Phrases like “shooting fish in a barrel” or “low hanging fruit” simply means something is very, very easy to do. Falling off a log easy. And for those who pay attention to all of those cable TV shows about flipping houses, that’s the impression the novice investor can certainly get.

“Hey, let’s all go out and buy a house that’s priced crazy-low then paint it then turn around and sell it for a lot of money!” That’s how it works, right? Yes, even though that does seem far-fetched the overall impression from the outside looking in is that buying foreclosures and flipping for a profit is child’s play.

But for those who thought it was easy, many found out the hard way that not only is flipping an art for the professional if there are any mistakes along the way, they can be costly ones. Real estate is unlike other purchases with regard to liquidity. Say that you decide you want to buy a car, a sporty model with good gas mileage. You find a good deal, make the offer and drive away pleased. Yet after a few weeks you get a dose of buyer’s remorse. You don’t like the car as much as you thought you would. The interior is too small, it’s too hard to see out of and the gas mileage estimate is way off the mark.

So you sell it. You bought the car at a decent price and were able to sell it for what you paid for it. You broke even.

Okay, now what happens if you buy a distressed property at a below market price then later discover that the basement leak you found could be fixed with a little elbow grease then found that the basement has major problems. So does the plumbing. So you decide to sell it. But you can’t get what you need to get out of it to pay the closing costs, commissions, attorney, title…you’re upside down and there’s not a lot you can do except write a check at the closing table. Making mistakes with flipping is hazardous to your bank account.