DISCLAIMER: This article is meant for educational purposes only and is not intended to be financial or legal advice. If you are considering flipping houses in Georgia, HomeLight always encourages you to reach out to an advisor regarding your own situation.
Flipping houses has never been a more desirable pursuit, no doubt thanks in part to the vast popularity of home renovation shows. Whether you’re interested in flipping the occasional house as a (hopefully!) profitable hobby, or you’d like to make house flipping your primary source of income, the state of Georgia could be an ideal place to get started.
Not only does Georgia have the sixth-lowest cost of living in the nation — the cost of living index considers 100 to be the national average, and Georgia’s index is 88.9 — its home values have increased 14.7% in the past year. In short? The state is both affordable and growing, which creates ideal conditions for flipping houses.
To learn more about flipping houses in Georgia, we’re talking to Savannah-based real estate agent Jay Mills, a listings specialist with the Hupman Group, to get his perspective on what’s happening in his market. He’s also sharing some of his best tips and tricks to make sure you end up on the financially favorable side of your next house flip.
Let’s get into it!
What is house flipping?
House flippers buy homes, hold them for a couple of months, and then sell them for a profit (that’s the flip part). Typically, they buy distressed properties — either short sales, foreclosures, or homes that need significant work — fix them up, and sell them for a profit. Sometimes flippers buy and sell homes to wholesalers without making any repairs or updates.
The goal is to buy low and sell for a high profit — one that covers both the home’s initial cost and any improvements.
“We’re seeing all aspects of flipping lately,” says Mills. “We’re seeing people who just want to get a little bit into it; maybe just doing some flooring, paint, and other minor things to kind of dip their toe into the business. Then I have investors I’m working with who even like houses that have been burned up inside because that creates a blank canvas for them.”
Is house flipping profitable in Georgia?
Though lots of houses were flipped in the first quarter of 2022 — the most since 2000, actually — profits weren’t as high as sellers may have hoped. That being said, we are on the heels of a pandemic that has changed nearly everything as we know it, including real estate.
Fortunately, Mills confirms that flipping houses in Georgia is still a profitable venture for those who go about it with a level head and a good grip on their numbers.
“I have several friends and investor clients who flip, and the margins are a little tighter than they were a couple of years ago,” says Mills, noting that the rush of increasing home values meant flippers had to buy homes at a higher price than they previously would have.
He adds that “materials cost more, too, but the flipped houses are still selling at really good prices, so it kind of offsets those expenses.”
Mills does caution that those who are new to flipping houses may not have the same experience when it comes to profits.
“Sometimes people who are new to flipping don’t know their numbers very well, so they can get themselves into trouble very quickly. Those who have been doing it for a while, well, they have a better idea of where they can cut their margins. They’re still making money.”
How much do Georgia flippers make?
It’s always difficult to put a concrete number on profits when it comes to real estate — every transaction is different. How much you’ll make flipping houses in Georgia depends on a number of factors, including:
- The purchase price of the house
- The scope of repairs and improvements
- The cost of materials and labor
- The sales price of the renovated home
According to Attom Data, the nationwide median resale price for flipped homes in the third quarter of 2022 was $310,000, yielding a 25% profit margin. During this time, 12.9% of houses sold around the Atlanta metro area were flipped, giving it one of the largest flipping rates nationwide.
Best places in Georgia to flip a house
Opportunities for flipping homes can be found all over Georgia, but a few of the best cities — based on desirability, growth, and median home pricing — include these five.
The Savannah area, where Mills is based, remains a great place to flip houses in Georgia. The median home price here is $295,500, which is up 9.4% from December 2021. The population — currently 150,000 — is also growing at a rate of 0.77% annually.
Similar in size to Savannah at 200,000 people, Augusta sits along the South Carolina border and is a little over two hours from Atlanta. Augusta’s population is growing at a rate of 0.31% annually, and the median home price is $194,950. This favorable price point is up 3.4% from December 2021. Augusta is growing in both population and home values, but at a modest pace that provides an affordable entry point for flippers.
Georgia’s capital city continues to draw new residents from around the state and the wider U.S. Its population of 514,000 is growing at a rate of 1.55% annually, and median home pricing sits at $379,000. This is a 5.3% increase from December 2021. Purchasing a home to flip in Atlanta may cost a little more out of pocket, but the area ranks as the nation’s fourth fastest-growing metro area, which means the demand for housing will likely remain high.
