High-End Home Flippers Are Back
By: Brian O'Connell

NEW YORK (BankingMyWay) — The mortgage market is starting to see a resurgence in home “flips” – residential properties that are bought and sold within a six-month period with the intent to make a big profit on short-term turnaround.

Home-flippers thrived in the 1990s and the first half of the 2000s as home prices rose significantly thanks to a booming economy, a roaring housing market and an easy-money mortgage lending environment.

But the Great Recession and the subsequent housing collapse put a stop to that. With home prices sliding in 2007 and 2008, the flippers were caught in a bind, many of them left holding the mortgage to multiple properties just as housing prices plummeted.

That’s why so many home foreclosures over the past five years were due not to bread-and-butter homeowners, but to home-flippers.

In fact, some industry experts blame the housing market crisis on home-flippers and not on big banks, loose lenders or in-over-their-head long-term homeowners.

According to a HousingStudies.org and DePaul University study from last year, The Role of House Flippers In a Boom and Bust Real Estate Market:

The bust in the housing market originates from the subprime loan crisis in 2007 — a crisis that turned into a worldwide financial catastrophe. The subprime crisis is often blamed on those individuals who purchased homes despite their inability to sustain monthly mortgage payments. However, the real culprit in the crisis may be house flippers who aided artificially inflating home prices, which eventually hurt subprime borrowers; that is, subprime borrowers were, conceivably, lured into purchasing an unaffordable home because they paid an inflated price.

Despite the role that home flippers may have played in the housing market meltdown, the quick-flip mindset has been on the rise again — especially on high-end homes valued at more than $750,000.

Data out this week from RealtyTrac) shows that high-end home flips are up 34% in the past year, with the average buy-and-sell turnaround yielding an average gross profit of $54,927.

Most of the deals were consolidated into five U.S. regions: the New York City metropolitan areas and the most populous California coastal markets — Los Angeles, San Francisco, San Jose and San Diego.

The higher the home price, it seems, the faster the growth in residential home flipping. According to RealtyTrac, market flips on homes valued between $1 million and $2 million rose 42%. But flips on homes valued at between $2 million and $5 million rose 350%.

RealtyTrac is seeing home flips in lower-priced home markets stalling, but not in the $1 million category and up.

“Increasing home prices over the past 18 months combined with decreasing foreclosures have created a market less favorable to the high quantity of middle- to low-end bread-and-butter flips that we saw late last year and early this year,” says Daren Blomquist, vice president at RealtyTrac. “But the sharp rise in high-end flipping indicates there is still good money to be made for flippers willing and able to take on the additional risk of buying and rehabbing more expensive homes.”

“With that higher risk also comes the potential for higher reward,” he says. “The average gross profit on each high-end flip equals more than four times the average gross profit on each flipped home in the lower price ranges.”

Home-flipping is not for everyone, and likely not a solid investment for the majority of Americans.

But the risk-takers who took a financial bath during the housing market collapse five years ago are back, and cashing some huge “quick-sale” checks in the process.

—For more ways to save, spend, invest and borrow, visit MainStreet.com.

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