The flippers are back

blue house
blue house

The flippers are back. It reminds me of 2005 when home buyers would walk into my listings with clipboards taking notes. They would tell me how they plan to buy a house for cheap and fix it up and sell in and make a lot of money. Some of them got their ideas from television shows that make it all look so simple. In 2008 – 201o I was touring homes that were owned by banks that had been partially renovated. As home values dropped like a rock the cheap house was worth less than what the buyer paid for it and so they gave up. I’ll admit housing crashes don’t come along every day or even every few decades but house “flipping” is still a great way for people who don’t know what they are doing to lose money.

I have worked with people who renovate and resell houses. I find a house for them that I think is a candidate for flipping and I calculate how much it would be worth today if certain improvements are made. The expert house flipper who doesn’t have time for TV, looks at the house and estimates how much it will cost to make the improvements. He is actually very good at this and has a lot of experience doing work himself and hiring others. Sometimes houses are fixed up and rented out so that the buyer can hold them for a couple of years and then resold.

He then tells me how much how much he is willing to pay for the house. If the house is listed for more than what the investor is willing to pay and if a more favorable price can not be negotiated the house flipper moves on.

People interested in becoming profissional property flippers need to understand that there is a lot of competition out there and often the best candidates for rehab are sold by the city and others never go on the market. Often buyers believe that they are the only people who are looking for a bargain or who have the idea to fix up a house and resell it.

Most of the people I know who fix up homes and resell them do not make a huge amount of money on each project but they make enough and usually they enjoy what they do. I am familiar with various businesses that rehab houses and I can tell you some do a great job and others just make the house look pretty to attract first time home buyers.

Real estate agents are often approached and asked for investment advice. Most real estate agents are not qualified to give that kind of advice but some will give it anyway.

Home many homes can I see?

HDR_for_Real_Estate___St__Paul__MN_PhotosFirst time home buyers often want to know how man homes they can look at in an afternoon or evening and how many homes they need to look at before they find the right home. The answer to both questions is it depends.

Last year I showed about 300 homes to buyers. Over the years I have developed a system. If I am showing buyers homes in the city we can usually see about three homes and hour.  Buyers spend 15 to 20 minutes on average in each home, and we usually need time to travel from house to house. Generally it isn’t hard to look at 8 houses in an afternoon.

Most buyers start to get things mixed up after about 6 houses and most buyers have some kind of a limit and if we go beyond it they just stop absorbing information. Sometimes out of town buyers need to look at 25 homes on a weekend. It that case it is important to take notes.

Most home buyers need to look at ten or more homes in person before they can make an offer, and I have had several home buyers who needed to look at 30 to 50 homes. These days we don’t usually find 50 homes in a buyers price range in the area where they want to live and most buyers use the internet to screen out the homes that probably won’t work for them.

Buyers who shop in a few neighborhoods or a couple of cities have the hardest time finding a home which is why I encourage home buyers to start by choosing a neighborhood. Occasionally a buyer has a home style, price range and neighborhood combination that just don’t work. They may want a home that no more than ten years old but the want to live close to downtown. Sure there are a few but not many. Sometimes the price doesn’t go with the neighborhood which is why I encourage people to look at my Home Sales and Prices by Neighborhood reports.

That brings us right back to my answer “that depends”.

Reality TV


 I am not sure how to say this .. . I don’t want to disappoint anyone but about those reality TV shows where people go house hunting or flip houses.  Trust me when I tell you that those shows are not reality and they can warp your ideas about what house hunting is like.House hunting isn’t the same for everyone and some folks need to look at a ton of houses and other people only a few.  When working with a real estate agent each is a little different and I am more different than most. (no it isn’t Friday)

When sellers watch these shows they actually get some good ideas like that they should clean up their homes and stage them before they put them on the market so I guess it is alright if home sellers watch the shows except for the parts where there are open houses.  Couple are not going to flock to your 400 square foot condo on a hot Sunday afternoon all dressed up in suites and be greeted by a real estate agent who looks like model. . . sorry to disappoint.    

Some of your neighbors will show up and the agent holding the open will try to talk them into selling their houses too and some buyers will come through who have not yet met with a lender and can only afford a place in the 50K range once they clear up the bankruptcy and get caught up on the back child support.

. . .after reading what I just wrote I get why people like reality tv shows they are an escape from reality and maybe the way the world should be but isn’t.  

OK lets compromise . . I won’t roll my eyes when you mention that you are a fan of a house hunting show if you stop telling me about it. 

Taking pictures while house hunting


It is never alright to take pictures of the inside of a home even if it is on the market and you are interested in buying it without the sellers permission.  It is considered to be an invasion of privacy.   You can rationalize  taking pictures any way that you like.  Some buyers decide it is alright to take pictures because they would not mind if someone took pictures or their home. Some sellers do not mind at all and other sellers will limit the number of photographs their agent can take and will tell us that we can not photograph certain rooms.

There have been situations when I am working with out of town buyers and they want me to take photographs of a home for them.  I can do that but I always ask permission first.  

Sellers might want to discuss this with their agents..  Agents have been known to say yes to pictures without asking the sellers.

Is there anyway a home owner can prevent someone from taking photographs?  No there isn’t but that doesn’t mean you can’t say no.  You should also consider putting your 4 carrot diamond ring in a safe place and refrain from leaving $100 bills on your dresser. . . .

Cold weather house hunting tips

St  Paul 20120116 00758
Red wool socks

This winter has been pretty mild but it is still winter.  If you are out looking at houses you will probably have to take your shoes/boots off when you go inside.  many of the homes on the market are vacant and they have the heat turned way down.   It doesn’t take long for the feet to get cold.  I have been experimenting with ways to keep them warm because I get cranky when they are cold. On Saturday I failed miserably and had cold feet all day.  

The secret is in the socks.  Sunday I wore two pair of socks under my boots.  The second pair were thick red wool socks.   I was able to stay in a cold house for half without getting cold feet.  

I like to remind sellers that they need to have a rug inside the door and it needs to be big enough to hold several pair of boots otherwise they will end up with puddles on the floor and I will end up with wet socks when I step in them which may cause me to encourage my buyers to make an even lower low ball offer on your home. 

Colonial Style


The colonial style architecture started in England and then moved to the English Colonies in the 1720’s.  This particular home is in the Georgian style which is American Colonial architecture.  Homes like this one were built in the Eastern states in the late 18th century.   Minnesota did not become a state until the 1850’s, the home in the picture was built in the early 1900’s. 

If you are interested in buying a home like this in St. Paul, we do have homes in this style in all sizes and price ranges.