The housing market is flipping out

A 'For Sale' sign is posted in front of a house on November 28, 2012 in Hollywood, Fla. Florida was one of the centers for flipping in the last real estate crisis.

Though we have barely crawled out of the hole created by excess speculation in the housing market, investors are getting back into real estate with a vengeance. A new report from RealtyTrac shows the number of people flipping houses -- the practice of buying a house and re-selling it again within six months -- is up 74 percent in the last two years across the nation.

So, investors are flipping again -- but in different places. You could say the geography of flipping has, well, flipped. No longer are Southern California and Arizona the hot spots. Now, New York state is more attractive to investors, with a 400 percent increase in flipping in the last year. In Nebraska, house-flipping rose 262 percent. Arkansas saw similar numbers.


Top 15 Markets for Profitable Home Flipping

Source: RealtyTrac


“We’re seeing higher levels of flipping than we saw even back during the housing bubble of 2004 to 2008. Which is a little bit of a red flag,” says RealtyTrac vice president Daren Blomquist. Even though flipping helped create the last real estate meltdown, Blomquist doesn’t expect a repeat performance. For one thing, he says banks no longer give away easy money.

Mark Goldman, who teaches real estate finance at San Diego State University, agrees that another housing bubble is unlikely.

“The symptoms that caused that problem no longer exist. There was a lot of stupid money in the market. Anybody could borrow,” says Goldman. “Zero-down loans are gone.”

And some believe the word ‘flipper’ might not even apply to today’s buyers.

“It’s not even purely a flip in most cases,” says Brad Hunter, chief economist with the housing research firm called MetroStudy. “A flip is really just flipping the contract, where you buy the house, and at the same time you close on it, you sell it to someone else. That’s not really the trend that’s occurring these days. It’s now more of an investor than just a pure speculator or flipper.”

His research shows that many investors are putting time and money into fixing up properties. And instead of putting the houses right back on the market, many investors are renting them out. With people living in the homes, the owners are less likely to walk away.

About the author

Jeff Tyler is a reporter for Marketplace’s Los Angeles bureau, where he reports on issues related to immigration and Latin America.

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