It’s the four letter F-word all over again. Flip. Not flip as in flipping the bird, but flip as in quick and easy bucks in real estate.

After more than a year of doom and gloom on the property pages, repressed editors are now positively shrieking with glee whenever they can report a return to bidding wars.

Real estate bidding wars belong to the post-tech-bust world and an anything-but-the-stock-market attitude to investing. With that trend came a wave of flippers — and half a dozen real estate shows to pump them up. I don’t recommend flipping as a wealth generating tactic for the average person because neophyte flippers also often forget to factor in costs such as land transfer taxes and capital gains.

But if you are determined to try your hand as a property mogul, pay attention to the three basics.

Location still rules. In major centres, focus on areas close to transit, schools, parks and services. But choose neighbourhoods a little on the fringe. If real estate zooms, they will be the target of buyers who can’t afford the primo addresses.

Condition is critical. Do a thorough assessment of the big buck items; roof, insulation, furnace, exterior drainage, foundation and evidence of termites or carpenter ants. Such things cannot be covered up with a coat of paint.

Do your comparison shopping. A well-known adage in the real estate business says don’t buy the best house on the block. This is especially true in areas that are on the verge of up and coming yet still have a large stock of modest homes.

If you intend to buy and hold, it’s a different story. Over time neighbourhoods are discovered, big ticket repairs can be amortized and humble abodes catch up to the mansion on the corner.

Alison’s Money Rule:
• Don’t turn a property flip into a flop by ignoring the basic rules of real estate. Location, condition and neighbourhood comparisons rule profits.

– Alison Griffiths is a financial journalist, author and host of Maxed Out on the W Network. Write to her at

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