Home flipping profits are falling at the fastest rate in more than a decade

With the housing market rapidly cooling, house flippers are finding it more difficult to turn a profit quickly.

In the third quarter, gross flipping profit, the difference between the median purchase price paid by investors and the median resale price, fell to $62,000, according to ATTOM, a real estate data provider. That’s down 18.4% from the second quarter and down 11.4% year-over-year. It represents the smallest gain since the end of 2019 and the fastest quarterly decline since 2009.

With that drop in gross profit, the return on investment fell from 30% in the previous quarter to 25%. Not bad, but not that good. Still, ATTOM notes that it’s not the size of the gains, but how quickly they fall.

With falling profits and higher mortgage rates hurting affordability for potential buyers, the share of home sales that were flips also fell. About 7.5% were flips in the third quarter, still historically high, but lower than the 8.2% in the second quarter. Flips, defined as homes bought and sold in a 12-month period, made up a 5.9% share of all home sales in the third quarter of 2021.

House prices are falling rapidly, while renovation costs remain high.

“Clearly, fix-and-flip investors are not immune to changing housing market conditions,” said Rick Sharga, executive vice president of market intelligence at ATTOM, in a press release. “With buyer demand weakening, prices moving down in recent months, and financing rates significantly higher than at the start of the year, flippers are in a much tougher environment today, and likely in 2023 as well.”

House prices are still higher today than they were a year ago, but every month profits are shrinking dramatically. Mortgage rates have fallen from their recent highs, but are still more than twice what they were at the beginning of this year. The combination has caused total home sales to fall for nine consecutive months.

While mortgage rates have fallen slightly over the past two months, that may not matter much to flippers, as about 64% of them only use cash. This is unchanged from previous quarters.

Another factor that weighs heavily on investors is the cost of flipping. Prices for labor and materials remain high and supply chain delays still play a role in renovation costs. The average time it took to flip a home in the third quarter fell slightly to 163 days after rising for three consecutive quarters. However, that’s still longer than the 149 days it took to flip a house in the third quarter of last year.

Markets with the highest turnover rates were Phoenix; Spartanburg, South Carolina; Atlanta and Gainesville in Georgia; and Winston-Salem, North Carolina. The markets with the best returns were Buffalo, New York; Pittsburgh and Scranton in Pennsylvania; and Salisbury, Maryland.

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