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.

Follow this flip: Landscaping and porch prep

Hello friends! Wow, it has been quite a week. We closed last Friday on the flip house and I have been hard at work outside while the weather has cooperated.

Typically, when renovating a home from top to bottom, you’d probably save the landscaping details for last. But since cold weather is creeping up on us like ill-fitting underwear, I had to take care of that part first, so my poor plants wouldn’t croak.

One thing I’ve discovered is that the end of October (or the very beginning of November) is the best time to get shrubs for dirt cheap (no pun intended)! I was able to score eight good-sized (about 2-gallons apiece) evergreen shrubs and flowering bushes for less than $100 total. Everything was either half or 70 percent off at the Home Depot. Lowe’s gave the last of their shrubs away for $1 two days before I got there. #acryingshame

Here’s what the front of the house looked like before the planting began:

Landcaping-BEFORE-1 Landcaping-BEFORE-2 Landscaping-BEFORE

And here’s what it looks like with a good spade shovel, shrubs, landscape fabric and mulch:


(Above, from top to bottom) Angelica Blue Juniper, Japanese Barberry, Gold Thread Cypress


(Above, left to right) Rhododendron and Azalea (plus a stump from my backyard)


What a difference some shrubs and mulch make, don’t you agree?

Next up on my to-do list this week was porch and window prep.

The porch finish on this house is an absolute disaster. I scraped off old, chipping paint for days people, then finally got to the point where I could clean it really well and prepare it for new finish.

By the way, I’m loving this Rust-Oleum® Restore® Deck & Concrete Cleaner*:


This concentrated solution is biodegradable and non-toxic. It removes dirt, grease, etc., and kills mold and mildew.


I applied it, then rinsed it off about 15 minutes later using my HomeRight® Deck Washer Flow-Through Broom.

While the porch dried, I went to work scraping window trim and sills.


More chipping paint! Aargh. Fortunately, I had a miraculous product on hand that glues down chipping paint while priming the surface and building it back up to a smooth finish.


This stuff is nothing short of amazing! It’s Zinsser® Peel Stop® Triple Thick High Build Binding Primer. It’s been a lifesaver for the dilapidated exterior of this house.

Stay tuned for more progress and transformation photos from the flip coming next week. In the meantime, you should join the Creator’s Studio by Rust-Oleum. It’s a community for DIYers where you can ask questions, share tips, bounce ideas and even win prizes. Check it out here.

*Affiliate links provided in this post for your convenience

Special thanks to Rust-Oleum for providing the cleaner and primer needed for this week’s projects. 

BIG NEWS + a giveaway from Duluth Trading Company

Hello! I am super excited to share some big news with you today. It’s a project that has been in the works for awhile.

Drumroll please …


I just purchased my first investment property! It’s a small cottage I’ve dubbed “The White House.” I’ll be fixing it up from top to bottom, then selling it to one lucky family who will hopefully find it to be the cottage of their dreams. 🙂

Of course I’ll be chronicling the whole DIY journey here on the blog in a series I’m calling “Follow this Flip.” I hope you’ll tag along with me through the good, the bad and the ugly.

Flipping a house has been a huge dream of mine for many years. After searching high and low for the right property, submitting multiple offers on places I did not get, I finally scored this one.

I purchased my little “diamond in the rough” for $44,000 and am hoping to sell it for around $100,000 when I’m all done. I closed on the house last Friday and have already made some progress on the exterior, which I’ll be sharing with you later this week.

In the meantime, check out the DIY-friendly clothing and gear I’m wearing in the pic above. It’s all from my favorite clothing retailer, Duluth Trading Company.

Wanna test these duds out for yourself? The amazing folks at Duluth are giving away $50 gift cards to two lucky Living Rich on Less readersEnter to win one below.

a Rafflecopter giveaway