Can You Flip? Or Will It Flop?

It’s amazing how much financial security that real estate can bring, and the popularity of HGTV show a very rosy and glamorous side of real estate investment. This gives many people dreams of buying homes under value, putting in some sweat equity and selling it a few months later for a nice profit. It’s like the American Dream… or is it?

With the tight market in Charlotte and such a high demand with new people moving here each year, finding a low-priced house in a good neighborhood that needs a little TLC is rare these days. A lot of the flips that garner big returns in a few months have already been flipped and re-marketed, so it’s important to branch out from the 3 bedroom/2 bathroom in a well-known neighborhood where grandma lived for 40 years and didn’t update.

Location

Once upon a time the neighborhoods like Plaza Midwood and NODA were the up-and-coming areas, but now they have clearly “arrived” and the prices of homes reflect this. So it’s time to branch out and look for the next great area. Yes, it is a bit of a gamble, but so was buying in South End circa 1990 which was once an industrial park fraught with environmental issues (curious? Brush up on your South End history here.)

Bottom line: What’s old is now new and what was once an EPA nightmare is now highly-sought after real estate. The next great neighborhood won’t look like much today, but buying in a lesser-known area where you see potential for gentrification could pay off big in the future.

Investment Timeline

While flips are often viewed as short-term projects and investments, there’s something to be said for a buy-and-hold property. Going along with the possibility of area gentrification, having a longer view on the investment and generating rental revenue both before and after the renovation could allow significant growth in the home’s value and a steady stream of income during that time period. Make sure you’re prepared to be a landlord or you find a great property management company to handle all of the ins and outs of tenant relations, maintenance and repairs, collection of rents and navigating the scary world of evictions.

Price Point

Flips don’t only occur in the 100k-250k range, though that’s where most people think of them. There are opportunities at all price ranges, even million dollar homes if you’ve got that kind of investment capital to spare. At higher price points the profit margins may be smaller, but they’re still there for savvy investors that are happy to stick to a budget and always plan for an unknown expense.

To find a home that is a good contender for a flip like this, look for a home priced under the median price for the neighborhood, like a 300,000 home for sale in a neighborhood that usually hovers around 500,000 for a home. The difference can often be one was updated to reflect current tastes and the other is in the same aesthetic it was when it was built, whether it was built in the 1980s or the early 2000s.

Oftentimes when a buyer purchases a home in a new construction community they are doing so because they don’t want to make updates or take on improvement projects. So, when they go to re-sell the home 10 years later there can be a dip in price because it looks and FEELS like a 10 year old home. Older paint, brass bath fixtures, and Formica countertops are all tell-tale signs of a below-market price home.

I believe that there are always opportunities in the real estate market, however, those opportunities may look a bit different from what you see on HGTV. Different markets, different factors, different strategies needed.

Happy flipping!

The Wall That Started it All

When it comes to home projects and posting my adventures to social media, I am in what Brene Brown lovingly calls an FFT — a F*cking First Time. Everything is new, and scary, and VERY overwhelming. One small detail can (and will) take hours of research, planning, stress and maybe some tears. Spoiler Alert: I have no idea what I’m doing. But with struggle comes learning, and if you keep struggling long enough success will come.

The board and batten wall brings visual interest to this space that was once feeling boring and blah. The addition of a rug and updated lighting (both the fan overhead and the bedside reading lights) adds personality without adding anxiety-inducing busyness. I wanted this space to be light, calming and uncluttered. Aside from the wall, most updates to the space are items I already had, aside from lighting fixtures, the full-length mirror and a few new bedding pieces. The grey throw blanket was a whopping $7 in the ikea final sale section you walk by right before checkout.

Nothing worth doing is easy, and one of the most difficult parts of the lesson might just be smiling through criticism from those not on the journey. Everyone’s life is in a constant state of shifting and change. During my most-recent big shift I came to the realization that I’m sick of things being “just good enough” in all areas of my life. There are many areas that I can’t immediately change, but I could make baby steps in creating a space and a home that I love.

