Is Zombie House Flipping Fake?

Last Updated on April 15, 2021 by Mark Ferguson

Zombie house flipping is a television show on A&E, and it is also a term for houses that have been vacant for years. I was sucked into the show the other day even though I get really frustrated watching house-flipping shows. I have flipped over 210 houses and currently do 20-30 flips a year.

I get really annoyed watching the house-flipping shows because they are so unrealistic and do not show the real numbers. I tuned into Zombie Flipping to see if the shows had gotten any better, and I was really disappointed. This one was worse than most of the previous shows before it. The numbers were horrible and the show focused on silly mishaps and ignored all the real issues that flippers face.

What is Zombie House Flipping?

Before I get into the show Zombie House Flippers, I want to discuss what zombie house flips are. Zombie house flips became a popular term in the last housing crisis. It describes houses that went into foreclosure or were abandoned by their owners but were never sold to the public. They basically sat empty for years until they were finally sold by the bank. States with extremely long foreclosure processes have the most zombie foreclosures, like Florida, which is where the show takes place. In Florida, it can take three years or longer to complete a foreclosure. The same can happen in Massachusetts, New York, and New Jersey.

If a house goes into foreclosure, the owners may move out before the bank takes possession. If it takes three years for the foreclosure to complete, the house could be vacant that entire time. If you ever happen to go through foreclosure, remember that you have the right to live in the house until the foreclosure process is complete, and even then, the bank may pay you to move out.

What is the premise behind the Zombie House Flipping Show?

The show Zombie House Flippers started in 2016 and is based in Florida, where an investor teams up with a Realtor and contractors to fix up zombie foreclosures. The show plays out like most reality shows with a highly staged atmosphere and little actual information. In most reality flipping shows, they try to make the owner of the flips seem super involved in the rehab when they are not and should not be doing the work. I once talked to an investor who was on one of these shows, and he said they made him lay some tile in the bathroom one time. It was the first time he had laid tile, and as soon as he was done, his crew came in and tore it out so they could re-lay it.

The investor buys the houses without telling us how he finds them, fixes them up with the help of his Realtor, and sells them. The interesting part is that his Realtor seems to work for free.

Why are the numbers completely inaccurate on Zombie House Flipping?

I knew I was going to hate (I know hate is a strong word, but it is warranted) the show from the beginning because they showed the potential profit of the house flip they were working on. They said the house was bought for $185,000, needed $65,000 in work, and would sell for $325,000, leaving a profit of $75,000. It seems like a decent profit, right? Except, they left out at least $20,000 in other costs that come with every house flip. When they sold the house, the final numbers looked like this:

Zombie House Flipping

They have no selling costs, no buying costs, and no carrying costs. Here is a breakdown of what those costs might look like:

  • Buying costs: inspection, title fees, recording fees: $750
  • Carrying costs: insurance, utilities, maintenance: $2,500
  • Selling costs: real estate agent commissions, title fees, recording fees: $21,000

The total costs to flip this house are about $23,000 more than they said they were. The costs could be lower if the real estate agent is not charging any commission, but I find that hard to believe. These numbers also assume the investor is paying cash for the property and is not using any type of financing.

Why is Zombie House Flipping fake?

I don’t like to call people or shows fake, but I have to call out this show. It was ridiculous. On the episode, I saw the following happened:

  • The Realtor was doing manual labor to get the house ready.
  • The investor turned on the water to the house so his dog could cool down, even though it was cloudy and had just rained. The house then flooded because he didn’t know there were open pipes in the house.
  • There was a fire in the backyard that the neighbors helped to put out.
  • The house had fleas and everyone needed a HAZMAT suit.
  • All the neighbors came to help lay sod because they were going to miss their open house date.
  • The neighbors threw a block party for them when they had the open house.

I could believe maybe one of those things happening, but all of them on the same houses was a bit much. The water being turned on was just horrible. Anyone who works on houses or flips knows that you don’t just turn on the water to a house without checking pipes or with someone to see if it is safe.


