How to Wholesale Real Estate

Posted by Hannah Lapin on Dec 14, 2021 2:25:40 PM

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Have you ever driven around your neighborhood and seen signs that say “Cash Offers for Your House” or “We Buy Houses As-Is?” Chances are these bandit signs were posted by a real estate wholesale business. Real estate wholesaling is an interesting strategy that requires less cash and long-term work than buy and hold or fix and flip investing.

In this guide, we’ll take a look at how wholesaling works, how it compares to other real estate investments how to get started, and how you can be successful.


What is real estate wholesaling?

Put simply, wholesale real estate is when someone (a wholesaler) signs a contract with a seller of a property that’s going for below market value. This lower price can be because of a foreclosure or other reason a property is distressed, but the contract gives them the right to buy the property at a specified price.

The real estate wholesaler then quickly sells that contract for slightly higher than the agreed-upon price to an interested buyer and keeps the difference. The buyer is usually someone who is familiar with repairing these distressed properties, either for fix-and-flip or buy-and-hold purposes.

A wholesale contract to buy a property at a specific price often also has a cutoff date that the wholesaler needs to find a buyer by. This is why they have to act quickly to sell the purchase contract before it ends.


Real Estate Wholesaling Example

As an example, a homeowner has a distressed property; perhaps it is facing foreclosure, or the building is in such bad shape that a real estate agent would not work with it. The wholesaler offers them a deal: put the home under contract for $110,000, which is slightly below the property's fair market value. This way, they get a fair price when considering what comparable properties sold for and how long it took to get them under contract.

The owner agrees, and they create a sale agreement with the wholesaler. In the meantime, the wholesaler reaches out to an interested cash buyer in their network, negotiating a new purchase price of $125,000. This investor takes the property, renovates it, and either rents or sells it in a new home sale transaction.

The difference between the original selling price and the higher price the real estate investor pays goes directly to the wholesaler, also known as the wholesale fee or assignment fee.


Who Should Become a Real Estate Wholesaler

Since real estate wholesaling doesn’t involve actually purchasing the property or even getting a broker’s license, it’s a great real estate investment strategy for someone looking to get started in real estate investing with fewer assets or cash on-hand. To purchase a rental property, you’re probably going to need a minimum of 20% cash down. For property flipping, you’re going to need cash down AND to front the expenses of all construction.

While wholesaling real estate requires much less cash, it still requires a lot of time and sweat equity. You need to be motivated and understand how to find good opportunities, as well as have a team of people to help you assess property price, required repairs, after repair value, and more. Another part of the time you spend is on market research and networking to build your list of potential buyers.

Wholesaling is a fantastic way to get your foot in the door of the real estate industry and learn the ropes, but just because it requires less money doesn’t mean it doesn’t require anything else to make up for that.


How much money do you need to start wholesaling?

The great thing about wholesaling undervalued properties is that you need very little upfront capital to do so, making it a great choice for those who want to get into real estate but don't have much of their own money to put down. These real estate transactions require no personal finance investment from the wholesaler, just motivated sellers and a strong network of interested investors.

Most of the money you will spend to start a wholesale real estate business comes from marketing and lead generation to find undervalued properties. You may pay for advertising, such as a website, posters, and direct mail. Virtual wholesaling platforms and real estate lead generation services can also be of great help when looking to find motivated sellers. Lastly, some find that real estate and business classes are helpful tools when you start wholesaling real estate. 

The amount of money you spend on marketing can greatly impact how successful you are, so it's important to spend money wisely and develop a strong strategy, especially in a competitive market. You might spend $2,000 upfront and up to 12% of each deal on your marketing efforts. 


How to Find Real Estate Investors for Wholesaling

Networking is a must for any real estate wholesale organization. One of the best resources is local real estate meetups, either in-person or online, where investors discuss their strategies and share resources. You can also reach out to a local real estate broker who is familiar with the cash-buying community in your area. Don't forget about your other personal or professional contacts who may know of those who buy discounted property.

You can also use business news pages in local papers, classified ads, or even county records of cash real estate transactions to hunt down interested investors. Social media and a good website will let investors reach out to you, a critical role in lead generation.


