Flipper and Other Mutations

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If you're a sci-fi geek and you just stumbled on this tome, I'm sorry to disappoint.  I'm not talking about people walking around with a third arm protruding from their chest or additional eyes on the back of their head, although in some instances, I would personally welcome such appendages.  If you've ever worked on a residential construction/rehab project or have children, you know exactly what I mean.

Instead, let’s look at how the media has mutated the public discourse on the perception of Real Estate Investing and Real Estate Investors.  I don’t just mean TV and print media here – there’s plenty of accountability to be passed around to social media and so-called “real estate gurus” as well.

There was a point in time not too many years ago when the term “Real Estate Investing” referred to the purchase of properties for rental, creating income.  The person who did this was a Real Estate Investor. 
President Dwight Eisenhower kicked off the whole real estate investing thing in this country with the 1960 enactment of the Federal Real Estate Investment Trust Act (REIT).  But Real Estate Investing as we know it today got its launch in 1980 with PBS Television’s This Old House from WGBH in Boston.

By the ratings explosion, it was clear that the creator, Russell Morash (who also introduced Julia Child to the world), had stepped into a surprising phenomenon.  People loved this stuff.  They loved doing it, but they really loved watching it on TV.
Fast-forward to today and cable networks such as HGTV, TLC, and DIY and countless web sites owe their existence to this phenomenon.  Here’s just a couple of ways that they have contributed to the mutation:

For those of a certain age, “Flipper” referred to a lovable bottlenose dolphin whose antics and social message aired weekly on NBC.  Today, a “Flipper” is anyone who rehabs houses.  But, technically, a “house flip” is a wholesale deal – where you control a property with an accepted offer, then “flip” it to someone else to fix up.

How the term rehabbing became flipping is T.V. shenanigans.  The term is really “doing a fix-and-flip”, which is where a rehabber purchases a property taking title to it, repairs and renovates it, then sells it on the retail market to someone who’s going to live there.

But the word “flip” is catchy in T.V. show titles and commercials, so flipper, flip, and flipping became shorthand.  Flipper is turning over and over and over in her watery grave, no doubt.

The term “Investor” conjures up notions of using one’s own money to do a deal, but that is rarely the case.  No, today an investor is someone that invests, time, money, or other resources into a real estate project.  Most of the time, that’s time, resources and OPM - Other People’s Money.

And because of the proliferation of so-called “real estate gurus” that fly into town, sell people the dream and completely focus on making money at any cost, investors are frequently portrayed as “low-balling scum” – the kind that offer a ridiculously low price and strong-arm little old ladies into selling.  Sigh.

And it’s no coincidence that the groups flying into town are the ones buying time on the networks to air their flipping shows.  Oh - you thought that the network was just featuring them?  Nope, those shows are paid for with money that’s being taken from people who want to be just like them.

So, the message, grasshopper, is to do your due diligence, learn exactly what this industry is all about, get the terms right, and learn how to contribute to the betterment of the community with your very visible work.  Stop in at the Madison REIA and they’ll show you how.  Tell ‘em Flipper sent you.

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