Athens is a vibrant little city about an hour and a half outside of Atlanta. Its median home price is around $300,000, which is up 6% from December 2021. Athens’ population is increasing at an annual rate of 1.86%, currently sitting at 130,000. Since this is a university town, you can count on a steady stream of folks needing a place to live — which makes Athens an appealing choice for house flippers.
Though it’s a small city with just 17,000 people, Calhoun is growing at a rate of 0.76% each year. The median home price is currently $284,837 — up a whopping 23.9% from December 2021. Calhoun provides a great opportunity for flipping houses in Georgia thanks to its steady growth and less competition than larger markets.
When doing this for the first time, I think it’s good to tip-toe into it. Find a property that someone has lived in maybe 10, 20, even 30 years and has been deferring maintenance on; so maybe it needs a new roof, some flooring, paint, that kind of thing. Now isn’t the time to get into moving walls — you can very quickly get over your head with this kind of thing.
- Chandie Hupman Real Estate AgentCloseChandie Hupman Real Estate Agent at Keller Williams Realty Currently accepting new clients
- Years of Experience 20
- Transactions 1493
- Average Price Point $243k
- Single Family Homes 1320
Step-by-step guide to flipping houses in Georgia
Create your network and evaluate your skills
Unless you’re a licensed contractor, you’ll need a network of professionals to help you flip. Even if you’re handy around the house, evaluate your skills honestly. For some projects, particularly electrical and plumbing, you’ll need an expert.
Keep in mind that buyers may be wary of purchasing a flipped home if they can’t verify that permits were pulled and the work was done by licensed professionals.
Put together a network of experienced, licensed professionals before you start scouting houses. In addition to people to perform the remodeling work, you’ll need an agent to find homes, a stager to help sell them, and possibly a lawyer to draw up legal documents.
Above all, if you’re new to flipping houses, Mills again emphasizes the importance of being realistic with your skill set and budget.
“When doing this for the first time, I think it’s good to tip-toe into it. Find a property that someone has lived in maybe 10, 20, even 30 years and has been deferring maintenance on; so maybe it needs a new roof, some flooring, paint, that kind of thing,” suggests Mills. “Now isn’t the time to get into moving walls — you can very quickly get over your head with this kind of thing.”
Develop your budget
A budget that takes into account all repairs, fees, and the unexpected is a key piece to successfully flipping a home. But, how do you account for the unexpected? Since flippers don’t have a crystal ball to see the future, the industry has developed the 70% rule.
This rule states that you should never pay more than 70% of the after-repair-value or “ARV” of a property, less any repairs, that you’re flipping. The ARV is your estimate of the home’s worth after all repairs have been done.
For example, if the ARV of your flip is $300,000, and it needs $50,000 in repairs, you shouldn’t pay more than $175,000 to acquire the property. If all went well, you’d still have $75,000 in profit to cover other expenses (such as agent and stager fees). Even if something went wrong, you likely wouldn’t end up losing money.
Elements of your budget to pay attention to:
- Down payment and lender fees
- Home inspection fees
- Closing costs
- Mortgage payment, property taxes, and insurance fees for every month you’ll own the property
- Contractor fees
- Permit fees
- Utilities while you own
- Marketing fees, such as a stager and professional photographer
- Real estate agent fees to sell the property
And for as tempting as it may be to skip the home inspection when you’re planning to redo so much of the home anyway, Mills strongly cautions against this.
“An inspection might cost a few hundred dollars, but a $400 inspection can keep you away from a $10,000 or $20,000 problem,” he says. “When I talk to my buyers, I try to educate them that, yes, it’s going to cost you a bit up front, but I’d rather lose $400 on the inspection than $10,000 on a slab leak no one can see until you get into the house.”
Financing your flip in Georgia
Purchasing a home to flip with cash is almost always going to be in your best interest — however, not all investors have that kind of funding. If you need to finance the home with a mortgage, there are a few options you should consider:
- Hard money loans: These are loans from private lenders for short periods of time — they can come with higher interest rates and can be risky for inexperienced investors.
