Admittedly, most single gals in their 30s (especially in the south) don’t keep a hammer slung on their [ripped] pants, sledgehammer in their backseat, or paint samples piled in their living room. But, as just about any single person that has ever met me would tell you, I’m not your typical gal. Far from it. But still, tackling home remodels on distressed properties is pretty bold for a single girl. So why the heck do I do what I do (don’t worry, I get asked this 39,203 times a year)??
To answer that question, we have to go back. 2006. There was this single gal graduating college. College was fun. College was stressful & challenging. But most of all, college was expensive. But when you’re 21, you really don’t understand all of that…or care.
Promptly after graduation, I started grad school. I had never, truly experienced stress like I did in grad. school. It was so challenging and consuming. At this point, I couldn’t have told you how much my college education was costing if you forced me to. And then I graduated. Got a real job…and HAAAAAAAAAAATED it. I bounced around to some other jobs that I didn’t particularly love or that paid well.
But somewhere in all of that life transition, something new happened. I started getting bills for student loans. As in bills higher than my car payment. While I was barely living above the poverty line. I was trying to tackle this adult-life thing successfully, but I was overwhelmed. I saw the balance on my students loans and pretty much had a heart attack every month. The balance never seemed to get smaller. The interest rate was killing me (up to 2x my car payment interest rate). In 3 words: I was drowning.
My childhood was slightly different from kids in my class. I spent my nights, weekends, summers, and pretty much every other spare minute at a job site. Maybe it was a new construction. Maybe it was a remodel. Maybe it was rental property or a property about to be sold. Dad owns a real estate firm, and when your dad owns a real estate firm, you sit through a lot of open houses, listen to a lot of “shop talk” at job sites, & other equally boring stuff to kids. And it was boring, but, somehow, some of the knowledge seeped into my head.
And when your dad owns a real estate firm, you hear all about the 294 different mistakes people make in real estate. And you get to hear the success stories of the rich and famous. From the time I can remember, I recall Dad drilling into my head tiny little tidbits about real estate “Pay attention to square footage price, not sale price.” “The kitchen will sell that house.” “Never over-build or over-remodel because you won’t get your money back.” And 69,249 other one-liner tidbits from Dad. At the time, I assure you, they were all ignored.
And then I kept getting all of those student loan bills.
Without having the slightest clue what I was doing, I gave my notice to my landlord that I was moving out of the duplex I was renting, and I bought a filthy, dated, and neglected house in a retirement village. The main reason I bought it was because I hated throwing my money away on rent every month (another Dad tidbit), and all I could afford was a filthy, dated, and neglected house in a retirement village. But I owned it! I didn’t even really have grand financial plans for the house, but the house payment was cheaper than my rent, so I considered that my success.
The day I closed on the house, I don’t think I knew the difference between a Phillips and flathead screwdriver. I owned no tools. If you’d ask how to take off those hideous countertops (obviously, I do it myself now!), I would have probably said: “I guess you hire a guy.” All I knew was that I had a vision, but I didn’t have the slightest clue how to accomplish it. Through so many errors, mistakes, fights, & curse words, I learned how to repair things myself. At the time I was dating a boy and his dad bought me my first set of tools. I recruited any living, breathing human being to do work for free. I shadowed the people that I hired to learn how to do what they were doing so that I wouldn’t ever have to hire them again. I’ve screwed up…so.many.times.
But I discovered something. Dang, this is fun. Taking the ugly duckling of the neighborhood and giving it new life and new appeal was unbelievably rewarding. And somehow in the last 3 flips and 5 years, I’ve discovered I have a knack for this. I now own more tools than guys my age. My favorite task is removing tile from floors or tearing down a wall. I read more articles about home remodeling than I do about fashion.
When I got close to the finish line on Flip #1, Dad (who also owns a tax preparation company) kept telling me I could sell the house for more than I paid. And not have to pay a penny in taxes. Whaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaat?! After some real estate/tax tutoring from Dad, I discovered that if I lived in the house for two years and fixed it up and then sold it after the 2 years, the IRS doesn’t require you to pay any taxes on your gains. Not long after the 2 year mark (and again, not having a clue what I was doing), I listed my house for sale…just to see what happens.
7 days later, it sold. And for more than I paid.
So for the first time in, well, forever, I was able to write a pretty big check for my student loans. I saw the amount balance actually decrease. And from that moment on, I was hooked. After flip #2, I wrote another check for student loans.
I get asked all the time how long I plan to keep this up. I don’t know—until I get tired of it I guess. I could see myself transitioning out of flipping houses that I live in just because it is total chaos living in a construction zone. Some day, I’d like to have MY house and flip another one. But, for the time being, that’s not my game plan.
I also get asked if I will actually stay in Mac’s house and not sell it. As much as I love it (and it is my favorite so far), I still have plans to sell it. I sincerely hope I sell it to someone or a family that treasures it as much as our family has.
Another thing this insane house-flipping life has taught me is that I genuinely love the world of real estate. I love the financial freedom that it has given me, and I really do want other people to experience that. I love the strategy of selling a house. The entire world of real estate is intriguing and challenging. I’ve seen the good and bad of it all since I grew up with it, but, I still love it. This year, I made the transition and obtained my real estate license, and I’ve joined the family real estate firm full-time.
Have you had told that 21 year drowning gal that she’d spend more on tools than shoes, wouldn’t be using her degrees, and would be working for her dad, and finally have a much smaller student loan balance, she would have said you were crazy.
But, you know, sometimes life is just crazy.