The Messy Business of Flipping Houses

So, I've been going back and forth on whether or not I should write a post like this, but I've finally decided to delve into writing a little bit about the less photogenic side of house flipping: the stressful things that go on behind the scenes. And I'll be honest, I'm still gonna hold back a little bit, because I'm afraid of sounding extra whiny or something. Keep in mind that OVERALL, I absolutely love this path that I've chosen! The good parts are worth enduring the bad days and the obstacles. But I also don't want to portray this whole thing as a perfect dream life, because no dream is perfect. It's just the nature of real life, right? Just because I am living and following my dream doesn't mean it's easy, but the passion I have for creating beautiful homes gives me the strength to trudge through the hard things.

Let's start it off easy: phone calls. Contracts. Documents. Business. Adult stuff.

So first of all, as an investor buying a home in really awful condition, the process is so much different than buying a home the traditional way. The homes we find typically aren't on MLS - they are offered through wholesalers who buy houses at auction, and then try to independently (and quickly) find a buyer so they can make a quick profit off of the houses without doing anything to them. Often times, when you find a house you like from a wholesaler, if it's a GOOD house, you're going to be up against a bunch of other investors to snag it quickly. With our first house, we had to decide if we wanted it within an hour. WITHIN THAT HOUR, you have to be on the phone with your hard money lender (I'll get to that in a sec) and investors to make sure everyone's on the same page, and giving you the okay to buy it.  You then deliver a little earnest money to the title company to secure it once the wholesaler sends over the contract. This is a VERY fast process, requires a LOT of phone calls, going to the property, taking photos, drawing up rough plans, talking to your contractor, wiring money, etc. All in the timespan of a couple of hours. 

As an introvert who avoids the phone at all costs, this is extremely difficult for me. Hah! The weeks when we buy houses are incredibly stressful. Adding to the difficulty is just maintaining normal life with the kids - dropoff and pickups at school, naptimes, errands. It would be a lot easier if we paid for a sitter, which might happen down the road, but I do love being present in their lives, and I love the idea that our kids will grow up seeing their parents involved in their lives, and running businesses at the same time. Josh and I do a lot of switching off days with the kids so each other can work, and I couldn't do this without him, I have to say. :)

Okay - so let's talk about hard money loans! These are a great way to buy a house quickly and easily, but they're also quite expensive and take away from your final profit. Basically, it's a loan that doesn't require the extensive paperwork, and enables you to close quickly (typically in one week) but they require around 20% down, and not only are the interest rates high (ranging from 12-15% and up) but EACH MONTH your payments are interest ONLY. So in simple terms - every month, you make a payment to your hard money lender, and the amount you owe on the loan never changes. It's pure profit to them. This is why when you see house flippers on TV say they need to finish the flip as fast as possible, it's because every month that your house isn't done, every month that it sits on the market - it's a couple thousand dollars out of your pocket. OUCH. Right? (For example - our first house we've had since May, and since we decided to DIY the majority of the renovation without considering that time=money, it's now been on our hands for 9 months. We pay over $2200 a month in interest on it. Do that math. File it under: things we learned the hard way because we are stubborn and cheap and it turns out we did it the MOST expensive way possible.)

Okay so when you're buying a house, most of that stuff is expected. Let's talk a little about the unexpected stuff that comes up!

I think I remember posting either on Instagram or in my Instagram Stories that when we bought our Cuter Tudor house, I showed up early on the day that demo was supposed to start and found a group of homeless people living in the back! In retrospect it was probably dangerous to go there by myself but thankfully they were very nice and we talked for awhile. I let them know that they were free to stay on the property if they would help us keep tweakers and squatters away. We talked for awhile and planned to meet that night so we could bring them some food and stuff, but later that night, they had gone. We heard from a neighbor that they were on meth or something, and most likely got paranoid that we were going to turn them in. To be honest I was bummed they were gone, even though it was a weird unforeseen thing! It felt like we had made neighborhood allies. Also it goes to show you how naive I am about talking to people who are on drugs and having NO IDEA that they're super high. Hah!

Speaking of neighbors, that's one thing that you don't really think about affecting your renovation! We've had an *interesting* conflict with a very special neighbor, which I won't go into a lot of detail about. But I will say that ultimately we resolved it, and it always pays to kill them with kindness. And also, if they have a lot of pets, give them pet treats. They'll LOVE it. But it was incredibly stressful UNTIL it got resolved, and I'm horrible about confrontation / dealing with unhappy people. But it's just one aspect of house flipping that you don't really think about when you sign onto it! We've also had to deal with city codes about resolving issues that previous owners ignored / were fined for. It's pretty scary to buy a house and then all of a sudden start getting very official letters from the city and calls from codes workers about something that needs to be resolved that you had no idea about. But again, you just take it one step at a time and do everything the right way! It's a lot more responsibility than you expect to take on.

I also want to post sometime about EVERYTHING we did wrong on our first house, and why we had to make those mistakes, and what we are learning from it. Because although we are in escrow, we keep having little set backs that take more time (meaning more money we are paying out in our hard money payments) and ultimately, we aren't going to make any money off of this house. And that is REALLY HARD and embarrassing to admit. I cried a lot. I feel like a failure. 8 months of work with nothing to show for it but some pretty photos. But it hit me - every great success story starts off with a huge failure. Right? I HATE failing. Most of the times I won't even start something unless I am 100% sure I will succeed. I'm not a huge risk taker. But in analyzing this whole thing, we concluded that the only thing we did wrong was do everything ourselves, which made us pay SO much money in hard money payments. So now, we hire a contractor and a crew who move super fast. Lesson learned! And on the positive side - it's an education that we didn't have to pay any money for.