- Fannie Mae’s HomeStyle Renovation loan: This is a kind of loan offered by certain lenders that will finance the purchase of the property as well as the costs of the renovations — all wrapped up into one mortgage.
- FHA 203K Mortgage: This option allows homeowners to finance up to $35,000 in repairs identified by an FHA home appraiser or inspector. This option, however, requires the homeowner to occupy the home as their primary residence after purchasing, so it will not be the right choice for many house flippers.
In his market, which is home to three military bases, Mills notes that VA loans can also be a viable option for some home flippers — but as with the FHA 203(k) loans, there may be a primary residence requirement attached, meaning this type of loan isn’t necessarily a great fit for someone looking for a quick in-and-out solution.
Disclaimer: As always, there are benefits and drawbacks to each financing option. HomeLight always recommends that you work with a financial advisor to find the best financing option for you.
Research your market
One of the biggest factors that will affect your return on investment will be the market conditions in the area you are looking to flip homes in. Flipping houses requires a delicate balance of availability of homes at discounted prices, making cost-effective renovations, and buyer demand for when you go to sell. Here are some signs that a particular area in Georgia will yield opportunities for profitable house flipping:
A strong job market and an increasing population generally translate to increased demand for housing — look into areas with recent influxes in residents as well as low unemployment rates. The five cities we mentioned above are all great examples of areas with strong population growth and increasing home values.
More broadly, Georgia as a whole has experienced 9.8% GDP growth by the third quarter of 2022. And while unemployment increased during the height of the pandemic, labor markets in Georgia are bouncing back.
Steady home value appreciation
One of the keys to maximizing return on real estate investments is paying attention to home value appreciation in the areas in which you are investing. Steady home price growth over the last few years can help you predict how much your investment might appreciate in value when you go to sell — this can also help inform your strategy.
Nationwide, home prices have fallen from their peaks in 2021 and early 2022. However, economists are currently predicting that the market correction we are seeing in the form of falling home prices will be short lived — Wells Fargo’s economists are predicting that prices are going to rebound in 2024 with a 3.3% increase by the end of the year. This is good news for investors currently worried about home prices falling and losing money on their investments.
As Mills mentioned earlier, his investor and house-flipping clients have been paying higher prices for homes — but they’re selling them at higher prices, too.
Partner with a top real estate agent in Georgia
A real estate agent helps with identifying current trends and popular home upgrades. When it’s time to sell your flip, they’ll sell and market it. But they can also help you find houses to flip.
An experienced real estate agent will know the cities, neighborhoods, and sometimes even specific houses that are ripe for flipping. Agents who regularly work with flippers understand what makes a particular home a good candidate for this kind of transaction, and their expertise can save you thousands of dollars.
“Right now, I’m working with a young husband-and-wife team who just moved to the area. They want houses under $150,000, and they love the homes that are down to the studs because it’s like a blank canvas for them,” says Mills, whose knowledge of flipping homes better allows him to assist buyers with such unique needs.
Find a home to flip
Once you’ve got an agent keeping an eye out for you, alerts set up on real estate websites, and are scouring the multiple listing service, it’s time to find a home to flip. It could take several months, and you might have to make several offers on available homes, before you’re successful. Be patient!
Like Mills advises, be sure to choose a house that aligns with your budget and your skills. If you’re a first-time flipper, now isn’t the time to purchase a property that needs to be gutted and fully rebuilt. Gain some experience — and hopefully a tidy profit — with your first couple of flips before delving into the major projects.
Once you win your bid on the appropriate home, it’s absolutely crucial that you get a home inspection and an appraisal. When you walked through the home, you could probably tell you’d need to remodel the bathroom to sell. But a home inspection will reveal any hidden issues beneath the surface, such as a rotted subfloor in that bathroom, which you might have to replace to safely and successfully flip the home.
An appraisal is an estimate of the home’s current market value. If you’re using hard money or a mortgage to finance the flip, the lender will likely require it. The appraisal tells you what the home is worth now — which is valuable information if you’re concerned that you’re paying too much.
Line up the contractors, plumbers, electricians, and anyone else you might need to begin work the day after the closing. Check licenses and references before signing any contracts. Once the property is yours, there’s no time to waste!
