The Secret to Selling Your House Flip

By: Jeremy Biberdorf

October 15, 2012

The Secret to Selling Your House Flip

No doubt, one of the most exciting parts of a house flip is selling. It’s the combination of months of hard work, dedicated most of your free time, and closely following steps for success, some which went as planned and some that didn’t go quite the way you wanted them to. Either way, all your work is finally going to pay off for you – provide you get the right price.

You most likely financed the deal by getting money from other people, be it investors or private equity. Maybe you were lucky enough to get a loan from a bank. You bought the house and did the work, and now the home is ready for a buyer to drop some cash and make it theirs.

It’s time for that hefty paycheque, right?

The Importance of ARV in House Flipping

When you were first starting in assessing the house flip, you likely (or should have) determined the after repair value (or ARV) that the house could sell for upon completion. Now with the house done, you are ready to list it with a real estate broker. It’s a super exciting time in your life for sure. Hopefully, you can get enough of a return that you could make house flipping a business.

I have long advocated ARV as a standard number to set your sights on when house flipping. ARV is an especially important number for you to know, as it’s the basis for all your work and costs associated with the house flip.

If you stop and think for a moment, the price you sell for is the most significant number to crunch when you flip. That number sets the tone for the entire project.

For example, if you buy a house for $160,000 or $170, 000, did minimal rehab but you can’t sell it for even $180,000 or $190,000, chances are slim you’ll have a long career flipping houses.

Also, if you buy the house for $100,000 and put $50,000 worth of renovations into it, and the max you can sell it for is $170,000, the margins are just way too slim. Even if you may have “bought right,” you’ll have a hard time making real money in this business.

That’s why setting a realistic ARV at the start of the project is so vitally important for increasing your chances of profitability. What you make all comes down to that one number.

Why a Realistic ARV Determines Your Profit

Let’s continue with our example of the $100,000 house with $50,000 worth of renovations. You take your hard work to your real estate broker, and he or she tells you that the house can sell for $200,000. If right and the market holds, you’ll most likely make a nice profit, minus finance costs and broker fees.

To arrive at the $200,000 figure, chances are that your real estate broker got the pricing from using comparative houses, or “comps,” which have sold in your area. Your broker will do the same thing when it’s time to sell.

So, you buy the house and get to work. Six months after the start of the house flipping project, the house is looking great, and you’re feeling confident that you can get your $200,000 asking price. All you need now is a buyer.

Except now the broker has terrible news – the new price according to the market is $190,000, and your original asking price is no longer realistic. However, you have your heart set on that $200,000, so should you ignore your broker’s advice and list it at that anyways?

Not a chance.

If you do, you’re more likely to lose money.

If the market shifts, don’t fight it. Otherwise, you’ll end up holding the property longer. Hanging onto your house flip in hopes of reaching your asking price will only cost you more in finance costs, soft costs and maintenance. Basically, you can kiss your profit goodbye.

In this situation, it’s imperative that you take a moment to compose yourself and listen to the broker. Of course, you shouldn’t list it for exactly $190,000, as we always add on five percent to account for negotiation when the property is first listed. We would do the same thing if the comps came back at $200,000 as well.

Teamwork Is the Key Ingredient In House Flipping

Although it may be a tough pill to swallow, especially when you’re first learning how to flip a house, always seek and listen to the counsel of your team. When you sell, ask the advice of your house flipping team – especially your real estate broker. Get their input and ask for their opinion. No one knows the market better than these experts do.

So when it comes to selling your house flip, if the market analysis comes back and tells you to list your property lower than your ARV, bite your tongue and do what the market dictates. You may not think it’s the right decision at the time, but believe me, you’ll reap the dividends later, and will live to flip another day.

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About the Author:

Jeremy Biberdorf is the founder of Modest Money. After working many years in the website marketing industry, he decided to take on blogging full time and also get his finances headed in the right direction. Also check out his contributions to Equities.com and Benzinga.

