A Comparison Of Home Flipping Shows: Flip This House, Flip That House, and The Property Ladder

Ever since starting the house search and finding some real dumps with potential, I’ve been really into those home-flipping shows on TV. I’m not interested in any quick buy-fix-sells nor do I have illusions of making $50,000 in a month, but I do like to see the ways people can improve a neglected house and how much it roughly costs. I’m not sure if I’m alone here with my secret obsession, but after two months of having my TiVo packed full of episodes, here is my personal summary of the differences between three popular shows:

Flip This House on the A&E Channel focuses on the real estate flips of experienced investor teams. They pretty much know that they are doing, so I almost just sit back and take notes. My favorite team by far is Trademark Properties, with leader Richard Davis and trusty sidekick Ginger. They always seem very smart and professional in all their dealings. Apparently, Davis has a lawsuit against A&E over alleged non-payment, and so has moved to a new show on the TLC channel called The Real Estate Pros. I’ll definitely follow them there.

Then there are the temperamental Montelongo brothers. I thought they were entertaining in the earlier episodes, but in the recent ones they just seem to be faking drama (and doing it poorly). They wouldn’t be the first ones, as apparently another Flip This House team was accused of faking episodes and stealing money from other investors, resulting in all episodes involving them being pulled off the air.

Creative name, huh? TLC’s Flip That House usually has episodes involving more novice flippers, often first-timers. Surprisingly, most of the flippers seem to stay on track, and although there are some stumbles here and there, they usually come out only a bit behind schedule with the house looking beautiful. What I don’t like about this show is they always show “projected profit”, as if the flippers always get their full asking price for their house. Overall, I like this show, but it does seems to try a little too hard to make the flippers look good.

Are you tired of seeing all these greedy flippers? Do you want to see some people crash and burn? Then The Property Ladder (TLC) is the show for you! Composed almost completely of first-time flippers, this show isn’t afraid to reveal the ugly side of flipping. Hideous remodels, poorly-managed contractors, going insanely over-budget, fighting between partners, you name it. They give you status updates like “The house sat on the market for 10 weeks with not a single bid. Bob is now looking for renters.” Think of it as a show about what not do to.

There you have it, from stories of seasoned pros to the completely clueless.

Comments

  1. MONEY BLUE BOOK says:

    I can’t stand “Flip That House” for the very fact you mentioned – that they always show the “projected selling price” and “projected profit” as if they’re always going to get the price they want. They should show a subsequent note indicating: “Sadly, after 2-3 months on the market, the house was never sold.” Now that would be true reality as it is today!

    The Montelongos on “Flip This House” are indeed fake. The time that Armando ended up visiting a psychotherapist was just ridiculous and not credible.

    I haven’t seen “Property Ladder” but I want some people I know to see it. Everybody watches these shows and end up thinking that flipping run-down houses is a piece of cake. I think I’d enjoy watching the dramatized crash and burns on “Property Ladder.” Heh πŸ™‚

    — Raymond

  2. I agree completely, the shows are immensely interesting but surely not accurate in the projected profits. I have many college peers influenced by these shows and all the hype that goes with them. I hope people do not go out and do stupid things because of the shows and lose lots of money.

  3. Check out John T Reeds review of both these shows.

    http://www.johntreed.com
    http://www.johntreed.com/flipthathousereview.html

    He basically says these shows mislead people into believing that the costs and profits they present are realistic. It would be akin to watching these fix-up shows where they make-over an entire room for 1000 or 2000 dollars, which is completely material costs. So, if you want to re-do your bathroom, then all you have to do is pay 2000 in materials and a crew of carpenters and designers will work for free and apply those materials/finishes to your house.

  4. I too am a Flip Show junky!

    I agree with the comments on “Flip that House” and the projected profit. One of the cool things they were doing with the 2006 episodes was at the end of the show they would do a “Flip Forward” where they would show how the flipper made out after the show and whether or not they were still flipping houses.

    I’m not a fan of “Flip This House”. I never really liked any of the companies that were showcased. Although I like the “Real Estate Pros”, I hate Richard. He’s a very smart guy who knows his stuff, but he’s so lame!

    “Property Ladder” is by far the best show. My wife and I watch it regularly and cannot believe some of the idiots that try to flip houses. They never listen to Kirsten’s advice!

