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:
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!