Real estate wholesaling occurs when a party (the "wholeseller") contracts with a home seller, markets the home to potential buyers, and then assigns the contract to one of them. The wholesaler makes a profit, which is the difference between the contracted price with the seller and the amount paid by the buyer. The goal in real estate wholesaling is to sell the home before the contract with the original homeowner closes.
A typical wholesaling scenario looks like this: The wholesaler has a house under contract for $90,000 that he estimates needs $20,000 in repairs but will sell for $150,000 once the repairs are made. Using his network of investors, he finds an eager buyer at $100,000. He assigns the contract to this investor, who then has a profitable fixer-upper project. The wholesaler makes a $10,000 profit without ever owning the home.
The key to wholesaling is to add a contingency to the purchase contract that allows the wholesaler to back out of the deal if he is unable to find a buyer before the expected closing date. This limits the wholesaler's risk.
It is similar to flipping, except that the time frame is much shorter and no repairs are made to the home. As the wholesaler never actually purchases a home, real estate wholesaling is much less risky than flipping, which can involve renovation costs and carrying costs. Real estate wholesaling also involves much less capital than flipping. Generally earnest money payments on a few properties is sufficient. Success depends on the wholesaler's knowledge of the market and connection to investors for quick sales.