Is Real Estate Wholesaling Illegal? Not If You Follow These Strategies

What is a wholesaler? Someone who buys and sells houses quickly, making minimal if any repairs. The goal of the wholesaler is to acquire a property far below market price and then quickly sell it off to another investor, usually a flipper or landlord.

The Down and Dirty

A wholesaler finds a motivated seller and gets the property under contract. Once under contract, the wholesaler finds another investor to buy the property for a higher price — ideally, without ever taking ownership. The wholesaler makes money on the spread for In effect, “brokering” the deal.

Then Why Do People Think It’s Illegal?

Rumors of this business practice being illegal spread because: 1) People don’t understand the process, and 2) Many wholesalers actually do it unethically and some illegally.

Making It Legal

To make the transaction legal, the wholesaler needs to get the property under contract BEFORE finding a buyer. Otherwise, they are acting as real estate broker — which they can usually only do if properly licensed (please check your state laws). By the way, it is legal to have a prospective buyer or a pool of investors in mind when negotiating with a seller, as long as you don’t contact anyone about a specific property before signing an agreement with the seller.

It’s often illegal to use a “simultaneous closing” to close both your purchase transaction and the sale transaction at the same time. Years ago simultaneous closings were commonly used by wholesalers to use their buyer’s funds to close on their purchase with the seller — using the two separate transactions to hide how much they making from the wholesale deal. The transaction with the seller hid the sales price to the buyer, and the transaction with the buyer hid the purchase price with the seller. Laws have since changed making simultaneous closings very difficult to do legally. So, many wholesalers now use transactional funding to hide their profits from buyer and seller.

What’s the Attraction?

Wholesaling is attractive to beginning investors because wholesaling doesn’t take a lot of money. All you need to do is get a property under contract, which may not even require an earnest money deposit. Then you just need to find a buyer. It’s essential to put some study time in to understand the process and avoid any legal mistakes, but it’s not that hard. Many greenhorns start out working with a mentor, sharing part of their profits In exchange for expertise.

Finding properties can be as simple as driving through neighborhoods with plenty of distressed homes and contacting owners, using bandit signs or staying in the front of your contacts via Facebook. The internet connects buyers and sellers through real estate forums, Craigslist ads, etc. More experienced wholesalers often are members of real estate investing groups and employ professional services to help them find their deals.  

How To Find Buyers

Quickly selling the property to someone else is key. Wholesalers keep a buyer’s list which will include flippers, other wholesalers, or other investors willing to make the needed repairs. Much like finding houses to purchase, real estate groups, Craigslist, emails, and Facebook help build a buyer’s list.

It’s Still Sounds Kinda Sketchy

Wholesaling is a sector of the real estate industry that people have strong opinions on. Okay, it’s legal, but is it ethical? Opponents claim that wholesalers prey on uneducated sellers.  Many sellers are unclear on the value of their homes and are desperate for quick cash. Meanwhile, the wholesaler knows they are paying much less than the property is worth. So, what’s stopping the seller from calling a real estate agent to get the actual market value for their home? Actually, nothing. What’s stopping the seller from selling to someone else at true market value? Again, nothing. It’s really no different than someone going to a pawnshop for fast cash Instead of waiting days/weeks/months trying to get the best price.

Final Answer: No, wholesaling houses is not illegal. It is a quick way to make a good return on your money.  It can be a juggling act of sorts, but by having several houses or blocks of houses under contract simultaneously, wholesaling can be very profitable with little or nothing at stake.

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