House flipping is back - especially in California, where homes are being bought, fixed up and sold, really, at a dizzying pace. In fact, the state is seeing some of the highest rates of flipping in a decade.

NPR's Nina Gregory went to check out the action at a flipper's open house, in a Los Angeles neighborhood called Glassell Park.


NINA GREGORY, BYLINE: The green stucco house sits at a busy intersection in northeast Los Angeles. Built into the side of a hill in 1979, the multilevel home is framed by new landscaping and a freshly poured, concrete wall. Everything about it looks new. But it didn't always look like this.

MICHAEL DELACRUZ: This was a short sale.

GREGORY: Michael Delacruz is a real estate investor who works for a company called Dossier Capital. And they bought this house a few months ago, for $390,000.


DELACRUZ: It was in distressed condition, meaning - you know, it was livable. But floors needed to be redone, doors; everything in the house, we redid, from floor to ceiling.

GREGORY: Now, this group of investors hopes to sell this redone house for $720,000, almost twice what they paid for it. For these kinds of real estate investors - flippers - success depends on buying low and selling high. Quickly. They target up-and-coming neighborhoods, often looking for distressed properties. And they've done quite well.

DELACRUZ: Typically, our houses are in escrow first week - maybe even the first day that it's listed.

GREGORY: Demand can be fierce. Sometimes, they get five or six offers the first day. Pent-up demand, and a limited supply of housing, are causing this buying frenzy. Jed Kolko, chief economist at real estate website Trulia, explains.

JED KOLKO: First of all, most of the foreclosure crisis is behind us, so there are far fewer foreclosed homes now on the market waiting to be sold. At the same time, construction is still recovering.

GREGORY: Another reason inventory is tight - a lot of people are still underwater. Though prices are going up quickly, many can't sell. Those who can sell in neighborhoods like Glassell Park, are in a good position.

KOLKO: It's a seller's market. Houses are going for above asking prices. We're seeing homes spend less time on market before they sell. Prices are still relatively low and mortgage rates, of course, are very low.

GREGORY: This can all be very frustrating if you're the buyer. Connie Molina and her husband are in the market, and dropped by the open house in Glassell Park.

CONNIE MOLINA: We'll see a house and then a week or two late - within a week, it's already sold. It's gone.

GREGORY: In some parts of Southern California, flipping is up by as much as 45 percent over last year, according to DataQuick, a company that analyzes real estate trends. And in April, the region reached a milestone: home sales hit their fastest pace in seven years. Both economists and investors agree - as long as mortgage rates stay low, and the economy keeps growing, this housing recovery will continue.

Nina Gregory, NPR News.

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