According to the National Association of Realtors remodeling impact report for 2022, high ROI renovations to consider include a bathroom remodel with a 71% return on investment, a kitchen renovation, which has a 75% return on investment, and refinishing hardwood flooring with a whopping 147% return on investment!
Mills recommends low-lift renovations such as new flooring and paint to add appeal to homes that may not actually need a ton of work. Remember — the act of flipping a house doesn’t have to involve an HGTV-worthy tear-down and rebuild!
All of these projects have the added benefit of improving the home’s appearance and potential appeal to buyers. Remember that whatever you can do yourself — whether it’s a fresh coat of paint or scraping popcorn from the ceiling — builds sweat equity that will make you money when you sell.
Rent or sell
Once the work is done, flippers have a choice. You can either rent the home and become a landlord, or sell it. If you used hard money to finance your purchase, you’ll have to refinance to hold the property long-term and rent.
How much should the home rent for?
There are a variety of different ways investors use to determine a monthly rent on their investment properties depending on their financing needs, fair market value, and comps in their market. Here are some methods to consider when getting ready to rent out your property:
- Use an online calculator to plug in your property’s information and determine a monthly rent.
- Research comparable properties and set a monthly rent based on your findings.
- Calculate based on your financial needs — taking into consideration a monthly mortgage payment, homeowners insurance, property taxes, and a monthly maintenance budget.
- Work with your real estate agent to evaluate rental listings and tap into the MLS.
- Consider working with a rental company to handle the listing process — they will likely set the rent for you. Keep in mind that these companies will charge a fee to manage the property (10% to 20% of the monthly rent).
Setting a list price
This is where your top agent can come in handy once again — crafting a listing that highlights the improvements that were made while not being unrealistic on price is a delicate balancing act.
Work with your real estate agent to evaluate comps in the area and set a competitive price. List too high, and it might sit on the market for too long, too low, and you could be leaving money on the table.
When a flipped house is ready for the market, Mills says that “at that point, they’re pretty much just a comp.” Meaning, it’ll be essentially the same process as determining the list price for any other home.
“What’s funny is that we’ll always hear somebody on the buying side look at the records and say something like, ‘They only paid $100,000, and now they want $250,000?’ and it’s like, yeah, but that seller has put $100,000 into the home. People don’t always understand that,” explains Mills.
What can go wrong with a house flip in Georgia?
Experienced flippers price out home repairs before purchasing a house, and leave themselves a cushion for the unexpected. But not even they could have predicted the 20% increase in construction materials between January 2021 and 2022. Building materials continued to rise in cost by 4.9% in the first four months of 2022, but have since fallen to only about 1.4% higher than they were a year ago.
But even small increases in construction costs could eat away at your flip’s profit, or put you in the red. A delay in getting permits, or having materials delivered, could also decrease profits due to increased holding costs. The longer you own the house before flipping it, the tighter the profit margin.
Whether you’re flipping a house in Georgia or anywhere else, keeping a close eye on your time and financial resources is key to coming out ahead — or even just breaking even.
“I’ve seen houses where the buyer has watched something on TV, said, ‘Oh, that looks really easy to do,’ then they sink all their money into a house, and they’re not even halfway done with the project when they run out of budget,” cautions Mills.
Remember, it’s always worth spending a little extra on inspections and second opinions from contractors before closing a home, which may reveal you’re biting off more than you can chew.
If you’re interested in flipping houses, Georgia is certainly a great place to get started. Thanks to a growing population, steady economic growth, and home prices that are still trending upward throughout the state, conditions are good for savvy house flippers.
Be mindful of your budget, skill level, and timeframe when looking for a house to flip — and definitely make sure you have a great agent on your side to help you find, assess, and purchase the right house.
Writer Dena Landon contributed to this story.
Header Image Source: (Christopher Alvarenga / Unsplash)
- "Cost of Living Data Series," Missouri Economic Research and Information Center (2023)
- "Home Flipping Declines Again Across U.S. During Third Quarter Of 2022 As Investor Profits Hit 13-Year Low," ATTOM (December 2022)
- "70% Rule Explained: How the 70% Rule Works in Home Buying," Masterclass (August 2021)
- "What Is a Hard Money Loan?," U.S. News & World Report (August 2022)
- "Georgia Overview: Economic Development," The World Bank (October 2022)