Home Flipping Hit a 15-Year High in 2021, But Profits Fell

New Construction

The steadily increasing cost of houses last year was like catnip to house flippers, who saw the chance to capitalize on demand, resulting in the highest number of single-family home and condo flips since 2006.

new report from Attom finds that 323,465 homes were flipped last year, a 26% increase from 2020. Riches didn’t quite materialize as planned, though.

Despite the notable increase in flips, the gross profit margin on those quick resales fell to just 31%, its lowest level in over a decade and nearly 11% lower than the 2020 margin.

That’s not to say there weren’t big dollars changing hands. Homes flipped in 2021 typically generated a gross profit of $65,000 nationwide, a 3% drop from 2020’s $67,000, which was a 15-year high. (That figure is determined by the difference between the median sales price and the median amount originally paid by investors.)

That wasn’t enough for some companies, though. Zillow, famously, jettisoned its house-flipping unit last year, laying off 25% of its workforce at the same time. The company was said to vastly overpay for properties.

Rising lumber prices could be at least partially to blame for that profit margin decline, as flippers often have to fix or upgrade the homes they buy before reselling them. Supply-chain issues also increased the price of many household necessities and appliances.

There was an upside for investors, though. More flippers were using cash to buy homes in 2021, which lowered costs.

“While gross profits were lower for fix-and-flip investors in 2021, there may have been offsets that protected net profits,” said Rick Sharga, Attom’s executive vice president of market intelligence. “Fewer flippers financed their purchases, so their cost of capital was lower. And it took less time to execute a flip, reducing holding costs, and suggesting that less extensive—and less expensive—repairs were needed to bring the properties to market. A lot of the markup on fix-and-flip properties historically has come from the value of those repairs, but so have a lot of the costs that reduce net profits.”

The median price of a flipped home nationwide last year stood at $275,000. The average flip took 153 days (versus 182 days in 2020).

While the national average for flipper profits stood at $65,000, the location of the homes, of course, made a big difference. Here are the most- and least-profitable cities for flippers, among the nation’s top 53 metro areas, with populations of 1 million or more.

Highest gross-profit flipping cities

San Jose, Calif. ($265,500)
San Francisco, Calif. ($172,000)
Seattle, Wash. ($149,950)
San Diego, Calif. ($145,500)
Washington, D.C. ($139,555)

Lowest gross-profit flipping cities

Kansas City, Mo. ($23,456)
Houston, Texas ($32,300)
San Antonio, Texas ($34,357)
Dallas, Texas ($40,800)
Atlanta, Ga. ($43,900)

By: Chris Morris I Fortune  I March 31, 2022


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