House Flipping 101: How much does it cost? How much money can you really make?

Celebrities and HGTV have made flipping houses look like an easy (and fun) way to make some money. Celebrity flippers like Diane Keaton, Ellen Degeneres, Courtney Cox, Jennifer Aniston, Miley Cyrus, Ariana Grande, and the list of famous flippers goes on and on, have been very successful flipping houses. According to the Hollywood Reporter, Ariana Grade flipped a house in Montecito, CA  for $9.1 million less than two years after buying it for $6.8 million. Miley Cyrus made a cool $7.2 million when she sold her home in Hidden Hills, CA  after only owning it for 18 months. And according to, Ellen DeGenerous, a serial flipper and former talk show host, has spent $145 million over the years buying and flipping homes. Her biggest success story was in 2014 when she made $15 million on a flip. 

But what if you are not a celebrity? Is it still worth it? Where should you flip? What are the hot markets? What will give you the greatest return on your investment? We wanted to know, so we took a look at our data, and uncovered some flipping insights that could help with your next investment property.

We looked at homes in the nation that have been bought and sold within 90-365 days (the same property exchanging hands twice between 90-365 days). We then analyzed a sampling of these homes to see if they were in fact renovated and what was renovated. We then applied an industry standard regional renovation cost to each flip to determine profitability to come up with the Top 10 list below.

City, StateDays on MarketPre-Reno Sale PricePost-Reno Sale PriceAvg. Reno
Cost/Sq Ft
Total Reno CostClosing CostProfit
Scottsdale, AZ231$3,000,000$5,900,000$100$780,000$445,000$1,675,000
Washington, DC280$2,995,000$5,575,000$200$819,000$428,500$1,332,500
Scottsdale, AZ230$1,237,500$2,800,000$100$299,200$201,875$1,061,425
Greenwich, CT329$2,900,000$6,020,000$350$1,841,000$446,000$833,000
Corona del Mar, CA293$3,000,000$5,295,000$400$1,114,000$414,750$765,450
Gilbert, AZ365$1,400,000$2,965,000$100$524,700$218,250$822,050
Longboat Key, FL120$2,100,000$3,900,000$250$763,000$300,000$737,000
Washington, DC253$1,850,000$3,500,000$200$634,400$267,500$748,100
Washington, DC223$2,500,000$4,735,000$200$1,158,200$361,750$715,050
Scottsdale, AZ179$2,767,000$4,335,000$100$565,900$355,100$647,000
Sources: Homes as of June 2002 that exchanged hands twice between 90-365 days. Square foot renovation costs, by region, from Closing cost percentage of 5% from – taken on purchase price before renovation and then sold price after renovation.

1. The price of entry can be HIGH

Out of all the homes we looked at, the initial investment was between $725,000 and +$4,000,000, depending on the location. This is before you even start the renovation. The average cost of a complete home renovation, from our data set, was $1.1 million. 

But don’t despair, you won’t need a million dollars to get into the flipping market. Profits can be made with as little as a $55,000 initial investment. We found the most charming 950 square foot house in the neighborhood of Pensacola, Florida (see below). The house was bought for $58/square feet and sold for $170/square feet. We estimate they made around $30,000 on this tiny house flip.

2. Renovate the entire home

Renovating the entire home yields the largest profits. This means a top to bottom renovation which includes the kitchen, baths, flooring, bedrooms, main living spaces, interior and exterior paint, windows, HVAC and any outdoor spaces. We saw profits as high as $1.6 million in certain markets, with an average profit of $531K on a 4,500 square foot house. Renovating the entire home has its perks – it gives you the ability to redesign a poorly designed home, making the flow more modern, while giving the renovation a cohesive look. It also allows you to upgrade the energy efficiency of the home, including adding the most up-to-date technology and all new modern finishes.

3. Certain markets are HOT

The top markets were in Arizona, California, DC, Florida and outside the NYC metro area (CT and NY). Specifically certain counties trended like Maricopa County in Arizona, Los Angeles and Orange counties in California, Fairfield County in Connecticut, Miami-Dade and Palm Beach counties in Florida and Westchester county in New York.  If you don’t live in one of these markets, don’t worry, spend some time searching for fixer-uppers by keying in the word “fixer-upper” in the search box entitled “What else are you hoping for” on our site. Magically a list of fixer-upper homes in your area will pop up. 

4. Flipping can take longer than you think

Industry standards say the amount of time it takes to flip a house is 4-6 months. We saw houses flip as fast as 4 months, but as long as 1 year. Be prepared and plan for the renovation and the sale to take longer than anticipated. Unfortunately, if you took out a loan, and the longer it takes to sell the house, the more it eats into your profit margin. Use our mortgage calculator to see how much you can borrow for your potential investment property.

5. List with the right broker

Congratulations, your renovation is completed! It’s now time to list (list it quickly) and make some money. Be sure to find the right agent, one who knows the area, can sell it quickly and has the clientele. In our data sample of the most profitable flips, the markets were high end, with the average post-renovation sale price of $3.8 million. Post-renovation sale prices varied from $6.5 to $2.5 million.

Bottom Line

We would say yes, it is still worth it to flip a house, celebrity or not. If this article gave you the flipping bug, spend some time researching fixer-upper homes in your area to get a sense of entry costs. Once you start flipping homes, you may never stop. You could be the next Chip and Joanna!

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