Pros & Cons of Real Estate Wholesaling

Real Estate Wholesaling Pros Cons (1)


As we just mentioned, one of the biggest upsides of wholesale real estate strategy is the entry point to the industry with limited funds. Some other benefits include:

    • Quicker returns on investment: Buy and hold investors are playing the long game to build wealth over time and to have steady monthly cash flow. Fix and flip investors, while considered short-term, still have to go through a renovation and repair period before making their sale. Wholesalers profit much faster in comparison due to acting as a middleman and having a shorter turnaround, which can be as short as one month.
  • No construction or improvements: Fix and flippers can go through extensive renovations, and of course, buy and hold investors are responsible for all ongoing repairs and maintenance. Even the most distressed properties, wholesale real estate investors never even touch. Wholesale deals involve selling real estate contracts, not properties.
  • Greater volume potential: Since fix and flipping and buy and hold properties are very hands-on strategies, it's hard to acquire multiple properties per month. A successful real estate wholesaler can turn upwards of ten properties per month. This balances out the higher cash-on-cash returns of a strategy such as a fix-and-flip.


While there are many great benefits of wholesaling real estate, we also need to consider the downsides to get a fuller picture. 

  • Hinges on finding a buyer: None of the benefits of wholesaling can come to fruition without an end buyer. If you are unable to secure an end buyer, you could be responsible for the purchase of a home, in addition to not having income. That is not something you want to take lightly if you do not have the capital.
  • Can have a negative reputation to some: People often question the legality of wholesaling due to it not requiring those involved to be licensed real estate agents. However, the key point of wholesaling is that you're selling a wholesale real estate contract and not a property. While this means wholesaling real estate is legal (in most states), there are always bad apples who use unethical or illegal tactics to find buyers or sellers. NOTE: Real estate wholesaling is illegal in Illinois, Oklahoma, and Virginia.
  • Requires a lot of time: A major drawback to wholesaling real estate is the time and sweat equity it requires. Real estate wholesalers are the middlemen that finds properties that could be profitable to buyers looking to repair them, as well as finding buyers who are looking for similar properties and are interested in purchasing the wholesale real estate contract. This means that all of the research and networking are on your shoulders. You need to constantly be networking and working through a buyers list. You also need to be on the lookout for properties and completing lots of due diligence to assess opportunities and connections.

    States Where Real Estate Wholesaling is Illegal

    Is wholesale real estate legal? Technically, wholesaling is legal in all 50 states, but in some states, you do require a real estate license. That includes:

    • Illinois – The Real Estate License Act of 2019 means that anyone who does business with real estate transactions must have a real estate broker license.
    • Oklahoma – In 2021, Oklahoma passed the Wholesaler Act, which requires any wholesale real estate business to have a license.

    Other states have very specific restrictions on exactly how a wholesale business can advertise itself. In almost every state, you can only advertise the contract for sale, not the property itself. Other state laws include:

    • Connecticut and Delaware – You must have a licensed attorney oversee the transaction.
    • Michigan – Those without a license must disclose their fee to both the seller and the ultimate cash buyer. 
    • Missouri – You must be the principal buyer on the original contract with you and the homeowner.

    In many cases, becoming a licensed real estate agent may make sense if you intend to turn this into a profession, as it affords you more opportunities. However, you should familiarize yourself with the realty laws in your state to ensure you do not face penalties.

Wholesale Real Estate vs. House Flipping

We’ve discussed in-depth how fix and flip loans work before, but the primary differences between these two strategies are their experience required and cost. Flipping houses is a more common strategy for those who are much more hands-on and experienced in the real estate market. Because it’s much more involved and the investor is handling the repairs and reselling, fix and flips take much more money, capital, and time. On the other hand, wholesaling is much quicker and doesn’t require funding for both purchasing and restoring the property, meaning it’s also less risky.


How to Become a Real Estate Wholesaler

If you’ve weighed the pros and cons and want to begin wholesaling, you’ll need to follow these steps to get started on the right path:

1. Have the Right Mindset

It may sound cheesy, but ensuring that you have the right mindset and going into this industry wanting to help people is what prevents bad apples from giving it a bad reputation. Wholesaling real estate is a great way to help people in difficult situations sell their property to cash buyers and avoid something like foreclosure.


2. Organize Your Finances & Schedule

One of the first steps to considering any potential investment should be determining your budget and whether you have the means to pursue it. With wholesale real estate investing, you should know exactly how much money and time you can spend on it. You need to plan ahead for what you'll have to do in order to get set up with the proper legal documentation, marketing strategies, and prepare for the following steps.


3. Do Your Research

The key to wholesaling is research, research, research. While it’s a less risky investment strategy than something like house flipping, you are still spending money and time to make your investments work out. Research should also include your state’s legal requirements for real estate investing and wholesaling, as this will vary from state to state.

Additionally, wholesaling is typically seen as an entry-level way to get involved with real estate investing. If you’re a beginner and looking into becoming a wholesaler, you need to do even more research on the basics of real estate vocabulary, calculations, and more to get up to speed and begin looking for opportunities.


