Is a long-distance fix and flip for you?  There are some distinct challenges to consider when choosing to buy, design and sell properties that aren’t local.  So before you consider this investment strategy, listen in (or read on) as I share my personal experience as a real estate investor and designer fixing and flipping a home across the country. 

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If you’ve been listening for a while, you might have heard me mention that my parents had some health issues in the spring of last year.  As a result, my father passed away, and my mother moved into an amazing assisted living facility that can give her the support she needs at her age.  And as the executor of my father’s estate, I was tasked with selling their home in Connecticut (my childhood home) that they lived in for about 45+ years.  

But I was up for the challenge since I’m a designer and used to handling construction and home stuff, and also because my husband and I are real investors.  And and as the executor I was stuck with the task and nobody else was around to do it.  

A few local real estate investors reached out to me to buy the home “as is” to get it off my hands although the costs didn’t really make sense for me so I turned those offers down.

Pro Tip: If you’re a real estate investor, you may be able to find potential homes to buy by checking with the local probate courts for homes that are part of an estate and will need to be sold.  Often executors don’t have time to fix and sell a property and will welcome someone taking it off their hands.  So, if you have narrowed down a city or market, you can have someone checking the court docs routinely to help find deals before they are published to the world.

Alright, let’s dive in to break down how this whole fix and flip went down and what I learned in the process.

Evaluate the Market

Before buying any home whether it’s for your own use or for an investment property you need to know the market.  This is something Bigger Pockets, the company that helps you build wealth with real estate investing, stresses a lot.

But since I inherited this house there was no initial cost to purchase it and it was left to me and my surviving brother.  So, I didn’t have to start with the initial market research that all or most real estate investors need to do to choose a location  such as knowing the markets, cash flow potential, etc..

My takeaway here is…you still need to know the market enough to decide if you want to sell or add an inherited property to your existing portfolio.

Fix and Flip-Build Your Long Distance Team

I did have to build a team to help me do this from across the country since I live 3000 miles away.  And I had already spent almost 2 months across the country moving my parents into nursing homes, assisted living, and then I was with my dad for the 9 days he was on hospice so I’d already had a lot of time away from my home, my family, and my design business. 

I knew I needed a good team to help me.

What worked out great, is my probate attorney connected me with a realtor who he has done a lot of business with.  And this turned out to be a great fit.  

How to find good contractors

My realtor hooked me up with contractors.  And I have to say that on the whole, they were great.  In fact, the general contractor I worked with was exceptional and he’ll actually continue working with me on other properties and is willing to travel which is even better as we’re currently choosing our next property out of state.

I met with most of them while I was in town for a week clearing out the house in September and we had a few phone conversations so I felt confident with them.  

Managing local contractors is a lot of work as there are a lot of moving parts.  I’m used to it as a designer so I wasn’t scared of this.  Managing long distance contractors can be even more work. And you have to trust them.  They are your eyes and ears since you’re not on the ground.  

The key is being really organized.  Taking as many measurements as humanly possible.  AND as many photos as possible so you can reference them later. I did have an advantage since I grew up in this home.  I knew that layout like the back of my hand which helped.  But that’s not the case with most investors.  Even with lots of measurements and memories I’d have to ask the contractors to send me a few measurements here and there like when I bought appliances. The fridge was a little tricky and I joke it needed butter to fit in the space, but it worked.

Speaking of team…communication is key.  AND do not pay any final bills until the realtor or you get out there to see the work.  That was something I’m glad I knew because who’s to say the painter will go back for touch ups once you’ve paid.  

My takeaways….

  • Be organized
  • Take lots of measurements and photos
  • Set expectations clearly like how often you want status updates and photos.  I told my contractors I wanted lots of photos and updates of their work. 

Design of the Long-Distance Fix and Flip Property

A poorly designed home won’t sell for top dollar.  And if you see something that’ll likely be a problem down the road when designing, get rid of it or fix it if it’s in the budget.

My parents had yellowish oak cabinets from 25 years ago and I knew they’d be a challenge to match with flooring.  Hindsight I wished I had them painted from the start because trying to find floors that would work with them was a huge challenge

My gut said to paint them, but the realtor said not to but finding floors to work with them was tough.  It took up a lot of time and the contractor was more than patient than most I’ve seen bringing samples back to the house to see it in the home’s lighting.

My takeaways…connect with a designer to help you make smart design decisions that will help your property sell or rent faster.

How it Went...The Sale of the Property

I’m happy to say it sold.  We missed the hot market of 2022, but it still sold in a few weeks.  The feedback on the home was good, but rising interest rates and the home being on a busier street didn’t help. 

It sold for exactly what I wanted it to sell for as a best case option.  The realtor priced it a little too high in my opinion to start, but I went with it.  After a couple of weeks we dropped the price (to the price I originally wanted) and we had an offer that day. Closing went pretty smoothly, with no real issues or demands from the buyer. The courts do get involved and there’s a little extra paperwork, but it was not an issue.

Fix and Flip: What Worked Well

  • As a designer, I felt confident choosing materials off-site.  I know what works well together and what doesn’t.  If you don’t feel confident then definitely hire a designer to help you.  You don’t want a property sitting on the market or vacant longer than needed.  
  • Technology, Amazon, and online shopping made it easy to order materials across the country and get them shipped quickly. Or you can order online and have the contractor pick items up at Home Depot or Lowes
  • For the most part-great contractors-very appreciative of the realtor that connected me with them.

Fix and Flip: Challenges

Overall the process went as well as expected, but there were definitely some challenges.  In this case, there was some emotional baggage since this was my childhood home.  Even though I hadn’t lived there in 25 years there were some family frustrations. Clearing out the house was time consuming because I had to do it myself and there were almost 50 years of memories there. I gave myself a week and I could’ve taken weeks  or months more. 

I hired to clear out what I couldn’t but I likely missed out on some sentimental things I might wish I had later on.  

If you’re an out of state real estate investor you won’t have the same emotional baggage/connection but if you get into real estate investing from an inherited property you might. 

It took a lot of time from my family and design business.  There were constant phone calls, emails, and  hurdles to leap. And that’s with good contractors.  Frequent calls and communication was good to keep me in the loop, but it took up time from my regular work day.

Final Thoughts...

So…would I fix and flip or buy an MTR or Air BnB across the country in the future knowing what I know now?  Yes.  I’m not afraid of doing it if the deal makes sense.   

If you’d like design help with your investment property, send me a DM at nestorations or email me at hello@nestorations.com and we can connect to talk about your property.  Hiring a designer makes your property stand out, which sells or rents it faster giving you more profit in your pockets.  And I’d love to be able to work with you.  

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You can absolutely create a home that looks and feels more expensive by following as many of these ideas as you can.  It will elevate your home and overall make you feel better living in a beautiful home you love.  

Also, I’m opening up a few spaces to work together so if you want help and are interested in working together.  Send me a DM at nestorations or email me at hello@nestorations.com and we can connect.  Hiring a designer makes a huge difference and I’d love to be able to work with you.  

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Sally Soricelli