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Thursday, August 03, 2017 1:00 am

WalletHub rates city 3rd-best to flip houses

FRANK GRAY | The Journal Gazette

It started with “This Old House” 35 years ago telling people in TV land that yes, they could do things like remodel their own basements.

Today, television is full of programs showing people how to remodel old houses in order to flip them or sell them at a fat profit.

I will never flip a house, and I'd advise against buying a house that I was flipping – if I'd done the work.

But plenty of people are giving it a try, and WalletHub has rated Fort Wayne as one of the best big cities in the U.S. to flip a house.

WalletHub's study, which used 22 different metrics to rate cities, ranks Fort Wayne as the third-best place to flip a house.

According to the study, Fort Wayne is the cheapest city in the country to remodel a bathroom, the 19th-cheapest place to remodel an entire house, and the 27th-cheapest city to remodel a kitchen.

Of course, flipping a house isn't as easy as they make it look on TV. It takes time and work and money and a little bit of savvy.

According to experts quoted in the study, you've got to be familiar with the neighborhood where you plan to flip, and you've got to understand the old saying, “real estate is all about location, location, location.”

If a neighborhood is undesirable, you might be wasting your time renovating a house with the notion of selling it at a profit.

It also helps to know what you're doing. If you don't understand home construction, can't find good contractors or go overboard, you're going to have problems, experts advised.

But why is Fort Wayne such an ideal place to flip a house?

I talked to Nate Norris, one of the owners of MBN, a company that turns fixer-uppers into dream homes.

Norris was somewhat skeptical of the ranking. In fact, his company actually avoids Fort Wayne.

“We are probably the biggest flipper in northeast Indiana,” Norris said. “As far as Allen County, we've only flipped one house there.”

The problem is competition, Norris said, and profit margins are lower than ever.

One reason that remodeling projects are so affordable, Norris said, is that contractors charge less.

“In other cities, the cost of living is higher,” so contractors have to charge more to make a living. The cost of living here is so low, and housing prices overall are so low compared with other cities that contractors charge less, he said.

Flipping houses, in its way, is actually good for neighborhoods. It revitalizes areas and attracts new generations of residents, experts were quoted in the WalletHub study.

And in Fort Wayne, because houses are so affordable, a young couple can buy a starter home that, in many other communities, would be a forever home, Norris said.

There's still risk, though. Just because we're rated as one of the best places to flip a house doesn't mean you can't shoot yourself in the foot.

Frank Gray reflects on his and others' experiences in columns published Sunday, Tuesday and Thursday. He can be reached by phone at 461-8376, fax at 461-8893, or email at fgray@jg.net. You can also follow him on Twitter @FrankGrayJG.