30 thoughts on “The Secret to Selling Your House Flip”

  1. Avatar
    John S @ Frugal Rules

    Good post. I can totally understand how the ARV would be key to know if you were to flip houses. I’ve thought about doing it in the past, but just lack the know how to do many repairs on my own which would put a serious dent in the profit.

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      Hi John,

      The idea is you account for the repairs at what you would pay a general contractor to do the job. The model needs to work without you having to do the work. If you do decide to do some work then that just means more money (sometimes) on your bottom line.
      I discuss this in more detail in my ebook if you want to check it out.

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        Rohit @ The Money Mail

        Do you take into account the lost rental income and add it to the cost of repairs? For example if you bought a house for $200K and could rent is for $1k/month without any repairs. You spent 3 months repairing it and spent $10K. What is the cost here $10K or $13K?

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          No I would not put in lost income for rent with the repairs. Once you stabilize and rent it out then you want to have % put in for vacancy typically 10% for income projections.

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      Lots of people start out that way as did I, Lance. In fact, I still have some rental properties that are nice recurring income sources. However, house flipping is where the real action is in my opinion. It suits my personality and lifestyle and there are plenty of opportunities to make some very good money doing it. Thanks for you comment! Are you just starting out or have you done any real estate investing in the past?

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    Mrs Pop @ Planting Our Pennies

    Our real estate investments are mostly ones that we are interested in holding for a long time, so we tend to be a lot more focused on cash flows than flipping. Actually I was looking at a DCF on our rental duplex last night since prices have gone up in the area to check and see what the. “we should consider selling” number would be. It’s still a good bit higher than how we value that income stream using the DCF.

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      Wow, sounds great. With the recent price appreciation in the market, its a tough call to know what to do. For me, it all depends on how much cash flow the rental is bringing in, what kind of tenants I have in the units and whether I’d rather take the equity and use it for other things like flipping. As with anything, its really a balance of all those things, but sounds like you’re in a good situation to be in! Mike

  3. Avatar

    My wife and I were playfully trying to determine if we’d ever be able to flip a house successfully. I think it is much harder than the average person thinks. But knowing how to do most of the repairs yourself will certainly help.

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      Agreed on that, nothing, no matter how many reality shows you watch is as easy as it looks. Especially on your first flip you feel that you should do all the rehab yourself. But coming form the trades, I did this on my first deals, but realized I could make more by doing less, believe it or not. Sure, I occasionally install a floor on my flips, but most of the work is handled by my GC. However, if you buy right, you can use other people’s brains to help you turn the house profitable for you, while you’re out hunting for your next profitable deal.

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    That’s important to consider the final selling price from the beginning. There’s no use to overdo if you won’t get a return on investment.This is a very interesting area to me. Thanks for the info.

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      The more you do it, the better you’ll get at predicting that ARV. Also you have to have a good team supporting you which includes real estate agents, general contractors and private money lenders to help you to analyze the deals. Its true it doesn’t hurt to have a mentor too, which I really wished I had when I first started, so I went out and taught it all to myself with some help of some other real estate investors I met at local REIA meetings and other networking events.

      Ill tell you what though, I am having the time of my life doing it now as a full time investor. sure, there’s plenty of issues you gotta deal with, but when you sell a house in 2 days (just happened as a matter of fact in a property in Onset, MA) and make a tidy profit, there’s no better feeling.

  5. Avatar
    Jason @ WorkSaveLive

    I haven’t gotten into flipping houses yet but it was something I was intrigued with a few years ago (when it was first becoming majorly popular before the ’08 debacle). For me, I don’t think I could do the no-money down thing. It just does against a lot of what I believe in and I think it’s a great way to go broke. There are certainly a lot that thrive at it though and make a good living doing it.

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      No doubt Jason, its always better to have your own money for sure. In fact, some private money lenders require you to have a personal monetary stake in the property in order to lend to you. However, private money, when you factor it into your projections is absolutely possible, even though many would make you think its just one of those scammy techniques reserved for late night TV.

