South Bend Home Loan

Monday, August 22, 2016

Why Flipping is so Flipping Hard

A past client emailed me this weekend asking for my help with a new property she wants to purchase. I love working with previous clients and was initially delighted by her message. As I read on though, that delight faded a bit.

She was wanting to buy a house to flip it. Now please don't get me wrong. I have nothing against people flipping homes. I've flipped a few myself (with the hugely important help of my contractor husband that is). I truly love when people take a home that is neglected and improve it. The whole community benefits from better houses so I'm a big fan.

That being said, flipping a house is just so flippin' hard to do. And I'm not talking about the actual work involved, although I think most first time flippers grossly underestimate that. I'm talking about the financing part of a house flip. Let me share why getting a mortgage for a flip home is so challenging for most buyers.

The Undervalued House

The way to make money on a house flip is to find one that is undervalued, normally because of condition, fix it and resell it for a fair market value. The challenge is that you need to cover the costs of your financing, repairs and your profit in that new 'fair market value' which means the initial price needs to be quite low when compared to the houses around it.

That does happen, but when it happens, it's often because the problems with the current condition are significant. They're things like missing plumbing or visible mold or significant damage (floors torn up, toilets missing, etc.). The issues that exist are often things that make the house uninhabitable and an uninhabitable house is not a financeable house.

What does that mean for a flipper? It means that most of the houses that will make the best flips have to be bought with cash. If you don't have the cash to buy and fix them, you're not going to be able to buy a lot of the more profitable flip houses.

Down Payment and Reserves

Maybe a person finds a house that could be a profitable flip that is actually in good enough condition to get financed. Yea! The next hurdle then is the down payment and repair costs. When you're purchasing an investment property, you need to invest more upfront than you do on a home you intend to live in. An owner occupant home can often be purchased for as little as 3% down (even 0% down for USDA eligible homes) but an investment property typically takes at least a 20% down payment.

To make it more challenging, a lender will need you to have additional funds in savings AFTER the down payment and loan approval costs are covered (called 'reserves'). You often don't need to have any additional savings with an owner-occupied home purchase but an investment property purchase typically requires you to have savings equal to six months of payments on your existing mortgage(s) and the new mortgage combined. That savings can often be in the form of retirement savings if needed (IRA, 401k), which helps. For many would be flippers though, they're stretching all their savings to just buy and fix the house and the requirement to have additional savings is just too much.


So....maybe just maybe you find a house that is financeable and maybe you have the money for the down payment, reserves and repair costs. Do you have the room in your budget for the new loan though? Even if your intent is to sell the house fairly quickly, the lender has to see that you can afford the payment on it on top of your current payments. This means your income has to be enough to cover your current bills (mortgage, car loans, credit cards, student loans, etc.) and the new mortgage payment with enough cushion above these for the lender to be comfortable. Some people have that kind of space in their budget but, if you don't, this could stop your flipping plans in their tracks.

All to say...

So does all this mean that only cash buyers can flip houses? No, not really. A person can potentially flip with a mortgage but there are so many 'ifs' to it. You could potentially flip with a mortgage if the house meets minimum property conditions, if you have the 20% down payment, if you have the required reserves, if your debt/income ratio isn't too high (plus a few more minor 'ifs' not covered here). Add on top of all of this that most sellers will prefer a cash offer on their distressed property over a financed one and it's just really, really flippin' hard for people to get into home flipping if they need a mortgage to do it. 

My best advice - if this is something you really want to do, find a property that meets minimum property standards and buy it to live in while you're fixing it. If you make it your home and live there, repairing it over time, and selling it down the road, a lender will view it as your primary home and a lot of these tighter requirements go away.

If that's not an option, try to save the money and become a cash flipper. It may take longer to get to your goal, but it's do-able if you're willing to put effort and time to save upfront.

To learn more about the products covered here or any other aspects of home financing, contact Lori Hiscock at  
Lori Hiscock is a Sr. Loan Officer at Ruoff Home Mortgage‘s South Bend office.  One of Michiana’s top mortgage loan officers, Lori started her lending career in 1995 after obtaining her bachelor’s degree in Finance from Western Michigan University.  You can connect with Lori Hiscock or apply online here. NMLS#404320.
Ruoff Mortgage Company, Inc. is an Indiana corporation licensed by the Indiana Department of Financial Institutions (DFI) and operates with the following licenses:

Indiana-DFI First Lien Mortgage Lending License #10994;
IL Residential Mortgage Licensee #MB.6760734;
Michigan 1st Mortgage Broker/Lender License #FL0017496.
Ohio Mortgage Broker Act License #MBMB.850220.000

The Florida Office of Financial Regulation License #MLD1182