9 Ways Home Flipping Shows Mislead Viewers

By
Real Estate Agent with RE/MAX Professional Associates

We all know the premise of home-flipping shows: An investor buys a veritable dump and then, with the help of a team of ready-and-willing contractors and landscapers, transforms it into the best-looking home on the block. Next, that intrepid buyer turns around and sells it for a hefty profit. Sounds like a straightforward formula for financial success, right? Well, not quite.

What makes for entertaining television doesn’t always translate into a win beyond the high definition flat screen. The following are nine ways home-flipping shows mislead viewers. So, if you’re considering turning this into your next career or even a side gig, you may want to separate fact from fiction first.

1. Tight turnarounds aren’t always realistic

In order to realize as large a profit as possible, it’s important to flip the property as quickly as you can, otherwise paying the mortgage, taxes, and insurance quickly chips away at your bottom line. While sales tend to happen quickly on TV, the reality is that even if you have a willing buyer, getting pre-approved and securing the financing doesn’t happen overnight. For anxious sellers, that ticking clock is a constant reminder that every passing day means a little less money in their pockets.

2. Finding a dedicated team isn’t easy

As far too many homeowners know, not all contractors are created equal. For the most part, the artisans who make their way onto home-flipping shows are trustworthy, knowledgeable and willing to work nearly round-the-clock to get the job done. In reality, contractors may be working on multiple projects simultaneously and may disappear for days at a time. And as we all know, time is money.

3. DIY doesn’t work for everyone

Part of the appeal of these home-flipping programs is the ease with which the whole property comes together. But it’s more than just the time-lapse photography that makes it seem like anyone with a tool belt can renovate like a pro. While you might be tempted to take a DIY approach to keep expenses low, remember, these people know what they’re doing, whereas most homeowners are experts at other things. Sometimes tackling a task yourself will end up costing you more than if you’d hired the right person for the job.

4. When trouble strikes, it’s not so easy to resolve

Even with a careful home inspection, surprises (not the good kind!) pop up when you least expect them. Yet, if a sink hole opens and threatens to swallow a sunporch, home-flipping show teams are ready to fix that issue like it’s no big deal. When it happens to non-TV-star homeowners, it’s not always easy to find the right subcontractor — especially when you’re under time constraints. And, once you do, can you even afford to deal with whatever unpleasant shocker has come your way? If you have to go back to the bank for more money, that will impact your timeframe and ultimately your profit. (See number 1.) Home-flippers on TV seem to have bottomless bank accounts. Must be nice, right?

5. Materials don’t arrive simultaneously

When home-flippers begin a project, all the requisite materials are on-site and ready to go. If only this were the norm! Anyone who’s ever fallen in love with a special order item knows that it’s almost impossible to find everything you like in stock and ready for delivery. Some contractors are reluctant to start a renovation until all the supplies are in, which, again, can hurt your timeline and your profit.

6. The back-and-forth is all done behind-the-scenes

Never mind the fact that homes showcased on these programs never seem to lack for buyers, in many instances there doesn’t seem to be any haggling to speak of when it comes to the asking price. Leaving out the art of negotiation does viewers a disservice as it makes it appear that buyers can’t wait to pay full price — or above it.

7. The math is fuzzy

In order to reap the biggest profit, you need to buy below market value, sell above it, and not put more money into the renovation than you’ll get back. As if that equation weren’t complicated enough, on television, you don’t always hear about the costs of buying or selling, inspection and appraisals fees, and other expenses that go into both sides of the transactions. Leaving out some numbers conveniently inflates the profit.

8. Costs vary by area

Renovating a bathroom in rural Tennessee is going to cost much less than it would in, say, Manhattan. Not only will the labor be less expensive, but the materials and delivery charges will also skew lower in non-metropolitan areas. Of course, none of that is addressed in the show and most often estimates on TV are far lower than those you’d gather in real life.

