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Flipping Houses for Gold: How to Find the Perfect Fixer

Aug 17, 2007
Many real estate investors enjoy "flipping houses," or buying and selling houses quickly for profit. Not all flips are fixers. However, rehabbers make millions turning ugly houses into dollhouses. On the other hand, some inexperienced investors lose money buying houses that just don't turn a profit.

If you're looking to get started investing in real estate by fixing and flipping houses, you'll want to know what type of property to buy.

HOW TO FIND THE PERFECT FIXER

1. Know Your Market

Your first task, exploring your market, helps you know a bargain house when you spot one. Look at many houses for sale in your area. Keep track of sales and how long the houses take to sell. Ask selling real estate agents about the terms of these sales because this helps you understand how sellers market their property (some of this information is public record). For instance, if a seller paid closing costs for the buyer, did the price rise from the listed price accordingly? Or, did the seller come down on the price and also pay the buyer's costs?

Examine the sales that sell quickly. What home features and financing options prompted the fast sale?

Also, look at model homes. Buyers often buy resale homes because they can't wait for a new home to be finished. However, these buyers like the distinctive features new homes offer. Visit model homes and take notes on how details like a water fountain or a new state-of-the-art appliance makes a house sell itself. When you remodel your fixer, you'll know what attracts buyers and you'll make smart redesign choices.

2. Know When "Ugly" Means "Gold"

When you first start out in your real estate "flipping fixers" business, you'll want to look for houses needing only cosmetic work. Look for houses that just need cleaning up, painting, and new flooring. Use your imagination when viewing these homes. Try to visualize the finished dollhouse as you look at structural features and the surrounding homes. Make offers on the ugliest houses in decent neighborhoods.

Don't be afraid of stinky houses that show horribly. Search for fixers with peeling paint, holes in the wall, stained carpeting, and trash in the yard. Remember, these houses won't look good to most buyers, but other real estate investors see them as gold mines.

3. Know When "Ugly" Means "No Thanks"

When you're new to real estate investing, always remember your limitations. Use caution when considering houses that need structural repairs. Some rehabbers replace walls, plumbing, structural beams, sub-flooring, and electrical systems. These experienced real estate investors acquired those skills after years of experience or they have the money to pay for professional help.

If you find a house with structural problems, get estimates from reliable contractors to do the work. If the walls have too many cracks and bumps, you may need to hang new sheet rock or hire a professional plaster refinisher. Check for signs of plumbing problems such as water stains under sinks and loose flooring, and get estimates for professional repair. Take professional estimates into account before deciding whether or not to purchase an investment property. Any big expense decreases your eventual profit.

Turn Yucks into Bucks

Why would anyone want to do this hard work? How much does the average rehabber make? In Ohio, real estate investors buy houses expecting a profit of about $30,000. In Southern California, many investors make $50,000 to $100,000 on each house.

When you find a garbage-filled, flea-infested house in a family neighborhood, take your bug spray, hold your nose, and get ready to make a difference, in the neighborhood and in your bank account.

You can make a fortune fixing nasty houses. Know your market. Know when "ugly" means profit in your pocket, and when to keep looking for the house with the hidden gold mine.

Copyright 2005 Jeanette J. Fisher. All rights reserved.
About the Author
Jeanette Fisher teaches beginning real estate investors five easy steps to find, finance, and fix houses for profits. Free ebook on fixing houses using interior design strategies for top-dollar sales, http://www.doghousetodollhousefordollars.com/
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