4. Build a Buyers List

As mentioned in the cons section, wholesaling is useless without an end buyer. You'll need multiple potential buyers before looking for your first  wholesale deal because buyers want different things in properties and your job is to serve as the middleman and cater investments to them that they'll be interested in.

Networking events, Craigslist, bandit signs, social media, and even signing up for other wholesalers’ buyers lists to check who ends up purchasing their advertised properties can help you start building a comprehensive buyers list of your own. If you’re looking for even more places to find buyers, try talking to hard money lenders. They finance short-term fix and flip or construction projects and can be another source of referrals because of their incentive to get more projects financed.


5. Search for Properties

Once you have a buyers list of a range of interests and needs, you can start looking at properties in your real estate market that could be profitable for them. This could simply be driving around the neighborhood and noting the addresses of abandoned-looking houses and contacting the property owner, or it could be through networking  to find a motivated seller.

When looking for a wholesale property, you should keep a running list or spreadsheet of their condition, appraised price, what repairs would be required, how much they might cost, what the after-repair value should be after repairs and more. This will involve your team of appraisers and contractors to help you come up with these data points, all of which will help you decide not only whether a wholesale deal is worth it or not.


How to Wholesale Real Estate Successfully

Up until now, we've explained what real estate wholesaling entails and how to get started. Now let's take a look at tips and strategies for being good at real estate wholesaling and maximizing your profits.


1. Have the Right Mindset

Yes, we already talked about this in How to Get Started, but it bears repeating. To be successful in real estate wholesaling, you have to be considerate and understanding of all parties involved. That means knowing what cash buyers are looking for, as well as understanding that the seller is likely in a difficult and stressful situation.

Being sympathetic is not only part of being an ethical and good professional, but also people will want to work with those who aren’t trying to screw them over or take advantage of their situation. This mindset will take you a long way in wholesale real estate investing and strengthen your connections with both potential cash buyers and property owners.


2. Get Your Numbers Right

Accurate information can make or break a successful wholesale deal. There are a lot of places where an inaccurate estimate can be amplified and wildly affect outcomes or viability of a wholesale property. This is why it's important to get reliable experts to help your assessments of things like repair costs and ARV for the end buyer.

These numbers will all factor into your offer to both the end buyer and property owner, and experienced real estate investors will be able to pick up on if your numbers are inaccurate or manipulated. Successfully finding the balance of being beneficial to both the ends of the transaction, as well as leaving a margin between the two numbers for your revenue, will help make you a successful wholesale real estate investor.


3. Spend Time on Your Buyers List

Another factor that we'll continue to repeat is the importance of your buyers list. Because the entire wholesale process relies on finding an end buyer, you should spend a lot of time managing your list. Not only building it and finding new cash buyers, but also maintaining relationships with them, making sure you understand what they're looking for, and being transparent with them throughout the wholesaling process  is critical to having a solid list. Doing this will make them more likely to want to work with you again and perhaps even more likely to recommend other cash buyers to you.

  • Make Sure Your Real Estate Contract is Compliant: Use proper contracts and assignment agreements to protect your interests and avoid legal issues. Work with a real estate attorney on each real estate contract to ensure your contracts comply with local laws and regulations.
  • Market Your Wholesale Deals: Actively market your wholesale deals to attract cash buyers. Utilize online platforms, such as real estate websites, social media, and email marketing, to reach a wider audience. Develop a strong online presence and showcase your expertise in real estate wholesaling.


When to Switch from Short-Term to Long-Term Real Estate Investing

.Ultimately, wholesaling houses is likely not as easy, nor as unethical, as some people would make you think. There are positives and negatives, but it takes a very specific type of person to succeed and not fall behind.

With such a fast-paced strategy, it can be easy to become overwhelmed and lose track of all the different wholesale deals and people you're working with.  Real estate wholesaling requires an incredible amount of time and real estate market knowledge. 

Longer-term strategies like buy and hold rental properties, while more involved and hands-on, can be easier to focus and really work on.

This often develops a stronger understanding of real estate concepts and relationships because you're in contact with tenants, insurance companies, and more, which gives you exposure to different parties in a manageable amount.

Long-term investments also give you predictable and consistent cash flow so you don't have to worry about months where you can't find a buyer or property to wholesale.

If you’re interested in becoming a broker for rental properties or a long-term strategy like buy and hold, check out our Broker Resources, full guide to buy and hold investing, or contact us about a loan today.

Topics: Wholesalers

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