Americans Are Flipping Houses Like It's 2006 All Over Again

How quickly the sins of the past are forgotten.

Roughly 10 years ago, a Mexican immigrant working as a strawberry picker in Bakersfield, California, making $14,000 per year, was lent every single penny he needed to purchase a $720,000 home.  And, as crazy as that sounds to most of us, stories such as that were all too common leading up to the 2008 housing crash as everyone, and their brothers, became expert real estate investors buying and flipping multiple houses every month...which worked really well, until it didn't.

Now, and quite unfortunately for those of us that prefer not to day trade our primary residence, America's home flippers are making a come back.  According to a new study from Trulia, home flips accounted for 6.1% of all U.S. home sales in 2016, which is the highest share since 2006, when flips accounted for 7.3% of sales.

House Flipping

 

As Bloomberg points out, the cities where home flipping seems to be the most pervasive are all the same ones that suffered the biggest boom/bust during the last cycle.  Perhaps we could suggest that the people of Las Vegas need to just do all their gambling INSIDE the casinos from now on.

House Flipping Volume

 

Of course, rising home prices are responsible for luring Americans back into the home flipping game...because everyone gets to look like a genius real estate investor in a rising market.

Flipping has become more common as home prices have increased, said Ralph McLaughlin, chief economist at Trulia. Whether that’s cause for concern is an open question.

 

Local housing market investors can bid up prices in a speculative frenzy, as recent history has shown. When flippers crowd into a market, meanwhile, they compete with buyers seeking a home to live in, deferring the availability of listings and pushing homes out of some buyers’ price range.

 

But flippers can also provide a valuable service to the housing market by investing in needed improvements that owner-occupiers might not have time for, McLaughlin said. Trulia’s report shows that flippers in Las Vegas are seeking building permits at the highest rate since 2000, suggesting that they’re making substantial repairs and not simply buying homes to ride local price appreciation.

 

"Is the market going to flip out again?" he said. "I don't think the signs are there yet."

But maybe it will all work out this time around.  After all, as a Bear Stearns RMBS trader told us back in 2007, "these structures will never break because home prices have never fallen more than a few percent in the history of the United States"...well, except that one time that they did.