    All in all, good to watch these shows for do’s and don’ts!

  5. Independent George says:

    Raymond – You would have loved the episode they ran this weekend – three friends enter into a partnership on a flip. Two bail out because of the third’s repeated screwups, but it was obvious that none of them had any idea what they were doing, and all three shared the blame for it (one guy even made a point of boasting about not tracking their expenses… and then was shocked to discover they were 30% overbudget after 8 weeks). I actually started to respect the last guy for toughing it out and actually doing a decent job on the house, but then he got greedy and overpriced it by $100k even though he knew he needed to sell right away (what’s more, he would have made an $85k profit had he listed & sold it for $100k). After three months on the market, he had to sell at a loss (undisclosed) to another flipper.

    Usually, I feel bad for the flops, because it’s usually good people working their tails off to make it work; this was not the case in this episode.

  6. “Real Estate Pros” was already on TLC under a different name – I just can’t remember the name. Which really bugs me now. I watch that show occasionally, and while Ginger’s dresses pull me in, the main character’s ego pushes me away.

    Note that it would be difficult for a normal person to reproduce Trademark’s results. While it appears that Trademark farms out a lot of the work to subcontractors, after a while it becomes obvious that those companies are part of Trademark. They often report material costs and very low labor costs, even though they’ve had a team of laborers working at a site 12 hours/day for a week.

    Property Ladders is a fun show, but the funn part is the people often end up making ridiculous profits in spite of their stupidity.

  7. I too enjoy watching these shows. It’s somewhat educational to see the possible “challenges” one might run into when trying to rehab a home.

    I always love it when they find out they need to replace all the electrical wiring – they never seem to set aside budget for that. But the thing that bugs me most, is the plain and simple “entitlement” mindset that most of these guys have – they all feel like they’re entitled to make $100k per flip because they’re risk takers.

    I can’t stand Armando – he comes into most houses and says, “Oh let’s just paint this thing and put in new grass, we’ll make $100k easy.” Then his crew comes in behind him and points out that to “do it right” they’ll need to spend $50k in upgrades. The amount of greed is incredible.

  8. These shows are fakes. Google them up and you’ll find the flippers on the shows never owned the houses. Watch them for entertainment purposes only.

    link

  9. I do like Property Ladder, the Flip This House, that Flip that House.

    Don’t forget about the new entry Flipping House. http://www.imdb.com/title/tt1078394/

    It is like the train wreck of flipping shows.

  10. Thanks for this summary! I’ve always wondered about those shows. I am interested in real estate investing over the long haul (i.e. landlording), but it would be great to learn about and watch people try to flip houses too. I’ll have to check these out!

  11. I am very familiar with these shows and just yesterday I was doing some research of Armando M. This guy is now selling a course for $997 bucks and something else for $99. I read some reviews and everyone sees that this guy is full of you know what.
    The only one do I do like and can trust is Richard Davis Team. I also like the first time flippers. I also watch to take notes and it’s a great way to learn what really goes down.
    There was one couple that spent $14000 by going to seminars and being tricked by these “realestate mentors”. There is tons of free information out there and Barnes & Noble is the best for reading books for free…not to mention your public library.

  12. Funny that you posted this, as my wife and I sat down yesterday and canceled every Tivo Season Pass we had for these three shows. Not that they are bad shows, but we had been watching for a year and a half or so and just didn’t find much value in them anymore. One episode of the Montelongo’s was about all it took to skip every one of their episode’s in the future. I guess the “frugal” lifestyle just doesn’t lend itself very well to attempting some of the remodels these people take on. Good luck finding a house!

  13. I love Real Estate Pros!!!

    I like the fact that you get to see how it’s actually done, instead of just reading it in a book. Seeing it how it’s done, you also get to see the decision making processes (like how a property should look, to handling contractors who dropped the ball), and social interactions to get something done.

    I see myself doing something like this down the road. And when I encounter an unexpected problem or scenario, I will be able to draw upon this show and remember how REP did it. I will have some guide on how to handle it.

  14. The time that Armando ended up visiting a psychotherapist was just ridiculous and not credible.

    I saw that one!! Wasn’t that the episode where he drove his Hummer through mud to take off steam?

