Home flippers pile into the US market, scoring higher profits

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NEW YORK — Property investors were bullish on the US housing market in 2017, flipping more homes than in any year since 2006, when the real estate bubble that helped upend the global economy was still inflating.

Investors flipped more than 207,000 single-family houses and condos in the US last year, Attom Data Solutions said in a report, which defines flips as sales that occur within 12 months of the last time the property changed hands. More than 138,000 investors flipped a home last year, the most since 2007.

“The long up-cycle that we’re in is giving more and more people confidence to try their hand at home-flipping,” said Daren Blomquist, senior vice-president at Attom. Rising home prices are “pulling more people onto the bandwagon.”

Today’s home flippers appear to be more conservative than bubble-era investors. The average flip generated gross returns of 50% in 2017, compared to 28% in 2006. Thirty-five percent of flippers financed their acquisitions last year, the highest share since 2008 but far lower than the 63% who used loans in 2006.

Still, red flags show up in local markets.

Flippers in Austin, Texas; Santa Barbara, California; and Boulder, Colorado, earned gross returns of less than 25% (which don’t include the cost of renovating the homes), suggesting that investors in some markets are depending on slim margins.

Flips represented almost 13% of home sales in Memphis, Tennessee, in 2017, more than twice the national average, a sign that some flippers are becoming overconfident, Mr. Blomquist said. — Bloomberg