      Every single flip we do now is all with “no money”…but what that really means is “other people’s money” and a very small percent which is your own. Have you done any real estate investing yourself?

  6. Avatar
    Jacob @ iheartbudgets

    I really want to flip a house, but probably because I watched WAY TOO MUCH HGTV a long time ago. I think doing arehab is a great idea, but even better if you turn a single lot into multiple lots, or create a 3 or 4-plex for renting. Have you done any of those before?

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      Hi Jacob,

      That is an idea if you can do that. You would want to check the zoning in your area to see if you can turn a single into a mult-family. If you can & no one else knows that then you may find the diamond in the ruff. I have not done it yet but have been exploring that
      possibility. I have a great contact that specializes in land development and turing land that is unbuildable to buildable or getting zoning to accept his proposals.

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    I don’t flip houses but I’ve always been curious. The ARV is something to keep in mind and glad I now know how it works. Such a simple concept that makes sense but I can see how one would go against it when getting greedy.

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      Hey John, its deceptively simple, but you do have to have a lot of smart people helping you to arrive at that number. No doubt a really knowledgable real estate agent with a good eye for comps and markets is a huge asset to any house flipper. Every market is different, but when you have people to help you, it makes all the difference. So true on the greed thing as well, its hard to keep your emotions in check with those projections, but as long as you don’t fudge the numbers, you’ll be just fine. Do you invest in real estate yourself?

  8. Avatar

    Flipping would not work for me, I am too worried about ending with an empty property for months. Like Jacob suggests, I would much rather look for a property where I can convert the basement and split the levels to get a high rental income, while putting it on the market for investors since day one. Dreaming of flipping but preparing for the worse.

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      Hey Pauline, house flipping is surely not for everyone, it really does depend a lot on your tolerance for risk, your personality and some other factors. We just have a system in place to really minimize the downside risk and its worked well for years. But controlling fear and tolerating risk is the very first step without a doubt.

      In fact, for the coaching clients I teach, we don’t even touch on the nuts and bolts of house flipping until we are in the third or fourth week! The entire first part is all on what you discuss here.

      Having said all that, subdividing and renting is a very sweet way to make a steady stream of income. I just prefer the fast paced tempo of house flipping, it just suits me. But I have rental properties as well. Do you rent houses right now?

  9. Avatar

    In the housing market that we just left can you reasonably predict ARV. It almost appeared as if flipping was no longer a viable option with all the foreclosures. Then again I do recognize the players know how to play and the pretenders get sent home during the hard times.

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      You can never predict with 100% certainty any outcome. You need to equip yourself with as much knowledge possibly to make the best educated decision you can and try to minimize risk as much as possible at the same time.
      For example if you look at the last 6 months & determine that the market value is dropping 1% a month & you determine the arv of a property is $200,000 in the current market. You may want to adjust your arv for 6 months out based on the previous 6 months of decline. So that may mean you are basing your offer with an arv of $188,000 instead.

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    When deciding if you can flip a house I think you have to consider your own skill set. A joiner / plumber / electrician might see it as a nice side-project and cut the project costs dramatically!

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      Great point! However you want to still carry those costs if you were to hire someone to do that portion of the work. The numbers still need to make sense. If you do some of the work yourself then you are adding more profit on your bottom line possibly.
      There are many ways to look at & depends on the time you have as well. For instance if you borrowed the money to do the rehab & lost 2 months doing some of the work yourself you may have not saved much if you have to pay a high interest rate on the money borrowed. Always have a plan going in and most definitely always have an exit strategy.

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      Looks like Mike isn’t checking this post for comments anymore, but you can reach out to him through his website. I would assume he gets bank financing, but I guess some people would have other financing sources too.

  11. Avatar

    I dont think there is any kind of the requirements of the property agents while dealing with the ARV before selling your property at high rate.

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