This show is worse than most of the house-flipping shows and reminded me why I do not watch them. Every time I watch one, I get frustrated and write an article about it. They ended the show with the house going under contract for $310,000 and their repair costs increasing by $10,000, but they still did not add any other costs to the equation. I could never do a house-flipping show if they made me do that kind of stuff. If you want to see the real numbers and process for a house flip, check out some of my videos on YouTube like the one below.

My book, Fix and Flip Your Way to Financial Freedom, goes in-depth on what is actually required to flip homes and covers in detail how to find great deals, how to finance them, what repairs to make and how much they will cost, how to find and keep contractors, and how to scale up the business to a full-time job!

InvestFourMore Insider

Become an InvestFourMore Insider to get exclusive content, calculators, and deals.

» Learn More «

19 thoughts on “Is Zombie House Flipping Fake?”

  1. Thanks for calling them out on their crazy numbers. I thougjt I was the only one looking at how they leave major dollars out of the equation.
    These TV show flips are so unprofitable and down right stupid, its a damn shame that people even watch them. How many people buy a flip without doing their due diligence to see what the reality is of this process? Probably quite a few. And I bet they lose their ass.
    I have been buying fixers and foreclosures for years, and Im a licensed contractor. I know of what I speak as does Mr.. Ferguson.

    • I know, it is sad and who knows how many people get into the business without having a clue what they are doing.

  2. Tell the truth Mark! I’ve been a flipper & I’ve taught others how to flip. All these shows get on my last nerve. Most times it’s the network vs. the investors that don’t want to give accurate info. But then how would all these flippers like Than Merrill, Scott Yancey, etc. be able to go around the country & offer seminars on flipping to get your money? I met some guys that spent $25k on Than Merrill’s seminar & software which was nothing more than a Excel spreadsheet with great formulas built in.

    • I know. I have been approached a few times for shows and they are pretty clear the network want to make it look glamorous. I am pretty clear that I won’t fake anything

  3. Thank you for pulling back the curtain on the bs on TV house flip shows. Your insight amd experience apeak for themselves and your candor is much appreciated. You leave no room for the emotionally misguided person that thinks this business is a “good idea” or get rich quick deal. There is money to be made but you have to live in the reality that the numbers reveal to you and make decisions based on the possible risks involved. Thank you Mark. You are the best sir. I’ve every intention to purchase your blueprint but can’t right now as all my cash is wrapped up in 2 flips (novice move, I know). Thanks again

  4. Thank you for a great and honest article. It’s sad that most of TV viewers are fooled into thinking that flipping or even remodeling a house is glamorous. The outcome may be beautiful, but it’s the homework (due diligence) and hard work that pays off.

  5. I enjoy the hokey nature of this show.
    Sure, things are staged for entertainment factor. Hopefully, nobody is stupid enough not to recognize the made up stuff!
    I’ve only been involved in one remodel. We were very lucky as we sold it before the crash. We bought for 220k, sold for 450k just past the height of the market. We put waaay too much into it. Took 6 months to sell fter several months of build. No carrying costs as we did it out of pocket, so the return was better than savings or stocks. Commision to buyers agent as my wife is a realtor. (who isn’t in florida?).
    I note the names of the subs on the show and am considering hiring one for a home project I’m doing.
    I’d do it again in a heartbeat, but not until we see an increase in home prices.
    I love these shows as it is a creative use of time and the finished property is something to be proud of, not just a way to make money.
    By the way, the house just sold for $325k, sadly. Timing is key.

  6. One thing I will say is that the real estate agent would NOT be charging a commission in this case…The Agent is Ashley and she is part of the team who splits the profits so she would get her commission that way as part of the deal. Other than that ypu are probably on par and some stuff def seems staged for the network especially if you compare later seasons to the first few episodes

  7. Great job pointing out all the hidden costs. The “flipping” shows really mislead people into thinking it is easy. My wife and I flip a house every year or so. She has an MBA and I have 25 years construction experience. It takes both the brain and the brawn to pull a flip off on your own. Let alone a net work of sub contractors willing to take on a small repair or renovation.


Add Your Comment

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

[ Inside Real Estate Investing ]
[ Inside Real Estate Investing ]
%d bloggers like this: