Over the last four years, Los Angeles house flippers have netted profits well in excess of $100,000, according to a new report from LendingHome.
That high total shows why quick buying and selling is popular with many local real estate investors. Over a quarter of all flips in the state of California are undertaken in Los Angeles County, according to the report.
The report finds that, from 2014 to 2017, house flippers—who buy properties with the express purpose of fixing them up and re-selling them—sold 39,042 homes. The median sale price in those transactions was $140,000 higher than the last price paid, the ninth-highest total in all 58 California counties.
That doesn’t take into account the amount flippers spend on repairs and renovation projects before selling properties though, so it’s likely that true profit is less than $140,000.
Eric Sussman, adjunct professor of real estate and accounting at UCLA, tells Curbed that LA’s wide range of sale prices makes it an attractive area for flippers.
“You can find $900,000 houses next to $3 million houses here,” says Sussman. That kind of disparity gives purchases tremendous “upside” for investors, meaning that there’s a lot of room for a home’s last sale price to grow when next listed on the market.
A Zillow study from June found that all sellers in Los Angeles and Orange counties collected median profits of $137,000 when selling in 2017. But unlike flippers, who typically sell within a year of purchasing a property, typical homeowners in the LA area had owned their homes for more than nine years, according to the report.
A separate flipping analysis released earlier this year by Attom Data Solutions indicated that flippers gravitate to some LA neighborhoods significantly more often than others.
In the 90062 zip code (which cuts through Exposition Park and Vermont Square), 28.3 percent of homes sold in 2017 were flips, and sellers collected median profits of $190,800. On the other hand, in the 91356 zip code (Tarzana), only 4.5 percent of homes sold were flips. Sellers collected just $82,000 median profit on those sales.
Other popular areas for flippers include Westmont, Vermont Vista, and Hyde Park. In all three South LA neighborhoods, more than 20 percent of homes sold in 2017 were flips.
Nationwide, flips only represented a small 5.7 percent share of total home sales in 2017. But that’s actually the highest level since 2013, according to the Attom report.
The firm’s most recent LA County data shows that flips represented 6.7 percent of total sales in the second quarter of 2018.
The effect that flippers have on the local and the national housing market is difficult to measure.
In 2017, influential economist Robert Shiller suggested in an essay published in the New York Times that flipping had contributed to the housing bubble prior to the Great Recession—not by dominating the market, but by inspiring ordinary Americans to view real estate investment as a ticket to quick and easy riches.
Real estate investors often argue that house flippers give first-time buyers more move-in ready options to consider when shopping for a home.
But because flippers often flock to low-income neighborhoods where more foreclosed properties are available, some residents complain that the practice fuels competition among buyers and makes it more difficult for renters to become owners.
How you view flipped houses “may depend on your perspective,” Sussman says. “House flips upgrade the quality of homes in an efficient manner, but because flippers are in the business of making profits, they’ll try to get as much as possible for those houses, which adds to affordability problems.”
In Los Angeles, flipping activity has remained relatively constant over the past few years. A total of 10,573 homes were flipped in 2017, down from 11,692 in 2016, but up from 8,886 a year earlier. Between January and October of this year, flippers have sold 8,023 homes in LA County, according to LendingHome.