Learning the Lingo: Dollhouse, Bird Dog, and Other Flipping Slang Deciphered

So you're handy with power tools and have a pile of cash burning a hole in your mattress. Flipping real estate may be just the ticket to grow that pile into an Everest of dough!

However, before you start attending auctions or scouring foreclosure sites for deals, you should know that flipping has its own colorful, and, to beginners, puzzling slang. Our Learning the Lingo series can help you look like you're in the know.

Read on to understand the difference between a dollhouse and a haircut and beyond.

Distressed property

Yeah, this one you already know, but it's the starting block for most flips. Distressed properties have fallen on hard times and are usually in the process of foreclosure. Since the original owner hasn't paid the mortgage for some time -- maybe a long time -- the bank or lender has taken over. It generally has one goal: sell the place and sell it fast. That's why distressed properties are priced far below market value. Hello, bargain basement!

30-60-90 pre-NOD list

This is the primo list of leads generated by property data companies on homes where owners are 30, 60, or 90 days late in paying their mortgage.

What's important here is that the property is in pre-foreclosure and notice of default, or NOD, has not been filed; therefore, the property is not public knowledge yet. If you want to beat other rehabbers to the property, these lists give you a sneak peek at which homeowners might want to throw in the towel so you can pounce. They give you a competitive advantage in the marketplace. They also usually cost money, often priced per lead.

After-repair value (ARV)

This is the price people will pay for the property after you fix it up. It's your profit margin! It's what you're working for, and it's the key metric in your investment strategy. You need to do a realistic calculation of what the home could be worth based on the amount of work you plan to do and the comparable homes in the area. So if you find something that looks like junk but has great bones and is located in a desirable neighborhood, the after-repair value, or ARV, might just sound phenomenal and you should probably plunk down an offer.


It's a minor fixer-upper. Barbie herself would be proud to live there because it needs only cosmetic attention -- some new paint and maybe a few lighting fixtures. There's an absence of the deeper problems (foundation, plumbing, electrical) that would require lots of elbow grease and hard cash in order to get the place up to snuff on the market.


You like the no-fuss sound of a dollhouse? This property is even more sales-ready. Just take out the trash and mow the lawn before planting that "for sale" sign, and you're good to go!

Bird dog

In the same way wirehaired pointers flush out pheasants, these professionals hunt down distressed properties whose owners might be desperate to sell. If they smell blood, bird dogs (also called "deal scouts" or "real estate jobbers") then sell these leads to frequent or professional flippers to swoop in and close the deal.


Flippers often use other people's money, or OPM, to curb their own financial risks. Unless you're fully confident in your flipping skills and flush with cash, OPM can make the difference between an intriguing side venture and a do-or-die investment.

Hard-money lenders

Hard-money lenders give loans to flippers in a fraction of the time it takes to get a traditional mortgage. They are not banks, but rather private businesses or individuals. And yes, they're expensive, with interest rates well in the teens. But at an auction, when flippers need cash quickly, a hard loan can serve as a bridge until they can secure longer-term financing -- or just flip the house and pay their lender back.


This is a property flipper on human growth hormones. This professional buys a distressed property and then immediately turns around and sells it as is to another flipper. Sometimes these guys work so fast they don't actually close on the initial sales contract; they just agree to buy the property, but before closing, find a buyer and simply assign the contract of sale to this next guy in line. It's great because wholesalers pay nothing but rake in a profit. That said, you'd better know what you're doing and how to spot properties with real potential.

Weekend warrior

This is a more relaxed flipper, someone who approaches it as a hobby or a part-time second income. Usually these flippers invest their sweat equity (see below) on, well, you guessed it, the weekend.

Sweat equity

This is the energy and effort flippers put into buying a property, fixing it up, and selling it. With any luck, it does not involve tears, blood, or hospital visits due to a malfunctioning nail gun. A bit of actual sweat is OK.

Crying the sale

This is the ridiculously rapid-fire patter of an auctioneer at a foreclosure auction. It takes these guys years of practice. The National Auctioneers Association hosts an annual International Auctioneer Championship in which contestants are scored, among other things, on clarity, voice control, speed, rhythm, and voice expression.


Bene is an abbreviation for "beneficiary." When a distressed property doesn't sell at a foreclosure auction, it goes automatically to the bene -- the bank or lender, which will typically then just put it up for sale as a foreclosed property and hope for the best.