Flipping 101: The beginner’s guide to finding properties

In the world of investment real estate, the methods for finding good deals on properties is endless, complicated and, admittedly, somewhat headache-inducing. The more experienced you become as an investor, the more creative, profitable and less competitive the deals become.

But yours truly is just a baby flipper and, at this stage in the game, I’ve got limited ways to access the good deals out there. Maybe you’re in the same boat! So today I thought I’d share with some of the places I know to look when seeking out a first flip.


Multiple Listing Service – This is simply the place where all the licensed real estate firms announce the stuff that’s up for sale. Anyone can access the MLS (which means you’re competing with a lot of folks for deals) online by visiting places like Realtor.com, Trulia.com or MLS.com.

Although I didn’t find my current flip through the web, I did find several good candidates there that I placed offers on. Of course, real estate brokers or agents are associated with MLS listings, so the profit margin is lower because their commissions must be factored into the price of sale.

AuctionZip – This is where you can find real estate auctions happening on any given date in your target community. Depending on how motivated the seller(s) is, you can get a great deal on a property at a real estate auction. You’ll need to be prepared to make a sizable down payment and be able to gather the total amount of money needed within a fairly short time. This can be a great route if you’ve got all the cash in hand. (I didn’t. I had 20 percent in cash, but needed to finance the rest through my local bank.)

Distressed property owners – When I start looking for my next flip, this will probably be where I concentrate the bulk of my efforts. You can find distressed property owners by putting an ad in the local paper stating you “buy ugly houses.” Or you can also keep a lookout for homes that appear uninhabited; are not being maintained; or have a “For Rent” or “For Sale by Owner” sign out front. These are clues that a homeowner may be motivated to sell at a great price. Scoring properties this way doesn’t involve any real estate commissions, so the profit margin could potentially be higher.

Craiglist – This can be another good source for finding commission-free properties and distressed property owners.

Realtors – This is actually how I found my first flip. For some reason, the search engines in all the online spots I checked never showed that magical property my realtor introduced me to. This may have been a factor in why the place didn’t get snatched up sooner. I’m not sure.

At any rate, realtors are often aware of properties that are for sale (or coming up for sale) before the general public finds out about them. I have an awesome, motivated realtor who is always on the lookout for places I might be interested in. To return the favor, I’m happy to have her sell my rehabbed properties for me. She gets the privilege of selling the same house twice (and earning the commission twice) in a short amount of time, and I get the privilege of having an “insider” keeping watch for great deals and proactively working to sell what I put back on the market. Good realtors can be worth their weight in gold!

The methods above are by no means all-inclusive. I just wanted to highlight the main ones I hit up regularly when I’m “on the hunt.”

Do you have any other great ways to find investment properties? Please share in a comment! Also, don’t forget to sign up to win a Duluth Trading Company gift card and get geared up with the clothing that helps me get my house flip on. Enter the giveaway here.

Updating old shutters with paint

Hello! I hope you are enjoying this beautiful fall Saturday. My middle sis and I recently completed a whirlwind DIY project that has made a major impact on her home’s curb appeal.

She wanted to paint all of her 24 shutters from a dark brown to a more modern, greige color. Here’s what her house looked like before:


Sis took all the shutters off the house and scrubbed them really well. They already had a rougher, chalky finish, so there wasn’t a need to sand them down prior to repainting them.

We lined all the shutters up on a drop cloth. The paint we used (Olympic® ONE Paint+Primer) was designed for use on this type of surface.


To make the process go way faster, we used the HomeRight® Finish Max Pro* sprayer.


In my personal opinion, I think the HomeRight Finish Max Pro works perfectly for larger projects that require thicker paints – shutters, outdoor applications, etc. – while the HomeRight Finish Max is best when I need an ultra-smooth, glass-like finish – interior furniture, hardware, crafts, etc. Don’t forget to enter to win your own here

It was late in the evening when we sprayed the shutters, so I apologize I don’t have any pics of the spray-painting process. #Bloggerfail

I also apologize to my neighbors who were probably wondering why our front yard was lit up like a football stadium at 9 p.m. :)

But the results were worth it! Two coats of paint+primer and the shutters were done.

Here’s what sis’s shutters look like now:

Painted-shutters-CU-2 Painted-shutters-CU Painted-shutters

What do you think of the transformation?

* Affiliate links provided in this post for your convenience

DIY beadboard shaker peg coat rack

I am thrilled to report I am done with my beadboard shaker peg coat rack! I am so proud of this project because I did it all.by.myself without asking anyone for advice or help. AND I used scrap lumber for most of the build. Plus I learned how to use a new saw. Yesss! 


This two-tiered coat rack is super functional for our family because it has a lower rack that is within reach of the kids, an upper rack for adults, and tons of pegs for all our coats. Plus it’s located in our garage right where we enter our home, which is really convenient.


Below are step-by-step instructions for how to build your own two-tiered beadboard shaker peg coat rack.

Step 1: Start by adding a swath of beadboard wallpaper on the wall that is the width and height of your project. (Tip: Be sure to place your wallpaper so the framing boards will overlap the edges slightly, preventing the seams from showing.)


Step 2: Install two shaker peg coat racks over the wallpaper – a higher one for adults and a lower one for the kids. I ordered mine very inexpensively from this Etsy shop. (Tip: Be sure to screw your racks into studs, so they will support the weight of a lot of coats.)

Step 3: Attach boards on the left and right sides of the coat racks. Attach a bottom board to serve as the baseboard. I used leftover 1×3-inch pine boards for this, screwing them into wall studs. (Tip: A counter-sink drill bit pushes screws slightly below the surface of the wood, allowing for easy coverage with filler and paint.)


Step 4: Rip a piece of scrap plywood for both the top shelf and the board above the top coat rack. I used my new favorite tool to do this, the Ryobi® 10-inch portable table saw. I’m happy to report no fingers were lost in the process. :)


Step 5: Make your own shelf brackets out of the remainder of the plywood. I cut mine out on my miter saw. I attached the brackets using screws, but there is probably a better way. 😉


Step 6: Use a brad nailer to attach a piece of window/door casing below the top shelf and to attach the top shelf to the brackets and back board.

Step 7: To hide the unsightly, raw edges of the plywood (and the screws in the shelf brackets), iron on a strip of birch veneer.



Step 8: Sand the rough spots, caulk the holes, and prime and paint.

I used my favorite Purdy® brushes* to prime and paint all the raw wood, paying particular attention to the knots. Pine knots can bleed through paint, so be sure to prime these areas very well before painting.


(Tip: A quality paint brush can make ALL THE DIFFERENCE when cutting in around edges, helping paint glide on smoothly and providing a straighter line.)

After priming and painting the boards, I taped off the whole project and spray painted it the same color as our window and door trim. I used my beloved HomeRight® Finish Max sprayer to do this. Enter to win your own here.



Done! A flawless paint finish on my new coat rack.



What do you think of the results?

* Affiliate links provided in this post for your convenience. 

Special thanks to Ryobi and Purdy for providing, at my request, the table saw and paint brushes needed to complete this project.