Written by The Business Journal Staff
“Home flips in 2016 accounted for 5.7 percent of all single-family home and condo sales during the year, up from 5.5 percent in 2015, [resulting in] a three-year high,” states ATTOM Data Solution’s Year-End 2016 Home Flipping Report released today.
In 2016, 276,067 homes were flipped, while in 2005 — the nation’s peak flipping year — 338,207 homes were flipped, comprising 8.2 percent of all home sales that year.
The report also offers rankings of 117 metropolitan statistical areas that had the highest ratio of flips among total home sales. In that category, the Visalia-Porterville area — essentially the entirety of Tulare County — tied with the Clarksville, Tenn. metro area for the No. 2 spot, as 10.1 percent of total home sales in both areas were flips.
Memphis, Tenn. ranked No. 1 with an 11.7 percent flip rate and the Tampa Bay-St. Petersburg metro area ranked third at 9.9 percent.
ATTOM, based in Irvine, collects data nationally on real estate sales and sells that information and its analysis, while also putting out annual and quarterly reports on home flipping trends since 2010.
Researchers didn’t look at all 916 U.S. metro areas that exist under U.S. Census boundaries, instead including in the report only the 117 in which 250 or more flip sales occurred last year.
As such, the Hanford-Corcoran metro area — or Kings County — didn’t make the list because only 140 flip home sales occurred there last year. Had it made the list, it would have topped all California counties with a home flip ratio of 10.7 percent last year.
Fresno was third in the state with 9.7 percent of home sales there being flips, followed by Kern and Madera counties with rates of 8.1 and 8 percent, respectively.
“For this 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,” as determined through public sales records collected from more than 950 counties, where more than 80 percent of the U.S. population lives, according ton ATTOMs press release.
While many regard flips as an investment method — buying properties and selling them at profits, sometimes after the investors put in money and work to make improvements intended to increases their value and increase their potential profits — the data collected doesn’t show which properties were bought and sold as investments and which were bought and sold within a year for other reasons, said Jennifer von Pohlmann, a spokeswoman for ATTOM.
And while the data released also doesn’t show how many sales actually resulted in profits for the sellers, they do show that in Tulare County, the prices for flipped homes sales averaged about $60,000 above their purchase prices.
Those average gross profits on sales were slightly higher in Fresno and Madera counties, and only a few hundred dollars less in Kings County.
Among the South Valley counties, Kern County flips had the lowest average profit margins, about $50,500, according to the ATTOM findings.
For California counties, that’s among the lower range for average gross profit for flips last year. In Sacramento County, the average profit was $801,000, $126,897 in Los Angeles County and $111,000 in San Diego County — well above the national average of $62,624.
Not surprisingly, San Francisco flippers averaged the highest gross profits for flipped home sales across the state, averaging $347,000, with San Mateo County a distant second with a $275,000 average.
“Home flipping was hot in 2016, fueled by low inventory of homes in sellable or rentable condition, along with a flood of capital — both foreign and domestic — searching for the returns and stability available with U.S. real estate,” Daren Blomquist, ATTOM’s senior vice president said in a written statement.
As for why flip sales were so prevalent last year in Tulare County — with 445 in total — that’s not clear.
In fact, Ed Morton, president of the Tulare County Association of Realtors, said he was surprised by ATTOM’s findings about his county, because from what he has seen, house flipping in the area has been on the decline across the South Valley.
“I don’t see it. I mean, I see some guys flipping, and I see a lot of people have gotten out of the flipping market, too, because they are getting a little scarce,” in part because opportunities to buy cheap, foreclosed-on properties are on the decline as the post-recession economy improves, he explained.
Still, Morton didn’t dispute the ATTOM report, saying that if a large ratio of investment-related home flips are occurring here, it may be because investors believe Tulare County is an “area of opportunity,” where property is cheaper than in many other parts of the state, including the Los Angeles Basin and the Bay Area.
In fact, he noted that a two-bedroom condominium in Livermore might sell for about $500,000, whereas the same home could sell here for about $145,000.
The ATTOM researchers seem to support Morton’s conclusion, as Blomquist states in his company press release “Investors in search of flipping returns are increasingly willing to move to secondary and tertiary housing markets and neighborhoods with older, smaller properties that are available at a deeper discount.”