is a difficult virtue to teach and hone. In general, either you have it or you'll lose a lot of money trying to learn it. (To read more about choosing the right house, see Smart Real Estate Transactions and Investing In Real Estate.)

Bottom Line
While quitting your job and becoming a full-time house flipper may sound like an attractive proposition, be sure that you have these five "musts" before investing in a real estate project.

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