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New Report Reveals House Flipping Activity Flopped to 4-Year Low, Detroit Among Cities With Highest Q4 Flips

real estate agent handing over keys to home

House flipping, also known as doing the “fix and flip,” involves purchasing a home in need of repair and restoring it before selling in order to turn a profit. House flippers often put lot of love — or at least a lot of time, money, and labor — into fixing these homes from the inside out, which often includes landscaping. Money magazine wrote that landscaping can bring a recovery value of 100 to up to 200% come selling time. Now that’s curb appeal.

While housing flipping was once considered the next big thing in real estate — as illustrated by the number of reality TV shows focused on flipping — a new report revealed a steady drop in the practice over the course of the last four years.

RealtyTrac’s Q4 and Year-End 2014 U.S. Home Flipping Report revealed that 136,269 U.S. single family homes were flipped last year, which equates to 5.4% of all single family home sales. While that may seem like a high number of flipped homes, in reality, it’s the lowest share of flips since 2011.

A grand total of 32,578 U.S. single family homes were flipped in the fourth quarter alone, representing just 5.3% of all single family home sales during that quarter. The 5.3% share of flipped homes in the fourth quarter had increased by 11% from the previous quarter, but was still down 12% from only a year ago.

The average gross profit, or the difference between the original purchase price and the final flipped price, for completed flips of single family homes in the fourth quarter came in at $65,993, which represents 37.1% gross return. This was an increase from the average gross profit of $65,285, or a 36.5% gross return, in the third quarter, and an average gross profit of just $63,017, representing a 36.4% gross return, in the fourth quarter of 2013.

So, why the sudden drop?

“Investors have picked much of the low-hanging fruit when it comes to home flipping over the past three years since home prices bottomed out in the first quarter of 2012,” explained Daren Blomquist, vice president at RealtyTrac. “As home price appreciation slows to single digits in most markets, flippers need to be more selective and creative about the properties and neighborhoods they target.”

Zip codes with the highest share of Q4 house flips in the report include Detroit, Los Angeles, Memphis, and Miami. Among those zip codes with at last 10 single family home flips that were competed in the fourth quarter of 2014, there were 10 in which flip made up 25% of all single family home sales during that quarter. Metropolitan areas with top 10 zip codes for share of flips in the fourth quarter were Detroit, Los Angeles, Memphis, Miami, Jacksonville, Florida, Tampa and San Diego.

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