Realtytrac released its Year-End and Q4 2015 U.S. Home Flipping Report, which shows that 179,778 U.S. single family homes and condos were flipped in 2015, 5.5 percent of all single family home and condo sales during the year.
The 5.5 percent share of U.S. home flips in 2015 was up from a 5.3 percent share in 2014, marking the first annual increase in the share of homes flipped following four consecutive years of decreases. The share of homes flipped in 2015 increased from the previous year in 83 of 110 U.S. metropolitan statistical areas nationwide analyzed for the report (75 percent).
For the report, a home flip is defined as a property that is sold in an arms-length sale for the second time within a 12-month period based on publicly recorded sales deed data collected by RealtyTrac in more than 950 counties accounting for more than 80 percent of the U.S. population (see full methodology below).
“As confidence in the housing recovery spreads, more real estate investors and would-be real estate investors are hopping on the home flipping bandwagon,” said Daren Blomquist, senior vice president at RealtyTrac. “Not only is the share of home flips on the rise again, but we also see the flipping trend trickling down to smaller investors who are completing fewer flips per year. The total number of investors who completed at least one flip in 2015 was at the highest level since 2007, and the number of flips per investor was at the lowest level since 2008.”
There were 110,008 investors or entities that completed at least one home flip in 2015, the highest number of home flippers since 2007, when there were 130,603 home flippers. The peak in the number of active home flippers was in 2005, with 259,192. There were 1.63 home flips per investor in 2015, the lowest ratio of flips per investor since 2008.
“More inexperienced home flippers with a smaller financial cushion could be a sign of an over-speculative market, but the data indicates that flippers in 2015 continued to operate within relatively conservative margins,” Blomquist continued. “Homes flipped in 2015 were on average purchased at a 26 percent discount below estimated market value and re-sold by the flipper at a 5 percent premium above estimated market value.”
Share of homes flipped in 2015 above 2005 levels in 11 percent of markets
The 5.5 percent share of U.S. homes flipped in 2015 was still well below the peak of 8.2 percent of U.S. homes flipped in 2005.
Counter to the national trend, the share of homes flipped in 2015 was above 2005 levels in 12 of the 110 metro areas (11 percent) analyzed in the report, including Pittsburgh (19 percent above 2005 levels); Memphis (18 percent above 2005 levels); Buffalo, New York (12 percent above 2005 levels); San Diego (4 percent above 2005 levels); Seattle (4 percent above 2005 levels); Birmingham, Alabama (4 percent above 2005 levels); and Cleveland (3 percent above 2005 levels).
“When home flipping numbers go up, it is usually an indication that the housing market is in trouble,” said Matthew Gardner, chief economist at Windermere Real Estate, covering the Seattle market, where the share of homes flipped in 2015 was down from 2014 despite being above 2005 levels. “The problem with a rise in home flipping is that these sales artificially inflate home prices, making housing even less affordable for buyers and increasing the risk of a bubble. I’m happy to see that the percentage of home flipping sales in Seattle does not exceed the national average and that they’re down from a year ago. This makes sense given our affordability constraints and lower potential for profits for home flippers.”
Metro areas with the biggest year-over-year increase in share of flips were Lakeland, Florida (up 50 percent); New Haven, Connecticut (up 45 percent); Jacksonville, Florida (up 41 percent); Homosassa Springs, Florida (up 40 percent); and Akron, Ohio (up 37 percent).
“We continue to see distressed properties funnel through the pipeline in South Florida, which makes it ripe for investors to profit in a strong selling market,” said Mike Pappas, CEO and president at the Keyes Company, covering the South Florida market. “There are always sellers that will discount for a quick cash sale and open the door for astute investors to make a good return by repositioning the property.”
The Miami metro area had the most homes flipped of any market nationwide in 2015, with 10,658, representing 8.6 percent of all Miami-area home sales for the year and up 4 percent as a share of all sales from 2014.