House flipping seminars come with little to offer in Vancouver

PAIR OF FLIPPERS | Tarek and Christina El Moussa, husband and wife renovation team and hosts of HGTV’s Flip or Flop

Recently, there’s been a boom in house-flipping seminars coming through Vancouver. As it turns out the city isn’t a good market to flip in 

How many of you are hungry?” asks Gus Fernandez, our self-described “real estate expert, mentor and coach,” as the door closes on his lunchtime seminar Fortunes in Flipping. His hair slicked back and wearing a white dress shirt and gold-lamé tie, the 60-something Fernandez stands at the front of the room while lunch is served and scrawls on two white easel pads: on the first he writes “SYSTEM”; on the second, “WEALTH.” Learn the first, he tells us, and you’ll attain the other. 

The mid-week workshop, held one December afternoon at Vancouver’s Sheraton Wall Centre, attracts a crowd of more than 60 people eager to learn the art of house flipping. It’s one of several similar workshops to have come through the Lower Mainland in the past year—from Pete and Dave of A&E’s Flipping Boston to Tarek and Christina El Moussa of HGTV’s Flip or Flop. In a town obsessed with real estate, flipping should be a logical local obsession yet according to many experts, the conditions for flipping here are worse than ever.

“The value is all in the land,” says Rick Clarke, a realtor who has had clients flipping properties in Vancouver for years. “Even with a brand new house, the structure is worth multiples less than the plot.” It’s a fact most real estate investors are well aware of: a poll conducted in 2013 by Canadian Real Estate Weekly, a national publication for real estate investors, found that 79 per cent of its readers did not think flipping in the current market makes sense. And the statistics would appear to back them up: in July 2015, according to a Landcor study, nine out of the 166 sales of detached houses in Vancouver were sold twice in the previous 12 months (Landcor defined a flip as a sale and resale in less than a year).

That’s why our host is focusing most of his discussion down south. “I’ll tell you what Canadians want,” says Fernandez, stopping to scan the front two rows. “Most Canadians want to invest in the Sunbelt states.” Then he tells us to write down another of his many mantras: “You never fall in love with the property—you fall in love with the math.” For this audience, however—facing a Canadian dollar broaching 70 cents U.S.—the math on investing in the Sunbelt makes about as much sense these days as buying into Canada’s most extreme housing market.