How Much Money Can You Make Flipping a House?
It’s a popular question and there are a lot of bad answers online. The reality shows lead us to believe there’s easy money to be made in flipping houses. While many people have become millionaires flipping houses, it’s not easy and the margins are not what the reality stars and mentors would suggest.
We’ve analyzed our last 200 full house flips and calculated the expense percentages we have found to be typical. Keep in mind that we are professionals with established lead generation, innovative systems, and proven construction strategies. Don’t expect to match our margins and be leery of anyone who claims to beat our margins. It’s likely they aren’t counting all their costs. For example, if you are using your own capital or investing your own time in the construction, you need to count the opportunity cost of that capital and time. This model assumes you are using other people’s capital and time to flip houses.
Breaking Down the Numbers
Let’s start with the cost of the property. Obviously, this will vary according to the quality of your lead generation. If you are buying bank owned foreclosures off the MLS with your agent, expect to pay far more than this percentage. This percentage cost assumes you are generating quality leads directly from motivated sellers in average locations in your market. If that’s not the case, adjust accordingly. If you are purchasing in war zones, your cost of property percentage should be less to make up for the pain, suffering, and risk. In a strong location, you’ll pay a higher percentage because sellers in good locations don’t give their houses away. Actually, no one gives houses away.
The construction costs can vary widely based on a number of variables. Our costs assume we are hiring a licensed contractor to do an extensive rehab, including roof, hvac, windows, updated kitchen/baths, flooring, paint, fixtures, some plumbing/electrical, and landscaping. If you have technical knowledge and contacts in the construction industry, you can beat these percentages. If not, aspire to match these percentages unless you are investing your own sweat equity. In that case, be sure and assign a value to your time and count your hours in your costs. Be honest with your time. If you can make $50/hour working overtime at your job, it’s actually costing you $50/hour to swing a hammer and lay tile in the evenings.
The cost of property and construction costs are the obvious costs and we refer to the sum of those two as the “All In” amount. The combination of those two costs should equal between 70-80% of your estimated after repair value of the house (ARV), or the amount you expect to sell the house for. The actual target percentage will depend on several risk variables we measure. Many people only count these “All In” costs.
The reality, however, is there are other “quiet” costs that must be factored in. Quiet costs include:
- Transactional Costs of Buying and Selling
- Cost of Money
- Holding Costs
The most significant quiet costs are the transactional costs of buying and selling the property. When you purchase a property, you will need to pay a title attorney for the transaction fees and title insurance. These buying costs are consistent in our area but can differ widely depending on your county’s recording fees. The remaining costs are on the sales end of the flip. They include real estate agent commissions and seller concessions. Concessions are typically closing costs the seller pays for the buyer. This will vary by market and demand, with the seller typically paying between 2-4% in closing costs. The real estate agent commissions also vary widely. If you flip many houses and advertise, it’s possible to sell some during construction as for sale by owner and avoid some agent commissions.
Another quiet cost is the cost of money. The cost of money can vary greatly depending on the amount you have down, your credit, your experience, and your financial health. At best, you’ll pay a low-interest rate for an equity line. At worst, you’ll have to secure financing from a hard money lender who will charge “points” on the front end and a high-interest rate along the way.
A “point” is one percent of the loan amount. If you get a $100,000 loan and pay 5 points to a hard money lender, that’s $5,000 before paying any interest. We estimate paying 10% APR with no points with a combination of private investor capital and bank funding. We estimate the cycle time of the project to be 7 months. Five to eight months is reasonable unless you are juggling multiple projects at once. If anyone claims to do a full remodel and sell it in less than 5 months, be skeptical. Many flip houses are sold to buyers with FHA loans. FHA rules require the seller to have owned the property for 91 days before executing a sales contract. Even if you fly through the rehab, you might have to wait until day 91 to put it under contract.
The last quiet cost is the holding cost of the property. Holding costs are those costs associated with owning a property. The most significant are:
- Property Taxes
Obviously, these will vary greatly from market to market, depending largely upon property taxes.
After subtracting out all these costs from our ARV, we are left with a typical property gross margin as seen on the graphic. As you can easily understand, overpaying for a house, miscalculating construction, or overestimating the sales price can reduce the gross profit considerably.
Even if you get everything right, there are also overhead costs. Typically, the most significant overhead expense is marketing for deals. Finding inventory requires a budget, excellent strategy, and time. Remember, people don’t just give houses away. In addition to marketing, there is accounting, liability insurance, online subscriptions, and any other costs that come with operating a business.
It is certainly possible to make a good income and create wealth from flipping houses. It is, however, like any other business. You have to find inventory, add value to that inventory, and pay the costs of selling it. Unless you have established lead sources and extraordinary systems, expect to pay at least half your gross profits in overhead costs.
There’s Money to be Made Flipping Houses
While flipping houses is like any other business in many regards, there are some unique advantages. Your inventory is real property so it’s possible to finance as much as 100% of your inventory. This wouldn’t be possible in most industries because the inventory of shoes, food, and most other types of inventory are considered risky collateral and, therefore, difficult to finance. Investing in real estate allows you to use other people’s money to scale your inventory and business. While the gross profit percentage in different industries can vary widely, the average sale in real estate is significant. Selling one house takes less work and time than selling 150,000 hot dogs or 1,500 pairs of shoes. As a real estate entrepreneur, you also don’t have to keep a storefront open, which allows you a great deal of flexibility. Being a real estate entrepreneur can provide a great life, generate income, and wealth. Just don’t expect to take home as much as the reality shows would have you believe.
New Again Houses has a Unique House Flipping Franchise Program
If you want to start making money flipping houses, consider joining the New Again Houses® family! With our program, you can own your own New Again Houses® franchise and make money flipping houses. You’ll benefit from our Mastersuite Technology, Flip Simulator, and New Again Ecosystem, and you’ll always have a steady stream of qualified leads from our Lead Launchpad. You can also have access to capital through our partners at Alta Capital Management. If you’d like to learn more, get in touch with us!
Matt Lavinder is the founder and president of New Again Houses®, which includes a large local operation and an emerging national franchise. Before founding New Again Houses® in 2008, Matt earned a Master’s Degree from Duke University and spent 12 years at his alma mater, King University, as an Assistant Professor of History, Men’s Soccer Coach, and Assistant Athletic Director. In his spare time, he continues to coach young soccer players and holds a USSF A License, the highest coaching license available in the US. Matt is married to Dr. Hollie Lavinder, who is a clinical pharmacy specialist. They reside in Bristol and have three children, Corey, Laura J, and Lana.