    This past weekend I was watching “Flip This House” which had one with Richard and his team. When it was over I flipped over to TLC to watch “The Real Estate Pros” with Richard again! I was wondering how he got his own show so I’m glad you had info about it. I love watching his team go to work because they always seem to know how to do it.

    I also hate how these shows never talk about the tax impacts of flipping.

  15. Random John says:

    Once in a while Flip That House does a “rewind” episode or something, where they show the same episode but then actually catch up with the person a year later and ask how it turned out. those are definitely worth watching. It’s amazing how many of them (virtually all) end up saying something about how the market took an unfortunate turn and they ended up holding the property for (insert a number between 9 and infinity) months, “but they’ll do it again soon!” It always drove me crazy with the fake numbers they used that don’t include carrying costs, transaction costs, etc. I don’t really mind not including tax effects because income is income and you’re pretty much paying tax on all of it anyway. This stuff is all short-term, non-residence-benefited capital gains so it’s just your ordinary rate. The other costs are far more significant. Richard Davis is my favorite, but that guy “Than” and his crew from Connecticut are pretty good too.

  16. SavingDiva says:

    I will definitely keep my eyes peeled for property ladder….I love the flops!

  17. I saw the Property Ladder with the three amigos too (only the last half though).

    The end was the worst. He could have sold at market price (maybe $575k), sold it quickly, and make some solid profit since his total costs was like $520k or so. Instead, he greedily listed it at $700k, scaring away all the buyers. 12 weeks later, he ran out of cash to feed the beast and had to sell it to a RE investor. I think they said he broke even, actually. Sigh.

  18. Independent George says:

    Jonathan – The funniest part about the pricing fiasco is that his two (ex-) friends were both real estate appraisers by trade. Besides scaring away business with the absurd list-price, once people realize a house has been on the market for over a month, and see the list price keep dropping, they smell blood in the water and won’t give you a decent deal.

    Morons.

    It’s too bad you missed the beginning. There’s no doubt that during the project, he was by far the biggest idiot, and his friends were rightfully ticked at him for his screwups (walking across an unfinished floor, not hiring electrician to look at the wiring, punching a hole through the floor with a sledgehammer, yada yada…). But the moment his mates bailed on him, I immediately took his side (besides, it’s not like the others were faultless – I still can’t get over the one guy who steadfastly refused to write out a budget and track their expenses). Until he got greedy, I was even starting to respect him for following through on the project and actually making a pretty good go of it.

  19. nonymouse says:

    Break even? think about the months of sweat and tears that they put into it.

    sometimes i see that the projected earning is so wrong. they dont take into account the 6% commission and other stuff they have to pay.

    Seen some that flip and make $40K after 6 months of hard work. To me, thats not enough. You are putting in too much risk to try to make that much.

  20. MONEY BLUE BOOK says:

    Haha….I would have been laughing during the whole show and shaking my head at the same time! πŸ™‚

    It’s so sad to laugh at the misfortune of others…but seriously, some people are just plain dumb…and downright moronic… And I’m being nice!!

    – Raymond

  21. I’m glad people like Property Ladder – my boyfriend is an assistant editor for that show!

    Even so, I’ve seen more episodes of Flip This House than Property Ladder. (I don’t think I’ve seen Flip That House, but with the similar names, maybe I have!) I tend to prefer the shows where arrogant novices fall flat on their faces… which is probably rather sadistic of me, but hey – that’s reality TV for you!

  22. I used to love Property Ladder because the people were so stupid. I also liked that they would sometimes show the profit/loss at the end.

    It’s hard to believe how dumb some of the flippers were.

    Mike

  23. My top schadenfreude moment was the Property Ladder with Renardo. The title of the episode was “Show me the money”, where he put in this crazy bathroom in the middle of bedroom with a shower that only worked for people shorter than 4 ft, along with a toilet next to the window so when you stand up you’re mooning the neighbors. Brilliant!

    I agree that this is entertainment, not some educational tool. But it does give ideas as to what is possible with remodels.

    • Frank Plantan says:

      My family recorded this and watched it a few times just for the hysterical laughter we got from it. My kids got me (and accomplished DIY’er) a hat for Christmas that says on the front, “I am not Renardo.”

  24. Jonathan,

    I noticed someone mentioned it in passing, but it should be reiterated…flip this house did an update, called fast forward. It showed the exact same show but with a 2 min blurb at the end showing ACTUAL sales cost.

