RE/MAX broker has flipped 300 houses in 10 years

Wendy Wilson expects to make about $30,000 from her latest flip.

She bought the home on 53rd Avenue for $124,000 in December and put $40,000 into it.

“I added new AC, redid the popcorn ceilings, redid the bathrooms, put in all new flooring, a new garage door, and repainted inside and out,” Wilson says.

She put the house on the market for $219,000 after the renovations and it went under contract almost immediately. The deal is slated to close in July.

Wilson’s success with this modest flip comes as no surprise to those who know her, including the agents and fellow flippers who work at RE/MAX Associated Realty, the brokerage she co-founded ago.

Over the past 10 years, she has flipped approximately 300 homes in Indian River County and she has the art of buying, fixing-up and reselling mid-priced houses down pat.

But that may not be her biggest accomplishment.

Sherrie Coleman, Wilson’s marketing manager, says what has impressed her most since she joined the company last year is Wilson’s skill and dedication as a mentor, teaching her employees how to flip houses and become financially secure.

“When I walked in here and saw people in their 30s who owned properties and were debt-free, it really struck me.”

Wilson sent flowers to Coleman as she pondered whether to make a big lifestyle change and join the real estate business after a 20-year career in education. “When I saw the note that came with the flowers, ‘Fear is temporary, but regret lasts forever,’ that was it,” Coleman says. “This is the best place I’ve ever worked.”

Wilson has mentored seven agents in the flipping business so far, and has helped many other agents create an “individualized business plan” that lays out a step-by-step path to achieving their long-term goals.

“I have a knack for teaching and I really enjoy helping people develop or reach the next level,” Wilson says.

Meg Hickey, an agent who has worked for Wilson for a year and a half, says, “As a business owner myself in the past – I owned a mortgage company – I was used to setting goals and putting together a business plan, but I was impressed Wendy [taught these skills to all her] existing and new agents. You are really running your own business when you work here – you’re your own individual contractor.”

Wilson started in the real estate business as an agent at Peters Cook & Company in 2005, but immediately gravitated to flipping houses, not selling listed properties owned by others. “I love finding a dirty, disgusting real dog and fixing it up,” she says. “I like transforming the street and neighborhood.”

She left Peters Cook & Company in 2006 to concentrate on flips. The first houses she bought, fixed up and flipped didn’t have the profit margin she gets today. Knowledge came dearly. To educate herself, she first paid general contractors, learning about house construction from them during the renovation process. Eventually she took on the organizing and pricing duties of a general contractor, hiring and overseeing subcontractors’ work, learning more along the way and earning a better profit margin as her investment pricing became more precise.

Then she met her current business partner, Stephen Denny, also an associate at Peters Cook. They were in sync in their analysis of the market and construction costs and how to structure the deals financially. They flipped some houses together and eventually opened a “flip business,” Wilson says, Associated Home Solutions.

At any one time they had one to five houses on the market that generated about 100 to 150 leads and 10 to 15 serious buyers. Their rehab inventory couldn’t fulfill the demand, so they added a real estate brokerage arm to handle the spill-over business, tacking “Realty” on the end of the business name.

To take the real estate sales business to the next level, Wilson decided a “national brand,” was needed, the name recognition paying dividends far beyond the franchise fee. After researching franchises, Wilson chose RE/MAX.

She and Denny bought the franchise about two years ago, renaming their business RE/MAX Associated Realty. The brokerage, which is located at 3975 20th St., has grown to employ 18 agents, but Wilson wants 25.

Wilson knows the middle-income housing market. “We only flip in the middleclass price range, $300,000 and under,” she says, “which has the most buyers.” All her homes are move-in ready and competitively priced.

She says flipping was most profitable in 2008, during the Great Recession. When the market cooled, she and Denny started building a rental portfolio; she says they own 70 units today.

Nowadays, she teaches her agents how to price a flip job, which can be generalized to any entrepreneurial enterprise, hoping to help them avoid potholes that can eat up the profit margin. “It’s a high-risk, high-reward business,” she says, “and you can lose a lot of money.”

She says the first rule of flipping is to know the market. An inaccurate prediction of what price the house will bring means the difference between profit and disaster. All decisions flow from the sales price – whether to buy the house at all and how much to invest before putting it on the market. The strength and timing of the market also determines how to finance the upfront purchase and renovation, she says.

“Investors are always thinking backwards,” Wilson says. “What’s my exit strategy, who’s my customer?”

She develops an individual business plan with her associates – if they want it – in one-on-one sessions, working methodically backward from the money needed to achieve the goal. “Not every agent wants to make a gazillion dollars. Some want to pick up their kids every day and don’t want to work nights, some want to work five years and retire comfortably on residual income. We determine the goals and the income needed and how to get there.”

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