What is property flipping? How to flip a property in 4 steps


Property flipping can be a great way for experienced buy-to-let landlords to make money quickly.

House flipping shows and social media influencers have increased its appeal in recent years, but flipping is difficult to get right and can be risky. Our guide explains both the advantages and the pitfalls.

What is property flipping?

Property flipping, sometimes known as ‘buy-to-sell’, involves buying a property and selling it quickly for a profit. This profit can come after buying it cheaply in the first place and often after making improvements.

You might find a bargain by buying property at auction, or see potential in a property that others have overlooked.

Buy-to-let landlords might consider property flipping as an opportunity if they have ready cash available, because mortgages aren’t commonly used for quick buying and selling.

House flipping makes it possible to earn a lump sum of money in a shorter time frame than traditional buy-to-let, but it can be risky. You should be certain that you’ve actually found a bargain, and that the project won’t take too long or go over your budget.

How do I work out profit from property flipping?

When flipping a property, you calculate profit just like you would for any other venture:

gross profit = sale price – purchase price – costs

So, if you buy a property for £190,000 with costs of £20,000 and sell it for £250,000, your return on investment would be £40,000 (equivalent to 19 per cent).

Remember to keep taxes in mind. If you’ve set up a limited company for buy-to-let and flip property through this business, you’ll pay corporation tax.

Otherwise, you’ll pay income tax as an individual. You don’t pay capital gains tax, as HMRC doesn’t see property flipping as an investment.

Property flipping: what is the 70% rule?

The 70 per cent rules is a strategy commonly used by house flippers to make sure they don’t overpay when buying a property.

Investors will find a property and then work out how much they think it would sell for after being renovated. They then calculate 70 per cent of that value and subtract the estimated costs of the project. This leaves them with a maximum buying price if they want to make a healthy return on investment.

For example, you find a property that your research suggests could sell for £320,000. You’ll need to calculate 70 per cent of the estimated sale price, which is £224,000. Next you subtract the estimated renovation cost of £14,000, leaving you with a maximum buying price of £210,000.

How to flip a property in 4 steps

Step 1: Research before flipping property

Your profit will depend heavily on the project’s costs, including how much you paid for the property. It’s best to research a property’s location and how much homes there usually sell for. Are you really getting a bargain and are you certain that you’ll be able to sell quickly at a higher price?

Most house flippers try to find properties that are below market value (BMV). These types of investment opportunities are often sold at auction and could be available for a low price because they need a lot of work or the owner needs to sell quickly.

You should then be as precise as possible when working out how much it’ll cost to refurbish the property, how long it’ll take, and what exactly needs to be done.

You can work closely with tradespeople here. You might even want to ask them to view the property with you to help scope the project.

You could also take advice from other professionals, including estate agents and tax advisers – for example, how much will it cost in stamp duty and other fees? And is there a way to minimise tax?

One of the risks of flipping a house is the project costing you a lot more money (and taking a lot more time) than you originally planned for. Being as thorough as possible before taking the plunge can help reduce those risks.

Step 2: Financing your property flipping

As mentioned, residential and buy-to-let mortgages aren’t designed for property flipping. You’ll need to use cash or find another way to borrow money.

Cash: if you’ve got enough for the property purchase and improvement costs, cash can be frictionless. But as the money will be tied up until you can sell, you should consider whether you’ll need that cash for anything else.

Bridging loan: a bridging loan is effectively a short-term mortgage, which ‘bridges the gap’ between buying a property and selling it a few months later. If you’ve got cash but need some more, bridging loans can help you pay for the property and the refurbishments – but they’re often expensive.

Step 3: Making the property improvements

This is the fun part if you’re more hands-on with your properties, but you should be realistic about what you can and can’t complete yourself.

Have the answers to these six questions:

1. Who will buy the property? Have a target buyer in mind and cater to their tastes. Call on the research you did in step one – for example, do families live in the area, or is it populated more by young professionals?

2. How much can you do yourself? You might want to do parts of the refurbishment, but be mindful of your limitations. Work out what parts of the project will need specialist, experienced tradespeople.

3. Will you manage the project yourself? You can hire a contractor to oversee the whole project or hire individual contractors yourself. While managing the project yourself will often be cheaper, be realistic about how much time you can really dedicate to the property refurbishment.

4. How much are you going to spend? It’s tempting to cut costs, but people can often tell when fixtures and fittings are too cheap. On the other hand, spending too much will reduce your profit. This is tricky to get right, so it’s a good idea to get an opinion from local estate agents on what’ll give the property the best chance of selling.

5. What’s the schedule? The aim is to make a quick profit, so you should be clear about the timeline with contractors (and trust that they can complete things on time). Keep a close eye on how the project is progressing, otherwise small problems might become bigger problems later on.

6. Will you be able to pay for labour and materials? It’s a good idea to agree on payments with your contractors at the beginning, so they know when to expect money after submitting their invoices. Keep in mind that while you’ll need to pay for materials, you shouldn’t pay for work that hasn’t been completed.

Step 4: Selling after property flipping

The hard work is done, but it’s important you don’t sit back at this stage. It can be difficult for new homes to feel homely, so you’ll want to make the property presentable.

This might even mean putting some furniture in place, even if it’s just sofas, chairs, and tables. It should be just enough to convince people that they’d be able to call it home.

Then you can use an estate agent to sell the property. Call on your original research when setting a price, but factor in the range for similar properties currently.

It’s important to keep an eye on short to medium term house price trends to make sure you buy and sell at the right time.

For example, average house prices fell in 2023 and have started to rise again in 2024. This means an ideal time to buy a property to flip would have been towards the end of 2023 when there was an increased chance of lower prices.

Then you could have made the improvements during the next few months, before putting the property up for sale in spring 2024 when prices started to rise again.

Target the best times to buy and sell

Each year, there are times when it’s better to buy property because demand is lower and times when it’s better to sell property because demand is higher. When you’re planning to flip a property, it can be beneficial to target these sweet spots.

Spring is a good time to sell as it’s traditionally a time of year when the market is busy as lots of people look to move home. On the other hand, August or December could be a good time to buy as demand is usually lower. It’s worth speaking to an estate agent about the best times to buy and sell before making any decisions.

Remember that the trick to pricing is capturing interest. If you go too high, no-one will want to buy – again, think back to your original plan and how much profit you wanted to make. If you can set a reasonable price and still make this profit, that’s the aim.

Read our guide to buy-to-let property investment for some top buying and selling tips.

Is now the right time to branch out into property flipping?

Property flipping is definitely an art. You need to be able to spot a bargain, have a vision for the refurbishment, and then sell at the right price.

But property flipping can be a great opportunity for landlords wishing to branch out, as you’ll develop new skills (and hopefully make money at the same time).

Are you experienced at property flipping or just starting out? Let us know in the comments below.

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Conor Shilling

Conor Shilling is a professional writer with over 10 years’ experience across the property, small business, and insurance sectors. A trained journalist, Conor’s previous experience includes writing for several leading online property trade publications. Conor has worked at Simply Business as a Copywriter for three years, specialising in the buy-to-let market, landlords, and small business finance.

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