    Interestingly (and not suprisingly) most people didn’t make as much as they expected. Some disaster of a team was shocked that no one wanted their bright blue countertops and ugly toilets, even know they were “kind of” new!

    I don’t watch the shows as most people on here mainly because I can’t stand not knowing what actually happened

  25. “Real Estate Pros” was or is now called “The Real Deal”. Not sure why they changed the name.

  26. these shows are very old, they have changed the shows being shown now to reflect the current market…check out ‘flipping out’ and ‘flip it fast’, they are pretty good, though i do like the property ladder bombs

  27. JTMurdock says:

    They changed the name because Richard, the guy behind Trademark Properties, used that term all the time.

  28. Checkout http://www.flipthislawsuit.com and join my myspace group groups.myspace.com/therealestatepros

    They changed from The Real Deal to The Real Estate Pros becuase The Real Deal didn’t quite explain what the show was about.

  29. Great summary of these shows. If anything, there is a bubble in housing related shows that is directly proportional to the current housing bubble.

    If anything, some of the flips that occurred over the past few years are tantamount to someone buying tech stocks in 1998 and selling them in 2000 for a profit. Pretty much throwing a dart at a list of homes would yield a winner.

    Property Ladder is starting to show the “flip” side of short-term real estate investing. Even most of these flippers went in with massively short-term financing since they planned on unloading the property. I remember one guy on Flip This House saying “I went zero down interest only. It’ll be off my hands in a few months.” It’ll be interesting to see how these folks make out in a bear housing market.

    Maybe the next Bravo show will be Flip this Housing Show.

  30. I completely agree with your comments about the Montelongo brothers / famalia. I use to enjoy watching those eposides, but now my wife and I ask catch ourselves asking ‘this can’t be for real’. These folks do this for a living so you know they’ve seen a lot of what can go wrong go wrong. However, on the episodes everything that goes wrong is a drama and surprise.

  31. Yeah, isn’t it hilarious that Flip THAT House totally stole Flip This House’s name? When I heard about it I was just like, wow.

  32. The Property Pundit says:

    I just came across your blog. Great descriptions! I think Real Estate Pros and Property Ladder are the most realistic. The market was getting a bit too saturated with the fake-seeming shows.

  33. what about that show with trademark properties in SC where he was shushing the chick, Ginger, for making comments about the rat infestation.

    did they disclose that to the buyers?

    what amazes me about these shows is the lack of permits, lack of licensed workers……lawsuits waiting to happen.

  34. Etownbrown says:

    I dunno. I really don’t have much sympathy for the buy low sell high types when they crash and burn. Everybody wants to be a landlord/flipper now and nobody wants to work for a living anymore. Can’t say I blame them, but everyone and their dog is babbling about flipping houses. They tell the worn out stories of that distant relative that made it big and now owns half a city or the famous tale of the “perfect flip that got away”.

    Everyone is just “so smart” nowadays. It is kind of amusing when overconfident know-it-alls and no-fear specuvestors get humbled a bit. But you never hear people talk about when they get hurt – you only hear the bla bla bla when they’ve made a few quick bucks.

    And we all know what most people do with quick bucks – easy come, easy go.

    Flippers and specuvestors are like gamblers. You only hear when they win. But when they’re eating the humble pie, I think they prefer to stay home and lick their wounds in private.

  35. Flipping is something I see a lot in the area I live in up here in Iowa.
    Most of the people I run into watch too many of these home flipping shows and end up with a house they can’t sell and end up going in the hole. It does make the neighborhood look better because we have all these houses that were formerly ugly houses turned into beautiful vacant homes. Maybe people should consider where these shows are made before trying it in an area like Iowa where houses don’t sell so well.

  36. It’s pretty funny reading this in 2012 with the property market bubble still deflating. Speculators deserve to get burned.

  37. I thought Armando was a trip – until this ‘A; personality “Viva Flippin’ Las Vegas” dude pops up on the screen with HIS wife. All the dude does is wine. I don’t want to wake up every Saturday morning to listen to this crap. Trantrums and fighting, it’s all about THEM, NOT the house. Where do they find these ‘Wanna Be’s’ anyway? At a talent contest?

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