MANATEE -- House flippers are selling more houses and are making more money in 2013 than any time in the past three years.
According to RealtyTrac, an online foreclosure marketplace that produces market data for real estate professionals, Manatee County saw a 55 percent increase in residential property flips between 2011 and 2013.
Last year, flippers sold 222 homes in Manatee County, and earned an average of $71,713 in gross profits. That's up from 2012 on both counts, when flippers sold 194 homes for a gross profit of $51,931. The 2013 sales figure accounted for 3.43 percent of all residential sales in the county, according to RealtyTrac.
To be counted as a flip, a home must be purchased and sold again within a six-month period.
The trend matched up with state and national trends. Across Florida, flip sales jumped from 7,950 in 2011 to 19,619 in 2013. The average gross profit on those sales was $38,429.
Nationwide, 4.6 percent of all residential sales were flips, up from 2.6 percent in 2011. The national average gross profit for those sales was $58,018 in 2013, up from $45,759 in 2012.
While the numbers seem clear, local real estate professionals aren't seeing it. Flip sales just aren't hitting the radar, they say.
"Personally, I'm not seeing them," said Mike Polachek, a Realtor with Keller Williams on the Water in Bradenton. "Investors are buying the properties and holding them."
Polachek said about 35 percent of his residential sales are to investors, most of whom are planning to hang
onto properties between two and five years. A strong rental market has enticed investors to collect rental income until they feel they can get a solid profit out of selling a property.
Gloria Weed, manager of the Lakewood Ranch office of Michael Saunders & Co., also found the statistics surprising. Most people buying homes through her office are buying homes to live in, she said. Those who do buy homes as investments are putting improvements into them before selling.
"We're not representing people that are buying then flipping the next day," she said.
Weed said while the prospect of flipping homes for big profits is attractive, she doesn't see how it is possible in the Manatee County market. Banks that have foreclosed properties on the market are not settling for the low prices seen during the housing crisis. Plus, there isn't a lot of "scratch- and-dent" property on the market that can be had for a steal.
Matt M. Johnson, Herald business writer, can be reached at 941-745-7027, or on Twitter @MattAtBradenton.