As I researched where to start on my home, I realized that I already knew a lot more than I thought. Whether it was from selling real estate, quizzing my favorite home inspector, or watching endless Instagram stories of other women designing, demoing and recreating all sorts of spaces, I already knew things. And I wasn’t giving myself enough credit for it.

Before this project I did not know how to use, nor did I even own: a mitre saw, a nail gun or a caulk gun. I had never cut a piece of wood with a power tool in my entire life. My father was (and likely still is) scared for me. Maybe it’s best that he’s quarantined in New York while I do all of this crazy stuff that he can’t come and save me from. Regardless, he and many other people held my hand (virtually) throughout the process and answered some ridiculous questions on FaceTime along the way.

I do not pretend to have come up with the coolness that is this board and batten wall project, so go visit Angela Rose Home for the full tutorial, which I followed like it was my new religion. As I dream up big ideas don’t be surprised if you find my own tutorial here (those pendant lamps are 100% me and definitely started life as ikea planters), but until then, I’ll enjoy learning the tools of the trade and sharing some photos and styling ideas!

This wall project taught me that I can do big, scary things. You can too. If you’re stuck in an FFT, keep going. And push yourself to share your triumphs and your struggles along the way. You will surprise yourself, and you’ll be surprised by how many people will be cheering you on.

Know Thy Neighbor… and Neighborhood too

When searching for a home it’s great to shop online, and honestly, that’s the only way to be successful these days for the average homebuyer. While you can find out many details about the house you’re interested in, it’s almost impossible to learn about the area and the neighborhood unless you KNOW the area and the neighborhood. In Charlotte, one street can make all the difference between luxury living and “wouldn’t walk my dog there on a dark night,” so what can you do?

Many of my clients will ask my opinion, which I am always hesitant to give out for two reasons: one, anything I can say can be construed as trying to steer you one way or another (which is illegal), and two, I don’t have a good baseline of what you consider “safe” or “good” so any opinion I have might not align with what you’re looking for.

Case in point: I had a friend live with me for a few months and after the first week she said that she couldn’t believe that I lived in such a “rough” area. For context, I do live on the edge of two distinct neighborhoods, if you turn one direction out of my driveway you will see new homes ranging from 600-800k, and if you go out the other direction you will see questionable characters standing on street corners. I generally understand where my friend was coming from, but I also don’t agree with her. Alas, this is why I am so finicky about sharing my personal opinion, and instead I offer some options for my clients to make their own best decisions.

Safety

As with my friend, one person’s “safe” is another person’s “no way” so there are tons of online resources that I give to my clients including the Charlotte-Mecklenburg police department website, CrimeMapping.com and AreaVibes.com. It’s important to know that negative reports will always outweigh the good and it’s equally important to see what a rating would be for a city you know and are familiar with. You might just see that your lovely hometown doesn’t fair as well as you thought it did in these website ratings.

What’s most important, and something I stress that all of my clients do, is to drive around a neighborhood that they may be interested in. And I don’t just mean a quick drive on a sunny Sunday afternoon. What I actually mean is go there around dusk on a Friday night, drive through at midnight, take an extra few minutes one morning and drive what your commute to the office would be from that neighborhood. You would be surprised what you can find out about a neighborhood by taking a few extra minutes there.

Also, during your drive through I recommend taking a walk down a few streets during a time when people have just gotten out of work and will be the most active outside. This gives you an opportunity to say hello to the neighbors. While it can be a bit uncomfortable to speak to someone, most people are happy to talk about their neighborhoods and to connect over the mutual interest. They will also tell you the good and the bad, and will be much more candid with you than the sellers or their agent will be with me.

Fun example: in that 600k-800k part of my neighborhood there are a few older homes sprinkled throughout. One of those homes illegally keeps chickens on the property. This is a well-known detail within the neighborhood, they’ve been there for eons but how would you feel if your first Saturday morning in your new half-million dollar home started with a rooster crowing at 6:30am? While I’m certain it’s against city ordinances to keep farm animals within the city limits, there’s also something to be said for getting grandfathered in because you’ve been around for the last 25 years living your best chicken-keeping life in the same house, on the same block. Who are we to stop them?

