Home flipping improves, but nobody’s getting rich

Home flipping activity continued to flounder in the first quarter compared to a year ago, but profits improved slightly after six years of disappointing returns.

About 67,800 homes were flipped during the first quarter nationwide, an 11% drop compared to a year ago. Flipped homes – those bought, fixed and sold within year – accounted for 8.7% of sales in the first quarter, down from 9.8% percent a year ago, according to ATTOM Data

In California, flipped homes accounted for 8.5% of overall sales during the first quarter. About 5,660 homes were flipped in the first three months, a 13% decline from a year ago (see table, below).

But the average profit climbed to 20% – or $112,000 – in the first quarter in California, up from 11.9% ($71,500) a year ago. Hold off on the cheers, that is far from the national average of 30%, and the head-spinning 55%-plus gains reached in 2016.

CRUNCH ALL OF THE COSTS

ATTOM’s profit margin is based only on the purchase and the sale price, and does not include other costs, such as property taxes, remodeling efforts or sales commissions. 

Adding in those costs, flipping homes doesn’t add up for many dreamers of get-rich quick turnarounds like those seen on HGTV.

And the best percentage gains are in the Central Valley, where the average flipped home price is at least $550,000 less than the median home price

Bakersfield-area flippers enjoyed a $112,000 profit and a 60% return. Fresno flippers had a $107,000 profit and a 44% return. 

San Francisco had the third-largest percentage return at 36%, with a profit of $280,000, the second-largest in California (see table, below).

A calculator may be as helpful as construction tools when it comes to fixing and flipping homes. ADOBE STOCK

“The latest numbers show that investors still face an uphill climb to clear significant profits after expenses,” says Rob Barber, CEO for ATTOM. “They, like others, also face tenuous times amid a housing market boom that’s cooled down over the past year. But we now have a year’s worth of a trend showing that things have started to turn around for the flipping industry, with clear signs of increasing interest flowing into the market.”

Perhaps, but some of the turnaround could also be attributed to a dip in mortgage rates that helped lure more buyers and an increase in home prices. Basically, timing is everything with home sales, especially when flipping homes.

Flipped home sales and profit margins in first-quarter 2024

MetroFlipped home salesCompared to a year agoProfitProfit margin
California5,662-13.0%$118,00020.0%
Bakersfield164-8.3%$112,00059.6%
Fresno163-17.4%$107,50044.3%
Los Angeles1,914-7.2%$135,00017.4%
Riverside946-19.7%$123,50029.0%
Sacramento421-8.6%$90,99422.7%
San Diego585-15.5%$190,75025.9%
San Francisco384-13.7%$280,00036.4%
San Jose177-6.5%$297,50023.1%

Source: ATTOM Data



Half of homes in California are taking at least a month to enter escrow. But homes in San Jose are selling in just over a week. SHUTTERSTOCK

Home sweet, stale home

Affordability has become a big challenge for many home shoppers, and higher mortgage rates and prices don’t help.

It’s also an issue for homeowners hoping for – and maybe even needing – a quick sale.

Half of homes listed on the market in May were available 30 days later, according to a new report from Redfin. It’s an about-face from two years ago, when bidding wars dominated the market, often for homes that needed repairs or were overpriced.

What a difference higher rates and two years make.

Now, three of five homes in Riverside are still available after a month, the highest percentage in California. Los Angeles and San Francisco were close behind, at 58% and 55% homes hanging around for at least 30 days, respectively.

SPEEDY SAN JOSE

San Jose was the fastest-selling market, with only one of every three (34%) considered “stale” listings. The tech center had an almost 8 percentage point decline in homes listed for a month or more.

The California Association of Realtors also tracks how fast – or slow – homes enter escrow. The pace has remained rather stable during the past year.

San Jose homes entered escrow in eight days in May, the same as a year ago, and the fastest pace among the major regions of California. The figure is a median, meaning some sell faster and others slower. 

San Francisco, where the median price is $1.7 million, and Riverside, are the slowest-selling markets at 30 days.

Percentage of homes on the market after 30 days in May

Metro % of homes unsold after 30 days
Anaheim47.0%
Los Angeles58.2%
Oakland44.0%
Riverside60.6%
Sacramento49.9%
San Diego47.5%
San Francisco55.2%
San Jose34.4%
California (avg. of above cities)49.6%

Source: ATTOM Data



California Gov. Gavin Newsom will split his time between Marin County and Sacramento, allowing his kids to enroll in schools in the Bay Area. SHUTTERSTOCK

One governor, two homes. For now

California Gov. Gavin Newsom is moving. Sort of.

The two-term governor and his family will divide their time between the Bay Area and Sacramento during the next two years.

They moved from Marin County to Sacramento County when Newsom was elected to the state’s top spot in 2017. 

Newsom and the first partner bought a six-bedroom house for $3.7 million in the Sacramento suburb of Fair Oaks. The deal is one of the largest-ever for a single-family home in the Sacramento region.

But the couple has decided to enroll their four children in Marin County schools, where they plan to live after his term ends in 2026. Until then, the children will live, at least part time, with extended family.

90 MINUTES AND MORE THAN A MILLION DOLLARS APART

Marin and Sacramento are about 90 minutes away, but are worlds apart when it comes to home prices. Marin County boasts the third-highest median price at $1.8 million in California, or about three times more than the $555,000 median price in Sacramento County. 

The 12,000-square-foot house in Fair Oaks grabbed a lot of attention six years ago. A similar-priced home barely gets noticed in Marin.

Other governors have also split time between Sacramento and other cities. 

Gov. Jerry Brown kept his house in Oakland, while living part-time in the governor’s mansion, just a few blocks from the State Capitol. He lived in a loft in midtown Sacramento while the governor’s mansion was undergoing much-needed repairs before his residency.

Actor-turned-governor Arnold Schwarzenegger often booked a suite at a downtown Sacramento hotel when he could not travel home on a private jet to his Brentwood mansion in Southern California.


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