9. You can over-renovate

Once you’re in the home improvement groove, you may be tempted to splurge and really go all out, but you have to resist the temptation to overdo it and put in more money than you’ll ever get back. In the quest to make your flip as fabulous as possible, you never want to lose sight of the the reason you started this project: to make money. Consider the return on investment for each improvement you make.

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flip
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Rainmaker
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William Feela
WHISPERING PINES REALTY - North Branch, MN
Realtor, Whispering Pines Realty 651-674-5999 No.

I personally don't like the shows as they make flipping glamorous

Feb 19, 2019 10:17 AM #1
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Debe Maxwell, CRS
www.iCharlotteHomes.com | The Maxwell House Group | RE/MAX Executive | (704) 491-3310 - Charlotte, NC
Charlotte Homes for Sale - Charlotte Neighborhoods

These types of shows are a good place to get ideas & they are entertaining but definitely unrealistic. 

Feb 19, 2019 02:18 PM #2
Rainmaker
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Chuck Willman UtahHomes.me
Utah Homes - Alpine, UT
Utah Homes

This is such a great post. Over nearly a decade I was a part of a buying group that purchased more than 10,000 homes on behalf of investors. My wife and I also performed many flips and assisted our buyers in the same.

The shows are not really more geared toward entertainment than creating an actual narrative. In almost all cases they will create a narrative that will not match the actual flip.

This post would be a great primer for those who want to venture into flipping. They would also be well served to hire an experienced real estate agent as well as those who can offer wise financing advice, warrantied repairs, and any of other number of services that could allow the newbie flipper a more profitable experience. I say this because there are so many ways to lose money. 

Also- I sure wish they'd turn this into a featured blog post. It's so well done.

Feb 19, 2019 02:23 PM #3
Rainmaker
132,944
Mike Baltierra
Rise Realty - Eastvale, CA
Full Service at Your Service Realtor-Eastvale CA

Great post. Those shows never talk about how much the money cost to purchase the home and for materials. If they are using their own money then there's no cost but borrowing money is where a lot of the profit goes.

Feb 22, 2019 12:43 PM #4
Rainmaker
1,435,020
Kat Palmiotti
Grand Lux Realty 914-419-0270 (NY), kat@thehousekat.com, (MT) 406-270-3667, more information to be provided shortly - Kalispell, MT
The House Kat

Excellent post. There are a lot of things left out of those 30/60 minutes shows!

Feb 23, 2019 04:43 AM #5
Rainmaker
3,813,783
Dorie Dillard CRS GRI ABR
Coldwell Banker United Realtors® ~ 512.750.6899 - Austin, TX
Serving Buyers & Sellers in NW Austin Real Estate

Good morning,

Excellent post..you are so right..entertainment but not realistic and set such unrealistic expectations!

Feb 23, 2019 05:31 AM #6
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Jeff Dowler, CRS
Solutions Real Estate - Carlsbad, CA
The Southern California Relocation Dude

Great take on the issues would-be flippers getting inspired by un-reality TV aren't aware of. No question the shows are entertaining but they are pretty darn far from truth and reality.

Jeff

Feb 23, 2019 10:33 AM #7
Rainmaker
1,002,553
Kevin J. May
Florida Supreme Realty - Hobe Sound, FL
Serving the Treasure & Paradise Coasts of Florida

Amy, have I told you how happy I am to have had Carol Williams direct me here today. Perfect gifs wrapped with just the right amount of text.

Feb 23, 2019 12:55 PM #8
Rainmaker
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Marte Cliff
Marte Cliff Copywriting - Priest River, ID
Your real estate writer

I don't watch those shows, because I don't watch much TV at all, but I imagine they also don't reveal the costs of all the permits required in some cities.

Meanwhile - what little "reality TV" I've seen is FAR from reality.

Feb 26, 2019 10:06 AM #9
Rainmaker
652,366
Christine O'Shea
Christine E O'Shea Broker-Associate - Naples, FL

Great Post!  Also, the permitting phase can be costly and vary from town to town.

Mar 24, 2019 04:27 PM #10
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