Success by The Numbers: A Pennsylvania Flipper’s Story
Demery Garber is a real estate investor in York, Pennsylvania. While she still considers herself “green” in the industry, she has already experienced many aspects of being an investor during the several successful projects she has funded with Rehab Financial Group. From her first venture with a turn-key rental acquisition to a full scale fix-and-flip, she has developed a system to evaluate properties based on their potential for profit. Her story and process make up a perfect example of how being a smart investor requires a balance of strategic flexibility and hard numerical standards -- with a side of resilience!
Demery works full time as a physical therapist. While she is 100% “on the job” when she is on the clock, she had the flexibility to decrease her weekly hours but with a proportional pay cut. Looking towards her financial future, she wanted to invest some of that time into projects that would provide more for her, her husband, and their growing family for years to come.
After attending a seminar from a realty group that sold turn-key properties to investors looking for long-term, buy-and-hold properties, Demery and her husband purchased a “starter” rental that paid for itself with the incoming rent. While they had this home for several years, the rising HOA fees of the neighborhood were quickly cutting into their profit margins. When they started to approach a break even point, the couple decided to sell the property and use the capital to look at other means of real estate investing.
Re-Strategizing With Education and Planning
Demery is a calculated investor; not one to rush into a major financial decision or make a mistake due to rushing into the unknown. After purchasing and learning from the rental property, she got the REI “bug”. She took some time to explore the REI community and the educational resources available to her. Attending an REI investment course and several meetup groups in her area, she gained a network of other professionals in the industry and learned from their experiences during presentations and Q&A sessions. She says the most valuable part of these meetups were the connections she made, both with contractors and mentors she’d reach out to on her own going forward.
Demery also took the time to educate herself with a wide variety of content from authors like Robert Kiyosaki, David Krulac, and Brian Tracy. She was a heavy consumer of the content from online forums and blogs dedicated to sharing best practices for first time house flippers.
After attending an intense REI course, she searched hard and jumped in on a fix-and-flip property. Having that positive experience gave her confidence and further fueled her drive to succeed as an investor. During the following the 2 year period, she and her husband built a house and had a baby. Although they weren’t actively flipping houses, she stayed active in the REI community attending meetups and networking events.
After the hiatus, Demery and her husband decided to dive back in with another property to flip. A great reminder that REI can be a great option for those looking for flexibility and work-life balance.
Taking the Reins, Ruling the Spreadsheet
This time around, she’s taken the lead on the fix-and flip projects. Demery is naturally inclined to approach things in a balanced way, and one of the major ways she makes sure she’s got everything under control is by extensively managing the numbers. Instead of hoping for the best with her rough estimates, Demery has a spreadsheet that she uses to evaluate properties for profitability under various arrangements including, buy-and-hold or fix-and-flip. She always includes a significant percentage of “wiggle room” so that even under worst case scenarios she doesn’t need to worry about losing money on a deal.
Demery’s number-focused strategy even includes accounting for the loss of her income from the reduced hours at her day job. Her goal is to cover the loss from that with flips over the course of the year, and then once that goal is met, switch strategies to investing in more buy-and-hold properties that will build her long term portfolio.
- 3-Story twin home in Harrisburg, PA
- Bought in foreclosure
- Some updates had been completed but not finished
- Wallpaper everywhere
- Nice bones (HW Floors, Clawfoot Tub, Clay-tile Roof)
- Sale price: $165,000 - $9,900 seller help
- Purchase : $58,000
- Rehab : $50,000
- Holding: $22,000
Margin’s saved the day! After an offer had been accepted for the house, it was discovered that the roof required an almost $10K repair. While that would have sunk most projects, Demery’s built in margin for contingencies came into play and the project was STILL massively profitable (almost 20% return on investment in one month!)
Demery’s Advice for House Flippers:
- Don’t be scared of the size of a project if the numbers make sense. Include a budget for accidents and unexpected costs so you’ll always come out ahead.
- Stay positive and be resilient. You might not make a million dollars on your first deal and that’s ok, think of it as an investment in your personal learning curve.
- Find a good mentor who will keep you focused. It’s easy to get caught up in the hype, but staying goal focused is the key to success.
- Don’t be afraid to walk away when a deal doesn't make sense by the numbers. It might be a good deal for someone else but not for you. Don’t take negotiations personally.
- Having a good report and communication with your contractors is worth its weight in gold. Put in the effort to find good people - it’s worth it.