I want to be really transparent in this, because my beautiful house flipping mentor Grace was really transparent to me in getting started. I don't want to portray myself as an expert - we are still just house flipping babies. We're getting our sea legs here. Thanks for joining us in our huge learning curve!

Adding a Home Office... because I'm a professional, dangit.

I haven't really thought about having a desk since I was in college. It seems like kind of a college-y thing to have, at least from my associations with desks. But as our business is growing, and our bills and file folders are taking up half of our dining table usually (anyone else guilty of this?!) we figured it was about time we had more of a dedicated workspace in our house, even though our rental house is pretty tiny. Our solution was just to bring in a desk and chair into our living area and make it work for now, as we are hoping to move soon ourselves! I love this special little space and it's so nice to be able to compartmentalize our spaces. Plus, I like not having contracts and receipts underneath our plates as we are eating dinner. Haha! (I'm exaggerating. I'm a little more organized than that. A little.)

I partnered with AllModern on this post, because as AllModern was our main source for fixtures and everything for our last flip house, it was such a natural partnership! Customer for life over here.

So the main pieces I started with were the desk and this rug, both from AllModern! Our walls (as it's a rental) are a light beige, which is not the easiest thing to work with. But I love this rug - it has more of a tan / beige tone but the colors are bright enough that it pops, so it doesn't look out of place in a beige room, and it will work well in a brighter room for our future spaces. Highly recommend if you're in a beige rental situation such as ourselves. ;) This desk also seemed like the perfect fit and I love the two-tone style with the simple, modern lines.

I found this leather cantilever chair at Goodwill for a cool $5! I was like, I cantilever, I have to buy her. (I'll be here all week!) It was in pretty sad shape, but a little cleaning and leather conditioner brought it back to life. I threw a little sheepskin over it for full blogger marks. Also because it's comfy. Whatever!

And feel free to judge my drink count, here. Actually, running 2 drinks deep at a time is kind of a regular thing for me. I love my beverages! I like balancing out hot and cold, sweet and unsweet. Or just switching it up between sips. I know, I'm a freak. Send me to the grocery store for a few things and I'll come back with half a cart of different types of beverages. Big fan of hydration over here.

And then a few finishing touches - some of my favorite inspirational books, my favorite candles ever from Standard Wax, and a little plant friend in a planter from Line Line Co.

Anyway, I'm sure this will all be switched around soon because that's just how furniture goes in our house but I'm so happy with this little setup! How would you add a workspace to an already full home? Let's hear those creative solutions! :)

This post is in partnership with AllModern, but as always, thoughts and opinions are totally my own. :) And for real, I'm a big fan. Go have a look at what they offer!

Home Staging on a Budget

The first time I came back from the thrift stores to start buying stuff for staging after we purchased our house, Josh was understandably alarmed. I had just purchased a bunch of old lamps, photos, baskets, old books. Old blankets. Everything old, maybe a little dusty, and the opposite of the fresh, modern look we had talked about going for with the Atrium house. "I don't want this house to feel like you're walking into a thrift store" I think was what his concern was. It was a valid concern.

Photo print is from Kelly Christine; chair found on Offer Up, Rug found on Etsy, lamp is from Target, sheepskin pillow from Nordstrom Rack, basket thrifted

Photo print is from Kelly Christine; chair found on Offer Up, Rug found on Etsy, lamp is from Target, sheepskin pillow from Nordstrom Rack, basket thrifted

The problem is, I had set a $1000 budget of decorating an ENTIRE HOME. (I definitely went over this!) I didn't realize my budget was unrealistic, and in setting such a low budget, that I might be jeopardizing our sale with bad staging. However, I'm a pretty scrappy lady, so I decided to change up my strategy and purchase some newer things that would look modern, clean, and fresh, and supplement it with really cool thrifted things to give the home character (as opposed to looking like a catalogue - cool but lifeless).

I don't claim to be an expert here (I've only done this ONE home and working on our second!) but here's some tips I've found to be helpful:

Get new bedding! I went with some plain white linen duvets, new throw pillows. For instance, in the guest bedroom, the bedding is new, but the Indian kantha quilt is old, and the headboard I found on Offer Up for about $20.

Take a good amount of time to build a collection! I accrued the most random things over about 6 months so that when the time came to stage it, I wouldn't be rushed just to make it work. I wanted it to be enviable. I wanted people to walk in and feel like they desperately wanted the home!

Bassinet from Let Go, rubber toys c/o Oli & Carol, pineapple and cactus lamps c/o Goodnight Light, shelf handmade by Josh, cloud blanket from Last Chance (Nordstrom clearance)

Bassinet from Let Go, rubber toys c/o Oli & Carol, pineapple and cactus lamps c/o Goodnight Light, shelf handmade by Josh, cloud blanket from Last Chance (Nordstrom clearance)

Skip Craigslist - try apps like Let Go or Offer Up. Craigslist still has some great stuff to offer, but it's so saturated that the competition is higher for cool things, and good finds go quickly. I found this beautiful bassinet on Let Go, and I think it was about $50 or $60.

Go to your thrift stores as often as possible! Most of the times are a bust for me, but then there's some random times where you just find some great things and it's all worth it! Even if you have 10 minutes to pop in and zip around really fast, it's worth checking back as often as you can. Same goes for estate sales and yard sales, too.

Chair from Houzz, large planter from Let Go, rug from Ikea, sequin pillow from Nordstrom Rack, plant from Home Depot

Chair from Houzz, large planter from Let Go, rug from Ikea, sequin pillow from Nordstrom Rack, plant from Home Depot

Don't be afraid to mix styles, too! This house felt like a mix of modern, bohemian, mid-century, and vintage, and it was really fun to do (and, at least to me, it all felt pretty cohesive)!

Ok so time to spill, how do you decorate on a budget? Are you more inclined to buy new things, buy old things, or mix them up?