14 Mar How the ‘Fix and Flip’ Model Needs to Change
There are literally hundreds of programs available that teach entrepreneurs and real estate professionals how to earn money quickly through various real estate strategies. And there are several television series that are now based on this real estate program and how to earn money using real estate. Most of these are similar iterations of a ‘fix and flip’ strategy that harnesses the power of leverage, asymmetric information, and sweat equity.
No doubt these ‘fix and flip’ techniques have improved properties and surrounding neighborhoods, but they have also transferred assets from one pocket to another to the benefit of the entrepreneur or real estate professional. At the end of the day, they are generally hurting and not helping the affordable housing crisis which is rampant across the US. And rents and mortgages are increasing across the board as evidenced by latest reports.
The basic ‘fix and flip’ technique includes locating and purchasing an underpriced property, improving the site, and then selling or leasing it out for more than previous. As billions of dollars are deployed in this strategy the market pressure increases and prices rise. The monthly payment of $800 before turns into a monthly payment of $1,200 after the ‘fix and flip’. And the $2,200 payment becomes $2,800. And so on.
The large size of real estate and housing is a perfect opportunity for creativity to blend with capitalism in the search for new strategies and opportunities. Some of these strategies do not even require owning the property, but rather to simply sign a lease and provide an AirBnB type or furnished sublease.
But with all of the ‘fix and flip’ strategies, when does the music stop. And who is left without a place to call home? Certainly, not everyone can afford to continue to pay increasing rates without corresponding wage increases.
Real estate, and particularly, residential real estate, should spend greater effort looking at how to provide housing affordably and how to bring down the monthly expenses. This requires new strategies and technologies that have not been previously implemented at scale. And consumers will need to change their expectations of ‘home’.
Some key changes that can make housing more affordable.
Size – More and more people are realizing that it is more important to have a ‘right sized’ home rather than a ‘bigger is better’ approach. And more people are realizing that for them, the ‘right sized’ may be even much smaller than previously imagined. Micro apartments in New York, San Francisco, Paris, and Tokyo, continue to get smaller and smaller and the demand is outpacing supply. And more technology is being introduced to make smaller spaces behave more like larger spaces.
Fabrication – We need to move from construction to fabrication. Fabrication delivers efficiencies that far surpass the speed and cost available with construction. Moving towards fabrication is also a much more eco-friendly and sustainable method as there is much less waste. We live in a global economy and are no longer reliant on the need to find a local expert for every piece of the supply and construction or remodel phase.
Financing and Friction – There are normal costs and normal time periods that are being challenged with the switching of real estate. This includes financing becoming streamlined, digitized, and with fewer damaging clauses that require heavy fees and penalties. For example, it used to be normal to expect 4-8 weeks to obtain a mortgage or to even be approved to lease an apartment. Anything quicker would require expedited or ‘hard money’ fees. Today, it is quite normal for approvals and closings to occur within a few days. And the clauses for moving or changing your mind are far less onerous than previous.
So rather than just focusing on ‘fix and flip’, there should be a more holistic approach that incorporates a change in consumer behavior (size), a change in how things are built or renovated (fabrication) and a change in how contracts and financings come together (financing and friction). These three areas of PropTech will give us a chance to provide housing more affordably for everyone.
Scott Huish has directed technology driven companies in finance, agriculture, energy, construction, and real estate. Scott has completed advanced education at Oxford, Harvard, and London School of Economics and Political Science.