Why Getting House Flipping Training from TV Shows is a Terrible Idea

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I have a guilty pleasure: house flipping TV shows. I love watching them find the perfect property, try out creative design ideas, and sell to the ideal buyer—in thirty minutes or less. But I also know better than to take those shows seriously.

Many people new to the house flipping business make the mistake of believing in reality TV. House flipping shows generally highlight a company’s house flipping for all the wrong reasons. The investors research too little and pay too much—they cut corners to end up overwhelmed, all for the sake of drama.

Managing a house flipping business should be carefully considered and predictable; that makes it a good financial gain generator and a poor reality show. Let’s take a look at a few of the most common misconceptions spawned by house flipping training TV shows—and the realities behind them.

Why You Shouldn’t Listen to House Flipping Training TV Shows

If you want to learn about house flipping, there are better avenues than reality television. Reality television is scripted. It’s fun and exciting, but not entirely accurate. Like any business, house flipping is primarily composed of mundane, day-to-day tasks. When you eliminate the daily grind, you’re left with a skewed picture of the most dramatic wins, risks, and challenges.

The Most Common Issues With House Flipping in TV Shows

You’re not going to learn what you need to know about house flipping from a TV show. Television shows are brief. They want to tell you a story within thirty minutes (with commercial breaks). And that’s just not enough for a project that could take anywhere from six months to a year.

The most common misconceptions found in house flipping training TV shows are:

  • Flipping a house is fast.
  • You spend most of your time on design.
  • You always make a profit.

In addition to the misconceptions above, most house flipping shows show the designers and developers working on a single property at once, or a few properties in a row. In reality, most house flippers are working on an entire portfolio of properties—to hedge their bets because each flip takes time.

House flipping shows tend to be designed for high-risk, high-reward mindsets because that’s what’s exciting. But while there is inherent risk involved in any investment and business, house flipping should actually be as low risk as possible. Let’s take a look at some of these popular house flipping training TV shows so you can better understand my points.

1. Flip This House

In this long-running A&E series, different teams of real estate professionals find houses to invest in and flip. Flip This House has had a few controversies in its time, but mostly it makes the same error that house flipping shows usually do—it makes the flip seem fast every time.

In reality, a house flip can take six months to the better part of a year. You need to find the right property, close on it, get permits, and draw up plans. You also have to complete renovations to get the property on the market. All of this doesn’t happen overnight. Sometimes the most lengthy phase is the showings.

It’s hard to get a sense of scale when you’re watching a television show—and understanding the timeline of a house flip is about more than just patience. It’s about financing. When you carry the property for over a year, you have to pay for it for over a year, even when the property itself needs additional rehab and investment.

Misconception: A house flip is a race against time—you want to complete it as soon as possible.
Reality: As a house flipper, you have to be realistic about your timeline. While you want to finish the project quickly, you can’t rush some things out of your control, such as permits, certain types of renovations, etc.

2. Flip or Flop

Fans of Flip or Flop will talk about the “one time” the show went into the red. But most home flippers on television play fast-and-loose with their budgets; it’s very unlikely that they’re only going red a handful of times. 

House flippers large enough to get their own HGTV show are likely flipping dozens of properties a year. But the show only highlights the best and most successful ones. This can give new house flippers the idea that house flipping will be a constant success—and that it doesn’t matter how much risk you take on, you’ll make it up somehow.

But house flipping can be unpredictable when you’re first starting out. You can increase your chances of making a consistent profit by taking low risk jobs, rather than the high-risk, high-reward affairs on HGTV.

Misconception: You’ll be consistently profitable as a house flipper.
Reality: Most house flippers have a mix of wins and losses, hopefully, more heavily tilted toward wins. Proper risk assessment and diversification can help to protect you from more significant losses.

3. Zombie House Flipping

Zombie House Flipping highlights the most trendy practice in house rehabbing: taking on foreclosures, distressed properties, and dilapidated properties to rehabilitate them completely. This campy, semi-scripted show features a lot of foibles: people fall off ladders, branches tear through roofs, and the property is flooded.

But all that is played for laughs. What you shouldn’t learn from Zombie House Flipping is the idea of the “bottomless budget.” In Zombie House Flipping, they frequently go “over budget” and refuse to compromise on certain elements of the space.

In reality, most house flipping is about compromise. No one has a limitless budget, so you have to prioritize the changes that you make to the property. In general, you should prioritize making the property safe, habitable, and sellable. Wainscotting and brushed nickel fixtures come later.

Misconception: You may need to run over budget frequently, but it’s okay; you’ll make it up in the sales price.
Reality: In most properties in the market, the sales price isn’t that elastic. You have to be realistic about what you can do to the property while still making financial gain.

4. The Property Brothers Tend to Redesign the Entire Property

Property Brothers and many house flipping training TV shows, will get it into your head that you need to redesign every property radically. But that’s just not true for most flips. In Property Brothers, it’s just because they’re working with specific buyers to create their “dream home.” 

