Reporting on the return of investment for house flippers

Selling flipped homes is up while the average return on investment for flipping a home is down:

Homes that were resold within 12 months after being purchased made up 7.2 per cent of all transactions in the first quarter, the biggest share since the start of 2010, Attom Data Solutions reported Thursday. Meanwhile, the average return on investment, not including renovations and other expenses, dropped to 39 per cent, an almost eight-year low…

“Investors may be getting out while the getting is good,” Todd Teta, chief product officer at Attom Data Solutions, said in the report. “If investors are seeing profit margins drop, they may be acting now and selling before price increases drop even more.”

Three quick thoughts:

  1. The return on investment for flipping a home is down. Changes in the real estate market mean there are fewer homes with large return potential. I wonder how much of the lack of such homes is due to fewer homes on the market versus sellers getting better at pricing their homes versus multiple kinds of investors driving up prices at the lower price points.
  2. The return of investment of 39% sounds high…until you factor in “renovations and other expenses” which are not part of the figure. So what is the actual average return on investment once factoring in everything? 5%? 15%? This initial figure then helps make sense of the need of flippers to reduce expenses and make cost-effect renovations because those decisions directly connect to profits.
  3. Thinking of the money in house flipping, I have seen little about the accuracy of HGTV shows and other shows that often provide a purchase price, expenses summary, and then give a profit at the end. Are those figures normal? Do they represent unusual housing markets and/or unusual advantages to being part of a TV crew doing house flipping?

Housing flipping now above 2005 levels

RealtyTrac finds that house flipping levels have increased in recent years:

The report by RealtyTrac found that home flipping in 12 active metropolitan areas last year was above a peak set in 2005, just two years before the U.S. mortgage market started to collapse, leading to a banking crisis and the Great Recession.

Profits generated by home flipping also hit a 10-year high, with home flippers netting an average $55,000 per sale before renovation and transaction costs. Profits topped $100,000 in expensive markets such as New York and Los Angeles…

There were also indications smaller investors were starting to pile in on the action. The number of home flippers rose to levels not seen since 2007, while the number of home flips per individual investor fell at the same time.

“When home flipping numbers go up, it is usually an indication that the housing market is in trouble,” said Matthew Gardner, chief economist at Windermere Real Estate, who was quoted in the report.

I blame HGTV. Seriously though, hasn’t there been a shift in the last decade or so to seeing house flipping as a more normal business that many people could get into? I hear radio ads regularly in the Chicago area for house flipping seminars where supposedly anyone can show up and learn the secrets. On one hand, you have professionals and firms that do this on a mass scale but you also have an increase in the number of flippers as people take on these projects to make some extra money or start a new business.

If this is pushing us toward another burst housing bubble, is there any way to reign in the flippers? Could local governments institute more regulations that would slow this down?