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House flipping: Tacoma may cash in on craze

SEATTLE — It’s a housing craze that had its heyday before the market crashed, but is now starting to make a comeback and caught the attention of one of the state’s largest cities.

tacomahouseYou may have seen TV shows where people buy and “flip” homes, renovating them and then selling them to make a sizable profit. Now the city of Tacoma may get in on the action.

“You don’t think that when you buy a house in a neighborhood that someone’s going to let their houses deteriorate on your block,” Marie Kidwell said.

Kidwell has spent a lot of time to fix up her house, but two doors down sits a dilapidated, abandoned home.

The city estimates there are more than 200 properties like that around Tacoma.

“It makes it harder for resell,” Kidwell said. “It doesn’t look good for us.”

So Tacoma is considering a plan to buy run-down properties, pay to refurbish them and then sell them for a profit.

“If you happen to be a homeowner on a block with a foreclosed unit or two that’s vacant, you know it attracts vandalism, squatters and crime,” Maureen Fife of Habitat for Humanity said. The nonprofit may be team up with the city on the project.

But some in the real estate business say the city is asking for trouble.

Jeff Williams, who flips houses for a living, is not worried about the competition, but said he is worried about the city losing money in a very risky venture.

“Just because a house is derelict and it’s rundown, it doesn’t mean that you can paint it, put carpet in it and make money,” Williams said. “There’s all kinds of different problems you can find once you get in there and start fixing the house up, so I just think it’s too big a risk for the city to even try it.”

The city hasn’t tried it yet. The Housing Committee and the City Council still has to approve it. But it’s a plan locals like Kidwell support.

“I know people say they shouldn’t get involved, but let’s clean up our city,” she said.

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