It’s not likely that a house will not sell because it doesn’t have a fully-convertible walk-in closet/at-home office. It’s far more likely that you will get homes in deplorable condition and rehab them into an attractive, livable state.

Every time you decide to add something to a property, you need to complete a cost-benefit analysis. How much do you stand to gain from the addition? How much could you stand to lose? A property doesn’t have to be perfect to sell. Most properties need to get 95% there—getting that last 5% often involves diminishing returns that will only cut into your returns.

Misconception: You have to redesign each property you work on entirely.
Reality: As a house flipper, it’s more likely that you will do the least possible amount of work necessary to get the house into good, livable, sellable condition. 

“Reality TV shows often promote the idea that homes should be practically flawless in order to make a successful flip. Overdoing a home in a specific style in order to achieve that perfect, TV-ready look may actually hurt your resale chances in the long run. Make sure the structure is sound and your basics are covered. Focus less on over-the-top bells and whistles.” Forbes

5. Home Town

The Napiers are always working hard to renovate historic homes In Home Town. Historical homes have historical issues—and many historic homes have restrictions on how they can be renovated. You may not be able to change the exterior at all. You might not even be able to install an HVAC system.

Many house flipping shows and YouTube channels focus on “spectacular” properties because they’re exciting and unique. But properties like this also sell to a niche audience; most people don’t want to live in a drafty historical home or a luxury mansion estate. The reality of house flipping is that you’re usually reconditioning properties from the 1980s, not the 1880s.

Other house flipping shows go for luxury properties, which are also fun to watch. But for most house flippers, it’s better to make $50,000 on a $200,000 flip than $50,000 on a $700,000 flip—a larger ticket price doesn’t always mean more financial gain.

Misconception: Historical homes and niche homes are a fun and exciting departure for an investor.
Reality: While no one will tell you that you shouldn’t invest in these types of niche properties, they often present many challenges and have a narrower subset of buyers. 

6. Masters of Flip

The husband-and-wife team in Masters of Flip frequently own five to ten houses—which is realistic. But what’s unrealistic is that they focus almost entirely on the visual redesign of the property, from the colors used to interior decorations. 

Home staging is important. But the reality of a “flip” it’s usually about the renovation. That’s knocking out and replacing drywall. That’s pulling out old appliances. That’s getting into the rafters to install more insulation and replace energy-inefficient windows.

Most flipping isn’t glamorous, which is exactly what this show tends to skip. And while you can hire contractors to do all the “difficult” stuff for you, you’ll soon find that cutting into your bottom line.

Many house flipping companies will start with one or two projects and do everything independently. And once you get into ten houses at once, you will be able to focus on higher-level things, such as which stone facade to place around the fireplace. But it’s more likely that you’re always going to be involved in day-to-day demolition, tiling, and concrete work.

Misconception: You’ll spend all your time doing high-level interior design work.
Reality: Most house flippers will spend most of their day doing grout work, installing tiles, or patching drywall, rather than high-level interior decoration and design.

7. Flip Men

SpikeTV’s Flip Men is an “unscripted” show about Mike Baird and Doug Clark, two contractors purchasing foreclosed properties, renovating them, and then (of course) reselling them. It’s a popular show, and it does get into some of the intricacies of flipping houses—such as building codes. Even better, in Flip Men, they sometimes lose money on their deals. 

Flip Men still includes many kicking down doors, finding illicit drug labs in properties, and so forth—things that the ordinary house flipper isn’t going to need to deal with. This is partly because the duo frequently purchases properties through home auctions.

Home auctions can be a great deal (and they prevent properties from going into REO), but most house flippers aren’t buying homes at auction because they need to put up the cash. Further, while auction homes are a high-risk, high-reward investment, they need a lot of rehab, and there are many opportunities for things to go “wrong.”

Most renovations aren’t going to be exciting from beginning to end—and believe me, that’s a good thing.

Misconception: House flipping is an exciting, dramatic enterprise that’s always leading to something unexpected.
Reality: When work is “exciting,” it’s usually a bad thing. House flipping should be mostly mundane, but that also depends on your risk tolerance.

“There are many reasons to consider a home-flipping show, but you should know that the process is much more complicated than it looks on TV. After all, some shows only run 30 minutes and can be done in less time if there’s no remodeling required. However, yours will likely take longer because of repair work or other projects needed before closing out ownership with proper title insurance coverage.” Source

So, Where Do You Get House Flipping Training?

Don’t feel bad if you like the call of house flipping when watching an old HGTV show. I’ve done it; we’ve all done it. That just means that you like the idea of flipping; it doesn’t mean that you’re being unrealistic. Plenty of people became successful doctors because of Grey’s Anatomy.

You can get an accurate idea about what it’s like in the house flipping market by connecting with HomeVestors. By becoming an independently owned and operated HomeVestors® franchisee, you will gain access to training, tools, mentorship, and quality leads to help you prepare for your new professional real estate investment journey. 

Want to learn more about what not to do when watching house flipping training TV shows? Contact us today. We are here to help!

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