Schools

A parent’s choice for their child’s education is deeply personal and has a hefty impact on that child’s future, so it’s a big deal. I have had appointments on the same day with different families, and one family thinks school X is absolutely amazing but only a few minutes later I hear that school X is absolutely terrible and this second family only wants their child to go to school Y. Both sets of parents are right. Everyone is entitled to their opinion and everyone is entitled to pick their child’s education. Do not give me or any other real estate professional the power to tell you otherwise. Again, jump online and look at some school ratings, find the PTA and parent groups on social media, and talk to someone who has their kids in that school. You can ask all of the questions and get the unfiltered answers from the people who really know, and then make the best decision for you and your family.

It’s also important to note that school districting lines change every few years around here, so if there’s a school that you would like your child to be in it’s imperative that you go the extra mile. I can confirm with the seller’s agent and call the school district to double-check, however, there may be changes in the future that I’m unaware of. Parents and students that are going to be directly impacted by a change are the best to know details, so again, talk to your school’s PTA and parent groups for any pending details.

Here are some additional school resources, and of course there are more out there depending on where in Charlotte you’re interesting in buying:

  • Greatschools.org – widely known for rankings
  • MeckEd – shows some additional statistics for rankings in Charlotte-Mecklenburg and where they’re expected to go over the next few years
  • SchoolDigger – includes data from National Center for Education Statistics, U.S. Department of Education, the U.S. Census Bureau and the North Carolina Dept of Public Instruction
  • Charlotte-Mecklenburg School District

Hardly Simple

It’s been a long time coming… Ok, it’s been almost 4 years to be exact. While I’ve been feeling paralyzed by both fear and planning tasks, I finally have a general plan for how my home renovation is going to go.

I envy those who can immediately renovate their space and call a contractor to do all of the work. While I know the stress that goes into working with renovations and outside contractors, the idea of calling someone for help and not explaining to them that I want them to teach me something sounds downright dreamy.

Meanwhile, I’m over here, googling the simplest thing for months and asking the most frowned upon questions of the construction people around me. It’s been cringe-worthy. The questions have been dumb, and some of the answers have been too. I have to keep reminding myself that everyone has to start somewhere and everyone sucks at the beginning.

It’s still a hard pill to swallow.

So I remind myself again and again of a quote from Sheryl Sandberg, the Chief Operating Officer at Facebook:

What would you do if you weren’t afraid?

Well… I’d renovate a little condo in Charlotte, NC. I’d ask all of the dumb questions and I’d make it through this entire process with all fingers and toes still intact, because that’s always a concern with power tools.

Counseling, Advising and Real Estate

Over the past few weeks I’ve noticed a trend of clients not wanting to “bother” their Realtor and it caused me to pause for a moment.

I absolutely love what I do, to the point that I will talk to anyone, anytime, about their real estate journey. Have a question? I’m happy to hear it, whether it’s 9pm on a Friday night or 6am on a Tuesday morning. I can’t guarantee an instant response of course (I’m only human), but I don’t view it as a bother for someone to reach out to me. Honestly, I prefer the social interaction and the excuse to hear about how you’re doing.

Real estate isn’t a job, it’s a lifestyle and my clients, friends, family, all cross paths regardless of what day or time it may be. If you really enjoy something, I can tell you that it doesn’t feel like work. I’m thrilled to hear from you. I’m excited to answer your questions. I’m 1,000% happy to help you find your next home, help with design ideas, call vendors and to be the person you lean on through the stressful moments and the happy ones.

A physical move is an emotional transition and it can be difficult, and stressful, and yet joyful all at the same time. There are a full range of emotions that you will go through, and all of them are normal. All of us need someone in our corner to celebrate with, vent to, cry to and yes, occasionally mediate tough conversations with.

Growth can hurt, so don’t hurt alone. And remember: you are never a bother. Ever.